Sunday, August 31, 2003

One interesting tidbit I forgot to mention in my vacation post. I was staying at the Eureka Inn, and on Tuesday, on my way up to the parks, I stopped at a gas station, and noticed the headline on the local paper, that the owner of the Eureka Inn had been charged with misappropriation of funds (apparently a more serious charge than embezzelment). Apparently the $9 a night in room taxes I paid, the owner of the Inn had been keeping that money for himself. He of course thinks its an outrage that he's been charged with a crime, when he's offered to pay back the money he stole. So he's the real victim here. Services at the hotel seemed unaffected by the charges. Though the hotel services guide claimed I could buy stamps at the front desk, yet when I tried to, was told by the desk clerk she had no stamps. Which was for the best, because the post office was an impressive building, and I was glad I had a chance to see it.
No One Makes it to Burning Man Festival.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

The following are my comments regarding Randy Newman's concert August 24, 2003, at Villa Montalvo. It was originally composed for an audience of devoted Randy Newman fans whom are well-familiar with the general nature of a Randy Newman concert. As such, I fail to mention much of Randy Newman's stage patter, only commenting on things that were new to me, or at least struck me as worth mentioning. Sometimes I comment on a story he tells many, many times. I realize most of my readers (what readers?) will have no idea what I'm talking about, so will add brief, unsatisfactory explanations (I just wrote a very lengthy trip report, and don't feel like re-writing this too much). I have removed the opening greeting, and pick up with my arrival at Villa Montalvo for a pre-concert dinner:

The dinner was good, though perhaps not as good as I previously remembered. The cous-cous and fish, and essert, were the highlights. I sat with some group, which as near as I could tell consisted of parents meeting their son's fiancee for the first time.

They pointed out around 7:20 that we should probably take our seats, which is good, because I was somehow of the impression the show started at 8:00. My seat was amazing, eighth row, on my left, looking right over Randy's shoulder onto the keyboard.

Randy took the stage promptly at 7:30.

--Last Night I had a Dream

He made some mistake early on in the song, to which he commented, "First mistake in 14 years."

--A Wedding in Cherokee County

He told the story about the Albanian anthem. [The song began as a attempt by Randy to write a national anthem to Albania, whom he admired for actively antagonizing every nation on earth] "At the time, this was in the worst taste in Rock and Roll. It's help up nicely, I think."


He commented on how he has to create the sound of accompanying instruments himself, because he's too cheap to hire a band. "There, doesn't that sound like a guitar? It's the same thing...fuck it."

--Living Without You

After "Living Without You," he played the first few chords of "Marie," then stopped himself to greet the people still arriving. "I don't want to embarass you, but stay where you are. I want to tell you what you missed." He explained that he had opened with a psychadelic number from his '70s folk rocker days. Then he said something about the Grateful Dead.

He again began to play "Marie," then changed his mind.

--Short People


--The Girls in My Life, Part One

--The World Isn't Fair

--Red Bandana

Said something like, "It's hard to sound this stupid."

--Real Emotional Girl

--Follow the Flag

I read the Cerritos reports, so I was expecting "Song For the Dead" to follow [Randy had used the juxtoposition between the two to comment on our nation's recent imperial ways], but it did not. Randy simply remarked, "Coming from me, its hard to know how to take this."

--You Can Leave Your Hat On

--I'm Dead (But I Don't Know It)


Randy then remarked, "If you ask me, anyone who brings a kid to see me...I know, because of 'You Got a Friend in Me,' and I'm going to play it, but not until 10:30 after you've had to sit through all my other stuff."

--Political Science

Intermission. I decide to scout out the backstage area to remind myself where I need to be to see Randy. I also figure I'll keep an eye out for Suzanne, though all I have to go on is the Cerritos group photo. I scope out the area, and the table selling Randy CDs for a bargain-basement price of $20. I see a woman with her hair down, but who could be Suzanne, so I decide to ask, and it is, indeed her. So I was able to meet her and get all the details about Cerittos, and boost my LC meetings into the double-digits. I get back to my seat just in time. Not that I got a lot of Randy's comments before, but now it was quite dark, so I was lucky just to get the song list down, but I did get a few choice remarks. Rest assured there was more.

--It's Money That I Love

--Yellow Man

--In Germany Before the War


I think it was after Baltimore, that he commented on the new Ikea opening. "I'm going to be the first Jew in Ikea."

--I Miss You

I believe it was now that he commented on his ex-wife, "Irrespective of what I look like, I'm a gold mine." He added that she deserves it.

--You Got a Friend in Me

--Dixie Flier

--Song for the Dead

Before Rednecks, he did the usual buildup [telling the story of seeing Lestor Maddox on the Dick Cavett Show, which inspired the song], though it was interesting to hear the "Only the good die young" comment now that Maddox is, in fact, dead. Randy also mentioned that Maddox has sent him a signed axe handle after the song came out, I can't remember if I'd heard that before.


--My Country

--Louisiana 1927

--My Life is Good


--I Love L.A.

--Feels Like Home


--Sail Away

--I Think It's Going to Rain Today

It was a great show. The crowd seemed fairly enthusiastic, though it was a subscription type crowd. Though a lot of people took off before the encore, to get to the shuttles back to the parking lot.

After the show, I made my way to the back area where we met Randy last time. Security said it may be a long wait, but after only five minutes or so, Randy came out, and a line quickly formed. Security said Randy had very little time, and he did look like he was in a rush. But he was gracious and signed what was put before him and looked happy to see us as he always does. He remembered Suzanne from Cerittos, and I like to think there was a faint glimmer of recognition in his face when he saw me. He signed the Sail Away album cover for me, and I thanked him for the experience at the Seabiscuit scoring, and that I know it wasn't a pleasant experience for him, but that I enjoyed being a part of it. Unfortunately, my ball-point pen disappeared somewhere after the concert, and all I had was a sharpie, so I didn't take down his response until I got to my car. But this is a fairly accurate rendition of his comments: "I hate that director. He didn't want any syrup spilled on his god-damned horse movie. We couldn't let the horse gallop along or anything [hums some rousing music fit for a horse-movie]. And he says, 'It's not a horse movie, its about the bond between a man and his horse...' It's a god-damn horse movie." Randy then said something else, about what he wanted to do to the director, but since I believe Suzanne took that comment down, I'll let her tell it, because she can capture it more accurately than I.

After a nice exciting shuttle ride back (a tad reminiscent of the shuttles at Hearst Castle), I said goodbye to Suzanne and Jeff, left the parking lot, got thoroughly lost, and eventually found my way home. A fun time was had by all. I'm especially excited at the prospect of a trip to New York City to see Faust again [rumors are flying that Randy Newman's Faust may be New York bound]. That would be awesome.

I've been home for awhile (well, since yesterday), but haven't quite been able to motivate myself to write about my trip. I've already written a synopsis of the Randy Newman show, which I will post after this, but now I will try to sum up the rest of my trip. I have a feeling I won't be uploading the pictures today, so you'll just have to wait on that (I know it will be difficult, but please try).

