Thursday, April 29, 2004

A lot of the 20,000 people who participated in last Sunday's Run Hit Wonder in LA did it simply to get out, do a little run and hear the bands.

And sure, I did, too.

Yes, I enjoyed racing past Flock of Seagulls and Tommy Tutone (867-530 niiiine!). I found myself speeding up to the pulsating beat of General Public's "Mirror in the Bathroom".

And it was fun to guess who the mystery band would be. Around mile 5, I heard "Man in the Mirror" (is there a mirror theme going on?), and wondered if Michael Jackson was our surprise guest. Maybe the Gloved One needed to get away from his legal problems and perform somewhere--anywhere. But it was just an impersonator lip syncing while Tone Loc took a break from doing "Funky Cold Medina" and "Wild Thing". (The mystery band, by the way, turned out to be Dramarama, doing that "Anything, Anything" song. I missed them during my run, too, somehow.)

And did I mention that Devo was the headliner? They performed inside the LA Coliseum after the race.

During their first song, "Freedom of Choice", one of the speakers must have short-circuited, and burst into flames. The band didn't notice, and thought that when the audience was pointing up at the corner of the stage, they were simply cheering them on. "That's right!" Mark Mothersbaugh said. "Now more than ever, don't lose your Freedom of Choice in this country!"

OK, Devo-dude, we appreciate the sentiment, but…

Your stage is on fire!

Eventually, a roadie climbed up and put it out with a fire extinguisher. That guy got almost as big an applause as when the band did their robotic version of "Satisfaction".

It made me think back to junior high when my friend Rob couldn't remember the name of the "Whip it" band on MTV, the nerdy guys with the funny red stacked hats. "You know--the Firemanses," he called them.

Rob wasn't a runner, but I bet if he were in LA, he woulda done this race. As I said, a lot of my friends came to have fun and see the bands, many of whom don't normally do this kind of thing.

But I run a lot. I've done over a dozen organized races in the last year. Different distances, including several 10Ks, and my time has gone down from around 50 minutes to 46 and change. A few months ago, I did the Redondo Beach 10K in 46:01. Ooh. So close. You can guess that I'm trying to break 46 minutes. I ran one in Torrance last March, and the rolling hills kept my time to 46:23.

I really think that with a flat course, when I'm feeling good, I could start with 7:30 miles for the first 4, then speed up to 7:15s and finish under 46. And sub-45 doesn't seem out of reach in the near future either.

But there's an old saying: No one ever loses a game of chess in good heath. (or something like that) In other words, here's my excuses: It was way too crowded, it was way too hot, and my stomach was way too queasy that morning.

I finished in 46:40.

I'm still happy with it. And one of the minor thrills I get from these things is seeing my time posted on the Internet. I was especially looking forward to this one, because they have chip-timing. There's a computer chip attached to your shoe which records when each runner crosses the start and finish. So my time online wouldn't include the extra minute or two it took from the gun going off to me working my way through the crowd to the starting line. It would actually coincide with what my watch said.

Or so I thought.

I just got my notification, clicked on the link and typed in my name and all. It returned all the right info about me, with a chip time of… 1:20:51!

What?! That's not me! I swear, I wasn't doing nearly 13-minute miles!

I don't remember what my bib number was, but when I typed in the one connected to my chip time in order to view my photos… that's not me! It's some old, heavy-set dude!

Unless I'm having some rude awakening about what I look like (have I checked the mirror lately? – there's that theme again), the race people made a mistake. This is why electronic voting may be very dangerous this election year. (How's that for a political statement, Mr. Devo?!)

Oh well, I guess I'll have to glean the thrills of running this race from other places.

Hey, remember the Firemanses?! They were awesome.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

OK, to all those G-Men looking for government secrets in web logs, here's how to crack the code for my blog: Take the fourth letter of every fifth word when the entry comes on a Wednesday, and if it's on a Friday, take the second letter of every ninth word. For Tuesday, take the first letter of the sixth word, unless the word is a conjunction, in which case take the second letter of the next adjective appearing after the conjunction, but keep counting the sixth word. If the entry comes in on a Monday, don't bother – I was too tired to know what I was saying. That leaves Thursday and weekends. On those days, translate the entry into Serbocroatian, spell it out backwards and take out all the weird characters – stuff that you can't pronounce without spitting or coughing up phlegm. Then combine the remaining text with the other deciphered code, and you'll find the whereabouts of microfilm showing Rumsfeld playing nude hopscotch with Taliban leaders in the mountains of Uzbekistan. Sorry, that's alls I gots.

Friday, April 23, 2004

To the clever ad execs out there:

I understand it's important to create product awareness in any way possible, buying space on buses, internet side banners, etc.

Or even on the little stickers they put on apples. I'm assuming that keeps the cost down for us consumers. I'll take off a tiny label and wash off the yucky stickum if it means paying a dime less per apple. And before the consumer takes a bite, he or she can be reminded – hey, why not wash this healthy fruit down with a Coke? Or, wouldn't you rather have a Quarter Pounder with Cheese? You'd look cool eating this snack while wearing some Tommy Hilfiger cargo pants. Buy the latest laptop from Macintosh!

