Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So What Do Insomniacs Dream About?

In Fight Club, the movie, not the book, because I didn't feel like leafing through my copy to find a quote, the narrator says "With insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy." This isn't exactly true.

I've had insomnia since I was in high school. As you might imagine, at this point I'm reasonably adept at living with it which, if you look at the time stamp on this entry, is pretty much what I'm doing now. It's 3:39AM and I had planned to get up and go swim at 5:30. Pretty sure that's not happening. Instead, I've decided to write a blog entry rather than get too far into the second book of the evening. I'm rereading West of Jesus, by Steven Kotler. Even if you don't surf, take a look at it. It's a pretty cool story and raises lots of interesting questions.

The reason I'm writing this is that I'm hoping to expend a little mental energy, shut down my brain so that maybe, if I'm really lucky, I'll be able to carve out a 90 minute or 2 hour power nap before I go to work. Sadly, the days are gone when I would have these attacks and just power through the day on caffeine until the sun went down and I added whiskey to the cokes to slow down and hopefully get some sleep. And I used to wonder why I would sometimes go three or four days with only an hour or two of sleep. The equation seems pretty simple now.

My record run is 10 days. That's not 10 days with no sleep, mind you. That would have had me in the padded room strapped to a table freebasing NyQuil and asking the nice orderlies to please get the spiders off me. No, it was 10 days with no more than 2 hours a night. I was a freshman in college, which was a bad time all around for me, but this two week span, ugh. I went to the student health center where they advised me to go to bed earlier and to try not to get stressed out before bed. And they wouldn't give me sleep aids because I might get hooked, but was I by chance depressed? If I was, it might be a cause of my insomnia, and they could probably prescribe something for the depression. If you've ever wondered what it would feel like to have Joseph Heller write your life story, that appointment was it for me.

I can't sleep, so I want pills. I can't get pills unless I'm depressed. I'm not depressed, so I can't have pills, but not being able to sleep is depressing...Sorry, that doesn't count. No pills. Come back when you're wearing all black, listening to Morrissey for hours on end and have developed a fascination with razor blades.

Enough of this rambling. I finally ended that run because my body just shut down. I remember I slept for something like 16 hours straight and then got to be kind of functional, but it took a long time to get back to an even keel.

So what do insomniacs dream about? We dream about sleep. Most of the dreams I can remember involve waking up, only to realize at some unconscious level that I just woke up in a dream, which is usually followed by waking up in real life, which can sometimes trigger more insomnia. Like a snake eating its tail, very slowly...because it's fucking exhausted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm Dreaming of Tomorrow

Properly compartmentalized, 2008 has been a hell of a year. Improperly compartmentalized, it was kind of, well, hell. Such is the fundamental dichotomy of my world. Of course, the hellish bits are pretty much all professionally rooted and tied to factors beyond my control like the implosion of the global economy and the vagaries of Taiwanese circuit board manufacturing, so I choose not to dwell on them.

2008 was a great year, personally. A year of firsts. My first successful heavy powder day on a snowboard. My first trip to Hawaii. My first half marathon and half ironman.

Along the way I've been privileged to get to know some pretty incredible people, and to count several of them as friends. I've managed to reach back into the mostly walled up and ignored reaches of my past and make contact, however tenuous, with people I haven't spoken to in years but think of often and well. I've lost touch with, and had to make the harder decision to forcibly cut away from others, but that's what happens. Roads diverge and sometimes you just can't build a strong enough or long enough bridge. Things come together, evolve and fall apart at the edges while the center strengthens.

This being the holidays, and reading all the other posts about reflecting, I guess I should say that, like Ben and Annie, I don't put the religion of the season in the front of my head. Frankly, I'm more of a New Year's guy than a Christmas one. I don't know, as I've gotten older, I just don't feel like it's everything it's supposed to be. I get burned out on the retail pressure and the personal pressure to get something right, to find some kind of insight that makes the previous year worth it.

It always seems to me that the small victories, finishing the longest race yet, catching a great wave or having a flawless run on a waist deep powder day, adding a few new people to your life to keep things interesting; it's these things that make the year worth what it took to get it in the books. The big victories, while they are incredible, are too few and far between to count on.

And that's why I like New Year's. It's a time to plan out your path through the coming year, to choose your battles. To have, as the saying goes, one last drink before the coming war.

All the way around, while parts of this year have been, shall we say, less than awesome, it's been a hell of a ride, and I'm going to chalk it up to a win. Frankly, I can't wait to see what's coming down the pipe in '09, or who's going to be walking the road with me. I hope we can have as much fun as we did this time around, if not more.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Give your family and friends a hug and a pat on the back. Thank them for what they've done for you and resolve to return the favor as best you're able. Have a drink and get ready to get back on the ride. The 2009 show is completely different than the 2008 show, and it's gonna be a mind-blower.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Home

I'm lying on the couch in a house that, until a few hours ago, I had been in front of but never inside. I know the owners in passing, friends of a friend, and yet here I am, on their couch with their dog snoring on the floor a few feet away. They were asleep when I got here, so I haven't even said hello or thanks for the place to sleep.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm here for a reason. I wasn't freebasing drain cleaner around the corner and wandering around looking for unlocked doors and Doritos or anything. Well, okay, mabe Doritos. Mmm....

Anyway, I'm lying here in the dark, with the whole place asleep, trying and failing to space out to the Alison Krauss album playing on my ipod, and thinking about home. Not my home, in the sense of the place where I keep my stuff, but home in the ephemeral sense, what it means to be home. It's December, meaning Christmas, and that means that a lot of the people I know are going home for the holidays. Being one of 8 people in San Diego who actually think of this place as home, I'm hanging here.

So all these friends of mine who are leaving, going home, do they think of this place as home all year, only to switch allegiances come winter? Or do they only consider this a way station on a larger road? Is this truly just a place to keep their stuff?

Maybe I was smoking something. I don't know. Maybe I just have quiet time now and too much thinking going on. Lord knows I've already written enough tonight that I'm not going to post.

Back to the topic at hand, my brother is coming back this weekend for a few days. I am really excited about this, since we don't talk or hang out nearly enough. I have to wonder though. I think of this as my brother coming home, but does he? Our parents don't live in the house where we grew up, and our childhood rooms are long gone. This doesn't seem to matter much when we're all together, so maybe there's something to all those sappy cliches...I don't know.

Think about it, if like me you can't sleep. Where do you keep your stuff? Is it home?

I'm going to try switching albums.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

7 Pieces in 7 Days

So I set myself a couple of challenges last week. The first was to go without soda for a week. Made it 5 days.

The second was to write one original piece per day for a week. I made 7 of 7 days, from Monday through Monday, and I've got a start on Tuesday. Can I go 8 for 8?

I won't post all of them here, because that would be self indulgent and obnoxious, but I picked my two favorites from the period and one that I got busted writing when I should have been being social. See if you can guess which one's which.

By way of context, these are all written in one shot with no editing or revision.

12/8/08
--------
Eyes scratched inside like broken glass
Sunlight through the blinds
The promise of a new day gone stale
The taste of last night's stout
Where exactly did tomorrow go?
Where might you have left it?
Through your dirty window watch
Is that rain? Is it smoke?
Are you thinking about later?
The sound of wheels waiting for you
Just beyond
Just past the place you wanted to stop
Towel dry
Burn your coffee. You like it that way.
You shouldn't drink so much anyway.
Irish it up? Iris it shut?
Fade to black and scene
Curtain call before the overture and then you can just skip the formality
The taste in your throat like a cigarette
You forgot to stop smoking until you hit the filter
Where exactly did you leave tomorrow?
Why can you only find today?
Think back. You remember.
Last week.
Last month.
Last year.
But not last night.
Now where, exactly, did you leave tomorrow?

12/13/08
----------
Lights in the mirror reflect
Questions left unasked
Answers unneeded in the dawn's first flash
Eyes open to yesterday and closed again
Blown glass casting shadows
Like echoes of tomorrow
Bleeding through the seams
Shining past today
I see what was and never what is
Prismatic
Shifting
Where and when no longer matter
What color do I bleed
Cut with a razor I can't see
The day's first light brings sights
I'd rather not see
But I can't close my eyes

12/15/08
----------
If an answer in the negative
Stops conversation in its tracks
What is there to talk about?
What questions left to ask?
If the story that unfolds
Is too much or not enough
Remember silence broken
In the words that passed for love
A thousand ways to ask this question
Only one way to respond
Pick the locks before I turn
To see the damage that we've done
Tunneling to freedom
Seeing light through the dirt
Shovels ground down in our hands
And just ourselves to hurt
So come on and ask your questions
Reach right in and take hold
But if the answer pulls away
Be strong enough to let it go

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Tri Shit Is Getting Ridiculous

So it's the off season. Why don't I feel like it? Oh yeah, because I'm reading books about training, working out in sport specific ways and still getting up early on Saturdays to put miles on the new bike. That's right, I bought a new bike.

Like I said, this tri shit is getting ridiculous.

If you saw Mark's last post then you know that I'm part of his maniacal plan to train for a full Ironman in 2010. We've also enlisted Dana in our scheme.

The venue is yet to be determined, though we may be joining Goody and several other TNT alums in Taupo. Even if it doesn't end up being our race, I may go on principle. Can I do two in one year? Am I insane? Don't answer that! Who am I talking to? I should really take my meds on time.

So here it is. I don't know what I'm thinking, but in preparation for this nonsense, I am training in my off season to get ready for my season, which in 2009 will consist of at least one century, two half ironmans, an international tri and probably at least one sprint, just for giggles.

