Tuesday, November 30, 2004

I’ll talk about my fun meeting with fellow bloggers Leese and Stanks soon, but lately I’ve been busy with a different kind of lease.

As in, I leased a new car last weekend. Good reliable ride, nothing fancy, but it looks great and is reasonably priced. I’d be thrilled about the new wheels... if I didn’t still have this nightmare with the old one:

Driving home last week from the gym, deciding if my workout earned me an outing with friends at the Mexican joint for burritos and margaritas -- no, no, I’m gonna be stuffin’ and cranberryin’ and scarfin’ my homemade chocolate pecan pie all week… a big black Jeep SUV cut from the left lane into mine -- abruptly, slamming on his brakes. I did the same. My life didn’t flash in front of my eyes, but I could see the near future: I would slam into his rear-end, no one would get hurt, except the hood of my car. Oh, and the hassles with insurance and my lease company would begin to commencify and commence to beginulate.

The guy got out and once I confirmed he wasn’t injured, I asked him politely what motherfucking Braille driving school did his sorry ass flunk out of? He said he was swerving to avoid hitting a dog. While I pondered the moral question of choosing to endanger two human beings in order to save a mangy mutt, a woman came up and said she saw the whole thing. I got her name and number and then got the scoop:

Some dog ran into the road, then some dude -- on the island separating opposing traffic on Olympic Blvd. -- called after him, and as the pooch doubled back, the SUV guy had to go NASCAR pile-up on us. The dog ran off, and his master chased after him. The woman showed us: he left his knapsack.

Then while I was moving my burnt-rubber-smellin’ vehicle off the road, the dog dude came back and snatched his knapsack from the woman.

“You’re welcome,” she said. He muttered a thank you.

The SUV guy said, “Y’know, you and your dog nearly caused a serious accident here,”

“Fuck off.” And then he left in a flash.

I came back and heard about this, but wasn’t about to waste energy hating that flea-bitten asshole. I had enough problems.

See, my lease on the old car is up next week. And I already have a bad scrape I did myself months ago. So I knew I’d be in red-tape hell, bickering with these auto bureaucrats, trying to get everything fixed quickly at minimal cost. Can’t figure out what's best: to make both claims, risk my rates going up, pay for it all myself at a cheap mechanic, wait for all the inspections, have the lease company duke it out with the insurance... it’s complicated.

Back to the SUV guy. I took down his plate number, but he himself didn’t have his license or insurance info or anything. Great. He wasn’t some deadbeat -- not with that hoopty and the fancy suit and tie -- maybe just some all-too-important-for-paperwork scofflaw. I asked him if he had any ID. He showed me his business card. Guy’s a big-shot talent agent at International Creative Management.

“I know you,” I told him. And I related some mutual people we knew in the business. So I can track him down if I need to. Or if my insurance needs to.

“Either that,” I told him, “Or you broker me a first-look deal at Paramount.”

No dice.

Talent agents, insurance agents: they all suck ass.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Only in Beverly Hills would a police sketch be drawn on the back of a screenplay. "Stalking", my ass. That's the last time I follow Eliza Dushku around Rodeo Drive telling her to Bring it On.

Either the charges were dropped or the cops gave up their search, 'cause this looks nothing like me.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

It’s starting to warm up again. Last weekend it was incredibly cold in LA, like, below 50. Brrr. Seriously, some parts of Southern California got snow.

I miss snow. I woulda been thrilled as a kid to have a snow day... in November! Take off from school, go sledding, try to build bizarre snowmen like in Calvin & Hobbes, only to have my friends laugh at my lousy amorphous creations, 'til... WHAP! They got a face full of frozen art -- yeah, I can sculpt a snowball real good.

I also liked to make some extra cash shoveling driveways. That got me thinking about other things I did for money as a teenager. (No, not that. No one would pay me for that.)

Sometimes I’d baby-sit. Usually that was a job for the teenage girls, but there were some boyz in the ‘hood who didn’t want a chick looking after them, so their parents would ask me. Hmm, get to hang out, play video games, watch TV and raid the fridge and get paid for it? Easiest gig in the world. Beat toiling away in sub-freezing temperatures, getting a strained back and frostbitten toes.