But don’t you think certain commercial tie-ins are simply a bad idea? Namely,

Snow White
An Enchanting New Musical

Uh, as I recall the story, didn't Snow White eat a POISON APPLE?!

So, eat this apple and you'll go into some coma and could only be rescued by some pretty boy or a septet of misfits?

I dunno – is that association completely ridiculous? Am I simply over thinking this? Or maybe you ad execs aren't thinking enough…

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Poets die young, the study shows
So you're better off creating prose
Other writers live a longer time
So I'll make sure my stuff doesn't… have any rhythm or nuthin'.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

It's early yet.

Sure, the Yankees lost three outta four to Boston. But it's early in the season.

Sure, right now it looks like four more years of stupidity. But it's early in the campaign.

Sure, I spent the first weeks since my birthday in the hospital with my mom, not getting the big tax refund I was expecting (no self-granted b-day gift for Mikey this year), having blisters on my feet, and a minor case of writer's block. But it's early in the year.

It's all gonna get better…right?

Friday, April 16, 2004

Today's gripe:

Or, how to make Mike super-happy at work:

Call his boss repeatedly. Don't mind that his boss always diligently returns calls as soon as possible. If you haven't heard back from her in the last five minutes, assume that her phone no longer can make outgoing calls. So she's just waiting for you to call again. Don't even consider the possibility that she may be busy with other clients and attorneys like yourself who have to validate their existence by talking on the phone over and over again about the same picayune point. Call to say you're going over the contract, even if you don't have any comments yet. Just to let us know. Or tell us your favorite flavor of fruit roll-ups. Just keep calling.

And if you can't get through more than 7 times in an hour, feel free to send an e-mail. Mike loves printing out these comminuques, then making copies and sorting all these papers into the file and work file. He especially enjoys the two-cent additions from each party on the cc list. A few gems are: "Sounds good to me" and "I let Ron know" and "I'll send you a redraft soon" and "OK."


Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Hey, sports fans!

I'm not really one of you. A sports fan, that is. I love baseball, and if it weren't for that and my enjoyment of gangster movies, I might be kicked out of the guy's club. (I mean, I hate NASCAR, professional wrestling and beer… but I swear I don't watch the Oxygen network.)

But last weekend, I was exposed to some exciting new sports. New for me, anway.

I was invited to an Easter gathering at an attorney's house. She represents and knows a lot of Hollywood big shots, and she said that it would be a good networking opportunity for me. I'm not really into schmoozing, and frankly, the real reason I thought it would be nice to work with some of these playahs is that their production company's office is in walking distance from my apartment. If I worked for them, it'd be a huge paycut, and probably just as boring and as much of a dead-end position as where I am now, but – no commute? Sign me up!

Anyway, when I arrived, there seemed to be 3 groups of people. The kids, who bounced around in one of those moon rooms, which looked awesome, by the way. But I think if I joined them, I'd pop the inflatable place – even if I hadn't been noshing as much as I have since my birthday. Then there were all the moms and moms-to-be, who were shouting at their kids: "Taylor! Play nice! Don't hit Megan! I don't care where she stuck that Easter egg!" The rest of the people were downstairs in the den.

When I went to join them – the directors and actors who could supposedly jumpstart my career – I saw they were all engrossed in the TV. I kept quiet and joined them, curious to see what was so mesmerizing.


At first, I didn't get it. I mean, in the Master's Tournament, they don't allow players to use the golf carts, and they don't allow CBS to air any commercials. So a lot of time was spent watching these guys in ugly polo shirts and pleated khakis walking across the course. Why not zoom in on the turf to watch the grass grow?

Even playing the game is kinda tedious. Especially if you drive as well as an old lady who can't see over the steering wheel. I once played 18 holes with a friend and I swear, my swing sent the ball 400 yards… straight up in the air so that it landed back on the tee. I had to yell "fore" to myself. Let's see Chi Chi Rodriguez do that.

But during the Masters, I learned more about the game. Like when the ball hugs the rim but doesn't go in the hole, it means "he lipped it". And since Tiger Woods didn't perform well, there was a whole new cast of characters to know.

Specifically, Phil Mickelson. Now, you sports fans already know the story, but those of you who don't know a bunker from a wedge, here's the scoop: Mickelson has come in second or third in every Masters. Always a bridesmaid. Some say he's a choke artist, others say he's just not that good. I said he's the Susan Lucci of the golf circuit.

It came down to one last putt. And just like Lady Lucci… Lady Luck finally shined on Mr. Mickelson. The crowd went wild. Even in the den at the attorney's house.

I don't know how much elbow rubbing I got to do, but there was a lot of high-fiving going on. Good times had by all.

Later that day, I was invited to a Clippers game. I haven't been to an NBA game since I moved out to California. As a kid, my family was Knicks fans, but since Ewing retired, I couldn't name a single player.

It's hard to avoid Laker-mania out here, and I have been subjected to a few games on TV. Regarding that Kobe-Shaq-Fox-Phil Jackson crew, I have only three words: Talented but lazy.