How did I get here? I don't know, but I'm kinda glad I did. Shut up, voices in my head.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Blast From the Past (unmedicated)

So, Mark, this one's for you. You were wondering what happened if I actually veered full into rantville? I dug into my old writing archives and pulled some of my editorials from my buddy's old mailing list. Despite the fact that the one I've included here makes it sound like, well, like I really earned my theater degree, I think it's pretty close to the full, in person meltdown. This is about 8 years old now, so take it for what it is.
----------------------
On Fashion
----------------------


Okay, so there’s no business like show business, and you live fast, die young and above all, leave a pretty corpse. What do these two cherished American axioms tell us about ourselves? We are one seriously vain culture. No big news, right? Right. Okay, so now that we’re all agreed, what can we say about our vanity?

Turn on any given episode of Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight and you will be bombarded by sickeningly sycophantic, startstruck horseshit about who was wearing what where and which alarmingly gay fashion expert had a near fatal aneurysm over it. One point of clarification here, the word gay in this context refers not specifically to homosexuals but to the community of men sporting lisps, triangular chin beards, turtlenecks and an unhealthy knowledge of fabric types. The kind of people who make you pronounce the word croissant correctly, who order coffee drinks with names more complicated than the scientific names for most venereal diseases and that cost more than the treatments. The kind of people who think Chloe is a nifty, hip name. In short, the kind of people who should be added to my ever expanding list of people who should not be allowed outside without a helmet. But I digress.

My rage in this case is pointed not at celebrities and the celebrity chasing tabloid media.
These people are paid very well to make spectacles of themselves and each other, paid, I might add, with the money we spend on their product. That said, I do occasionally wonder what causes celebrities (typically the women, but occasionally the men) to make personal appearance choices that dramatically reduce their personal attractiveness when they are not being paid to do so. It’s one thing when a beautiful actress gets a strange haircut to play a role for which she will be paid a hefty sum of money, but quite another when she decides that, in between seasons on her hit show, she should roll the dice on the miracle hair salon that is the local Nurseryland. But again, I digress.

I said that the target of my rage on this particular topic is not the celebrity, nor the drooling, borderline retarded schlubs that follow them around and take pictures of them doing useless things that we are then supposed to care about as though it were an offense to the cosmic order for the premiere of the Manimal movie adaptation to go unnoticed. No, the target of my venom this time around is none other than us, the media hungry, frantically unhip public.

In Las Vegas recently I witnessed fashion flubs that could possibly have scared Mr. Blackwell straight and could even have left Joan Rivers speechless. For this, these sartorially challenged individuals (who shall remain nameless since I was too busy laughing to bother to meet them) should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. Before I go too far, I should note that I am speaking here as a critic of fashion, which of course means that I know nothing about it. But enough about me, on to the dirt, that is the earthen motif.

Complaint #1: Women with colored hair.
While this phenomenon is not an inherently problematic one, there appear to be several areas of this rather delicate operation with which the bulk of our female population is unfamiliar. These issues, when dealt with properly, greatly enhance the appeal of the woman to men surrounding her. Handled improperly, they induce men to ask for an hourly rate. Allow me to provide the following helpful hints.
1. Just because Christina Aguilera saw fit to dye the lower half of her head blue, this does not make it a good idea for you. People like Ms. Aguilera have image consultants and hairstylists with one name on speed dial. People whose hourly rates are higher than most psychiatrists. You however, have ponytail holders and a sharpie. Do the math.
2. Bleach jobs are rarely as good an idea in truth as they seemed to be in the planning, especially if you are not white. This is not a racial statement, but rather an observation about color interaction. Platinum blond is not a color that mixes well with dark skin. You are not fooling anyone. Pale white people can usually pull it off, but rarely do it properly, hence the number of people you see walking around looking like a road pylon took a shit on them.
3. Uncorrected botched dye jobs are particularly bad. If you dye your long hair and find that it looks bad, cut it. You are only doing yourself a disservice by wandering around with well styled, but plastic looking hair.
4. Pastels do not naturally occur in human growth. Lavender, orange, blue, green, and other colors not generated by chromosomal combination should be ignored. You don’t look daring, you look like you slept in a kindergarten tempera set.

Complaint #2: Those shirts with no backs.
Here’s the deal, that thing you have, the one comprised of a sequined dinner napkin and two matching shoelaces? Yes, that one. It’s not clothing, it’s table linen. Wrap it around a fork and go put on some clothes.

Complaint #3: Strap lines.
If you wear a bikini to play, tank tops to shop and spaghetti straps to functions, stop it, at least during the summer. Your back looks like a Sanskrit manuscript. It’s not sexy. It’s geometry.

Complaint #4: Men in leather pants.
Go home and put on some jeans. You’re not a rock star, and if you were, you would probably be responsible for more schlock like With Arms Wide Open and I would be forced to put on a Metallica CD and crush your head with a rock.

Complaint #5: Cowboy Up
If you live in or are visiting a major city center, leave the boots, belt buckle and cowboy hat at home. You stick out like Ron Jeremy in a convent. Stop it. And for God’s sake, take that damn sticker off your Neon. One more thing, Calvin is a city boy, so take that sticker off too. A real cowboy would kick your ass faster than he’d shoot a cow stuck in barbed wire.

The list goes on and on. Sadly, there are more problems involving women than men, but men wrote the rulebook, which means that we get to do things the easy way. Then again, visit a golf course and you will see that many men have obviously never read the book their ancestors clubbed so many women to create.

So what can we do about this? How do we keep from becoming walking fashion travesties? We can’t listen to our European cousins since they’re the ones who started all this insanity in the first place. Fashion designers are no help. Watch an awards show. These people are so whacked out they make me want to watch the Jerry Springer show for a little normalcy. I don’t know, maybe we should all just go back to cheetah skins and loincloths, at least the current cast of Baywatch should, if not permanently then definitely during sweeps.

But seriously, we have to do something, unless of course evolution is showing us that the next stage in our development is Bozo the Clown, in which case we should just set off the nuclear warheads and see if the cockroaches can do better in a few thousand years.

For what it’s worth, my advice is just to do what you do. Stop trying so hard, it’s never as impressive as you think it is. You’ll be much better off .

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Song Lyrics That Kick Ass

Mostly this is random lines from songs that I think are really cool. Why am I writing this down? Because they keep getting stuck in my head.

1. I brought down the sky for you / but all you did was shrug -- Audience of One, Rise Against.

2. When I die I don't want no part of heaven / I would not do heaven's work well -- Youngstown, Bruce Springsteen

3. Now every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world, / Ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl. -- Death or Glory, The Clash

4. Pretty girl keep growin' up, playin' make-up, wearin' guitar -- Left of the Dial, The Replacements

5. She's living in LA / with my best old ex-friend Ray / a guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated -- Operator, Jim Croce

6. All smiles and sunshine / a perfect world on a perfect day / everything always works out / I have never felt so fucking great -- Survive, Rise Against

7. The Gods forgot they've made me / so I forgot them to / I listen to the shadows / I play among their graves -- Seven, David Bowie

8. Big green monkey / everyone's a junky -- Everyone's a Junky, Our Lady Peace

9. Look around and you'll see that at times it feels like no one really cares / It gets me down but I'm still gonna try to do what's right, I know that there's / A difference between sleight of hand, and giving everything you have / There's a line drawn in the sand, I'm working up the will to cross it -- The Artist in the Ambulance, Thrice

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

File Under: Didn't You Think to Check?

Seriously, it's like Christmas.

Zoo solves mystery of celibate polar bears

The punchline is in line 1 of the story. It's awesome.

Yeah, but how are the brownies?

Duuuude.....

This rocks. I got nothing.

World's oldest marijuana stash totally busted
Two pounds of still-green weed found in a 2,700-year-old Gobi Desert grave

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tri-ing to Catch Up

So there, I think that's my first "tri"-related pun. I'll "tri" not to do it again...damn it...anyway...

I've been quiet a while, at least in blogger-land, so this is a quick catch up on the tri stuff, which is why this blog originally started. I'll "tri" to post the non-tri post tomorrow. Oh, jesus...just shoot me...I can't stop...

I'm back to working out, except that I can't run. My foot still doesn't work. I went my regular doctor, who helpfully explained to me that I weigh more that 200 pounds. not much more, but more. Therefore, I shouldn't run. You see, in his logic, the only people who should run are really skinny people, grown men who weigh 130 pounds or less. The rest of us should find other sports. In his words "Lots of people are perfectly happy working out on the elliptical trainer." Sorry to get crass, but...fuck off, Doc. You spent 8 years in med school to tell me not to exercise? Bite it.

So I went to a different doctor, a sports doctor who has bike jerseys hanging in his office and copies of Triathlete magazine in his waiting room. A good sign. He spent a half hour or so quizzing me about my injury and poking/bending my foot in ways that made me want to give up state secrets. In the end, I'm going back into physical therapy. I start on the 16th, so maybe I'll have more to say then.

Since I'm not running, I'm focusing on cycling and swimming. I've actually started using the pool at the YMCA, which is the reason I joined 6 months ago. It's going well. I still know how and I can still knock out a 2000+ yard workout in under an hour. Now to get faster....

On the cycling front, I learned something this past weekend. Pay attention. This is important. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DO BACK TO BACK BIKE WORKOUTS!!!!

I was humbled this Sunday by Sleeping Indian Road. For the first time since I started in this sport, I had to get off the bike and walk up a hill. A little piece of me died. But then, wait for it....there were more hills!!!! HOORAY!!!! Finally, Dana and I just bagged it. Neither of us was feeling it, and she was bleeding, but that's her story to tell.

Since I seem to be working backwards, I'll wrap this up with a quick recap of Ironman Arizona (IMAZ). Dana and I drove out to watch the race on Saturday morning, meeting up with Katie and Joanna in Tempe. Since they are all paying a coach, they had to work out. I, being along for the ride, got to join in. Dana's scripted workout was a 50 mile ride comprised of one loop of the IMAZ course (competitors do 3), plus 13 extra miles. We did the loop, which turned out to be the most boring ride in existence. A sample of my interior monologue from the ride...