And the kids liked me ‘cause I let ‘em get away with stuff. Make noise, have extra desserts, stay up late and watch scary movies.

I remember letting 9-year-old Danny see one of those Halloween movies. He got pretty frightened, so I allowed him to stay up past his bedtime, but when his parents were gonna come home soon, we figured he’d better get tucked in.

Danny was still kinda shaken-up and nervous; kid needed reassuring. I wouldn’t say that what he saw was just a movie -- I hated when my parents told me that. Jaws, Alien, Body Snatchers -- they were more than just a movie -- they were an experience. A scary-ass nerve-wrenching experience. So I tried to rationalize the situation. I told Danny that Halloween took place near Chicago or something. Far, far away from Long Island. And besides, Michael Myers wasn’t after us. He was only hurting people who stood in the way of him getting Jamie Lee Curtis. And that was only ‘cause she showed her boobies in Trading Places. “We’ll watch that next time,” I told him.

That calmed him down, and so I left the room. A second later, Danny heard from the hallway: “Hey -- what the --?! No, stop! Augh! Aahhhh!”

Then I’d fall back and land so that just my legs stuck out of the open doorway. My lifeless legs, which didn’t move even as Danny yelled, “Cut it out, Mike. Stop. C’mon, get up now. It’s not funny anymore! MIKE?!”

Hee-hee. Kids are great. They’ll believe anything.

I wasn’t as cruel to Russell across the street. He was only four or five. But I still inadvertently managed to scare the crap outta him, too.

At that time, He-Man was the big thing. He announced that he was He-Man; I was Skeletor. So we wound up chasing each other around his house playing this game. I didn’t really know that show, but I just did some kinda snarly bad-guy thing: “I’ll get you He-Man. Rrrr!” And he’d laugh and shout catchphrases from the cartoon and run away on his tiny legs. To even the playing field, I’d drag myself along the carpet just using my arms. And it was all fun and games... until I cornered him. “Ha-HA, I’ve got you now, He-Man!”

As I got closer, I saw Russell’s face turn to horror, as if I were truly a demonic animated monster shuffling across the rug toward him. The little guy started to tremble in fear. Whoa -- he really got into this game. I had to break character and tell him, “Russell, it’s okay, it’s me. We’re just playing, remember?” He snapped out of it, I gave him a hug, and he nearly started crying in relief.

I thought it was amazing -- you can see how children let their imagination take over.

Oh, you can also see why I didn’t give up on shoveling driveways. After freaking out the neighborhood kids, I wasn’t about to quit my day job.

Monday, November 22, 2004

"What is that?" Isabel was staring at my crotch.

"You want an anatomy lesson, baby?"

"No, I mean, what is that in your pocket?"

So she wanted to know what I had in my pants. Isabel and I worked together, but had gone out on a few great dates, fooled around a little bit, and were always flirting on the job. At that moment there wasn’t anyone else in the file room besides us two. I wasn’t as worried about my sexual remark being considered harassment as much as a lame double entendre.

So I said nothing and just whipped it out.

My L.A. Marathon medal. I had just run the race that weekend and brought it in to show off my accomplishment.

"Oh," she said. "I thought that was a condom."

I can understand mistaking the shape -- a flat circular protrusion on my thigh -- but the size? The medal is about three inches in diameter. "I’m not that big."

She smirked, so I jokingly backpedaled. "I mean, I got plenty and all, I’m just sayin’..."

Isabel continued to give me that look, enjoying watching myself dig a deeper hole of humiliation. "Of course, not that my size is even anything I’ve ever worried about..."

"Mm hm."

Really, it isn’t. I’ve got my share of physical insecurities. Who doesn’t? I wish I was taller, or had as much hair as when I was eighteen. Can’t do much about that, but I can control my physique, so my exercise routine has got me constantly committing hate crimes against the love handles.

But when it comes to the fifth appendage, I never gave it a second thought. I delete the "enlarge your penis" e-mail spam because even if those pills and creams did work, hell, I don’t need 'em. Wouldn't say I ever considered myself huge either.