I left San Diego a little before eight on Saturday morning. The drive up was uneventful. I used to psych myself into enjoying the drive, Steinbeck's California unfolding before my eyes or something, but it really is dull scenery. The odors are interesting, but ultimately unpleasant. My hatred of SUVs was reinforced by many incidents on the trip. Left lane is the slow lane, right lane is the passing lane, get it through your thick Saudi-enriching heads. I think if they are going to be classified as light trucks and exempt from fuel efficency rules, then they should have to follow all the rules of trucks, and be limited to the same lanes the semis are limited to. I did have some good music for the drive, dominated by Randy Newman, Bad Love and Sail Away. I also listened to a Dusty Springfield collection I inherited from my father, consisting of Stay Awhile--I Only Want to Be With You and Dusty. It pre-dates "Son of a Preacher Man," but is excellent nonetheless, with Burt Bacharach well-represented. I also listened to the White Stripes' "Elephant." Have you seen the video of his finger surgery? It was on their web page, but I can't find it now. Oh, well. I took a few stops along the way, including one at the Water Information Center I'm always seeing a sign for. It was interesting, and didn't take too much time.

I made fairly good time, arriving in San Jose around four. Eric was at a bachelor party, so it was mostly me and Michelle. Her old roomate Amy was playing with her kid in Michelle's pool. It was a nice pool, for an above-ground type. The previous owner had used it for dog rehabilitation. It was my first time seeing the house, and also my first time seeing the dogs, Ebbi and Scout, a Corgi and Beagle, respectively. Ebbi was alright, but kind of a weird shape for my taste. Scout was adorable, though. He made Tanner seem morbidly obese. Very friendly dog. I loved them both. Mom seems to think the dogs have horribly under-priviledged lives compared to Tanner, but really they just have normal dog lives. Though they're forced to do that whole "training" thing. I agree with Bart Simpson: I don't wanna teach and Tanner don't wanna learn. Michelle and I had sushi at a place Michelle likes, and I concurred was quite good. The eel wasn't gritty in the least. Then we hung around her house, watched a "Weird Al" Yankovich concert video, and Michelle told me about Kevin from high school's involvement in some "Unsolved Mysteries" story about a dead body found in a trunk some ten years ago.

Their guest room out back was being occupied, so I got the guest bedroom of the main house, which consists of Michelle's childhood bed, and is about as comfortable as you might imagine. Actually, not uncomfortable, just makes noise every time you move. Their house is old, and the bathtub is as one might expect, but actually functions well, and is more charming than annoying. I can't remember when I last used a free-standing tub. I would really appreciate it after trying to take a shower in my Eureka hotel room.

Sunday we took the dogs to their favorite dog park. They had a lot of fun, got in a lot of mud. Not as bad as a labrador that was rolling around in it like a pig, but bad enough that they needed baths when they got home. Ebbi was a little difficult, but it was Scout who really gave 'em hell. Afterwards, we got in the pool until it was time for lunch. Eric barbequed some chicken fajita stuff he got from a local Mexican grocery. Quite excellent. Some version of said meat has been turning up here, from Henry's, I think, at barbeques I have attended last summer, but can't compete with the real thing. Of course, San Diego has plenty of Mexican markets of its own, but I wouldn't know which ones were good. And don't barbeque much. In fact, I barely cook anymore. After lunch we sat around for awhile, then Michelle and I went at it on the playstation, with Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo. She won the vast majority, but as she had much more practice than I, I though my three wins out of twenty or so matches was not too shameful.

Around 5:30, it was time to leave for the Randy Newman concert. I will post my comments from the RandyGroup in a separate post. Suffice it to say, it was an enjoyable evening.

The next day, I had thought I would leave early, but Michelle and Eric suggested I not hurry up just to wait in San Francisco traffic. So I took a leisurely pace through the morning, and left around ten. Traffic was not bad at all. I hadn't been to San Francisco in a long time. Enjoyed seeing and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. Would have liked to stay longer, seen Presidio Park and other things I remember from childhood visits. But I did see the bridge and Alcatraz, and stood roughly where Jimmy Stewart pulled Kim Novak out of the water in Vertigo, so that was nice. The drive north was much more interesting than the drive to San Jose, and I made several stops and saw quite a few sights. Even before I really got into the heart of redwood country, despite finding the drive-through tree a disappointment, I was convinced the trip would be worthwhile. The Avenue of the Giants confirmed my impression. I didn't do a lot of long hiking, since I was eager to check into my hotel and relax, but I did take some short little loops and saw some amazing trees. At one point, I saw some fur cought on a branch. I went over to see if I could identify the fur, but upon further inspection, saw the fur was actually attached to a rib cage. A mountain lion had apparently stripped the deer's carcass clean. I briefly considered taking a picture before nixing the idea and feeling guilty for considering it. It was an incongruous sight so close to a major road. An early reminder that I was no longer assured of my position at the top of the food chain. I was enjoying the dirve, but antsy to check out my room, so I decided to save the northern end of the Avenue of the Giants for the drive home. I arrived in Eureka a bit after five.

Eureka was a disappointment. Run-down, sleazy. The people by and large seemed like they did something wrong to end up there. I stopped off for some fast food, because I didn't really feel like eating, and was confronted by a panhandler inside the restaurant. Always a sign you're not in the best neighborhood. Overall, it just was bigger and dirtier than I imagined. Fortunately, the Eureka Inn, where I was staying, was in a nice neighborhood in the heart of downtown Eureka. The hotel, judging from the outside and the common areas, was quite nice. The rate was also reasonable. The room itself was showing its age. Turning on the hot water faucet, I was greeted with air, and eventually water. When I took a shower that evening, I discovered it almost impossible to get a shower at a pleasant temperature. The bathroom is a big deal for me in selecting hotels, and so this was a major disappointment. I would later resign myself to taking baths, and decided the water pressure wasn't enough to single-handedly ruin my vacation. The bed was reasonably comfortable. When I went to check out my view, I was taken back to discover my room looked out onto a building I hadn't noticed driving in, the Eureka Theater. Unfortunately, it was not open during my stay, for I would have love to have seen inside. But I did take a peek at the lobby, and it looked quite charming.

My first night in Eureka was uneventful, I relaxed and watched T.V. The hotel had real cable, with Cartoon Network and Comedy Central (I'm used to Vegas, where they don't give you too many channels, lest you actually spend time in your room), so my evening routine was not disturbed much by my vacation. I also spent the evening running through vistor's brochures I'd picked up, and a book on hiking Humbolt County I had purchased at the drive-through tree's gift shop, planning my itinerary. My plan was to get in as many of the short trails as possible, and spend the second day mainly in hiking to Fern Canyon.