Wow, it sure is deserty out here. Is that a saguaro cactus? Well, I guess we are in Arizona. We haven't turned in a while. Where was that turn again? That mountain is kind of cool looking. I'm hungry. Almost heaven, west virginia...blue ridge mountains...why am I singing John Denver songs? How long have we been out here? Wait, has that mountain gotten closer? Is that another saguaro cactus? It sure is dry. Hey look, an indian casino...I'm tired of looking at that damn mountain. just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...Did I remember to lock the car?...What would happen if I just zigged into traffic? Why isn't that f$@I@#g mountain getting any closer. Damn it Dana, why did you have to ask me to come on this ride?...I don't ever want to do IMAZ...


And on and on. Despite the soul crushing monotony of the course, it was a really instructive experience to watch the race. Astute readers of this blog might have noticed a phantom post called "Water Boxing" which was an attemot to mobile blog from my blackberry. It was a short description of my impression of the swim start, which was, in distilled form, pretty much this:

At the sound of the cannon, punch your neighbor in the spine.

Now imagine 2500 people all doing this at once in the predawn glow while floating in a pool of motor oil.

Almost like you were there, huh?

From there it was over to the bike course where it went something like this:

Your friend comes out of T1. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!!

Wait 2 hours.

Your friend makes a u-turn. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!

Wait 2 hours.

Your friend makes a u-turn. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!

Wait 2 hours. Get lunch during this interval.

Your friend goes into T2. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!

Go find a spot on the run course. Repeat.

Not to take anything away. Congrats to Jess, Jason, Brian, Chris, John and everyone else out there. You all rock, but when my time to race the distance comes, my family and friends are welcome to hang out at the bar.

I think that'll do for now. Still to come will be recaps of Thanksgiving, drinking stories, Snow Jam, and who the hell knows what else.

Time for bed now. Have to work out in the morning.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ah, Intoxication...

So I was reading the BBC News article about whether Obama would keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense when I caught this in the sidebar:

Man jailed for Spiderpig insults

Now how do you not read that? Check it out for yourself.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

An Interpretive Dance of Imbecility

We invented a drinking game on the trip to Austin. This was after Longhorn, while we watched football and put off packing the bikes. The game is pretty simple. All you need is a TV and some booze, and someone like me, who tends to say things like "That commercial makes me want to hurt people," or "That guy summons the killing rage." Whenever this person (me) says something like this during a commercial, you take a drink.

Sometimes, I think I'd like to play this game as I go through my day. Granted, some days I wouldn't even make it to work before I was swaying and barking in French about monkeys in the branches. (If you have to ask, it's best not to.)

The reason I mention this is because I had a strange sort of epiphany today, if you can call it that, and I'm not sure you can. Without going into specifics, I realized that there is a special category of people who are not worthy of respect or equal treatment. This is not a blanket statement. There are no generalities implied here. Members of this unhallowed pantheon of mediocrity work very hard to earn their places in it. You know who they are. You've got your own list. I may be on yours, I don't know.

It's interesting, though, the moment that you notice someone has moved into this category. Sometimes they slip quietly in, moving just outside your peripheral vision and sneaking by, hiding until you just as quietly forget about them. Sometimes, and this is when it's really special, sometimes, they put on a tutu, light up some sparklers, plie, tendu and skip like a nimble little forest sprite right across the line. It's something to see, let me tell you.

Right about the time they take a bow they light their dance tights on fire and you know they're never coming back. You'll never be able to talk to them like adults, or take them seriously again. Of course, they'll be happy to return the favor, just as soon as they find the source of that burning smell.

All I can say is that when the smoke clears, you want a drink, so I'll say it. That guy makes me want to hurt people.

Now say goodnight, Gracie.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What the hell? Seriously...what the hell?

Ran across this on the web today. I am speechless, but I have to share. This shouldn't be funny, except that it is. Does that make me a bad person?

Man's coffin kills wife on way to cemetery. Read it here.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Swinging the Hammer

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, and this isn’t good. Left unattended, my mind does not turn to chivalry and dragon-slaying, to rescuing fair maidens or changing the world. I don’t dream up funny limericks to write on bathroom walls or pithy epithets that I can rattle off at parties. Frankly, my wandering mind is usually a pretty dark place.

This is why I try to stay occupied, to keep some kind of puzzle going in my head at all times. But sometimes I slip, and that’s when I start thinking.

I was reading Kurt Vonnegut’s “A Man Without A Country” today, and he wrote something that kind of encapsulated what’s been going through my head lately. He starts by saying that he’s been called a luddite, and that it’s not a bad thing. Then he tells the story of Ned Ludd, the namesake of the Luddites, who, according to Vonnegut and Wikipedia, destroyed a bunch of mechanical looms and other equipment in nineteenth century England in protest of being replaced by machines. He wraps up that story with this quote:

“Today we have contraptions like nuclear submarines armed with Poseidon missiles that have H-bombs in their warheads. And we have contraptions like computers that cheat you out of becoming. Bill Gates says, ‘Wait till you can see what your computer can become.’ But it’s you who should be doing the becoming, not the damn fool computer. What you can become is the miracle you were born to be through the work that you do.”

This is in my mind lately because I’ve been spending a lot of time around people in various contexts and I find that, depending on where I am and who I’m with and what I’m doing, there always seems to be a switch or two in my brain that I know I should flip in response to the situation, but when I do, the circuit that should be connected isn’t finished. The switch gets flipped but the light doesn’t come on. The car doesn’t start.

In the resulting intracranial awkward silence, I’m presented with the puzzle table on which my mind is laid out and I’m always stunned by just how many missing pieces there are. Those missing pieces, those gaps in the mural, are all the things that you can become, provided, I assume, that you don’t smash the machines that can help you get there.

The thing is, I’m pretty good with a hammer. It’s okay, though. If you smash enough machines, periodically you have to scavenge the parts to make new ones and when you do, you sometimes find that the new machine will make you another piece of your puzzle. That, of course, is what this is all about.

So if I’ve learned anything over the last couple of years I think it would be that it’s fine to pick up your hammer and pound away. At the cost of looking like a fool, or a bastard, of straining a friendship here and breaking a bone or two along the way, there’s almost always a reward when the dust settles and the wounds heal and you’ve got a slightly more complete picture of what you can become.

So thanks, KV, for putting a focus to the things that have been keeping me up the last few nights.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

You Tell Me...

I had the first couple of lines of this in my head as I went to sleep last night. Didn't know what else to do with it, so I stuck it here.

If I could take the tape from my eyelids
Blink them wet so I can see
Pull the bandage off my mouth
Part my teeth and breathe

I’d walk. I’d run.
I’d scream and howl
Until the air went cold
And the sun went down

I’d close my coat up tightly
Turn my shoulders to the wind
Take one step into the gale
And do it all again

I’d see lights on the horizon
The silhouette of home
I’d shuffle and stumble and grit my teeth
Until I reached the road

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Moment of Silence

It isn’t hot or cold. It isn’t black or white. What you notice first is that it’s nothing. Impersonal. Silent. A space without personality or history. Without memory. You’ve been in this exact same room before. White walls. Yellow walls. Pale blue. With posters or unadorned. You’ve been here before.

You lean on the bare wall and watch the closed door as though something momentous lies just on the other side. Ball handle or lever, you wait for the turn, for the grinding/sliding sound as a pocket door disappears into a wall.

When the door opens, there’s nothing you can do. A machine is at work that requires no intervention. No gears to oil or bells to ring. No problems to solve. You watch it work; pay attention as the cycle continues and the motions are stepped through. There’s a procedure for a reason and your part is small. You’re a witness.

So you lean on the wall and you fold your arms across your chest. As the process moves forward you find yourself squeezing your own chest tighter. You can taste blood because you’ve bitten through the inside of your lip. You don’t make a sound. You watch and breathe, trying not to disturb anything. There, in that second, mired in the absolute stillness of the space, you want to disappear into the walls.

You don’t make a sound. You keep your mouth shut, with the sound of your heartbeat in your ears and the taste of your blood on your tongue, because you don’t know what will happen if you try to speak. In the end, your mind can’t supply the words. You don’t trust yourself, but also, in those seconds, there’s really nothing that needs to be said.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Inertia

I haven’t had a lot to do lately. That’s due largely to the hole in my leg with the surgical tube stuck in it. In the last week and a half or so, I’ve watched a lot of TV, mostly Smallville and CSI reruns. I’ve avoided the news, since all they talk about is politics and frankly, that makes me want to projectile vomit. That’s another rant, or maybe this one. I’ll figure it out as I go.

Most of what I’ve done this past week is read. The list:

The Pure In Heart, by Susan Hill: 370 pages
The Given Day, by Dennis Lehane: 702 pages
Anathem, by Neal Stephenson: 890 pages

All very good books, though if you haven’t read Stephenson, don’t start with Anathem. You may go crazy.

If I haven’t been reading, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. About work, next year’s race season, politics (much to my nauseated dismay), the economy, you name it. I’ve had a lot of time on my hands.

I’m not entirely sure what this post is supposed to be about. I certainly didn’t start it with any objective in mind. Do I want to talk about something serious? Do I want to rant about politics and the upcoming election? Do I want to air some personal baggage?

Not really.

Is this what happens when nothing is happening?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Uselessness and Crippledom

For the last 6 days I have been to five places: the hospital, my parents' house, the doctor's office, In-n-Out and Baja Fresh. Most of this time has been spent lying down or pacing aimlessly. Only the Vicodin keeps it interesting, and even that's only because for the first hour or so after I take it, it makes me loopy.

