Thursday, December 29, 2005

Eye Teeth

Dux makes baby blue dental mirrors. I know because I had one centimeters from my face today. Root canal this morning with another in January. All I could see was the Dux dental mirror and eyes.

Two of the eyes belonged to my dentist, thin, late 30s, looks like Southern Cal football coach, Pete Carroll. He actually isn't my dentist. He's the guy my dentist sends me to for root canals. Teeth pulling are done by another guy. At times, I feel my dentist is more broker than medical practitioner.

As a kid back in Chicago, our family dentist was Dr. Brink. Dr. Brink was bald and didn't wear a surgical mask. Though he never said as much, I always felt he upheld an unwritten code of dentistry. For example, Dr. Brink didn't give novocaine lightly. You had to earn it. Certainly there were no shots for cavities. ('You ate those candy bars and didn't brush. Here's why you should.') And he did his own extractions and root canals. He knew our schools and what grade we were in. He asked about our families. Dr. Brink was a dentist's dentist.

Nowadays procedures are much less painful. But my teeth are talked about as if separate from me. And the dentist drilling, filling, sealing around my mouth, though efficient and clean, may as well be installing a fuel pump in a Honda Civic.

So I watch the eyes watching my teeth. The other eyes belong to female assistants. One wears a blue, tropical-themed smock. Very festive. It made me feel as if I were aboard a dental cruise ship. Another young assistant hovers behind Festive Smock, watching wide-eyed. She's learning on the job.

My point?

Monday, December 26, 2005

Yearly Odds and Ends

Between the holidays can be considered my slowest week of the year. But not this year. In addition to completing a script, I'm playing medical catch-up, whereby I squeeze in eye exams and a physical before my health insurance expires Dec. 31.

There's also technology dusting as I archive files and e-mail and clean out my hard-drive for 2006.

My wife and I watched Spielberg's War of the Worlds the other night. Aside from cool special effects, it was much like Kramer vs. Kramer only with dangerous Martian neighbors.

I prefer the 1953 George Pal version of War. That film and Ray Harryhausen's The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad are my all-time childhood favorites.

Hope your holidays are going well.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

AWACS Coaching

Ran a bit at practice this morning, but mostly walked. The last event of TNT Winter is the P.F. Chang marathon in Phoenix next month. The Changers set out on a modest 14 miles today. I envy them. Their race is still ahead. But I'll be back in the swing in January. I'm running the Orange County Half-Marathon instead of the 5K. I need to work on consistent pace over distance.

Saw my other coach, Amber, for the first time since our send-off dinner. Amber couldn't make the trip to Honolulu, but monitored the marathon back in California. She was a veritable command center. Amber would check our split times on the race website and cell phone the info to Jimmy and the other coaches on site. If someone's time faltered dramatically — mine, for instance — Amber would let the coaches know. (Coach Greg found me around Mile 22 dumping water over my head.) Another of our teammates suffered bad leg cramps. He called Amber and she gave him all the advice she had or could obtain. Overall, a stellar example of virtual coaching.

Also, one of our Mentors, Mark, did a remarkable job of running and shooting digital pictures. Thanks to Mark there's a photo record of TNT 2005 San Gabriel Valley Winter from our first runs back in August to several at the marathon itself. As the years pass, I can fondly look back at these photos and say, "Is that water dribbling down my chin? Why did I keep this picture?"

Friday, December 23, 2005

Yuletide Notes

A busy time as I work on an animated script and interview for a story-editing job starting early next year. For now, I'm grateful to be home and in good health. Tomorrow I meet with Team in Training and continue my post-marathon recovery. At this point we're mostly walking. I miss the Team and look forward to another season running with some of the same folk. In any event, Happy Holidays. May Santa bring you something other than fruit cakes and underwear. That is, unless you've asked for fruit cakes and underwear.

Then I hope you get a lot.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Pitch Idea: Four-Alarm Fred

Strange doings in Young Adult fiction. Fantasy finds a niche in works such as D.J. MacHale's Pendragon series and Holly Black novels like "Tithe." Teen protagonists confront alternate worlds or fairies while dealing with incredibly high car insurance rates. I'm thinking of giving the genre a whirl. My book idea features a teenage boy named Fred. One day Fred discovers he's turning into a fire engine. At first, he's unable to stop at red lights. Then a ladder grows out his back. Soon he can spit water a hundred yards. Fred's invited to several pool parties. He wonders if kids like him for himself. He's got a girl but she dumps Fred right before junior prom. Maybe there's a chapter where Fred teaches kids "Stop, Drop and Roll," but they laugh because he's a talking truck. Maybe I can get a foam retardant company to underwrite the project. More on this.
(Fantasy art courtesy of Feebleminds Free Animated Gifs)