The drive from Eureka to the southern end of the Redwoods State and National Parks was about thirty minutes. Again, a beautiful drive, I didn't consider one minute of the commute from my hotel to the parks a chore. Ry Cooder's Paradise and Lunch was my soundtrack for almost all of my time in Humbolt County. It seemed appropriate for lots of reasons, none of which I could pin down. I skipped Trinidad and Patrick's Point, figuring to save them for the drive home. I stopped several times for sight-seeing and photography, but my first major stop was Lost Man Creek. The guide book recommended turning back around the one-mile point; the trail as a whole was ten miles one way. As I had no intention of making this stop an all-day hike, I figured I'd go a bit further than a mile and then turn around. The first mile was quite beautiful, and so I was eager to go on beyond the third bridge, despite the book's suggestion, and the steepening of the trail. Beyond the first mile, the trail in fact became quite steep. I removed my jacket but was still sweating like a pig, the fog recently having burned off and thus not offering any relief on the strenuous hike. The views were still impressive, and I encountered the first of many banana slugs. But I refused to turn around without reaching something that could be considered an achievement, a reasonable turning point. Finally, a bit past two miles, the trail leveled off, and I figured that was turning point enough for me, and headed back. So that was about a four-mile loop with about a thousand feet of elevation gain and loss. (all distances, by the way, are approximations. I never turned on my GPS unit, though past experience suggests the canopy of trees would have rendered it useless, anyway)

I made some more stops, checking out some Roosevelt Elk that were largely obstructed by the overgrown grass they were eating. Around one, I arrived at Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park's visitor's center. I spend a half-hour or so there, and then began plotting what to do next. I had intended to start my big hike here tomorrow, but the path I planned to take, at a bit under 10 miles, really didn't require a full day. I decided to do that hike today, and instead spend tomorrow on shorter hikes and car touring. I believe it was a wise decision, though it would have been nice to have a full day for Fern Canyon, for it was the most amazing thing I saw on my trip. But I had plenty of time, especially considering how late it gets dark in Northern California versus back home.

I took the James Irvine trail down to Gold Bluffs Beach. Few words are needed to describe what one sees on the trail; trees and ferns. But it was really amazing. The redwoods really are tall, and can be quite massive in girth as well. Trees can grow from seeds, or from burls of other trees. You see trees in a circle around an older tree, and know they grew from the older tree. Yet the children themselves are massive. Many times, the founder tree is rotting away, or fallen over and covered in moss and ferns. But sometimes there is no evidence that the founding tree was ever there. Just an empty space. Strange how such a massive thing can be gone. I had seen a lot of trees by this points, and ferns, for that matter, but it was the ferns that really impressed me. The Lost World was filmed here, and I could appreciate why. The whole place looked primeval. I have pictures that will eventually end up here, but you really need to see the area for yourself. It was also quiet and solitary. I'd encounter just enough people that I didn't have to worry I'd fall and break my leg and never be seen again, but still felt like I had the place to myself. Early on, I encountered a burned-out tree (many of the oldest trees had been scarred by fire long ago, and yet were still alive), and could only see blackness inside. I was about to take a picture, chuckling to myself at the idea of my flash illuminating a mountain lion or something looking back at me, when I became convinced that that was exactly what was about to happen. In fact, couldn't I see him now? What was that? Clearly, my keen night vision from my days in a dank projection booth had just allowed me to see a mountain lion ready to prounce (actually, it looked a lot like a cheetah, probably because I'm more familiar with the look of a cheetah than a mountain lion). Forgetting my picture, I took off at double-time, my pulse racing. I started seeing creatures stalking me in every possible location. Eventually I realized I was being ridiculous, but it actually made the journey more exciting.

The largest gathering of roosevelt elk I saw were at Gold Bluffs Beach, at the end of the trail. In addition to the hike I took, one could also drive to this point, so it lacked the seclusion I was enjoying up to this point. I got some good elk pictures, and enjoyed watching them, though they basically just sit there. I had been looking forward to the elk, and so found this a bit of a disappointment.

From here, I walked the Fern Canyon loop. It is a very short trail, and one of the most striking things I've seen, yet few people on the beach took the effort to explore it. The walls of the canyon at this point were probably about fourty feet tall (though I'm a horrible judge of such things...had I not read the informative placard that the tallest trees are around 400 feet, I would have guessed they were about a thousand feet tall) and covered in ferns, except where waterfalls of a sort rolled down the canyon. They were waterfalls, but there were also points where the water didn't seem to originate from any point in particular, no rivers or anything. They looked like it was just water that had gathered in the moist environment, condensed fog or something, that had to go somewhere, so went down. My pictures certainly didn't do this place justice.

To return, I took the Irvine trail back partway, until cutting over to the Miner's Ridge trail, which follows the other wall of the canyon. Similar scenery as the Irvine trail; this area did not have a broad variety of sights, really just three main categories, redwoods, ferns, and beach. But it would be very difficult to get bored with scenery this striking. If memory serves, I completed the hike around five or so (I had forgotten to wear my watch), and figured I should start heading back to Eureka. I stopped a few times on the way, but basically went straight to the hotel.

Before I mention dinner, I should back up and mention breakfast. Every morning I spent in Eureka, I had breakfast at Old Town Coffe & Chocolates. The coffee was pretty good. I especially enjoyed the mexican mocha. But what kept me coming back were their waffles. The best waffles I have ever had, bar none. I do not hesitate in the slightest. Well, okay, I hesitate slightly, because I can imagine a scenario in which I would have a truly scrumcious waffle, and yet the vagaries of time take their toll, and I lose the memory of that taste sensation. But I really have to believe if I had eaten a waffle as light and flaky as these, it would have left an indelible impression. So I stick my by declaration: Best waffles bar none. I ordered them with strawberries and whipped cream, which was not the best, as it overpowered the waffle. This waffle didn't need much help. The best combination I had was the waffle with bananas, pecans and maple syrup. I'm not a huge pecan guy, but this was perfect. And I may never have them again. Life is so uncertain.

For dinner on Tuesday, I went to the (I gathered) recently restored Hotel Vance. The Saffire Rose Cafe is now located in the hotel lobby. Aside from a couple having drinks at the bar, I was the only patron. The restaurant was quite charming, especially since very little had been done to transform it from its original appearance. The bar appeared to be the hotel registration desk. And the kitchen was where, I imagine, the concierge once presided. The food was good, the salad with a nice strawberry vinigrette, and some tasty garlic toast appetizers. I had the smoked salmon pasta, and was surprised by how generous they were with the fish. The dill sauce was quite good, and actually went very nicely with the portabello mushrooms. And the prices were quite reasonable, my meal, with a cocktail, was easily under $20. This is what I was hoping for from Eureka. I still had my qualms about Eureka, but places like the Hotel Vance and Old Town Coffe & Chocolates was giving me something to appreciate the town for.

Since I had been planning to spend Wednesday in Fern Canyon, I had to come up with something else. I figure I hiked about 15 miles on Tuesday, and was a bit sore and tired, so figured I should take it easy. I didn't have too much of a plan, but hoped to get at least far enough north to see the Klamack River. My first stop was Trinidad, where I took a short trail to the beach, via a hundred very steep steps. The beach was stunning, well worth the eventual hike back up the stairs. I enjoyed the view for awhile, read for awhile, and then explored the area a bit more before moving north to Patrick's Point. Another short, steep trail to another secluded beach, which this time I had completely to myself. I could see sea lions in the distance, but though they sounded close, they were quite far away. I enjoyed this park, and should have spent more time here, but I convinced myself time was a premium, even though I had no real plan for this day, so I drove instead of hiked to the other end of the park, to see Agate Beach. What was most striking to me, except for the beach consisting of agates instead of sand, and the redwoods instead of Torry Pines, this beach looked quite like Torrey Pines State Park, back home.