Honestly, this is making me nuts. I can't go anywhere on my own, and I only have enough energy to move around for half an hour here and there. And this is from minor surgery. God, I don't remember it being this irritating when they rebuilt my hand. Of course, then, I had to take finals on painkillers. I got good grades that time, but it was all sympathy. After the fact, most of my professors told me I needn't really have shown up for the tests. Cool huh? Not to be ungrateful, but a little advanced warning would have been nice.

This time around, it's simpler. I scheduled this one. I planned my absence from work, did the pre-op visits and read up on the procedure and recovery. The doctor braced me to be mostly immobile and in agony for two weeks. Fine, I'm a highly trained athlete, I can take it.

Thing is, it didn't start to hurt until yesterday, day-friggin'-five. And even now, it's only a dull roar. So yeah, I'm climbing the walls, or I would be if my leg worked. Oh well, at least I paid for the privilege, right?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Longhorn...heh...That's What She Said...

Oh, where to even start with this? This past weekend was the culmination of a journey that started a couple of months back with an e-mail from Gunn. That e-mail was a copy of his race registration, topped with an all caps message: "SO THERE!" or some such nonsense. So there it is, BG, as I sit here with my foot wrapped in ice, this is all your fault.

It was a great weekend, all in all, good friends, good food, good beer and even a race.

That's right, October 5, 2008 was race day. Ironman Longhorn 70.3 in Austin, TX. I, along with the rest of Team Barney Butter, am now a half-Ironman. I don't know which half, though, probably the gimpy one.

Here are the stats:

Chip Time 7:07:50
Overall Place 1614 / 1929
Gender Place 1180 / 1313
Division Place 197 / 219
Swim 1 2Mi Rank 1212
Swim 1 2Mi Time 33:21
Swim 1 2Mi Pace 1:44/M
T1 Time 03:49
Bike 56Mi Rank 1036
Bike 56Mi Time 3:03:29
Bike 56Mi Pace 18.3mph
T2 Time 02:56
Run 13 1Mi Rank 1802
Run 13 1Mi Time 3:24:12
Run 13 1Mi Pace 15:35/M

Blow up much? Guess I need to learn how to run. Know how I know that? Apart from the pathetic run split, I mean. Check this out...


Yes, that's a cramp.

So anyway, back to the story...

We flew into Austin Thursday night and we got in kinda late, around 9 or so local and by the time we had gear off the carousels and were underway, it was working on 10. None of us had eaten, so we talked Katie B. and her mom into stopping for food. Of course, they had Clara with them and when we pulled into the Taco Bell ('cuz we don't have those in California) they lagged behind at the car while we went inside. We had ordered and were waiting for the food when we realized that they hadn't come inside.

Apparently, it wasn't the kind of neighborhood where you left luggage unattended. And we didn't. We left Katie (all 9 pounds of her), her mom and a 2 year old to stand guard. We rule! And we got Volcano Tacos, well Brian and Paul did.



mmmm...Triathlon food....

With bellies full of cheez and other preservatives, we regrouped and headed to Belton, and the Brunners' place. We were all pretty wiped, so a quick beer and it was off to unconsciousness, well, almost. Walking back from the house to the camper, where BG, Paul and I were crashing, I started getting chills. My allergies were up and I couldn't breathe. I went to bed feeling like I had ebola or something. I was freaked out, thinking that I had caught something at one of our football parties the week before.

I passed out easily enough but woke up at about 2AM. Here's the triathlete part of the conversation. I couldn't figure out how to get into the bathroom without turning on the lights and waking up the other guys, so I had to go outside and use the neighbor's lawn. So sorry, neighbors. If it's any consolation, I was out there in the middle of the night, in a vulnerable position, wondering if the Brunners had been kidding about there being a cougar in the neighborhood. If the weren't kidding, then somehow, I don't think they meant the Del Mar kind of cougar, if you know where I'm heading with this.



Anyway, Friday was all about meat and Wal Mart. In that order, with a brief stop in creepy Willy Wonka-ville. Lots of good Texas bar-b-cue and the first of many Shiner Bocks. Tim caught up with us that afternoon for a fish fry at the Brunner house and we had fun communing with nature.



Here, bambi, bambi...

Then we had more Shiner Bock.



mmmmm....carbs.....

Saturday was down to Austin to get bikes from Tim's new pad and head back to the race, by way of the LBJ library and the Adult Video Megaplexxx. I also broke my camera, so no more pics in this post. Maybe more later, once I see the rest.

We got to the race site and ran the budget truck into a tree, which was awesome.

Then we headed over to check in. I now have lots of cool Longhorn schwag. At check in we learned that the race director's previous e-mail about the lake being 90 degrees was a bit exaggerated and that the race would be wetsuit legal for age groupers. Of course, only BG brought his suit. What a princess. The expo was kind of lame, but I did some grill rub and a beer coozie from the Texas Beef Council and traded some Barney Butter for a Livestrong bracelet. So that was cool.

From the expo we had lunch at Chuy's, and honestly, how could you possibly go wrong ordering the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom the day before a race. Boom Boom sauce has to be good for you right? Right. I'm going with that.

The last thing to mention from Saturday was our bike preview. We racked the bikes as instructed and piled into the jeep for a cruise through some lovely Texas back roads, complete with sharp turns onto steep hills, crevasses that could swallow mountaineering parties and potholes that were, frankly, Texas-sized. We also learned that we had no idea where we were going and that the comprehensive directions provided by the race directors were useless because there were no actual street signs at the intersections.

Finally we flagged down a lady who was out jogging and asked her how to get to Blake-manor Road, which would lead us to civilization, and most importantly, to dinner.

US: Excuse us, how do we get to Blake-manor Road?
Lady: Blake Manor road?
Us: Yes, please.
Lady: Well, you're on Ann Showers. Just keep going a couple miles and turn left on Damita Jo (ed. note: I am not making these street names up. the directions really did sound like a bad porn script.) So you turn left on Damita Jo, keep your doors locked, and (ed. note: the transcript ends here, because the SoCal city kids all pooped themselves.)

A long and banjo filled ride later, we got to the hotel and then headed to dinner and finally to bed, where I utterly failed to sleep.

RACE DAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ugh. 4AM and my wave didn't go until 8:02. And Katie was hepped up like a howler monkey on cracky-o's. Sorry KB, we love ya, but yikes, way too early to have that much energy. Thankfully, I had an ipod full of Rise Against and 36 Crazyfists to preserve my mood.

The race ended up getting backed up and I didn't hit the water until about 8:30. the swim felt really good. I found clear water pretty early, and the course was shaped so we only swam into the sun for the first leg. Since I breathe to the left, I didn't get blinded every time I took oxygen. Even in fresh water without a wetsuit, I felt strong and controlled. The swim was really a no brainer. If I hadn't stopped to pee after the second turn, I think I would have been in the 32 minute range instead of the 33s.

By the time I got to my bike in transition, I didn't need to worry about putting socks on for the ride, since I had boots made of mud by then. I lost a good minute or so trying to scrape enough sludge off to get into my bike shoes and out onto the course.

And oh, what a course it was. From the first couple of miles I knew this was going to be a trick. People were all over the damn road. riding on the center line. Riding with no hands. Riding horses. Okay, not that last one, but seriously, it was like no one had any idea what the bike rules were. I swear I saw a couple of pelotons form.

The ride was actually, apart from big groups of other riders, well handled. the roads were in rough shape, but the worst spots were marked with paint and/or cones, so the were pretty easy to avoid. The scariest moment was when we were coming up to the right hand turn that slammed immediately into a full bore, out of the saddle climb. It was only a hundred yards or so, but ouch.

There were volunteers at the turn saying slow down, sharp turn. Shift up, there's a climb. Watch out, bikes down. Wait, what was that last one? Yes, you heard right. Watch out, bikes down. The guy in front of me pretty much stopped, so I was shifting and trying to decelerate at the same time (not a good idea) as I swung wide around him and into a minefield of people clipped to bikes that were lying flat in the road. these people, most of whom were flanked by one or more riders who had simply stopped to offer encouragement and were still standing, were making no effort to get up at all. They were just laying there in the road, begging to get run over and take someone else down. I got out of there as fast as I could.

The other thing that amazed me on the ride was the number of people with flats who decided to wait for the Mavic people to come by rather than just fix them. I can think of at least 8 or so that I saw who seemed to have the full kit on them but were standing next to bikes, not lifting a finger to put in a tube. Silly bastards. Don't they know there's a clock?

Oh yeah, and people were dropping their crap all over the course. Water bottles, power bars, Gu wrappers, tubes, you name it. I saw several people eat gus and throw the wrappers on the road. Punk asses.

Oh well. What can you do? You can shut up and ride your own dang race and that's what I did. Thanks Denner for the advice in your IMLP post about shifting whenever you feel like you're working too hard. And thanks Dana for reminding me of it. It serve me well. I came off the bike way faster than I thought I would and jammed out of T2 into well, hell. Yeah, that's about right. Hell.

The run was hell. My foot felt like a cement block and my left leg got thrashed pretty early trying to compensate for it. I finally settled into a 5 minute run/5 minute walk rhythm that worked for about three and a half miles, but I had to walk up Quadzilla, the big dirt hill that pretty much closes out the last mile of each loop. The first 10K took an hour and a half. The second was worse, pain wise. My foot was so sore that I couldn't keep up the 5/5s anymore. I caught up to Dana into the second mile of the loop and she and I walk/shuffle/limp/jogged the rest of the way together. Pretty much the worst 3.5 hours of my recent existence right there, but I knew it might go down that way, so I don't mind.

Crossed the finish line and headed to the Team Barney Butter tailgate area for beer and fajitas (thanks again, Brunners) and a champagne shower, courtesy of Paul.

