Monday, October 28, 2013

So Long, Jack Bierman

Jack Bierman 1942 - 2013
In 1989, I was out of college, broke, living in a microscopic apartment above a garage in Hollywood and in need of employment. Answering an ad led to an internship at LA Parent Magazine. Founder and editor Jack Bierman hired me after my internship ended. He was the first person to ever ask me where I saw myself in five years. I didn't know anyone thought that far into the future. I think I answered, "Not in prison." Nevertheless, I eventually became Calender Editor for sister publications in Orange County and San Diego. Working with an amazing group of editors, I learned to write quickly and to deadline while keeping up the quality. On the production side of the magazine, I ran into an interesting bright young woman who eventually became my wife. Moving on in 1991, I soon landed a staff job at Warner Bros. Animation and my life veered into a different realm.

Over the years, I'd run into Jack every now and then. He'd hold poker games for the old editorial and production crews and was even my neighbor for a time. Occasionally we'd meet for breakfast and talk running as both of us were former marathoners. So I was bummed today to learn Jack had recently passed away.

Aside from starting a magazine from scratch and turning it into a multi-million dollar business, Jack was a quirky guy who worked his own spiritual side of the street. A Jew from New York, his wife was a devout Catholic and Jack would occasionally attend Mass. He listened to tapes of Thomas Merton and would meditate in his office. Once he lent me a Merton cassette and I lost it. With some trepidation, I admitted the deed. Jack smiled. With a Zen attitude worthy of Merton, he told me not to worry.

Good thoughts and prayers go out to the family, particularly daughters Lisa and Clare. Lisa has set up a site for stories about her father on Tumblr. (Image: LA Times)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chicago Marathon 2007

Six years ago, I ran my third marathon in Chicago. Or, at least, I attempted to. Here's my race report originally published on Oct. 8, 2007 under the heading Sweat Home Chicago.

Marathon number three continued my tradition of only running marathons with temperature extremes. At dawn it was an overcast, humid 75 degrees and climbing. My niece dropped me off near the lake-front start line around 7:00 AM. I checked my gear, loosened up with T'ai Chi, then stood in a tightly-packed brick of humanity waiting for the 8:00 gun. As the overcast dissolved into popcorn-shaped clouds, the sun rose above Lake Michigan. It felt like a furnace door opening.

Because of crowd size, it took me 20 minutes to cross the mat.

Interesting Stat:

The Chicago Marathon sold out all 45,000 spots back in April.

But only 35,867 passed the start line Sunday morning. That means 9,133 people figured out it was too stinking hot to run.

Lots of TNT runners from Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, New York City and even Louisiana.

The field was so packed it was tough to interval. Those who intervaled clashed with those who viewed the far right of the course as a passing lane. My goal was a 4 hour and 40 minute marathon. I aimed to interval four minutes running/ and one walking up to the half-marathon mark, then see how I felt.

Leaving Grant Park, the course turned onto LaSalle Street just past Mile 2 and headed north. No water at the first stop — they'd run out. There was a mob around the folding tables, shaking gallon water jugs to get the last drops. The surrounding street was littered with flattened Gatorade and Hinkley water cups from the preceding runners. (Wet, flat plastic cups are like ice. You had to watch your footing.) People were highly pissed — especially those without water belts. (I'd brought mine.) One runner had a bottle of Gatorade. He took a sip, passed it back to me. I took a sip and passed it on to another runner. This no-water business boded ill.

Running for several miles on LaSalle, you'd get an occasional breeze through the tall buildings. I'd take off my visor and savor the cool air. Then out into Lincoln Park where the water stations remained a problem. Runners were surging across the street to the first one they saw. Sometimes there was only Gatorade. Other times, volunteers couldn't keep up with demand and runners served themsevles. Whenever possible, I grabbed two cups, drinking one and dumping the other over my head. (In today's Chicago Tribune, the race director blamed runners for the water shortages, citing those who took two cups.)

Around mile eight, I saw an old white-haired runner drift off course and ask a spectator if he could sit in his lawn chair. (The guy helped him down.) By now, sirens whooped all over the city as ambulances rushed the first heat casualties to the hospital.

The heat was getting to me. For the moment, I slowed but kept the same interval. But as we turned west onto Adams, the shade disappeared. No tall buildings, no leafy tree-lined streets with brick apartments. I passed a medical tent and it was full: runners on cots and others holding ice bags to their heads. Past the half-way point, I started tossing out goals like a passenger on a sinking boat dumping freight. Dropping to a 3:1 run/walk, I slowed pace even more. After frying my brain in Honolulu two years ago, I listened to my body and if it said walk more, I did.

We doubled-back east on Jackson and finally found a little shade. Turning south on Halsted to mile 17, I was mostly walking. I'd pick a point and run to it, or run half a mile, or choose a runner going about my speed and tag along. I took another salt tablet, but skipped goo as it made me retch.

Somewhere around mile 18, the cops bull-horned that the race had been cancelled. No finishing times would be official. Please walk. There was a great deal of confusion. By now, the city had opened up fire hydrants and fire trucks stood at certain intersections hosing down the crowd. (Not to mention ordinary Chicago citizens with garden hoses doing the same.) Finally, in the Mexican neighborhood of Pilsen, around mile 19 it sunk into the vast majority of runners that the 2007 Chicago Marathon was toast — just like them. Some runners dropped out at the nearest medical tent where they'd be bussed back to the start line. Some ran on. A nasty rumor surfaced that we wouldn't get medals. This put me into a black mood.