After this, I headed north, stopping from time to time for short hikes or picture-taking. I had lunch at Rolf's, in (or immediately adjacent to) Prarie Creek Redwoods State Park, which I wouldn't recommend. Expensive, and underwhelming. The side salad was interesting, containing a radish and fruit, with a ranch-type dressing which wasn't ranch (wasn't even dairy, I heard the waitress telling another table. Eventually I made it to the Klamack River. I stopped at the old bridge over the river (washed out in a flood aorund '62, if I remember), and again at the mouth of the river. I saw several sea lions swimming, but they were too fast for me to get a picture. I saw one just sitting there, so I got a picture of him at a distance, and then, since he seemed not to be spooked by nearby people, moved closer for a better picture. But then I overheard people talking, and looking at him I realized he was seriously injured. It looked like what happens to manatees when they run into outboard motors. I heard someone say a ranger was coming. Unsure if he was coming to help or just put the poor guy out of his misery, I decided to move on. In the interest of good taste, I took a moment to delete the picture I'd taken from my camera.

I took the scenic costal drive from the mouth of the river, which was nice, but not a highlight of the trip. I was happy to have seen the Klamack River, though; now when I read about water wars and fighting over rights to the river, I'll have a visual point of reference.

Having seen ads for Jack in the Box, and knowing a friend of mine collects their antannae balls (or at least sells them on eBay), I figured I should go there to get him a Raiders ball. Turns out they had a choice; when asked if I wanted the Raiders or 49ers ball, I paniced. I decided to go with the 49ers ball, then immediately decided I'd made the wrong choice, but didn't want to say I'd changed my mind, since then I'd look like I'd given far too much thought to the matter. I decided I would stop at a Jack in the Box on the way back and get the Raiders ball.

My final morning in Eureka, I had waffles and a mexican mocha, of course, then decided to do some shopping. The local running store was having a sale, and I needed shorts, but didn't see any that appealed to me. I managed to spend about $50 total at two used book stores, and also bought some fudge at the coffee shop for my sister, and some chocolates at Patrick's Chocolates for my mother. I hit the road around eleven, and drove the north end of the Avenue of the Giants. Founder's Grove was quite impressive. Other than that, the drive was uneventful. I failed to log my musical selections, though I think Lyle Lovett was well-represented.

I saved shopping in Eureka for the last day to kill time, so I would get a late enough start not to hit San Francisco at the peak of trafffic. So, I hit San Francisco at five. Traffic was a bit heavy, but well-managed. I got through town at a very reasonable time. Had I gotten there later, as I had planned, I probably would have been in trouble, as there was an accident just past the toll booths, I heard on the radio. Oh, yes, in addition to music, I spent much of the drive listening to NPR, getting up-to-date on the world. I got off the freeway to use the restroom, and was unable to figure out how to get back on. I eventually managed to make my way back, and in the process stumbled upon a Jack in the Box and got the Raiders ball, so it worked out nice. I arrived in San Jose around 6:30.

Michelle was in Canada on business, so it was just Eric and myself in San Jose. I showed him my pictures and told him about the trip, and before long it was time for him to go to bed. I read a little and then went to bed myself.

I had hoped to leave early, around seven or so, since the Labor Day weekend traffic would make L.A. not a fun place to be. Instead, I got up around seven, and didn't leave until close to nine. Again, I forgot to log my musical choices, but again, I believe Lyle Lovett was in the mix, and the last half of the trip consisted of me listening to the Randy Newman Guilty boxed set. I hit L.A. a bit before three, and as I thought, traffic was bad. For a holiday weekend, though, it wasn't as bad as I thought. It was always moving, more or less. It let up a bit past L.A. into Irvine, then was heavy again through San Clemente. But overall, I cannot complain about the traffic, especially since this was the only day traffic really was an issue at all. I made it home before six.

So that was my trip. Nice to get away, relax, see the sights, see Randy Newman. I would love to go up to Northern California again soon. Take two weeks or so, see everything. Or at least more than I could in three days or so.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

I am about to hit the road, but thought I would post briefly before I do, since I don't know what my internet situation will be for the next week. I saw Paula Poundstone last night. She, of course, was funny, but compared to the two previous times I've seen her, I thought she was off her mark. Just the vibe of the whole evening felt off. I think it was a bad crowd, for one. Not to mention a few freaks in the audience. There were still some genius moments, but nothing I can really remember and repeat here and do justice to.

Time to load my last few things into the car and hit the road. Looks like I'll hit San Jose around 4:30 or 5:00. Stay tuned for all the details about the Randy Newman concert and more.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Fox denied preliminary injunction against Franken.
I've made some postings using the Google toolbar, and I see now that I need to stop entering hard returns, as it is messing up the format of this blog. Having learned that, I will refrain from it in the future, but I don't feel like fixing the old posts, so I won't.
Group Mobilization As a Desperate Cry for Help

Thursday, August 21, 2003

The Christian Science Monitor on the Franken lawsuit and other assults on free speech via trademark law.
The publisher of Al Franken's new book has increased the first print run by 40,000 copies, and moved the release date to this weekend. Which is very nice for Franken, but I pre-ordered the book along with Neal Pollack's new book, since they were to ship relatively close to each other. But now I'm not sure if I should cancel my order, or if Amazon, in the capricious way of theirs, will ship Lies separately. I figure I'll wait until I get back from my vacation, and if it hasn't shipped, I'll cancel and place the order again.
No more oily discharge warnings.
The American Running Association. I'm linking to it so I can find it at home, and because it has a very nice interactive shoe selection program. Even if one of the suggested shoes was the Brooks which I actively dislike. At the run yesterday, I was bitching about them to the Road Runner Sports marketing guy, and he pointed out that he was wearing the old model Trance, and seemed to think that Brooks had misstep with the new model. Though to be fair, if they fit my particular foot better, I'd like them a lot. But the toe box is far too narrow, and assuming they're using the same last as on the Adreneline, they must have made a conscious decision to make it narrower. Oh, well.
Randy Newman interview. I'm excited about Sunday's concert. It just occured to me that, if I'm there, I won't be home to watch the VH-1 Warren Zevon special, so I'll have to remember to set the VCR before I leave. I'm actually more excited about going to Eureka and seeing the redwoods, but the concert should be a lot of fun, too. All this has overshadowed the Paula Poundstone concert tomorrow, but that, too, should be exciting. Have I mentioned how excited I am?

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I went running today around Mission Bay with a group organized by Road Runner Sports training for the California Cruisin' 10K. I always say I enjoy training alone, with the human contact on race day one of the added joys, but I did enjoy training with people. I ended up leading the way for the second half of the out-and-back course, which boosted my confidence but also made me feel bad, like I should have kept pace with the group. But I will do it again. Had I arranged to attend eight of these, my entry into the California Cruisin' 10K would have been free, but I won't be able to make eight, and already paid my entry fee, anyway. Besides, it's for a good cause. But I will attend a few more, if I'm able to; they provided refreshments afterwards (and as a plug by way of gratitude, the energy bars Road Runner puts out were pretty good), and the people were nice.

That said, I'll still be going solo for the bulk of my training. Especially the long run. I can't imagine having to keep pace with another runner over, say, ten miles. I like listening to my body, setting goals before I run but changing them if I have to, sometimes holding back, sometimes pushing myself harder. And I enjoy the solitude of the long run. But running with a group from time to time seems like a great addition to my workout reparte.