Now, ask me about Barry Bonds and his tying Willie Mays' home run record, and I can spout off all over-500-homer people and their batting average within a few points. But my hoops knowledge? I'd be tossing bricks.

The LA Clippers were playing the San Antonio Spurs, who I learned were the reigning world champion. The Clippers on the other hand, had lost 12 games in a row.

Ooh, another underdog overdue for victory! Right?

Sorry to say, no. Though they played well, the Clippers could never get more than a one-point lead over the Spurs (to which the crowd was briefly exuberant). It was kinda like watching a minor league team getting to compete at the Staples Center.

I know some Clippers fans, and I admire their dedication, but pity them at the same time. After my first game, I gotta say the team is like Norman Bates' mother – forever stuck in the basement, and anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy.

That's the best part of my intro to these sports – having enough knowledge to make wisecracks like that. What's next? NASCAR? Professional wrestling? Bocci ball?

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Sometimes I get burnt out on running, but I manage to find ways to keep myself going.

At the Niketown runs, they usually have a raffle afterwards. I’ve been going for a year now, and I have indeed won a few times. I scored the same ill-fitting shirt twice, and a tank top I never wear. I’m not complaining about the free stuff, just that my luck isn’t that great. I never get the grand prize – a Nike heart rate monitor watch.

I’ve been thinking of getting a heart rate monitor for a while. A friend I run with swears by it, saying it’s very helpful, a measurable way of seeing how hard you’re working. But the really good ones are expensive, and I opted to hold off until I saved up a bit, or if I got lucky at Niketown.

Well, I had a big opportunity the other night. In preparation for the Run Hit Wonder, they announced an '80s music trivia contest. The winner would get – you guessed it – a Nike heart rate monitor. When they asked for contestants, I shot my hand up and was one of the five people called to compete.

As I went up front with my rivals, the Nike woman who was the quizmaster explained the rules. They would recite part of some song lyrics and the first to "buzz in" (by raising a mini-running light) would get a chance to fill in the blanks. One point for a right answer, one for naming the artist, one for the song, and I think another four points if we sing it. It was all pretty loosey-goosey – they just wanted everyone to have fun.

The first question was: "Blank blank / Is not my lover / She's just a girl / Who says I am the one."

Easy. I had my light out first, and answered. "Billie Jean" by Michael Jackson. Sing it? Sure. I belted it out in an off-key Jacko falsetto. Seven points and the crowd went wild. Then someone shouted that I should dance. The quizmaster amended the rules: If I danced, I'd get another three points.

Well, I have no qualms about karaoking, but I get a little embarrassed at trying to move like the King of Pop. I dance like a white guy, not like a white guy who used to black… I said, no, I wasn't going to dance, sorry. I didn't need to make a fool of myself any further – I had this game in the bag.

But my cockiness cost me. I soon learned to be less worried about my ability to boogie and more about the competition. The woman on the end raised her hand and said, "I'll do it!" She attempted a moonwalk – which in her New Balance running shoes (is that allowed at a Nike run?) came across like she was wiping dog droppings off her feet. But the crowd loved it and so did the quizmaster. Three points.

Damn, I no longer had a shutout. She threw down the gauntlet. OK, game on.

She and I clearly outmatched the contestants in the middle. We got most of the next few questions – I knew all the answers, but wasn't always quick enough on the buzzer. Sometimes one of the other three would buzz in, and if even if they were late, the quizmaster let them go, just to give 'em a chance.

Now, I just wanted to have fun, too. I'm not a competitive person, but the New Balance babe wasn't gonna take my heart rate monitor. I couldn't let all those hours of my youth watching MTV be a complete waste. When she beat me to answer, "Blank it / Blank it good" and said it was "Whip It" by Devo, I pointed out that there was a perfectly good alternative answer – "Push It" by Salt N Pepa, which I proceeded to sing, instrumental part and all. More points for Mikey.

At one point, I even did a Safety Dance. I wasn't fooling around anymore.

It came down to one last question. The girl on the end was ahead by one point. If she buzzed in before me, or if the people in the middle got it, all was lost. I was nervous – if I had that heart rate monitor, it would've probably read over 200 beats per minute.

The quizmaster said, "I got it bad / Got it bad / Got it bad / I'm blank for blank."

By the second "Got it", I got it. My light moved faster than Eddie Van Halen's guitar fingers – but did my rival have hers out, too?

No. It was all up to me. I sang a hearty rendition of "Hot for Teacher", and that was enough. Hey, I was willing to do flying stage-dive split like David Lee Roth if necessary.

I won the watch, and almost as satisfying, I won over the crowd. As I went back to join my friends, I was high-fived and applauded by everyone. Man, it must be great to be a rock star.

So I'm looking forward to running again. I got a new toy that will help gauge my enjoyment of it.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Guess what today's blog is about:

1) My review of The Da Vinci Code.
2) The cute girls I've met running.
3) The short film I'm acting in.
4) My upcoming birthday plans.
5) My mom's doctor appointment / gripe against the medical profession
6) My progress / challenges w/my writing
7) Saturday's Santa Anita 5K Derby Day
8) A prank – No time to do a long entry! April Fool's!

Who da fool? Me. I'm swamped, man.

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