Until my last girlfriend, the one I dated before meeting Isabel. Isabel and I were pretty comfortable with each other -- that's one of the things I liked about her -- and could talk freely about our exes. I had mentioned this former girlfriend to her, though until today I hadn’t discussed our sex life.

To put it bluntly, that girl adored my dick. Honestly, it kinda threw me for a loop.

We’d talk on the phone, saying how spending last night together was great, we couldn’t wait to see each other again... And then she’d start talking dirty. "I miss you and your nice... long, thick... shaft..." I’d respond by telling her how good she tasted, like strawberry ice cream... But she was fixated on my phallus. Going on and on about it. "You know, Michael," she said, "you’re really well-endowed."

"Really?" My voice went up three octaves from that Barry White thing I was doing.

"You never had a girl tell you that?"

Not really the next day. I got plenty of compliments during sex -- gasps of delight at the sight or feeling of my full arousal, praise during pauses in fellatio, etc., but I just chalked it up to pillow talk. The chick providing verbal viagara, if you will.

But maybe it was just that most of the women I had been with didn’t talk dirty in the daytime. The things they said were more romantic than racy. Or maybe this girl’s past boyfriends all just had spaghetti schlongs. So by comparison she was impressed with Mega-Mike.

No. My ex was well-experienced, and she was right. I am huge. After that, I found myself standing in front of the full-length mirror, naked, flexing every muscle, thinking, "yyyeah..."

Then I snapped back to reality. I had been sharing all this with Isabel. Jeez, this was embarrassing. "Sorry," I said. "I don’t know why I just told you all that."

"It’s okay. I know you’re big." Isabel said, "I could tell."

What? How? I looked at my crotch again. Maybe you could see shapes in my pockets, but the pants were too loose elsewhere.

She said, "Yesterday, when we were up front next to each other."

Ah yes. Those slacks were tighter, and we were sitting down. Still...

"Women notice those things? I mean, you look?"

"Oh, yeah," she said, smiling. I smiled back, but had to look away; I was starting to blush.

Before either of us could break the silence, the boss walked into the room. Isabel and I tried to look all businesslike, but we were stifling an awkward laugh. The boss asked if I found the file he needed, and I handed him a heavy folder, packed with papers.

"Wow," he said. "This is a big one."

Friday, November 19, 2004

Would you say you’re a live wire? Or low-key?

Introvert? Extrovert? Pervert?

Depends on the situation, right? When it comes to my energy level, I want everything done in a New York minute, but just so I can get back to my California dreamin’.

And when I was in Hawaii with some friends, I remember one of the girls kept remarking, "Michael, you’re so mellow." Well, sure, I was into serenity; the other guys were into our itinerary. Arguing about whether to go to Hanama Bay or the north shore. Snorkeling or surfing? Whatever, dude. It’s all good. I was lei’d back and mai-tai-ing one on. Why get uptight about how to relax?

Still, I can get pretty damn intense sometimes. My friend Mike marvels at how I can get all emotional about shit, whether I’m doing my happy Irish jig (he incorrectly calls it my Walter Huston dance) or foaming at the mouth in a foxtrot of fury. "Jeez, Mike," he’ll tell me. "Take some ‘zac or something." Why curb my enthusiasm? So I can be permanently comatose like him? I’d rather rage against the machine once in a while than be comfortably numb forever. Mike’s the kinda guy who could be set on fire and wonder what’s cookin’. I’ve warned him that if we’re ever overrun by Dawn of the Dead zombies, I’m shooting him in the head first… just to be on the safe side.

On the other hand, there was my friend Erik. Young skinny neighbor kid who had tons of energy. He’d join me on a run in the morning, and while I was off at work, he got to hang around. He was waiting to hear back from the grad schools he applied to; otherwise he had nothing much to do. And no one to hang out with.

Til I came home. Then he was like a little puppy dog, scampering excitedly, happy to play.

But shit, man, I was tired. Sorry, I wasn’t that hungry, didn’t feel like going out to eat.

"What if we order in?" Erik said, "Get some Chinese food, hang out…"

Poor lonely kid. Very nice guy, just too eager sometimes. Okay, I told him. Pick out some dishes and order whatever you want.

