Monday, December 31, 2018

A Fine Blessed New Year

Coming soon to a calendar near you!
Drink for you and bed for me,
Forgoing delights of the spree,
For when I've drunk and 
Shunned my bed,
The new year starts,
With a painful head.

A droll poem, yes, but fresh chances await us all. Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Rage Gangs Flourish When Authorities Hide

Broken and Betrayed: The true story of the Rotherham abuse scandal by the woman who fought to expose itBroken and Betrayed: The true story of the Rotherham abuse scandal by the woman who fought to expose it by Jayne Senior
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Grooming often works in the following manner: a young man, a lure, befriends an 11 to 16 year old girl. Winning her trust, he then introduces her to an "older friend," usually a guy in his mid-20s. This older friend plies the young girl with gifts, car rides, compliments, attention, drugs, alcohol. He becomes her "older boyfriend." Eventually, he introduces her to sex. Next, the boyfriend manipulates the young girl into having sex with one of his friends. Eventually, the girl finds herself gang-raped, passed around, trafficked, kidnapped, beaten, degraded. She is threatened with physical violence should she refuse to play along. Her family may also be threatened.

Grooming was the fate of 1,400 girls in Rotherham, UK, between 1997 and 2013. Author Jayne Senior worked for a local program designed to identify girls at-risk for sexual exploitation. She witnessed the mass grooming of mostly working-class white girls by British Pakistani Muslim men. Police and social worker indifference and denial contributed to a rape crisis that has been called "industrial scale."

The story of Senior's fight to protect the girls, alert a willfully obtuse police and social worker bureaucracy, bring perpetrators to justice, all while suffering loss in her own family, is a story both hopeful and galling. Senior's battle shows the difference one committed person can make. However, the grooming toll of white English victims (along with Sikh and Hindu girls) continues at the hands of mostly Pakistani perpetrators. Since Rotherham, similar rape gangs have been discovered in Newcastle, Oxford, Telford, Rochdale, Darby. A situation most appalling.

A fast, somber read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas 2018!

Animaniacs Episode 49

 I remember when we previewed the above episode for Steven Spielberg. He liked it, and joked we'd have to animate a Jewish holiday. I suggested Simchat Torah, but didn't get a laugh. That might sum up my relation with the great director. People often ask if I knew Steven Spielberg. My answer is generally, 'Yes, the way you know a car-parker at a favorite restaurant.'

None the less, a Merry Christmas to all. Presents are nice, but loved ones are your greatest gift. Be a gift to them.

Important Sales Note

This is the one.
 For the next several days, you might consider an ebook of Fifty Shades of Zane Grey for less than a dollar. (That's market-speak for .99.) Lampooning one of the most popular novels in history, my book thrills you with gunfights, romance, one-armed doctors and all PG rated.

What Do Important Notable People Say About This Book?

Andrea Romano enjoyed Fifty Shades of Zane Grey, but I haven't got an official quote from her just yet. Nevertheless, this book is guaranteed funnier than my Simchat Torah quip of 25 years ago. Not a high bar, yes, you have me there, but don't you owe yourself a chuckle for under a dollar? Act now! I would, but I wrote the book and thus am prevented from acting now.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

eStocking Stuffers That Will CHANGE YOUR ENTIRE LIFE PERHAPS!!

Your JP Mac stocking stuffers may be found at Amazon. (Most people want the Merry Christmas mug.)

Fun Fast Holiday Reads!

Pardon the click-baity head. I've been spending too much time online. But not all ethings are wasteful and vain. Note the above ebooks. One tells the tale of a man's battle with cancer and a confusing medical system, while the other chronicles a man's struggle to decide justice in an annoying criminal case.  Both are written in a humorous vein, making sport of the darker elements of our existence. 

Pleasing eBooks!

These non-fiction stories are low-cost, high quality and just right for a last minute present. Purchase them together. (A $4.00 value.) There is no discount for doing so, but don't be bullied by the loss leader of others. Do it because you have purchasing power! Whatever you decide, happy holidays to you, and to you, a Merry Christmas as well. 

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Paul Rugg and I are Hired at Warner Bros. v.2

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 Venus, drinking 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.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Famous People Born on My Birthday v.5

What is different today from last year? I'm much fatter, that's for sure. Also, I published the prostate book and deem it worthy of reading for just about anyone with a firm grasp on the English language, but especially men facing prostate cancer.