If you find yourself in the Boardwalk Arcade in El Cajon, check out the Simpsons Pinball Party high scores, in particular an MCM in third place. So don't say I never accomplished anything!

Incidentally, Simpsons Pinball Party (or SPP, as the young people call it) is a fantastic pinball game. Very challenging. I especially enjoy the second play level, something lacking from most new pinball machines. Stern has been doing some good work lately, between that and Monopoly (which I guess has been out for almost two years by now, but still is new in the grand scheme of things). I don't really like Rollercoaster Tycoon, and Terminator 3 is just terrible, but batting .500 isn't bad at all.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I've decided I don't like my new running shoes. Too tight in the toe area. I figure I can wear them on shorter, easier runs, and wear my old shoes on longer runs for awhile, but I think I'll have to break down and buy another pair before too long. Which sucks, because they weren't cheap.

Just one more work day before my vacation. Getting excited, though I still have a lot to do before I leave.

L.A. Book Expo, 2003. Check out what prompted the Fox/Franken lawsuit. Count the seconds between when Bill O'Reilly denounces lawyers as a group of conspiring liars and when he announces he never calls anyone liars (about 10 seconds) or pretends to see conspiracies everywhere (about 90 seconds). Watch Franken fall down drunk and barely be able to speak, just as the lawsuit alleges.
Verbal diarrhea from Bill O'Reilly. I like the way he boasts of the ultraconservative viewers of CNN, and then in the next paragraph talks about the liberal strangle-hold on the media. And his denouncement of Franken's libelous comments (yet he's not suing for libel), when the accusations against Franken within the lawsuit seem clearly libelous and perjurous to me. The only thing I can't argue with is his claim that, were Fox News to go up in smoke, a lot of us would start making S'mores.
More fair and balanced news: Paul Newman to sue HUD.
RIAA will not go after small-scale song-swappers. I found this article interesting because it is the first I've heard about Norm Coleman being a former roadie.
Neal Pollack on the Democratic candidates' blogs.
Goofus, Gallant, Rashomon.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Paula Poundstone in a dated article on Arianna Huffington. I found this looking for information on Huffington's involvement with the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness, and thought it amusing. I try not to hold being full of oneself against a politician, its just part of the job, but I think Huffington bugs me. I'm throwing my support behind Larry Flynt.
After a particularly aggravating run-in with a pop-up ad that tried to simulate that new virus that's going around (I'm behind a firewall and updated a month ago, when the possibility of this virus first made headlines, so I knew I wasn't infected), I installed Google's new toolbar, with the pop-up blocker. It is really amazing. I love the pop-up blocker, and while I haven't tried it yet, the fact that I can easily use it to post a URL to this blog is nice. Now, I read this article about some other uses of the toolbar. I was unaware of the calculator property of the search box, but now I think that will be pretty nice to have. So I, who am usually annoyed by extra things taking up precious screen space, heartily endorse the Google Toolbar for anyone who is annoyed with pop-ups.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

The librarian action figure.
A collection of skits from The State. I never was all that crazy about The State, and had trouble viewing the clips sometimes (the quicktime plug-in would work for awhile, then stop, then work again for no apparent reason), some of them are amusing.

Friday, August 15, 2003

So tonight my plan was to catch up on some reading that was piling up, magazines and such. I take the lighter magazines to work, but the more cerebral ones, those that I would mind being constantly interupted by customers while reading, I keep at home. And having recently received the new issue of The Believer, figured I should at least finish July's Believer.

At first, as I read, I was listening to the Ragtime soundtrack, but it soon became apparent that could not compete with the noise in the house. I don't know which was worst, the braying jackass hosting America's Funniest Home Videos or the Wal-Mart ads in between, touting Wal-Mart's pivitol role in solving various social ills. I put on louder music, but eventally decided I'd give up on reading for awhile and get on the computer and take care of some things, but Mom was on the computer, while watching the T.V. in the living room. So she had it turned up loud enough to hear it in the computer room, but why should that disturb anyone? No reason to turn on the T.V. in the computer room, that would be crazy. It aggravates me how loud my family is. When Michelle was down, it was unbearable. I understand why the rest of the world thinks Americans are loud and rude, its because we are.

Annoyed, I decided to go to Balboa Park, figuring it was a pleasant night, and the park would be well-lit enough to read, and quiet. Listening to the Magnetic Fields on the drive helped me calm down. I found a clean, well-lighted place in front of the Museum of Natural History, and read for about ninety minutes, before deciding to head home.

I was greated by the sound of the monster truck rally my mother was watching. I've got to figure out where I packed up my headphones.

I mentioned to my mom I'm going to be running in a half-marathon in a few months. She kindly informed me I wasn't capable of that. How nice of her. Sort of like when I went to my first Boy Scout meeting, and she and my dad decided I didn't like hiking. Glad they let me know (actually, its probably for the best that I didn't stick with Boy Scouts, but still...)

L.A. Times editorial on the Fox News/Al Franken lawsuit.
Bill O'Reilly: Public Masterbator.
Just got home from a morning run in Tecolote Canyon. Was hoping to get five miles in, but called it quits at four. I probably should've gone for five, but quitting while I was still running strong was probably a good idea. When I got home, I reviewed my training log and my past race results, trying to come up with a goal for my upcoming 10K. I hoped to shave a minute off my previous 10K PR, but I can see that's unreasonable for me at the moment. I've really slowed down this summer. But I think shaving 30 seconds should be a reasonable, yet challenging, goal. That would require a 7:17 pace. So we'll see if I meet that goal, which will be a nice gauge of how high to set my sites for my upcoming half-marathon.

I recently discovered Very nice. I've listened to it at work from time to time, but I was under the impression it was somehow exclusive to iMusic, and since I don't have a Mac at home, I couldn't listen. But I was wrong. Check it out, its great.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

I'm sorry, but I only date men my friends think might kill me.
Tom the Dancing Bug on the California recall.
Excerpts from the Fox News/Franken lawsuit, and some responses. As much as Fox News has done to earn my contempt in the past, this is probably the dumbest thing they've ever done. Glad Franken is cashing in.
I saw Ten last night. It was an interesting look at a divorced woman's life in Iran. I liked that it was a very personal view, focused most intently on her relationship with her son. It seemed a bit forced at times, unlike Taste of Cherry, and also unlike that film, you're more aware of how the film drags at times. Compared to Abbas Kiarostami's other films, its hard to recommend, but still not bad, and another reminder that the situation in Iran is not as cut-and-dried as the U.S. media portrays it.

I also finished Devil in the White City last night. The story is interesting enough to make me marginally recommend it despite the sometimes horrendous writing. Erik Larson seems to think he has to punch up the story with purple prose and forced suspense. Which is especially unfortunate since the forced suspense falls flat. By the time he reveals the shocking news that the man who proposes to build an engineering marvel in the midway is named Ferris, I doubt many readers are surprised. And perhaps at times some more suspense would have been nice. A bit of mystery as to the role of Pendergast, for instance, could have ratched up the tension a bit. But the two main stories, of the building of the 1893 Columbian Exhibition and the serial killer who prowled Chicago at the time is compelling enough to overcome any shortcomings of the author. And Larson does do a good job of telling the story of Holmes, the killer, and his reconstruction of the crimes, with limited source material, is one time when he seems up to the task of writing non-fiction that reads like fiction, without forcing the issue. So with some misgivings about the style, I do recommend it. I always scoff at the the notion, but I suppose this might be what is called "Summer Reading."