He made a call while I’m sinking into my easy chair and Ottoman. A minute later Erik said, "So I ordered some kung pao, mu shu, fried rice. It’ll be here in 15."

"Cool. Thanks." My words came out in a slow murmur.

"That all right?"


"You want, I’ll cancel it. We could get a pizza instead."

"No, that sounds good."

"You sure now?"

Yeah. Yes. Why does he keep asking me?

"Well," he said, "you don’t seem that excited about it."

I sighed. Peeled myself off my comfy chair, stood up, took a deep breath and mustered all my energy.

"Yeah!" I said. "Chinese food!" The kid started to smile, so I kept going with it.

Shouting at the top of my lungs. "CHI-NESE FOOD! CHI-NESE FOOD! WE’RE GONNA GET SOME CHI-NESE FOOD!" Now I was jumping up and down like a spastic cheerleader.

"Kung PAO! Mu SHU! Woo HOO!"

I bounced out of my apartment as if MSG is PCP. "Yeah! All right!" One of my neighbors peeked out his front door. I didn’t hesitate. "We’re getting Chi-nese food! You want?!" The guy slipped back inside.

Erik was laughing. And you know what? I worked up a pretty good appetite. That kung pao tasted great.

The kid got into school back east, but he gets in touch with me when he’s back for the holidays. He’s slowed down a little bit, overwhelmed with his classwork. Still, when he called me he reminded me not to fill up too much on turkey next weekend, ‘cause we gotta go out for some…

"Yeah, I know." But I let him say it.

Erik shouted into the phone. "Chi-nese food! Chi-nese food!"

Shit, I look forward to hanging out, but’ til then, I’m gonna have to conserve my energy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

You're in line at the supermarket just to buy a lousy box of cereal, but grandma's arguing up at the register. She's got an expired coupon for Grey Poupon, and you just wanna get your Froot Loop on... so what do you do to kill time before you kill the old-timer? You check out the tabloids at the checkout. Celebrities are getting fat or anorexic -- overeating, spousal-cheating, acting fickle and slipping nipples... And then you spot Weekly World News. Ah, the last holdout for journalistic integrity. The Fourth Estate at its finest. The place to go to learn about Bat Boy, Elvis sightings, Hitler clones and vampire hamsters.

I was briefly employed by this brilliant newspaper, roaming the globe for bizarre tales. My freelance stories didn't get picked up at first. For some reason, they chose not to run the following headlines:




But finally, my scoop made the presses... helping to make that line at the register more than just a place to contemplate buying an extra tin of Altoids.

(Click the image to enlarge it.)


Capetown, South Africa -- Claire Bullock was shocked to learn that her husband Ron was two-timing her -- and three-timing her -- when he married Siamese twin sisters!

"He's on the road so much, I always feared he'd have an affair," said a distraught Claire of her truck-driving husband. "But I never expected this."

Ron fell in love with Nikki and Karen Stafford when he first met the conjoined pair, who work together at a weighing station in Port Elizabeth. He soon proposed to each of them, and a week later, placed a wedding ring on Nikki's left hand -- which is Karen's right.

Attached at the waist, the twins share one arm and several vital organs. So for them, sharing Ron as a husband is no big deal.

"Nikki loves Ron's romantic side," giggles Karen. "And he makes me laugh."

Nikki adds, "He likes to get between us and snuggle. Ron says he loves his 'Sweet Stafford sister sandwich.'"

Nikki and Karen declare that "Big-Rig Ron," as they call him, needs two women to keep him happy. But not three. They insist that he leave his first wife and stay in Port Elizabeth.

Back in Cape Town, Claire refuses to let that happen. She threatens to have her cheating husband arrested for bigamy if he doesn't divorce the twins. "I want Ron all to myself, or I want him in jail," she announces.

Ron is hoping to keep on truckin', never playing favorites. "Claire is wonderful," he explains, "but with Nikki and Karen, it's like love in stereo.

"Maybe somehow the four of us can work this out."

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

This is a little on the sad side, but since I mentioned how my mom was the one who got me into the blues, it seemed like a good time to post this cartoon. I did it for Mother’s Day a few years ago, which fell during a terrible time in her life.