Finally back to the hotel for showers and more beer (theme?) along with pizza and football.

So how was the half? Incredibly painful. Will I do it again? Duh. Yeah. In the words of my dad, now all I need to do is learn how to run.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Final Countdown (cue synthesizer bridge)

Longhorn is imminent. We leave today to fly to hot and muggy Austin, Texas. Everything is packed, the bikes are on the road, and we are all peanut-free.

That's right, Team Barney Butter is in effect, yo!

Visit the site for the full blurb.

I'm going to take a crack at mobile blogging from Austin and watch for pics after the fun is done.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fun. Pain. I can't tell the difference.

So I did exactly jack in the week after Pac Grove, but here we are spitting distance from Longhorn and I'm alternating between cranked about my first half-iron and scared off my head.

I didn't mean to take a full week off. I really intended to sit out Monday and maybe Tuesday, then get on the horse and hit the gym Wednesday night, maybe a run on Thursday...none of that happened. Come Friday, I had done nothing except pick up my bike from Jason after he tuned it.

So Friday rolled around and I joined the gang out at the Cove with the intention of cranking out a quick mile. Well, by the time we all got there and got going, the sun was sinking inexorably lower on the horizon and the swells were climbing higher and higher above it. I got to the quarter in 0:7:30, the floated there for almost 15 minutes jabbering with folks. Finally, we decided to just bag it and head in. Most of us headed to dinner, though there was a bit of a schism over who was eating Mexican and who was eating with who. It wasn't exactly East and West Germany, but there was a little drama, nothing some clever text messages couldn't cure.

Leaving dinner, I had to jam home and shower off the wetsuit smell to go meet the volleyball kids at the Carriage House for some karaoke and booze in honor of Daniel's birthday. I was the latecomer to the party and they already pretty far gone, which was good since it meant I didn't have to catch up. I didn't emerge totally unscathed though. Drinking beer may be carb-loading, but Alabama Slammers don't qualify I guess. I had the sense to pull the ripcord at about midnight.

5AM Saturday and the phone goes off. It was a text from Mark bailing out of the day's ride. (You're gonna have to explain your later explanation dude, I'm still puzzling over it.) Ultimately not a huge problem, but I got up and started to get ready for the ride, only to realize that wait, it's five in the damn morning. I don't have to be up until 6. I went back to bed.

Dana and I caught the train up to Capistrano at 7:40 after an impromptu sprint through the Solana Beach Amtrak station in bike shoes, toting helmets and bikes. Thankfully someone was running even later than us and they held the train. I can't help but think though, about the helpful lady who sold me my ticket. The conversation, which began at about 7:35, went somthing like this:

Ryan: One for Capistrano.
Lady: I need your ID. Will this be cash or charge?
Ryan: How much is it?
Lady: I hope you make your train. Cash or charge?
Ryan: How much is the ticket? I don't know if I have enough cash.
Lady: Twelve dollars.
Ryan: Cash. (hands over twelve bucks)
Lady: Thank you. (begins typing on the computer, presumably ordering East European porn or something, but very slowly) I hope you make your train. All the way across on track 2. (hands ryan the ticket)
Ryan: Me too. (sprints out the door, clacking in bike shoes)

Once in Capistrano, we had a pretty uneventful time of things, except for the bike shoe shuffle across the slick tile and hardwood floors of the station cafe to find a bathroom, and hit the road.

If you haven't cycled this route, you have to go through Camp Pendleton, which is cool. We had a hard time keeping ourselves from pulling over to climb on the decorative tanks and play on the obstacle courses, some of which looked way fun. Then we rode past a Carnival at Oceanside harbor. Somewhere between oceanside and Carlsbad, we made the decision to bag the transition run portion of the day's program and turned inland at Palomar Airport Road to get in some hill time.

By the end of the 60 miles, I was well and truly sick of my bike chain clicking and we stopped at B&L, where we ran into Jeanie and Rolf. Turns out Jeanie's racing IM Cozumel in 2009, just like our good friend Katie. Oh, and I think I got pulled into being in town for the race. Guess I should make sure my passport's current. Oy.

A little while in B&L and Dana and I realized that we were about to pass out from hunger. We'd been on the road for four hours in the sun. So a quick stop at the cars and we were into Chief's for what might have been the best frings and burgers ever.

Saturday night was Paul's birthday party and I'll gloss over that lest I think too long about BG modeling the bikini.

Today was supposed to be a 13 mile run with Katie, her coach, BG and Rita, but two miles in I knew there was no way I was gonna be able to handle race pace and interval training. I dropped back and let them pull ahead and pulled into my head to just muscle through it. Around mile 5, my foot was partly throbbing and partly numb ans wasn't bending right, so I stopped, stretched and turned back. I ultimately did 10-point-something miles in just over two hours. It could have been faster except that around the Children's pool, my knee and foot stopped working and I had to limp back to the cove.

Not my best performance and it's got me a little rattled about the half-marathon at the end of Longhorn, but I also know that I can just suck it up and muscle through if I have to. I really don't want to, but if I have to, it's there. I'm expecting to hurt for about two weeks after the race, but thankfully I'm going down for post-surgical rehab just about then and I have six weeks to recover from all of it.

How do I get into this stuff?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pac Grove 2008

Well, it's Sunday night and another exhausting race weekend has come and gone. That's right, yesterday saw me running the Triathlon at Pacific Grove. If you've been playing along at home, this was my first ever race in 2007.

Since that fateful day last September, I've been racing like crazy. In fact, yesterday was my ninth triathlon in 12 months. Does that make me obsessive? I'm not qualified to answer that question.

I decided to return to PG after a year of racing to see just what I had accomplished. What better benchmark than repetition, right? Again, if you've been playing along, this year has seen lots of races, but also lots of injury. Cracked ribs, plantar fasciitis, blisters and cuts and bruises too numerous to recall.

Anyway, how did I do? I crushed myself.

Pac Grove 2007 Finish: 3:10:22
Pac Grove 2008 Finish: 2:49:42

Apart from the overall, what did I want out of this race?

1. Beat my swim from 07. Check.
2. Beat my run from 07. Check.
3. Finish the run with no walk breaks. Check.

Icing on the cake:

1. Beat my Lavaman bike split. (by about a minute and a half)
2. Ran my fastest triathlon 10K. (by about 5 minutes)
3. Cracked the top half of my age group.

That's 3 PRs in one race (bike, run, overall).

Oh yeah, bring on Longhorn.

It was interesting, racing on my own even though the TNT crew was there and they all knew me. I raced in my age group rather than with them and for the first time since I started this, I stepped into the chute not knowing a soul in my wave. I couldn't feed off the energy of friends and had to really pull into my own head for motivation. As I wandered around on the beach waiting for my turn, I could look up at the road and see the wall of purple jackets. Part of me wished I was up there with them, but I went into the water and just stood there for a while. There's an angle you can find where if you look out to sea, all you can see are rocks and water and grey sky. You can hear the announcer and the crowd, but if you tune it out it's almost like you're out there alone.

The swim was solid. I found a good rhythm pretty quickly, though I had some crowd issues. I came out of the water to go around the rock and braced for the next wave to land on top of me just like last year. It didn't happen, so I snuck a quick look at my watch. 13:36 for the first half of the swim. Not a PR but I had nearly 90 seconds to get out of the way before the horn went off for the next wave.

No problems until the home stretch. I was drafting off of a guy's shoulder and he started pulling to the outside, into me, since I was to his right. I stuttered a stroke and let him pull ahead, then cut inside. No problem, right? Well, he turned back inside and swam underneath me. We got all pretzeled up. As I tried to push off of him, he mule kicked me square in the right shoulder, hard enough to stand me up in the water and stop me cold. I gave him a second and finished my swim.

Up into T1 and I got my bike shoes on before I went completely, totally blank. I was literally standing in front of my gear with no idea what I was doing. The i heard someone yelling my name. I looked up to see Tim and Neil from the TNT squad cheering for me. That snapped me right out of it and I suited up and ran out to the mount line.

It was on the bike that I realized just how cool the AG start was. Last year, the bike course was straight out of Thunderdome, with people all over the road on all manner of bikes and no two of them following the same set of rules. In snowboarding, we call that the human slalom. Since I took off in wave two, the road was a ghost town. I had no traffic until lap four and by then it just didn't matter. After IB, I was really worried about my dismount into T2, so I prepped my shoes and slowed down a little early, but it worked. I stuck it and ran into transition. I could even feel my feet this time.

T2 was smooth and I was out on the run. Looking at my bike on the rack, I saw that I only used one of the four Gus I brought, which had me a little worried, but I had a tough time putting it down, so I didn't try to force a second.

On the run, all I wanted to do was run the whole thing without cramping. I figured that meant all I needed to do was find a pace that I could hold and just be steady, forgetting all about speed. This was a perfect strategy for me, apparently. I had no muscle issues, didn't stop at any of the aid stations and finished smooth. The 1:01 time is a PR for the triathlon 10K, so maybe for Lavaman I can get it under an hour. Who knows?

Congrats to the TNT crew. You guys looked great out there. Some of you actually looked like you were enjoying yourself. And the after party...mother of god, you people know what you're doing. I'm still hurting.

Oh, and you guys at Nation's...nice job all of you.

Congrats to Ben on his first olympic distance race.

Thank you to all the SCU crew who came down and to everyone who texted or emailed or facebooked a good luck message. You guys rock.

Well, I think that's about it for now. I need sleep since it's back to the real world tomorrow.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Signs (of the Apocalypse)

I was reading a menu tonight and I saw an entry for "Mexican Hot Chocolate." We were in a Mexican restaurant, so nothing unusual there. The thing is, underneath the item name, it said "Made with real Mexican hot chocolate."