Harvey and the Holidays

Christmas comes on jingly feet and I look forward to spending the day with my wife, her mom, and a friend of mine. We'll munch turkey, put an angel atop the tree, and then watch "Harvey." The film has nothing to do with Christmas and everything to do with a six-foot rabbit, dear friend to protagonist Elwood P. Dowd. Back in the 80s, my sister had an old tape of "Harvey." We popped it in the VCR one holiday season. The next year we watched it again. Eventually we bought a new tape, then a DVD. Over time the film became a tradition and an interactive piece, much like "The Rocky Horror Show."
(McCann Family Yelling at the TV Screen: "Who's your friend?"
Elwood P. Dowd On Screen: "And now, I'd like to introduce you to a dear friend of mine . . . " )
We got to know all the supporting characters, like the bartender Mr. Cracker, and would share "sightings" when any of us spotted them in another old film. "Harvey" has assumed family cult status and we look forward to seeing it once more. (Though last year for some reason we watched "Blackhawk Down." But it just goes to show we're not set in stone.)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Post-Marathon Blues

Worked all weekend on two TV series pitches for this morning. The exec. liked one. Now he must kick it upstairs.

Resting my joints and tendons from the marathon means I pretty much can't run for a month. And running endorphins were getting me through a lot of down spots. I guess I'll just eat instead.

I'm signing up for a 5K (3.1 mile) run in January, held as part of the Orange County Marathon down in Newport Beach. Jimmy, my coach, is running the marathon for time, hoping to race 26.2 miles in under 3 hours.

I'll be happy when I break six.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Honolulu Photo Mile 22

My sister and a friend waited for me, cheering on Team in Training and watching men in wooden clogs run past. I showed up doing the sun stroke shuffle. As you can see, it helped to spot a familiar face. Many thanks to my darling wife, sister and her chum who ventured out into the heat and humidity to root me on.

They also serve who stand and bake.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Brief Marathon Notes

In my last post, Beyond Mile 20, I mentioned over 28,000 starters. That's how many signed up for the race. Officially, 24,000 and something crossed the start mat. A few thousand less aren't noticeable especially when you're stuck behind a runner wearing a colossal Afro wig. But facts are facts.

To open the race, organizers shot off a howitzer. There were rumors of a foul up. Instead of a blank cartridge, a live 75 millimeter shell was fired into Waikiki, destroying a beach umbrella.
No one was hurt, but authorities continue asking sharp questions.

Runners used cell phones to photograph the opening fireworks. Considering my terse, sun-baked attitude around mile 23, I'm glad I had no cell phone. No phone, no apologies to friends, family and race officials.
Post-marathon depression exists.

But like the race, it passes.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

First Marathon

Over 28,000 runners hit the bricks in Honolulu last Sunday. An amazing spectacle to see so many people in shorts, a large number who shouldn't have been. It seemed Japan emptied out for the run. Some Japanese find it refreshing to race in large shark heads or wooden clogs. Two hardy sons of the East ran in Sumo wrestler-type wrappings and nothing else but shoes. A pretty sight? Not really, no.

Despite a 5:00 AM start, the humidity felt cloying. Water wasn't available every mile. (Nor was every mile clearly marked. Some had kilometer signs.) I gulped water cups every chance I could and carried another in one hand.

Jimmy, my coach, said that little marathon mistakes become big ones. I made a fair share of freshmen miscues. My pace was uneven and too fast for conditions. I ran alone for long periods instead of hanging with teammates. And somehow I found myself dehydrating around mile 13. I spent the next seven miles attempting to correct a growing "oops" list, but it was too late. In the middle of mile 20 I staggered to the side of the road, skin clammy, face white — according to a teammate — in search of a flat spot to lie down and sleep. For the next three miles I shuffled from water station to water station, fried like an onion ring. I ran a bit at mile 24, walking again at mile 25, slogging up a steep blazing road alongside Diamond Head. From there, it was downhill to the end at Kapiolani Park. I sucked it up for the finish line cameras and ran the final 1.2 miles, completing my first marathon in 6 hours and 1 minute.

Afterwards, the pain was unique and inventive. Either my arch cramped or my calf, or my hips throbbed as if smacked with aluminum poles. Usually all three pains kicked in at once. Though exhausted, I couldn't nap because every position hurt. Still, I headed for the Victory Party in our hotel. It was gratifying to see other runners wearing bright orange "Finisher" tee-shirts shuffling to the elevator like deeply medicated old people. Misery indeed loves company.