She had just had her stroke, and spent weeks in a rehabilitation hospital. Until her face and throat muscles came back, she had to eat awful strained food, even thickened water to prevent choking. Her left arm remained paralyzed, though she tried to pamper it, calling it "Minnie" as in Mini-Me. It was creepy, but it was her way of coping. No doubt the situation made her depressed and angry, as well as the chemical imbalances that accompany a right-side brain loss.

Adding to the aggravation, her “cellmate” was as annoying as one of the neighbors she happily left behind after moving from New York. The physical therapists reminded my mom of the Valkyries from a Wagner opera. And occupational therapy entailed overly upbeat ladies asking her to do tasks that would seem way too simple… had my mother had her old concentration. Mom liked to quote a character from the Sopranos, who strong-armed a man on the golf course: "Stupid fuckin’ game."

There are also cameos by our old dog Max, my old man -- quoting family favorite The Pope of Greenwich Village, Fly Man -- a superhero soon to be buzzing around here, and of course, blues legend Muddy Waters.

Nothing like the blues to say how one feels... and since I have no musical ability, this cartoon was the best I could do to try and cheer her up a little.

(As always, click the image to enlarge it.)

Sunday, November 07, 2004

"Turn down that music!" My mom yelled into my room. "That noise is terrible!"

"No way, Mom." I was totally rockin’ out. "This is Eddie Van Halen -- the greatest guitar player. Ever."

She narrowed her eyes. "Come with me." My insolence didn’t bother her as much as my ignorance. Stupid 13-year-old brat needed some schoolin’.

She took me downstairs to the cabinets in the den, which were filled with her old blues vinyls. She rifled through the collection, handing me album after album. "Here. Muddy Waters, Josh White, BB King, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Howlin’ Wolf. Leadbelly… Robert Johnson!"

I was told to listen to these -- at a respectable volume -- and then get back to her. She was right. These guys were amazing, and without them there would be none of that infernal rock music (which of course I still think is still great). And my love of the blues has grown since then. When I went to college, I wound up DJing a blues radio show -- it actually had a large audience, even off-campus, as one of New York’s premiere alternative stations.

But I digress.

Actually, the point of this intro is to mention how my mother was the one who got me into another blues artist -- not a guitar player, but a legend nonetheless: Ray Charles. His records got heavy rotation in our household. My sister used to cry at his bluesier songs. I had heard his hits like "Hit the Road, Jack" and "What’d I Say", but learned about other soulful numbers like "Danger Zone", "Outskirts of Town" "Sticks and Stones" and "But on the Other Hand Baby", thanks to my mom.

I got to repay her a little bit by taking the family to see the movie Ray yesterday. It was well-done, Jamie Foxx was phenomenal and the music fantastic. Had some story problems… but I think most biopics do.

I wonder if they made a biopic about my life, if it would be interesting at all. Well, it would require a lot of embellishments. And we might have to edit out some parts. Especially when I digress. "2004: Michael sits in a front of a computer, blogging his brains out…"

But actually, the good thing about blogging is it helps me relive stuff that happened in my past, for whatever those moments are worth. Like my early lesson about great music.

Other events are so hazy. I vaguely remember my family driving together onto this large estate on Long Island, and they wouldn’t tell me where we were going or why. Then I saw the sign for "Ray Charles in concert" and was ecstatic. I know it was an outdoor venue and a great show. But when was it? Where did we go? My mom said it was when I got back from England, which was in the summer, but I thought it was a surprise birthday present to me, and that’s in April. Mom also insisted it was at Old Westbury, but my sister and I think it was elsewhere, maybe at the old home of Teddy Roosevelt. Were we mixing up this and a school field trip? Did it really matter?

Yeah, it did. How am I gonna blog this accurately? And this just means more work for the researchers of MakeMineMike: the Movie.

Of course, we could just distort the truth a little for dramatic effect. If I were to use the Ray Charles influence in my biopic, I’d borrow some moments from when my sister saw him in concert at another time.

She got to go backstage and meet the man. I asked her how she managed that; tell me more about it… and she didn’t remember. Sheesh. I recalled it better than her.

From what she had told me back at the time: Her friends were all complimenting him, and my sister added, "Yeah, you taught me how to do the Twist."