I pointed this out to Mark, who mentioned that he had happened to read the back of his chocolate milk container earlier that day and saw the warning that the product inside contained...wait for it...MILK!!!!!

Ah, lawyer shields. I have a bag of trail mix in my pantry that warns me that it was packaged on equipment that processes peanuts.

The list goes on and on. It put me in mind of this fragment I wrote a few years back. Nothing ever came of it, and I think I wrote it after a turn in jury duty.

Signs

There’s a sign on the door that says “Court is in Session. Do not Enter.” If you look in the window, there’s no one inside.

You pass by thousands of these examples of human idiocy every day. What you don’t do, most of the time, is notice.

When the man at Disneyland goes crazy and refuses to believe that you took his family’s picture, you politely tell him that yes, you did. He persists because there’s no film in the camera. You show him the little screen and attempt to explain that it’s digital. You do not, for example, whip out a Browning 9mm and blow off his right kneecap. In a perfect world, maybe, but not here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

What keeps me up at night?

The Lee Majors Bionic Rechargeable Hearing Aid. You heard that right. I just saw the commercial for it on the History Channel. And guess what!!!!!

It won't cost you six million dollars!!!!!!!! Hooray!!!!!!

I'm going to go vomit.

Friday, August 29, 2008

New Friends and Places Best Left Behind

It's Thursday night, well, technically Friday morning, but I don't count the new day until the sun actually rises. I've been home about an hour and once again, I don't feel like sleeping.

I've been thinking a lot lately about life and friends and the world in general. In the last two years or so my life has turned completely on its head and frankly, I love it. I don't understand it, and I think I manage to make a pretty good hash out of about 90% of what I do on the personal front, but for the most part I'm enjoying the ride.

If you'd told me two years ago that I'd make a bunch of friends by blindly joining a beach volleyball league, I would have probably laughed at you, that is, if I had managed to work up the nerve to talk to you in the first place. If you'd gone on to tell me that I would run a triathlon, let alone get hooked on the sport, I would probably have said something really snotty and walked away.

The reason I'm thinking about all this I guess is that today sucked. It really, really sucked. There was almost nothing about work that went right, I nearly had a high speed accident on the freeway, one thing after another. None of that matters, though. I had a birthday party to go to tonight. I got there late, but I got there. I didn't talk much, but I almost never do in big groups. I don't do well in them. I'm the guy who says things that no one hears, even when no one else is talking. Even this doesn't really matter though, because for me, just going means that I'm not quite the guy I used to be. There was a time, not all that long ago when I would never have gone. I probably wouldn't have responded to the invite, and if I had, it would have been even money that I'd get to the door of the restaurant and not be able to go in. I can't tell you how many times I've done that.

My dad asked me today at lunch what I was doing tonight. I think he meant, what workout was I going to do. I'm always going off to swim or run or hit the weight room during the week, but I said no, I have this birthday party to go to. he kind of laughed and said "remember when you never had anywhere to go?" I do. Believe me. It was a period that had to be worked through to find the other side, but now, with some distance, I can say that I stand in awe of the people who stuck by me during those times. My family, the SCU crew, all of 'em. It's humbling to know that no matter how invisible you feel, there's usually someone looking; that people have your back when you don't have any clue how to ask for their help. That you didn't have to is staggering.

I was told tonight that this blog is a bit negative. I know it is, but most of the time, I'm trying to be funny. I'm cursed/blessed with a dark, offbeat sense of humor. In conversation, I can usually make it work, but not always in print. With the exception of a few posts, I am being as snarky as you probably think I am.

But what does all this have to do with anything? Not much really, at least in the longer view. Nothing I say here is going to make me or you a faster racer, or make the next president any more likely to solve the world's problems than the last several.

What I can say, as I look back at the last couple of years, is that I've blundered my way onto a path that makes some sort of sense to me, in a really oblique sort of way. I've made new friends, lost track of a few, and covered a lot of ground with a dizzying array of steady and one-time traveling companions. I don't know where this road goes, or who will be standing there with me a little further on, but I am looking forward to finding out. I know where I've been, and there are lot of places I never want to see again, a lot of holes I'd like to see filled in and paved over, but there's not a lesson learned that I'd give up.

I'm bad at keeping in touch, at making the little gestures that keep friendships and relationships on track. I'm just not that detail oriented, though I wish I could be. I know I should work harder to keep up on the people in my life, however tangential, but I usually just can't do it. There's still a little bit of the maladjusted, dark as hell loner I used to be stashed away in corners I haven't found, but I'm looking. I'd like to be a better friend, brother, son than I am and I am working toward the goal, but it's tiring work, building something without a blueprint, so the days when you make a positive step without having to work at it are pretty special, especially when the odds were stacked against you.

I'm getting long winded now, so I'm going to stop before I repeat myself. I'm going to sign off with this poem, I guess it is, that I wrote right around the time I knew things had to change. Maybe one day there will be a sequel, but I think it will involve some running. Until next time, this is called Walk Again.

Standing. Toes over the edge. Staring
Rocks on the valley floor
A lost soul willing
A sick heart beating
Giving anything just to be good

Falling into sunrise
Bloody light burning my eyes
A vertigo I can no longer feel

If I could grow wings I'd fly away from all of this
But on my broken legs all I can do is crawl
The distance between where I need to be and where I am
Is greater than the strength of this boy to become a man

So with bleeding hands I pull myself into the sun
Over the rocks and across the glass horizon
With every drop of blood I leave my sins here in this dirt

Free fall. Through clouds and fire
Strip away the armor. Shed the fear
And show my scars to the world

If I could grow wings I'd fly away from all of this
But on my broken legs all I can do is crawl
The one I need to be waits for me
A shadow behind the sun
Waiting for me to heal. For the day that I stand tall
So that I might walk again for now I'll crawl

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sometimes I'm so smart I scare myself.

Okay, I'm finally coming out of the coma. I'm only beginning, I think, to understand exactly what I put myself through this weekend. By way of initial context, I'll say this: It was all tri, all the time.

Friday night was the TNT swim at La Jolla Shores. 1 mile, no big deal, right? Right. Except...when I swim slow, I get bored. Actually, I don't have time to get bored. In the water, if there's no clock running, I'm about six years old. I spent my forty five minutes in the water diving into the giant school of bait fish just offshore, trying to touch the bottom and sprinting around after seal barks, all in between bouts of making sure newbies didn't drown. I don't know how far I actually swam, but it was probably well over a mile. My arms and shoulders were sore the next day and they never really are after Shores swims.

I actually stayed in and slept on Friday night, knowing that Saturday was Iron Mountain. Now, if you've read this blog for a while, you know that I have a history with this workout. It was my fourth time on the course, and my first going in without an injury. I was supposed to be helping TNT again, but frankly there isn't much to be done for them at this point.

Prophecy moment: Iris gave me a bumper sticker that reads "Warning! Training with hangover." This is awesome on many levels. Mainly, it's damn funny, but I wonder if it signifies that I've been sending the wrong message to the TNT folks. It seems that every time they've called me to help out with a Saturday workout, and I've done several this season, I show up hung over, on no sleep, or both. Of course, I still manage to grind out the workouts and I'm usually pretty quick about it, but still, definitely something belongs in the "Don't Try This At home" category.

I think the alumni volunteers matched or outnumbered the participants who showed up. We got going and the lead out volunteer, Greg, and I dropped the teamies pretty quick, so I topped to let several catch and pass me to try and bookend the faster team group. The thing is, they were only holding about 15 MPH in that part of the pack and the top half of the IM route is way too fun to ride that slow. I wound up waiting at the turnaround. I let most of the team pass me there while I goofed off and talked to Robbie. We finally started riding after giving the middle of the pack a goof four or five minute head start. That's when Robbie said "Let's catch Dana." I said, "Okay" and tore off. A long hard sprint later, I caught and passed Dana. At that point I realized that Robbie hadn't followed me. Bastard.

No turning back now, though, I was committed to seeing how far up in the line I could get. I eventually caught Katie and passed her, which I think made her angry, because she wound up chasing me all the way back up the hill. More on that in a bit.

If you haven't ridden or driven highway 67 southbound, the stretch from where it connects to Scripps-Poway Parkway to Willow Road in Lakeside, which is our second turnaround, is an insane downhill section. I hit 40 MPH this time, though I've gone as high as 45. Iris told me she hit 49, which is AWESOME!!!!

At the bottom, we have an aid station at the Circle K. This is where everyone regroups and I got to heckle Robbie for not keeping up with me. He patiently explained that yes, he caught Dana too, he just waitied for a big downhill, rather than waste a bunch of energy sprinting through Ramona. I felt stupid, because it was at that point that I remembered I was racing on Sunday morning.

So we set out for the last leg of the ride, which a multi-mile climb back to Poway Road. This where it got weird for me. I was tired anyway, so when my energy started flagging, I sang songs in my head to keep going. I went through some Springsteen (Thunder Road), Social Distortion (Highway 101) and then I settled on, of all things, John Denver. That's right, JOHN FREAKIN' DENVER!!! Wanna fight about it? Apparently, Take Me Home, Country Roads works like afterburners. Who knew?

This is also where I realized I think I made Katie mad passing her earlier. See, she wiped the road with me climbing Torrey last week, but this time I stayed ahead of her, though she wasn't far back. I don't know, but I think she was holding back, letting me win, but knowing all the while that I would pay for it. I know this because back at the trail head, when I changed into run gear and took off up the hill, she and Dana and Tim went and did the ride again.