An interview with Larry Flynt. His immigration comments concern me a bit, and it still seems to me Huffington might bring more lasting change, but I do like the man. I don't know who'll I'll support. I guess I have a while to make up my mind, but I'm leaning Huffington's way.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

It's hot! I find it hard to find the energy to do just about anything. I am proud of myself that I managed to get two good runs in. I broke down and accepted that, in this weather, I'll have to learn to live with a treadmill run at the gym. It's a bit boring, and annoying that there is a T.V. with the news on directly in front of me, reminding me of what I'm running away from. But at least I now know I can go down to the Kroc Center and run when the heat is just too much. I do plan an after-work run tomorrow, though I'll probably just make it a short speed workout. I've entered the California Cruisin' 10K for next month, and am looking forward to the Chancellor's Challenge (which was my first 5K) in October. And if all goes well, I'll complete my first half-marathon in November. All in hopes of running the Suzuki Rock & Roll Marathon in the Spring. So those are my goals. Figure I have to have goals if I'm going to do anything in this heat.

Not much else to report. Almost finished with Devil in the White City; the story is interesting, but the attempts to make the book read like fiction can be annoying. Going to the movies tonight, to see Ten. Will report tonight or tomorrow on Kiarostami's latest.

I enjoyed today's clipping from the Collins Library.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

The Sad and Pitiful End of Professor F: A sestina.
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Eigth Level of Hell - the Malebolge!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Moderate
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)High
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)High
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Very High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Saturday, August 09, 2003

I hate computers sometimes. I accidentally hit the tab key. I quickly hit delete to delete the tab I have just inserted in my document. But of course, instead of inserting a space, hitting tab moves me out of the typing window, and the backspace key instead serves to send me back to the page before. I warning window tells me I'm about to lose my almost-completed post, and that pressing okay will save it, and cancel will delete it. In the past, I've quickly hit cancel without thinking, under the belief that I will be returned to what I was doing. But this time I knew what was happening and hit okay. Yet my post is gone. Gone.

What makes it worse is, it was a very boring post about not wearing underwear and room in my toe box, and I don't feel like recreating it. I suppose the only interesting thing was, I ran into Chris Woo at work on Thursday. He used to work for me at the Cove Theatre. Glad to see he was doing good.

It will be nice to have Monday off. Haven't had to work Saturday and Sunday in some time. And tomorrow will be a somber day, the final Futurama (most likely) will air. Some small, small hope due to its success on Cartoon Network, and a movie is even more likely, but only time will tell.

Friday, August 08, 2003

I've uploaded my Urban Challenge photos to my Yahoo! photo album. The pictures aren't terrible, actually, only two are really out of focus. This is my first experience with Yahoo! to share photos, let me know if you can't access them.
Did some shopping today. Bought new running shoes at Road Runner Sports. I was planning on trying on several shoes, and hoped to try a new brand, but ended up sticking with Brooks, moving up from the Adreneline to the Trance. It fit great, and the extra cushioning really felt good. It occured to me I should have tried on a new pair of Adrenelines, rather than comparing the cushioning of a new pair of Trances with my worn-out old shoes. But I was happy with my purchase, and impressed with the sales staff. I bought my last pair of running shoes from Movin' Shoes, a smaller mom-and-pop shop, and was really disappointed in the service. They seemed annoyed that I didn't know what shoes I wanted, like that wasn't their job (though to be fair, I ended up with a very excellent shoe). But the staff at Road Runners sized me up, looked at my old shoes, and, after explaining I was browsing in the woman's shoe section, told me they shoe I was looking at didn't offer me enough stability, and if I wanted more cushioning, I should go for something like the Brooks Trance, which was high on my list of shoes to try. I ran around the parking lot and felt a real difference from my old shoes, but with the support I'd become accustomed to. I tried on a pair of Adidas that didn't fit well and was too soft, and decided to just go with the Brooks. Bought a nice pair of shorts, too.

I also went to Target to get socks and another pair of shorts, and to browse their Simpsons merchandise. Simpsons Jeopardy looked intriguing, but I ended up passing. They apparently no longer carry the Worlds of Springfield merchandise, but it occured to me their was a Toys R Us nearby. I wasn't sure if the Simpsons Tracy Ullman Set was available yet. It wasn't, but they had one of the Main Street Sets available, which I of course purchased. No place to put it, but that's not the point.

What is the point? I have to stop spending money like a maniac. Or get around to listing some of my duplicate Worlds of Springfield figures/playsets on eBay.

I did save a bit not bidding on a Lyle Lovett DVD that was on eBay. I was tempted, since I had tried to find it awhile back, to discover it was only available as an incentive to PBS members. I should've joined to get it, for $250 (if I remember correctly), I could've gotten it, a CD of the same concert, and two tickets to see him at Humphrey's. Seeing as the two tickets turned out to cost me $150, and seeing as being a PBS member is a reward in itself, I suppose, should've done it. But I didn't, so I thought I was going to have to pay $40 or so on eBay. But it turns out its now available for purchase. The web site gives a phone number but no price information. Now that I know its available at any time, there's no hurry. Besides, if "I'm Gonna Wait" is on his new album, I'll have to think over whether I need the DVD at all. Of course, with Randy Newman doing a four-song set, I know the answer, but...

I got my pictures back from Urban Challenge. The pictures are crap. I'm going to see what I can do with Photoshop, but seeing as most of the photos are rather badly out of focus, I don't have high hopes. I'll post what I can soon, in any case.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

I found the latest edition of Dan Kennedy Solves Your Problems With Paper touching and informative.
San Diego Urban Challenge results are up. I finished in 75th place. Not bad at all, considering we were the 108th team to cross the finish line. That's an over 30% disqualification rate

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I was hoping to use my time at work today to post about Monday, but due to computer difficulties was unable to. Now I'm kind of tired, and hoped to do some reading tonight (just started The Devil in the White City), so I'll be brief.

Went to Del Mar for the races Monday. My first horse didn't cross the finish line, should've taken that as an omen. Never collected on a single bet. Painful. Afterwards, we went to Chevy's for happy hour.

Their happy hour drink specials were a discounted margarita, or $1 off the drink of the day, which was a tom collins on Monday. So we ordered two tom collins. The waiter acted like he was confused about what was in a tom collins, but I thought he was joking, since it was the drink of the day and probably many people were ordering it. But apparently he really had no idea what it was, and apparently everyone else were drinking margaritas, it being a tex-mex themed restaurant, so we just had faith the bartender knew. I don't really like tom collinses too much, incidentally. Not a fan of gin. Vodka collins was my drink of choice for awhile, but I've moved back to where I started from, the screwdriver. I used to throw up easily, so the acidic orange juice was a problem, but since I've improved my diet a bit, that hasn't been an issue. Though I did throw up last night around 3 AM, not sure why. But I digress.