"Oh yeah," my sister said when I brought it up. "The record was called ‘Do the Twist with Ray Charles’ and it had the little footsteps diagram on it."

But she didn’t remember what he said when she told him that. Maybe she didn’t think much of it, but it would’ve been a memorable moment in my life if the great Ray Charles swayed his body and gave me that big grin as he said, "Well, now, that’s great, babe."

Maybe I’d put that somewhere in the second reel.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Clay is the lone Republican in our liberal office. I almost feel sorry for him, being outnumbered here. But he’s a good guy with a good sense of humor, so if politics did come up, I’d just make cracks that lampooned the whole situation. Making fun of both candidates during the debates, or admitting months ago, yeah, well, the bright side is, we’ll probably have four more years of jokes about that jughead. Clay would laugh, "Fine by me."

Dennis, one of the associates here, would make similar barbs, funny but respectful. He sent a memo around today, declaring we now had new letterhead. There were two attachments. One had the company name, Jacob, Jingleheimer & Schmidt, Inc. with a new address: 9200 Snowbank Blvd., Vancouver, B.C., Canada. The other had our Los Angeles address, but the name was different: Clay, Clay, Clay & Clay, Inc.

I told Dennis how his memo cracked me up, and he said, "Thanks, I was thinking of naming the new firm, Clay and Michael, Inc."


"Aren’t you a Republica—"

"Hell no." Where did he get that idea? Hadn’t he heard me speaking Spanish around here? Practicing for the big move: Yo prefiero la tequila de México mas que la cerveza de Canada.

He shrugged, apologized and walked away.

I found out later it was an honest mistake -- a mix-up between me and another Michael not in our office. But sometimes I think due the political fervor of this country, people may misperceive things. Just because a person isn’t always outspoken in one direction, doesn’t mean they're complacent toward the other.

I told Clay about it, and he looked at me with a little smirk on his face. "Come to the dark side, Michael."

I smirked too, shaking my head, and kidded back at him. "I may have to stop being so nice to you."

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

My favorite thing about voting, besides participating in the democratic process and the fun of filling in bubbles (it’s like a coloring book – stay inside the lines!), is that I get to see who my neighbors are. All these people reside within a few blocks of me? What a buncha weirdos. Only a friggin’ wacko would live in my ‘hood.

Actually, among the very long line of people, I couldn’t help but notice a lotta cuties. Yes, I know I should be mulling over Prop This and Prop That, but gimme my props -- I can be patriotic and patronize da ladies all at the same time.

Being a NYer who hates to drive, I’m thinking hey, these are local gals. A booty call would only be a few blocks away. And if it hopefully got serious, and we moved in together, well, bringing over my couch & clothes & DVD collection wouldn’t be that much of a schlep.

But what if the relationship goes south? Do I gotta move back east? Hell, no. Once I made the mistake of dating a woman in my apt. complex -- shat where I ate, so to speak -- and that was bad. But I hadn’t seen any of these women before; if we broke up, we’d probably only have that awkward run-in during the next election.

Turnout this year was amazing; I was in line for at least 45 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to chat up the petite thang next to me. Damn, she was adorable. Raspy little voice and tons of energy. And importantly, we were voting the same way. Quietly, we expressed our optimism about change in the near future… politically, and maybe personally?

Got in my vote and afterwards, got her digits. Yeah, things are lookin’ up.

Monday, November 01, 2004

I remember reading about a pissing contest, two macho apes trying to outdo each other, tossin’ testosterone all over Texas. Actually, I do the same thing here in Santa Monica, like last weekend, with my buddy Mike.

Yeah, his name is Mike, too. Sometimes we tell people we’re brothers and our parents were unimaginative when naming us. You’d be surprised at how many people actually believe that. Maybe it’s because Mike kinda looks like me, except he wears glasses, is an inch taller, five years older and about -- shit, at least thirty pounds heavier.

The fat fuck is surprisingly athletic, though. I can understand why he swims so much -- that built-in buoyancy helps sea-lions and penguins and Mike (oh my!), but his biking ability -- that’s pretty amazing for a guy with a bowling ball belly. Take Lance Armstrong, double the girth, subtract that one testicle (probably) and you got Mammoth Mikeyboy there.