I had thought about going with them, but seeing as I was racing on Sunday morning, I decided to limit myself to the official workout, which was the 30 mile ride with 2274 feet of climbing, followed by a 3 mile trail run up the side of the mountain. You can actually go 6 miles if you go to the top, but I was being smart remember? I was saving something for the race, so I only went to the T junction. About halfway up, I realized that I hadn't done a trail run since I hurt my foot back in February. That's right, I picked pretty much the hardest one you can do to test the waters. That's me, Ryan Mashburn, Super Genius.

I felt a little better when Brian, who was also doing the race on Sunday, showed up at the T. At least I wasn't being dumb alone.

We grabbed lunch after the workout and it was at about 2:30 in the hamburger factory, in Poway, that Brian and I remembered we had to be in Imperial Beach, which is basically Mexico, by 4 to get our packets. We made it as they were packing up the expo.

Saturday night was a fundraiser where I was supposed to go for an hour or so, have a beer or two and then get some sleep. Four and half hours later I'm shooting pool with Iris and Melinda, several more than two beers into the night, thanks to Trent and Alan, and I have a stake in Brian, who I helped Iris buy at the singles auction. If you've got any suggestions on what we should do with him, hit the comment board.

So at 12:45 as I'm walking four blocks in the wrong direction from my car to get Melinda back to hers, I'm beginning to think I should revise my race goals for IB.

At 1:30AM, as I set the alarm for 4:30, I thought I may have made a, shall we say, tactical misstep, in my handlling of Saturday, which is when someone started backing heavy trucks around in one of the construction sites around my neighborhood. Beep beep beep rev. Repeat. Until 2AM, when I finally nodded off.

5AM Sunday. My text to Brian: "We are stupid. I've decided this." He agreed.

As I was setting up my transition area, someone asked me if the swim was still going to happen. Given that this was a triathlon, I said "I think so, why?" Apparently, the beach had been closed for a few days leading up to the race due to high bacteria levels. Wow, good thing I had all that beer in my system. Alcohol kills germs, right?

Not much to report on the swim, except that the water was disgusting and the visibility was worse.

Running out of T1, I heard someone yell my name and looked over to see Denner shouting at me from his seat atop a bike trainer. I spent the first mile or so of the bike ride wondering why the hell he was on a trainer in the transition area. My morning was definitely starting to rule.

I powered through the ride as best I could, though my legs felt like, I don't know, similes fail me. They felt like crap. I felt like crap. Thank god it was only 9 miles. I know 'cuz I read my t-shirt this time. I was so zonked though that even though I had my feet on top of my shoes coming into the home stretch, I nearly powered through the dismount line. Hopping off the bike as it was moving way too fast, I hit the brake to slow down, only I hit the front brake, causing the bike to endo with me in midair and slapping down onto the pavement in my bare feet. Somehow, I didn't break an ankle or drop my bike, though I got a great agonized "oohhh!" out of the crowd. And I made the dismount line. Yay! So into T2 I went.

That run sucked. How much did it suck? There are not yet computers powerful enough to calculate the magnitude of the suck. And I ran the whole 5K in under 30, but I didn't enjoy it damn you!

When I passed Greg on the course he asked how I was feeling and I said, "This sucks!" He laughed at me and we ran on. He was heading into the turnaround and I had already gone through it. I found out after the race, however, that after he laughed at me, he barfed. So see, that run sucked! It even sucked for the guy who wasn't hung over and running on 3 hours sleep the day after Iron Mountain.

Thankfully, after the race we got to go to Jim's house and eat heaping piles of awesome food. Thank you Denner for showing me that you don't need a fork to eat mac and cheese. You are correct that it's just more efficient, not to mention visceral to just shovel it in by hand.

By the time I got home Sunday night, I was so tired I don't think I knew my name anymore. I fell asleep in the shower. I finally plonked my worn out carcass into bed around 10:30, and I barely made it past turning off the light. Score! Sleep. Finally, sweet holy blessed sleep. And I have no idea whether the jackass in the truck was working last night.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My First Aquathlon...ah, Crap...

So I haven't blogged much about the cool stuff I do with the tri club since I became an official member. That's because, since I became an official member, I have managed to attend exactly ONE function. That was last Saturday's Bog Moon swim. My attendance at that was due more to stubbornness and an unwillingness to fall into a coma (see Randomfest).

Tonight was the monthly aquathlon, and I was registered. The new tri bag was packed and next to my desk. I was psyched.

What's an aquathlon, you ask? It's a triathlon, but without the bike part. This is as opposed to a duathlon, which is a triathlon minus the swim. Still with me? Anyway, I was all set to race.

This brings me back to the fact that I have done next to nothing with the tri club. Every time I get all set to do a club race, or go to a club function, something gets in the way. Today it was computers. Yes, computers. Specifically, the computers we make at work.

Without going into technical detail, I've been on this for two weeks and I'm seriously starting to wonder what the Amish know that I don't. Churning butter and tilting up barns is starting to sound way cooler than figuring out why a CPU driver and a dual core optimization utility won't play nice together. Do you ever have a moment where you're holding a bottle of water, looking at it and focusing all your energy, thinking, "Please be vodka. Please be vodka."? Yeah, that's been my two weeks.

No aquathlon for Ryan, just quality time with a series of hardware drivers and brain drain. Yippee! Now where do I get a coat with wooden peg fasteners and a horse drawn buggy?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

RANDOMFEST!!!!!!

So, I don't know about you, but my weekend involved 3 tribute bands, 2.75 miles of swimming (.25 of which were in my underwear with a glow stick tied around my neck), about that much running, climbing Torrey Pines and getting bit by a dog. How'd you do?

Starting with Friday night and my Cove swim. I only did a half mile, since I was totally phoning it in. The first quarter was a PR though, at 5:59. Then it was 20 minutes at the buoy talking to Marty and back in. Working hard, I tell ya.

After a shower, it was off to Cane's for a night of cover band awesomeness. That's right, a triple bill, for only $12 bucks, we got to see fake Springsteen, the fake Stones and fake Journey, wait, check that, we got to see Lights, the premier Journey tribute band, as they introduced themselves. Actually, they were almost as good as the real Journey, who I have seen in concert, to my eternal shame. About halfway through their set, the singer for Lights announced that they will be opening for Styx in Newport Beach in September. Here's a question, how far have you fallen as a headliner when your contempraries' tribute bands are opening for you? Serves them right for inflicting Lady on the world. And for not playing Mr. Roboto when I saw them this summer. Damn it, that still makes me mad.

All in all, apart from the fake Stones, who sucked like brand new vacuum cleaners, it was totally worth the cash. And our waitress was attentive, and hot, so that was good, though it lead to more beer consumption than I'd planned. Home at 2AM to pack for:

Saturday, and Katie's insanity workout. Essentially, this was supposed to be an olympic tri. We did a mile swim from the Shores. I saw a 4 foot leopard shark and my first jellyfish of the year. Cool. Switched to the bike and rode up to UCSD (sucked) and then down Torrey to Coast Highway and up to Moonlight Beach, where who did we find? The Pac Grove team, that's who. They were one round into their full transition practice, and this was at 10AM. They started at 7. We hung out, bummed some SAG supplies and took off back to climb Torrey (sucked). Katie dusted me up the hill, of course, she's half my size. Apparently tiny women can climb hills on bikes faster than 200 pound guys. Who'd a thunk?

At the top of the hill, I caught every red light between the crest and the turn back to the Shores descent (way effin' fun).

Switch to the run and away we go. Started smooth, but I got a leg cramp and stopped to stretch. Katie kept going. I ran on once I loosened up. Running through the neighborhood past the tennis club, I saw a guy talking to a contractor. The guy had a dog on a leash. It was a wheaten terrier, just like the one we had when I was a kid. Mean little....but I digress. As I ran by, I said hi. The dog leaned in for a sniff and BAM! sunk his little shaggy demon teeth into my leg. Took a big chunk out of my tri shorts and left a nice meaty bite mark on my quad. I think it was because it had been shaved and didn't like me looking at it. Either that or its little terrier brain was so compressed from gernerations of inbreeding that...aw screw it. Anyway, Cujo kinda took the wind out of my sails. I ran a little more, but I was bleeding and my leg was throbbing, so I pulled the ripcord and bailed out.

Had some personal business to take care of after the session, so I got back to the Shores for Cassi's birthday about four hours late. Unfortunately, none of my personal business involved a nap, so I got there with all my swim gear, wetsuit, clear goggles (it's night time), swim cap, body glide...all of it...except trunks. Have you ever tried pulling a triathlon wetsuit on over a pair of cotton boxer briefs? Not pleasant, I tell you. Not freakin' pleasant. Stupid tri club intiation rituals...damn it...wasn't supposed to...first rule of tri club is...well, no drafting, but the second rule of tri club...forget it. I'm in enough trouble.

On with the glow stick and into the Pacific for a quick 800M (or so they said). Fun time, swimming with a fishing lure tied to your ass. But it was really cool to look up and see this line of glow sticks cruising through the water.

Home by 10:30. What a lame-o, right? Well yeah. But I stayed up 'til midnight, so there.

Today was a wetsuit-free mile at the Cove, which was cool, except for the freakish windswell that kept putting the ocean in the wrong place. My right arm was useless for a quarter mile. Either the wave broke on top of my stroke, or it went out from under me and I fell onto my side in the trough. I've still got boat legs.

Can't wait to see what the week brings.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Untitled.

Cut to the Jazz Man, standing alone on a street corner under an orange sodium light. Fedora slung low, his pinstripe suit glistening with a vaguely incandescent rain. His muted trumpet lost to the city traffic.

Cars slide by, the wet pavement trying in vain to shush the unmuffled exhaust and the blaring thump of hip-hop and techno. The trumpet fills the void between the beats, like the past reaching out and brushing its cold fingers along the bottoms of your bare feet. The drivers don't even know it, but they're driving over someone's grave.