But the discomfort is passing and I had a wonderful experience. 642 members of Team in Training were present from across the U.S. and Canada. We raised two million dollars to fight leukemia and lymphoma. A good cause, great teammates, a Hawaiian vacation and a marathon run alongside Japanese dressed as pancakes and other strange things. Sweet!

I'm staying with Team in Training for another go. My next marathon will be San Diego Rock 'n Roll in June 2006. (Maybe sooner if I'm up for the L.A. Marathon .) I'll start training again in January. Until then, I'll hobble through Christmas and the New Year, watching a lot of football.

But I can't wait to go again.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

TNT Pre-Marathon Ho-Down

My festive day continued at the Team in Training send-off dinner. Held at P.F. Chang's in Pasadena, the Honolulu Marathon Team was feted as we prepare to depart Friday. Honolulu is one of the largest marathons in the world. Twenty-five - 30,000 runners clog the start line. The race commences at 5:00 AM in order to lessen the effects of heat and humidity. There are enormous numbers of Japanese. Also, my last donation arrived this morning from a friend in Florida. Her small home suffered damage from the recent hurricanes. Yet the modest amount she gave meant a great deal since I know how tight money is for her. I run for donors like my friend, and the family and friends of blood cancer victims — not to mention the victims themselves. They deserve my very best.

And that they shall have.

Yakko, Wakko, and Garlic Bread

Lunch today with most of the original writers and producers of "Animaniacs." We met at the Smokehouse in Burbank across the street from the Warner Bros. main lot. Those deep into "Animaniacs" know the Smokehouse was the favorite hangout of director Weed Memlo. (Voiced by Jeff Glen Bennett.) We laughed and remembered all the fun and not-so-fun times. (Such as when the wrong show was submitted for the 1994 Emmys.) Paul Rugg complained that he didn't get enough garlic bread, we all said "Merry Christmas," and that was that. Hopefully, we'll meet again sooner. Those were indeed special times.

True Horror

Posting on Lovecraft last week got me thinking about horror. Things I find frightening leave a resonance. Something pings around the back of my head long after the event. One contemporary film and one recent occurrence will illustrate.

The Others seemed headed down a familiar ghost-story lane. Yet the movie ended with a chilling glimpse of existence beyond death. This wouldn't have frightened, say, Lovecraft, who didn't hold with the afterlife. But weeks after viewing, I remained "haunted" by the fate of certain characters.

On 9/11 hundreds of people jumped from the World Trade Center. Some were blasted from the buildings while others stumbled in the smoke. But the images of those who chose to leap a thousand feet remain. One photo showed a man falling with a table cloth fluttering near him like a hopeless parachute. Couples jumped holding hands. Groups jumped together.

Shock amidst the mundane. Arrive at work and, before your second cup of coffee, select between grim deaths. Esquire and USA Today published articles on the jumpers. The fall lasted ten seconds.

More later.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A Tip of the Old Helm

Thanks to the folks at Feebleminds Free Animated Gifs, a UK-based website that offers free clipart including very cool fantasy images. (More examples in "The Infested Outside" III post below.)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

They Call Me Mr. 8970

My final practice run today with Team in Training. We logged an easy eight miles on trails above the Rose Bowl.

This time next week I'll be in Honolulu. This time next Sunday, I'll have completed the marathon.

My race bib is # 8970.

I'm fired up, ready to go now!

But first a nap.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"The Infested Outside" and Other Fond Memories III

I was a Marine in the early 1970s. One night in the barracks I came across an unusual paperback . For one thing, it didn't have “coed lust” in the title. For another, it contained the H.P. Lovecraft story “The Horror at Red Hook.”

That tale launched me on a Lovecraft phase as I delved into his odd, disturbing mythos: gruesome elder beings — the Great Old Ones — lurk behind dimensional doors. They corrupt through dreams, awaiting release by the unwary or depraved. If freed they’ll raze the Earth they once ruled. Erik Davis refers to this theme as “the infested outside.” Our world in constant tension with unseen realms of evil.

That always lent a doomed nobility to Lovecraft good guys such as Wingate Peaslee or the Miskatonic professors who banish the “Dunwich Horror.” They fight evil in the face of cosmic hopelessness. The best anyone can expect is a stay of execution. Ragnarok without rebirth.

Artist Pete Von Sholly pokes wry fun at Classics Illustrated comics, drawing faux covers to Lovecraft titles.

Anyway, it’s been spookily nostalgic assembling all this.

Bye for now.