If you think I’m being cruel about my friend, believe me, I take twice the crap from him. His wit is dryer than the Sahara and I’m always getting caught in the sandstorm.

How many times has he brought up our bike ride from a few years ago? After hearing him brag about how he would sprint up Mandeville Canyon to Mulholland, he dared me to take a ride with him. Hell, I had run two marathons within a year, there was no way the old man could beat me. We ventured up some steep incline near Will Rogers State Park, and I pumped the pedals past him -- barely. But at the top of the hill, I had to stop and practically fall off my bike. I was winded, dizzy and kinda nauseous. Staggered around and sucked wind like Darth Vader on drugs. And Jabba the Hutt just sat on his padded seat and laughed.

Ever since I got my new mountain bike, Mike’s been bugging me to go again. “Bring your helmet and barf bag,” he tells me.

Well, I haven’t been riding much. I haven’t been running much lately either. So when he told me he’d be going up to the Santa Monica steps last Saturday, I was hesitant to join him.

It’s not that I haven’t been there before -- I’ve climbed the 189 steps in the staircase, but --

“How many sets can you do?” Mike narrowed his four-eyes at me...

I don’t do sets, I told him. I nonchalantly mentioned that I do one set... as part of my eight-mile running loop. Not gonna be one of those fitness hamsters going up and down and up and down...

But if Mike wanted to challenge me...

We rode our bikes up to the steps -- the bastard said he’d go slow so he wouldn’t lose me and I wouldn’t lose my lunch -- and that’s when I offered to make this interesting. He’d never agree to a straight money bet, so how ‘bout loser buys the winner brunch at Callahan’s tomorrow? A chance for free food at our local diner? Mike was on board.

He took us to a different set of stairs, a few blocks away from the one I go to -- I didn’t even know about this. It was probably the same distance, same number of steps, but it was more daunting. Mine is a concrete path winding through the woods; this one was a long wooden row going straight up -- you can see the entire hill in front of you.

I let Mike go first and followed him down, then back up. Even in that first set, he slowed as he reached the top. Was this psychological warfare? Get me cocky early on? I passed him, but took it easy. Wasn’t gonna let him tortoise-and-hare me again.

When we got done with the second circuit, he was beet red… and beat. “I guess I’ll do three sets another time,” he said between breaths. “You wanna head home?”

“Are you kidding?” I had to do a third set. Just hadta.

When I came back up again, Mike reluctantly nodded his head in defeat. But I wasn’t gonna let him off that easy. Time for a victory lap. “You rested up?” I said, “C’mon, you can do your third set now.”

He sighed, and as I followed him back down the steps, I started to feel bad. Not tired -- guilty. What if Mike had a coronary trying to keep up with his younger “brother”? Or I was afraid he’d lose his balance and tumble down the stairs like that priest in The Exorcist.

Maybe he was thinking the same thing, ‘cause he stopped at the top and said, “Nah, you go ahead, Mike.” Ha. I could show off guilt-free.

After the fourth set, truthfully, I was just getting warmed-up. I had a nice sweat going and really felt like I could do at least two more circuits. But there was no need to rub it in. I’d let Mike go home and lick his wounds. And this would even the score. He had his Triumph of the Will Rogers State Park; I won the Battle of the Bulge. Plus, I got a free brunch outta this.

The next day, he called me around 11 to pay his debt. I just woke up, groggy, but suddenly energetic to the thought of eggs benedict, maybe hash browns… ooh, pancakes!

I jumped outta bed… and landed flat on my face. My legs were killing me. The calves and hamstrings felt like the concrete steps I sometimes climb. It would take me a while to loosen up. There was no way I could walk the two blocks to Callahan’s. Hell, I couldn’t make it down the stairs of my apartment complex. This time, I was the one who said, “Nah, you go ahead, Mike.” He chuckled.

“Yeah, go enjoy that greasy bacon without me,” I said. “Add an extension to that front porch of yours.”

“Didn’t you say you got your mom a new wheelchair? Go get the old one. I’ll push you around in it.” Mike said, “You gotta handle your own colostomy bag, though.”


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