The oily slick on the street reflects scattershot glimpses of undercarriage neon. The Jazz Man's eyes stay closed. He doesn't need to see it anyway. He knows how far he's come, as his wrinkled but not yet arthritic fingers work the valves and his creaky wrist pulls at the mute.

Occasionally, someone walks by, but there's no case for spare change. This is a solo for the night, for whoever happens by. For the Jazz Man and by the Jazz Man, though if you asked him, he'd only say it was jazz, as though it wrote itself out of the ether and just took hold, focusing through the bell of a horn that has seen more years than most.

More cars, more bass. More voices. One sided conversations rattle and bounce by as the bars close and he adjusts his song, adding little flourishes, increasing the tempo. Lively and yet still somehow mournful. A song that knows something you don't.

People walk by. Some stop to listen, then drift away. Fading back into the night carrying little pieces of the song with them and dreaming, for reasons they don't understand, of private eyes smoking in dim hotel bars and flashbulbs popping and glamorous women smoking cigarettes from slim silver cases. Maybe they hum a few notes before they drift off, wondering where they heard that song.

The Jazz Man's tune slows as the city heads toward sleep. There are fewer cars on the road, fewer voices, lonelier footsteps. The song slows down, then finally whispers to a stop. The Jazz Man opens his eyes and walks, his suit still shiny with rain, into the night.

It's midnight, why am I blogging?

Frankly it's because I don't think I'll be sleeping any time soon. This despite the fact that I spent the latter half of today feeling a lot like I spent the first half drinking cheap corn whiskey out of mason jar filled with old cigarette butts. I barely made it through dinner.

I've been working out a lot lately but balancing that with eating badly and drinking too much. Welcome to my half-iron training plan. Half-assed is a viable description, maybe even half-witted. Certainly haphazard. Okay, enough of that.

It's been a while since we visited the Big Book of Stupid Things Ryan Does. For tonight's reading, we're going to start with last Friday night, at the wine, cheese and chocolate party. I actually got through it unscathed, without even reaching for an emergency beer, though I did get into a rather elliptical (and drunkenly stationary) political argument. Thankfully, other, more intoxicated people were there to break things up by trying far harder than I was to be coherent. I beat it before they figured out how to turn on the karaoke machine.

Made it home around 1AM, tried unsuccessfully to sleep. Valuable lesson learned: When drinking wine and eating chocolate and carb-laden crakers, your body gets a bit jacked up. When you do sleep, your dreams are jittery and Tarantino-like. Lots of jump cuts and marginal acting. Surreal montages of dancing costumed characters like the ones at Disneyland only creepier. But I digress.

I finally entered this, let's call it a fugue state, at about 3AM. Just in time to have the alarm go off at 6 so I could head down to Coronado and help the TNT squad learn to grab water bottles while cycling. Valuable lesson learned: When newbies unload their used bottles, check their hand position and be ready to duck.

After the TNTers wrapped up, it was time to do my training for the day, which consisted of crashing Katie's far gnarlier than anticipated workout. Stay off the Strand at 1PM. And definitely at 3. Trust me. Even without sweating out red wine, it sucks when you get blown out of your aero bars. And the running is best left undiscussed.

Needless to say, when I made it home around 7PM I was largely non-functional.

Sleep helped, though I crashed right through my planned Sunday surf session. What's one more week's worth of dust on the board? Did manage a cove swim, though not the planned 2-miler. (There's always this week, right?) And then it was off to meet Mark for a beer...er, Mark and Tauni for four pitchers...

Monday sucked. And the visit to UCLA didn't help matters. Have I ever mentioned my irrational loathing of the City of Angels? Another post entirely.

Skip forward to last night and the 80's cover band at the House of Blues. How do you go wrong with a fat bassist in a Devo costume, a singer dressed like Spiccoli (complete with white zinc on the nose) and a wannabe Slash on lead guitar? You just can't, I tell ya. You just can't. Especially when they know Don't Stop Believin' AND Come On Eileen. Oh, and we got free tickets to see Dramarama. Even though the cover guys played Anything, Anything, so I get to be all blase about it and compare the originals to their imitators. Hope they bring their A game.

Again, too much beer and a sketchy salad led to weird dreams and not enough sleep, so of course I got up and joined Brian and the gang for a swim this morning. I missed the bat rays, but I did see a seal. And I swam like I was still drunk. Brian, you couldn't stay in my slipstream because it was a moving target. I blame the currents. Yeah. Currents. Not the Red Trolley. What would a trolley be doing in the Cove anyway?

I'll close with this: I got a call today from a client telling me that the audio on their main display had gone out. I tried everything I could think of to fix it remotely. I rebooted their computers. I had the guy on site check the TV volume and make sure no one had turned it down. I read PC log files looking for weird cryptic error codes. Finally, I gave up and drove down to El Cajon to see for myself. Guess what? They had unplugged the #$%#!@ speaker.

And curtain.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 4, 2008

What I'm Frightened Of...

Disclaimer: This is dark. It's angry. If you're having a good day, you probably don't want to read it. I'm posting it anyway.

I’ve been thinking about this on and off for a few years now, though to be honest I usually try and stamp out this train of thought when it starts up. I tend to find it useless. The thing is, it’s all boiled over lately and I need to write this down, if for no other reason than because I need it out of my head.

It’s been a while since I’ve believed in God. Not the “is there or isn’t there” kind of belief. Frankly, I don’t think about that all that much because even if there is a God, I don’t believe in him. I say that in the sense that I wouldn’t follow God into battle. I wouldn’t take an order. I wouldn’t put my trust in God any more than I would in a hungry grizzly bear.

People have a tendency to ascribe their victories to God’s preference, to bury their disappointments in God’s will. As the song says, “what I’m frightened of / is that they call it God’s love.” When I achieve something I’ve worked for, when I see a blind man skiing or a one legged man racing a triathlon or a teenager giving up summer break to build houses for flood victims, I don’t see God. I see the power and spirit of the individual. Indomitable will and altruism are human traits that developed over the eons along with consciousness and opposable thumbs and to give credit for them to anything other than the individuals wielding them is to dilute them.

At the same time, any of the thousand minor tragedies that befall us over the course of our lives don’t fare any better under the guise of the divine plan. What possible utility could the failure of a business, the dissolution of a marriage, the death of a hamster, or the outcome of a boxing match have to God’s overarching vision of Creation? I guess you could write this off as one of those crazy butterfly wing flap causes hurricane things, but that’s reaching really far. The idea that God designed these events as tests to help us better ourselves and to lead lives that better conform to his rules makes me a little sick. This is God as costumed super-villain, the master manipulator pulling strings to make sure you dance to his tune. And what good is that?

Looking around the world, I think that God, at best, is asleep at the wheel. Whether the heavens are presided over by a bearded man in a robe, or by a pantheon of incestuous sociopaths, to acknowledge the existence of either is to acknowledge just how spectacularly they fail to fill the job description. When the rapture comes, who exactly is getting picked up? The zealots who shoot abortion doctors? Or will it be the hand of Allah that purges the earth of infidels in a wave of righteous fire? And who gets the asbestos underwear, the guys recruiting suicide bombers? Frankly, if either is right, then the higher powers might as well get on with it. Pick up their jacks and go home so the rest of us can learn the new rules and start living.

Maybe I’m missing something. Maybe God does have a plan, but it can only be seen at some far removed, macro level. But then again, they say the devil is in the details. So there you go. That’s exactly the problem. The details are what affect us all. It’s the little things that get under your skin, that keep you up at night, and that help you sleep easier. It isn’t the macro stuff. That’s all too big, too far removed. You can write a check or volunteer and feel better about the big stuff, but you can only work your way through the money problems, the family dramas and the broken bones. There’s no higher power help there. It’s all time and sweat. So if the devil’s in the details, then only your hard work can get you past him.

I’ve lived through my stretches of darkness, the times when even if the light at the end of the tunnel is a train, you don’t mind, because at least it’ll be bright for a while. I’ve split my knuckles open on solid core doors and left holes in my share of walls. I’ve had the meltdown days when I can’t do anything but sit shaking on the floor of my garage with the lights off. In every case, I’ve managed to find the thread, however small, however translucent, that leads to the exit door.

The problem is, it’s only every so often that you get through that door with all your fingers and toes. And even when you’re back in the sun, there’s always another trap door there waiting to pull you under again. You can step over and around, but it’s the ones that get the people closest to you that leave you feeling powerless, like you want to dive in after them with a climbing rope on your shoulder but you’ve got nothing to tie off to. There’s nothing you can do. So is that part of the plan? Be your brother’s keeper, expect when it suits the overseer to make it impossible? I’m sorry, but if that’s what God wants, God can go to Hell.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Holy Crap, What Day Is It Agian?

So it's August now, and holy hell, where has the summer gone? I have had absolutely zero free time lately thanks to work and the impending buyout/merger that has me learning the systems and, let's call them idiosyncrasies, of another company. Hopefully it'll all go through, but that's another bottle of bourbon entirely.

I ran two tris in July, Carlsbad Sprint and Solana Beach Sprint. Both were solid races for me, except for the swims, which were surf entry. It's been too long since the races to bother with a full recap, but let me say this: if you're going to do a sprint, make sure you know what the distances are. Sure, the run is always 5K, but but you know, when the swim and bike turn out to be twice as long as you thought, it kinda takes the wind out of your sails. And all you had to do was read the stupid t-shirt they gave you. Oh yeah, and don't ride Del Dios the day before a race. If you do, you might as well go out drinking and cap it all off. Even a 9-mile ride hurts at that point.

So what's next?

Well, Pac Grove is coming up. I just booked the hotel room.

And oh yeah, I signed up for Longhorn Half. So now I have 60 days to get my half marathon run back. Oh joy, oh rapture. Running. Yay.