I may spend the rest of the day "Liking" bday greetings on Facebook. But it's better to be Happy Birthdayed on Facebook than not.

Thank you very much to all who have, so far, wished me Happy Birthday. In thinking of this day, I am reminded of several famous Americans who share my date of birth. I will list three and examine their accomplishments as compared to mine.

1. Martin Van Buren - b. Dec. 5, 1782

2. George Armstrong Custer - b. Dec. 5, 1839

3. Walt Disney - b. Dec. 5, 1901

4. John P. McCann - b. Dec. 5, 1952

1. Martin Van Buren succeeded greatly in becoming the 8th President of the United States but was hardly remembered even in his own day. He had a large bull frog stuffed and used as an ink well in the White House. However President Taft later sat on it by accident and they had to throw the thing out. That's about it.

2. George Armstrong Custer succeeded greatly as a soldier in the Civil War but had a mixed record fighting Indians. (1-1-2, I think.) He is best remembered for his  spectacular fail at the Battle of the  Little Big Horn. At first, everything was going well; then it all fell apart under an Indian tsunami. In later years, Custer had a park named after him as well as a monument and a movie where his part was played by Errol Flynn. That's a whole lot more than Van Buren ever got.

3. Walt Disney succeeded greatly in animation, a pioneer in the field, creator of iconic characters—but not the word 'iconic' which has been seized upon by junior execs.—established Disney studios and Disneyland and is fondly remembered to this day. Nonetheless his body is frozen in a vault beneath Disney's Burbank lot and should Walt be reanimated and start making decisions again it could effect his legacy.

4. John P. McCann was greatly successful as a Hollywood atmosphere player. McCann was the ship-board stand-in for a Canadian actor portraying Errol Flynn in My Wicked, Wicked Ways. In addition, he is visible catching Dennis Quaid's jacket at around 1:19 in a clip from  Great Balls of Fire.
More successful in animation, McCann created the non-iconic character of The Huntsman. For the next fifteen years, he piggy-backed onto as many successful shows as his friends would allow. While the record is still being written, outsiders agree that McCann will be remembered by Bank of America and several other creditors who might reasonably feel aggrieved should he pass from the scene within the next several months.

Images:, Parcbench, fold3

Thursday, November 22, 2018

T-Day Wishes and Football Again

Happy Thanksgiving!

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." — G.K. Chesterton

Lo! An article written for a website five years ago. Publication was cancelled, a kill-fee paid, and the light of day for said article shone on my very own blog.
My Midwestern family had two Thanksgiving traditions. One involved placing a pot of boiled cranberries outside to chill. The second tradition revolved around watching football . . . or at least having the game on in the background while cards were played, the Almighty invoked, drumsticks munched, and arguments rekindled. As the 2013 holiday season arrives, let’s quickly examine how a day of feasting and gratitude hooked up with a robust game of inches.
Professional football on Thanksgiving started in the 1890s. From then into the first half of the 20th Century, teams such as the Canton Bulldogs and Massillon Tigers clashed with their leather helmets, no facemasks and few rules.  And while various teams in various cities continued Thanksgiving play, it wasn’t until 1934 that T-Day football as currently recognized formed thanks to G.A. Richards.
Mr. Richards had recently purchased an NFL team, the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans. He moved them to Detroit and rechristened his team the Lions. But the baseball Tigers were the Motor City darlings. Wanting to start a buzz, Richards scheduled a Thanksgiving Day contest with the undefeated Chicago Bears. As it turned out, the Lions had an excellent 10 – 1 squad primed to meet the 11 – 0 Monsters of the Midway. Tickets sold out two weeks prior to the clash. The Lions lost 19 – 16 but a tradition was born. Except for six years from 1939 – 1944, the Lions have played on every Thanksgiving.
But it would take another 22 years for Detroit’s T-Day tussle to go national. In 1956, the first Thanksgiving Day game was televised as the Lions dropped a close one at the wire to the Green Bay Packers, 24 – 20. What we now assume normal was born: televised pro football on Turkey Day.
Our last contemporary puzzle piece took another decade to drop into place. In 1966, the Dallas Cowboys commenced their run as the second T-Day game. For the last 47 years, with only two exceptions, the Cowboys and Lions have played on Thanksgiving Day. Starting in 2006, the NFL added a night contest featuring two at-large teams. Now tryptophan-filled football junkies can have their fill in several ways.
But let’s close with the American tradition of do-it-yourself. On Thanksgiving, in backyards and parks all across the country, ad hoc Turkey Bowl games will be underway. Touch or tackle, these contests pit family and friends against one another for bragging rights or just a way to let off holiday steam. And while such games are legion, let me single out one such Turkey Bowl from my old hometown. Now in its 14th year, the Indo-Jew Bowl takes place every Thanksgiving at a different park in Skokie, Illinois. Old high school classmates of Jewish descent line up for nine-man tackle against their sub-continent rivals. Last year saw the Jews roll to a 41 to 27 victory. But the Indos are hot for payback come November 28.
So whether you put your cranberries outside to cool or not; play, watch, or listen to football, have a most Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Great War Notes