A few minutes later, another waiter (about 5 employees would wait our table at one point in the 45 minutes or so we were there, came to tell us the specials. She left, and a few minutes later she brought us our drinks, which looked more like grande margaritas than tom collinses. We commented on this, and the waitress apparently thought we were having a joke with her, and laughed about their size with us. I'd never seen a tom collins served with salt, and sure enough, a sip quickly revealed it to be a margarita. Our original waiter came up a few seconds later, with our "correct" drinks, and proceded to serve our margaritas (which we had drunk from) to the proper table. We had a good laugh about that, and then turned to our clear drinks, a sip of which revealed them to be gin and tonics. I do not like tonic-based beverages, but figured I could manage. I didn't even want a drink, I just felt obligated to order one eating at the bar.

Our food came a bit later, and was quite good. We had flautas, with some sort of sauce, I forget what it was, but it was excellent. I didn't try the jalepeno dipping sauce, but they were fine as they were. And half-off for happy hour, so at about $3.00, a very reasonable deal. We ate them, finished our drinks, and the waiter brought our bill, where our tom collinses were listed as being $6.50 each. And were, of course, not listed as well drinks, but rather as a name I didn't recognize, but am pretty sure is the name of a top-shelf tequila. But the waiter insisted that was accurate, but with some prodding, offered to go investigate. He was gone for some time, finally returned with a bill obviously too low, so we just went with that, paid and left.

After racing and a quick dinner, we went to Seabiscuit. I had never been to the UltraStar Flower Hill Cinema in Del Mar, so it was exciting going to a new theater. The lobby had an interesting charm, to an extent, but it was a rather run-down theater, with (at least in the theater I was in) very small, narrow auditoriums. And the seats reclined in a way that was probably once comfortable, but now made you fear that collapse was imminent. Since Randy Newman's music was one of the reasons I was there, the sub-par sound, and far worse, the sound pollution from the adjacent screening of Pirates of the Carribean, was upsetting. And just to pile on the iniquity, the audience was rather rude and obnoxious, cell phones going off far too often, and just general restlessness which annoyed me.

But getting to the movie itself: a disappointment. The book is far better. For one, not everything is a metaphor in the book. And Howard is capable of speaking without explicitly talking about "the future." Chris Cooper was quite good, but the film version of Tom Smith seems to talk an awful lot, and seems more some enchanted horse whisperer than a man who put a lifetime of experience to work in his training. But the movie was entertaining, and the faults I had with it were mostly unavoidable. Had Randy Newman not been connected to the project--had I not been eager to see the scenes I had seen him work on--I probably, after reading the book, would have passed, knowing it would be a disappointment. But it held my interest, and had some great moments. Toby Maguire was excellent. As was real-life jockey Gary Stevens.

Of course, I said my interest was largely due to the music, so I should discuss that, and again I say: disappointing. I knew Newman was disappointed in it, and I can understand why. For the most part, the score blends in well to the movie, and is not particularly noteworthy. But when it does stand out, its usually not for the better. There wasn't much of this, but a scene where Red is riding during his early career was accompanied by music a bit too zany for my tastes. And the change in music in one scene (which I saw them working on during my day on the sound stage) was rather jarring. It's a perfectly good score, by-and-large. The faults are minor and few. But nothing stands out for me, and I certainly won't be buying the album. Of course, his soundtrack work is not what interests me in Randy Newman, anyway...besides disc 4 in the boxed set, I believe Ragtime is the only soundtrack album of his I own.

Speaking of Newman, tickets for Randy Newman's concert at Royce Hall, and the following day's tribute concert, went on sale to non-season ticket holders yesterday. I got mine, for both. I also got seats for the Kronos Quartet and the Tiger Lilies performing a work based on an unpublished work by Edward Gorey (on my birthday), Michael Moore, and a tribute to the Firesign Theatre with John Goodman. Fun times...

I'm basically linking to this as a reminder to watch it when I have time, but here's a link to a documentary on cartoonist Keith Knight.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

I'm hope from the San Diego Urban Challenge. I am in not inconsiderable pain, though I won't complain about it. I'm feeling the soreness one would expect to feel after such an endeavor. I was not prepared from the pain in my shoulders, from running with a backpack on, something I am not used to, but overall, I'd say I'm just feeling the pain of the victorious, along with considerable pride.

I was very nervous going into this event. I was not in the best shape of my life. My training took a three-week-plus hiatus when I was sick, and it was very hard to get back out on the pavement, with the heat and humidity being unbearable at times. I believe I got one four-mile run in, other than that, I don't believe I'd run over a half-hour or so in almost two months. On Thursday, my last run, I stopped with shoulder pain after 22 minutes. Not a good sign right before a five-hour race. But this was a run right after work, when I was tired and not in the best nutritional shape to run. On Saturday I'd be up bright and early, and would give it my best.

My other concern was my partner. I was vaguely under the impression that he was training, but wasn't sure. He entered a 5K with me, but failed to show up for it. I selected him, partly, because I knew whatever happened, he wouldn't outshine me (to put it more diplomatically, and actually more accurately in tune with my thoughts, I selected him because I knew I wouldn't look back at the race and think I cost him a victory). Of course, I also selected him because he is my friend and I knew I'd have fun with him. But I was definately more worried about his performance than my own.

I got up at 6 AM, had coffee and half a granola bar. I'd never drunk coffee before a race before, since it can unsettle my stomach, but I had a bit of a headache the day before and worried about caffeine withdrawl. So I drank half a cup (which is about equivalent of one mug, when talking about my oversized travel cup). I never did pee on the course, so it didn't seem to have any negative side effects. I picked up my partner (since I'm probably going to be a touch nasty--though kind in the end--I'm not using his name) around 6:50, and we headed to Horton's Sports Bar, in the Westin. Nice place, though a touch small for this event. I was unable to get a seat, so after picking up our race numbers, trivia contest answer form, and camera, we had to stand in the back waiting for the trivia contest to begin. The trivia contest determines which of five waves you will go out with. We placed in wave 2.

The start was being broadcast live on NBC, so they actually got it underway very quickly. Too quickly, perhaps, as they seemed confused about what to do next. They sent out my wave shortly after, directing us to the NBC studio where the first group started. But no sooner had we arrived there, but they sent us back to where we started. I still don't quite understand why, but it was not a big deal. We were soon allowed to begin for keeps, received our clue book, and took off. The first clue referred to a statue to the West, so we, of course, immediately headed North. It turned out alright, as we discovered the third checkpoint in the process, so it saved us time later. We got on the phone with Cecily, our internet contact (you're allowed, and encouraged, to have help via cell phone contacts), and quickly found the name of the Mexican president whose monument we were seeking. But we never found the monument. We spend 40 minutes at least, before giving up. We just had to hope we'd find the skip chick, which would allow us to miss one checkpoint. But there was no guarantee we'd find her. And if we didn't, once we took the second checkpoint's picture, we couldn't win (of course, we weren't going to place first...when I say win, I mean receive a medal for finishing in under 5 hours, with all twelve checkpoints photographed in order, or eleven in order with the skip chick in their somewhere).

Checkpoint two involved a math problem. I had Cecily help with the math, not having a calculator, and got an answer. But I'd misread the question to her, and got a street address far, far off. Along the way, wondering how they could send us so far down, when the next checkpoint is back where we started, I realized my mistake, and redid the math. I again made an error, but fortunately was only off by 4 or so, and discovered the address I had didn't exist, and at the same time saw people being photographed at a nearby barber shop. So we got ours taken, too.