Come what may, I was determined to finish. Because my legs hurt, I ran 1:1 off and on to around mile 22, then walked to mile 26. Along with many others, I ran the final .02 because there were cameras present. 24,933 runners crossed the finish line.

And they did give out medals.

I finished in 5 hours, 48 minutes and 23 seconds. Check the Comments of my previous post where Jeff Carroll has listed my unofficial splits.

One man died and over 300 were hospitalized for heat injuries.

The people lining the route were great. Many offered water or ice cubes, staying on to cheer in the heat long after the race was called.

As for the "other" race — the front end of the marathon where people actually had a chance to win — Kenyan Patrick Ivuti beat Moroccan Jaouad Gharib by .05 of a second. (2:11:11) The top woman's finisher, Ethiopian Berhane Adere edged Roumanian Adriana Pertea in the homstretch. Pertea thought she had the race knocked, and eased off, waving to the crowd as she neared the finish. Adere poured on the coal to catch and pass Pertea for the win. (2:33:49.)

Given my injuries since April, I couldn't think of a better race to cancel. But if I'd been a TNTer who'd fund-raised and trained for this moment, or a runner eager to pr, I'd be supremely miffed at Sunday's outcome. For over a week, I'd been tracking the temperature. I knew it would be hot and humid. Hence, the race organizers did also. I find it hard to believe they couldn't increase the amount of water stations, change the start time to earlier, or better prepare for the heat onslaught they knew was coming. The Honolulu Marathon faces these conditions every year. No one could pick up a phone?

In any case: mission accomplished. After 30 years, I finally finished the Chicago Marathon.

Thanks to Ryan, Raul, Jeff and K for the emails. I'm walking around fine after sleeping eleven hours last night.

As for now, I'm not looking at any marathons before next fall in Pasadena. But don't tell anyone I'm entering.

They'll kick me out to avoid extreme weather.

(All photos courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.)

Sam King's Halloween Art

Eight days more until the night of All Hallows Eve. In the spirit(s) of things, I'm sharing artist Samantha King's seasonal offering from her blog.
Samantha King

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Another Novel Update


Work, travel, and other sound excuses have thrown off my schedule. But I'm back at the book this week. I've been attempting to weave the story and may be making things harder. For instance, each chapter is beginning with a flash forward that is filled in later. I might be better off writing everything front to back, then figuring out in subsequent drafts where to drop things in.

This was originally a novella meant to be quickly brushed up then uploaded for sale on Amazon. But the story developed its own wants and needs and will be novel-length whether I approve or not. Alas, the tale is set aboard a small boat afloat on a sea alive with monsters. In many ways, the story is  like a play where all the characters are on stage constantly. They only exit when I off someone.

Right now, I want to off them all and type "The End."

That said, onward.

Monday, October 07, 2013

'Boats' Tells How Animated Features are Made

A funny look at animation executives planning the next movie blockbuster.


Cartoon Brew via Josh Gerbrandt on Facebook

Friday, October 04, 2013

Goodreads Short Story Labeled 'Mature and Explicit'

Are you really? Then dare  to click the button below.

My short story "Death Honk," now up at Goodreads, carries the above warning. However Wattpad allows the same material with a PG13 rating. And the Journal of Microliterature just assumes you can handle it.

Note: I've included the word 'splatterpunk' in the metadata of this microfiction. (Less than a thousand words.)  The Oxford Dictionary defines splatterpunk as: "a literary genre characterized by the explicit description of horrific, violent, and often pornographic scenes." 

And while there are no pornographic scenes in "Death Honk," there is explicit description of certain actions one might find 'horrific' and, most certainly, 'violent.' I, in no way, disagree with the Goodreads warning. I merely point out how the same tale may be labeled, or not, on different sites.

Mostly, I've never had a story preceded by big red warning labels and it's kind of exciting. 

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

So long, Tom Clancy

NY Daily News
 Tom Clancy is gone, but leaves behind good writing advice. From back in the day, I recall reading Red Storm Rising and marveling at how fast Clancy could move action while relating highly technical details on military hardware. He was wise to see the potential mix of his books and video games. And he also had some tips for those interested in a writing career:

"You learn to write the same way you learn to play golf... You do it, and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired – it’s hard work.”

Clancy thought of himself "as a storyteller, not a writer." He said,  “I think about the characters I’ve created and then I sit down and start typing and see what they will do."

Considering my recent angst, I appreciate the wisdom of a seasoned scribe who will be missed. 

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Another eBook Novel Writing Update

Writing hasn't gone very well lately.      (Image: ESPN)
My morale is so low I'd desert if there was anywhere to go. Back on August 31, I was writing Chapter Five. Today I finished Chapter Seven and began Eight. Yes, I had a freelance article and some marketing work, but I fell into a deep rut between Six and Seven. I couldn't wrap them up. Something else always cried out to be added and the new stuff disrupted the old flow. Now I want to dump the novel again. I'm angry, depressed, and hating the work. I feel the book has taken me hostage. But what if it hadn't? I'd be writing something else. And if it were long enough, I'd be hating that too.

Since January, I've been a writing machine. Three novels, a novella, and two short stories are in various drafts. But without some form of completion, I feel like a guy who always trains but never competes. So there's been a change of plan.

Once I finish the second draft, I will pause. In that pause, I will publish an essay on jury duty that I serialized here two years ago and have subsequently rewritten. It's polished and ready to roll. I was going to marry it to another essay based on my adventures in Southeast Asia searching for an old battlefield. But I'm in dire psychological need of having work up For Sale soon. Then it's back to battling the novel.

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