Mr. Wiggin's History Class

World War I was ghastly. The casualties were said to run at "[s]even thousand two hundred deaths a day, 300 an hour, five a minute; for more than four and a half years.” 

In other words, American dead in the Afghan/Iraq Wars over the course of the last 17 years equaled the slain of a single day in World War I.

In the years following the armistice of November 11, 1918, the event was known as The Great War or The War to End All Wars. These titles survived until an even greater conflict broke out 21 years later. (At least in Europe. World War II in the Pacific had been raging since the Japanese attacked the Chinese in 1937.)

The League of Nations was established in 1919 to provide a forum for international cooperation in the hopes of heading off any more Great Wars. Not only did it fail to stop World War II, but the league continued to exist, like any good bureaucracy, long after its purpose expired. The League of Nations dissolved in 1946.

Was the war fought to protect democracy?

Not according to George, a World War One veteran I worked with in my teenage years. George took part in raids across No Man's Land armed with a shotgun and a trench shovel. He claimed to be fighting for Luger pistols and highly-prized German wrist watches. George was built like a bull gnome with powerful arms and shoulders, even at his advanced age. Nothing in George's robust personality led me to doubt his stories.

Was the war fought to obtain a military discharge?

This idiosyncratic view was held by Jesse, a small wiry Great War veteran who shared the same Hollywood apartment building as I back during the first Reagan administration. A member of the 4th Infantry Division, Jesse would  head off to reunions with his fellow dough boys, most in their 80s. Such memories of the war as he shared revolved around the indescribable joy of receiving his army discharge. A group of us were drinking heavily in my apartment one night. We decided to go upstairs,  visit Jesse, and serenade him with all the World War One songs we knew. Our catalog consisted of the first two verses of "Over There." Jesse took it well.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Billings the Robot . . . from California!!


Coming this spring 2019! A tale at the intersection of science and politics!

Does Artificial Intelligence mean war, or something far more different?

Who are the Sea Homeless?

What becomes of the Golden State after CalExit?

Is it possible for a new nation to be run by drug cartels and the California Pension Fund?

Learn the answers to these questions and more. Soon available in ebook and thrilling softcover!


Alone with my Girth

Attending a story conference with myself.
Not really alone. My wife comes home from work in the evenings. But mostly I'm alone with a draft of another novel and a short story I will finish up and send out in the next two weeks.

And food.

There lies the trouble.

My weight has ballooned. The State of California insists I apply for a separate Zip Code. Nothing I own fits me anymore. I wear a lot of canvas tarps.

But I have challenged me to run a 5k in January.

And so, once again, I begin training for a race. This will be my first 5k since 2016, when I thought I was very overweight.

I knew zip back then.

But I'm making progress.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11 Recalled 2018

K called from Florida, "Planes crashed into the World Trade Center and one of the towers just fell." Unemployed in Los Angeles and half asleep at 7:30 AM, I shuffled downstairs to the TV, past Joy as she prepared for work. At first, all I saw was a dirty cloud obscuring southern Manhattan. Then a stunned announcer said the second tower had just collapsed. Joy joined me, work forgotten as we learned of the attack.

Other friends phoned throughout the day. Paul Rugg speculated about the pilots of the doomed aircraft, certain they weren't Americans forced to crash. TJ, a Vietnam vet, was incensed at the footage of jubilant Palestinians with their candy and AK-47s. He wished he could gift them with a nice buttering of napalm. In a grim mood, I agreed.