So far, I've refrained from discussing my teammate during all this. When I picked him up, he commented on something he'd seen on their website, telling me, "You never told me about this 5 to 10 mile bullshit." I told him when I first asked him to be my teammate, that the web site says to expect to run 5 to 10 miles. So that worried me. But I really didn't expect him to crash and burn in the first mile. I started a bit fast, being excited, but when he commented on that, I slowed down and tried to set a reasonable pace. But he really gave up quickly. Between that, and our failure in finding the statue (which I take full responsibility for), I was really worried about whether we'd finish, and was rather pissed off at my partner.

After my partner finally finished walking to the second checkpoint, I told him I'd run ahead, since we'd already been to the third checkpoint earlier. While I waited for him to catch up, I could call Cecily and work out the rest of the checkpoints. This was probably the smartest thing I did all day, as it saved us a lot of time later. I worked out stuff with Cecily, and bitched about my teammate. He eventually arrived, we got our photo taken, and we head off to checkpoint four (I should explain now, that there are twelve checkpoints, 1-12, and all the teams have to go in order, but each is assigned a different start point. My team was lucky enough to draw one, so we started at one and ended at twelve. Points one and twelve were both near the starting point, so we were lucky).

Point four was an irish tavern in the Gaslamp Quarter. From there, we were heading to Hillcrest, and decided to use public transportation. We had a decent wait for the bus, which was a nice time to rest, and get some more checkpoint locations worked out. The bus took us very close to the next checkpoint, a vintage fashion store. The next clue indicated we were heading to Jimmy Carter's Cafe, which we passed on the way. But first, we found the skip chick (they dubbed her that in the pre-race festivities), so we no longer needed to sweat missing point one (though there was now no room for error).

After getting to Jimmy Carter's Cafe on 5th, we got our photo taken and planned our next move. We didn't have a transit schedule (I'd suggested to my partner he might want to research that for me, but apparently he was too busy training to do that), and were unsure how to get to Old Town from Hillcrest. We decided to take the same bus back to downtown and take the trolley to Old Town. A very helpful woman taking the bus concurred that this was our best bet, and reviewed some of the other checkpoints for us. We waited about twenty minutes, at least, with no bus in sight. We saw very few other contestants, which was odd. Finally, we saw one running by, who asked if we took our picture at Jimmy Carter's Cafe. We told her we did, when she delivered the news that it was the wrong location. The clue, which started "Sirva usted cerveza Billy?" or (I think) "Do you serve Billy Beer here," turns out to refer to a mexican restaurant with a similar name. Hence the Spanish, and the note that the checkpoint is North of Balboa Park (Jimmy Carter's Cafe is West). Had we caught our bus, we would have lost. The helpful competitors told us roughly where we were heading. Calling Cecily, she knew the place, and exactly where it was, and so we figured it out. But this added well over a mile to the course, which certainly didn't help my teammate (or myself). But we got the photo, and across the street was a bus stop where we would quickly catch a bus to Old Town.

Up to here, it was every team to themselves. I helped one team find the Concourse, and gave another a hint about the Flashback clue in Hillcrest (they didn't realize the common bond between Gordon, bulb, and cards was "flash"), but people seemed to be watching out for their competition. But getting on the bus (where the Jimmy Carter clue had hurt a lot of us), people were only concerned with finishing, and were helping each other. A team told us where the statue we couldn't find was, I offered some hints as to where I thought some of the other points were, and we basically had fun waiting to arrive in Old Town. Off the bus, we all ran together to find the next point (my teammate even kept up for awhile), and worked somewhat together from then on.

We got the two Old Town clues, and made it to the trolley right before it departed, where we saw many of the same teams we saw on the bus. We got off by the Star of India, and got our photo taken with the Chicken of the Sea propeller. We then ran (my partern, too, ran part way) to the Embarcadero, where the next checkpoint was the Homecoming Statue. Two checkpoints left. The last one was a sculpture behind the Convention Center. But before that, we had to find a black anchor. I knew there was one by the airport, but I noticed no other teams were heading in that direction. That also would involve backtracking; prior to that, we had done almost no backtracking (except to Jimmy Carter's Cafe, which turned out to be incorrect). And the clue said it was within a half-mile of Joe's Crab Shack, in the Embarcadero. So, after some debate, we decided to head toward the Convention Center. Once we were almost past Seaport Village, I was getting nervous. I was beginning to conclude we were wrong, and should head back to Harbor Drive, where I originally thought the anchor was. We could always take the trolley back if we didn't find the anchor there. Just as we turned back, we saw a team we'd seen previously, pass us in the opposite direction, so I chased after them to see where they were going. They told us the anchor was right by the sculpture at the Convention Center. And it was, very well-hidden. I took that team's photo at the last two checkpoints, and by then my teammate had made it, and the other team took our photos. About four-and-a-half hours had passed, so we had thirty minutes to make it to the Horton Sports Bar.

We had a long wait for a trolley, but we got on, got off at the train depot, and ran East to Horton Plaza. We finished in 4:48 and some change, less than 12 minutes before the cut-off. If we'd placed in the third wave in the trivia contest, we very well may have lost. We submitted our camera, it was reviewed, and we were declared winners and awarded a medal. It was a very proud moment for me, and for my partner. He gave it his very best, I realized, and especially after going through the second half of the race in a more laid-back, cooperative spirit, I was glad he was my teammate and very proud just to have finished. We got our goodie bag, ate in the mall, and left triumphant.

I later noticed one interesting thing about my medal. In February, I won a contest on the Urban Challenge web site. My e-mailed entry included a signature file with a Latin quote by Cicero. They asked me if I spoke Latin, and could translate a phrase for them. I said I had studied a little Latin, but could try to help. The phrase was, "I came, I saw, I thought," or something similar. My translation didn't sound good, but I suggested a more alliterative phrase, "Cogitavi Cursitavi Conquisivi," meaning "I thought, I ran, I conquored." I don't have the e-mail, so they may have checked with a real Latin expert and cleaned it up, but in any event, the finisher's medal now sports the phrase. So not only did I finish, but I leant a little something of my own for all the finishers to appreciate.

Driving home, I thought about this, and remembered why they asked me. My signature file quote was from Cicero, butchered to make it accessible to a beginning Latin student: "Virtutem enim ilius viri amavi, quae cum corpore non periit," or "Truly I loved the virtue of that man, which did not perish with his bones." I added that to my signature after encountering it in class, a few weeks after my father died. Thinking about that, I realized that I really would have enjoyed him cheering me on, and discussing the various checkpoint locations with him, and how much I missed him. And I felt the tears welling up, and was really surprised by how emotional I was getting. Especially the delayed reaction. Crossing a finish line is an emotional event; tears are par for course at a marathon. But it surprised me how I was touched thinking about this Latin phrase.

I am even closer now to running my first marathon. I had a feeling crossing the finish line will be an emotional experience; now I fear I'll just fall apart. But that's okay. And that's for another day. Today, I ran 9 miles, solved clues, navigated a city's flawed public transport, was almost screwed over by Jimmy Carter, and emerged victorious.