Watching TV and power-chewing Nicorette, I mostly felt numb — except when the subject was jumpers. Then I felt horror. Go to work, sip coffee, joke with your pals, then decide whether you'll suffocate, burn alive, or leap a quarter mile to certain death. Questions of etiquette arise: jump solo or hold hands with a co-worker? Perhaps several of you link arms and form a chain, finding courage in numbers. Or do you clutch a table cloth and step into the air, desperately hoping it slows your fall?

The journey takes ten seconds.

Air velocity rips away your shoes.

You explode on impact.

I will always be haunted by the jumpers of 9/11.

Oceans of paper were blasted from the towers, filling the New York sky like the Devil's ticker tape. Invoices and wedding invitations floated down to gray sidewalks.

My friend Cathy, who worked in D.C., reported chaos as the government sent everyone home at once following the Pentagon attack. One jammed intersection turned scary as a man leaped out of an SUV brandishing a pistol and attempting to direct traffic.

Being murdered is not a heroic act, though it can be. Flight 93 passengers fought back and died, saving many more in their sacrifice. North Tower Port Authority employees rescued over 70 people before perishing.

There were many heroes that day.

My sister Mary Pat and I had dinner at a coffee shop. She was passing through town, leaving a job in Mountain View, CA to return to Phoenix. Depressed by the day's events, our meal was not jolly.

Later, Joy tried to give blood, but the hospital was overwhelmed with donations and refused.

Vulnerability, grief, dismay, anger.

Such a beautiful morning with a sky so blue.

(Photos from: Little Green Footballs.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2008

Update: Strange to reread this. TJ died in 2009 and K passed away just over a year ago. My wife, Joy, and I are doing well, as is Paul Rugg who now rides the train

Repost: Sept. 11, 2013

Update: I had cancer surgery last year, but recovered. My wife is doing well and my sister battles her own health woes. I have not heard from my friend Cathy in a few years.  Paul Rugg continues riding the train in addition to being a voice over machine.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2015

Update: Paul Rugg's daughter was not quite two years old on 9/11/01. Now she is a freshmen in college. I have retired from TV animation writing, though, as stated elsewhere, I find retirement to be indistinguishable from unemployment. (Save for a small annuity.) And very soon, I shall ride the train to see my sister. (Explanatory post t/k.)

Repost: Sept. 11, 2017

Update: Ten years have passed since I composed this post, 17 years since the incident. Alas, the greatest hit to our nation continues to be a colossal security apparatus that can't seem to function without monitoring everyone's communications, then lying about it. I'd rather not comment on airport theater. Still, my wife remains gainfully employed and I'm racing to complete a dystopian thriller by Christmas. Amidst the great events, the little things carry us forward.

Repost: Sept. 11, 2018

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Twin Peaks Diner Still Serves Cherry Pie

Red Sky in Morning, Vegans Take Warning

gold coast bulletin
Back from the Pacific Northwest where much of the smoke from distant fires blew down from British Columbia. They're having their own hot time this year, as Seattle and the surrounding region very much resembles Los Angeles in the 1980s: haze-soaked with air you can taste.

In those days, I worked as a guard for a downtown jewelry company. We had a small electronic box that sounded an alarm whenever smog reached a certain polluted level. Then you were supposed to send everybody home. That never made sense. We were inside with air-conditioning. But policy dictated we dispatch the work force outside, into the  scratchy smog—a portmanteau of "smoke" and "fog"—where the employees would drive off, increasing smog. (Since I worked the midnight shift where our biggest problem was two-pound rats, I never witnessed a work-place evacuation.)

Gab-gab-gab, meander-meander, Twin Peaks. Much of the exterior location shooting was around Snoqualmie and North Bend, Washington. North Bend is a rather quaint town, sitting in a very scenic location, between four-thousand foot Mount Si and the Cascade foothills.
Mt. Si

And, of course, while in North Bend, we dined at Twede's Cafe.  For lovers of the show, I did have the cherry pie. Wednesday was open mike night and a man with a guitar entered as we left, reminding us that it was open mike night. Below is a photo of my young cousin, holding my sister's dog, outside Twede's, where the tattooed waitresses wear black Twin Peaks tee-shirts. But the service is good and the pie delicious. Alas, I cannot vouch for the coffee, but I understand it's "damn fine."

Proud they are of their association with the fabled TV show. 

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.

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