Saturday, December 17, 2005

Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale

Some years ago – never mind how long precisely – my wife and I took a day trip out to Lancaster, PA, with my mom, my brother and his wife. To be truthful, she wasn’t even D’Wife yet, just some chick I met in a bar; who lived in Jersey; whom I could mooch rides down to the shore with. The five of us were in my brother’s Crown Vic: Donna between me and Mom in the back; Jeff in front of me, at the wheel.

As we were returning on PA Rt 30., we passed one of those quintessential Amish buggies. The driver was in full “Witness” mode, with the back pants, blue shirt, suspenders and straw hat.

My mom, having seen the movie many times and spent an equal number of hours combing through Amish barns, looking for rare treasures, remarked, “That guy’s not married.”

“How can you tell?” Donna asked.

Jeff shot me a look in the rear view that said, with a roll of his eyes, “Here we go.”

“Well it’s easy. Amish men aren’t allowed to grow beard until they get married,” Mom explained.

“I heard something like that.” The hook has been set.

“Yes, they’re very strict about marriage, and sex. That’s why they’re always building barns.”

“Huh, I don’t get it.”

“Well, they believe – if ‘believe’ is the right word – that those activities should be kept outside, out of the purity of the home; since it’s kind of an ‘animal’ thing that you’re doing. So they have to do it outside.”

“I knew they were backwards, but come on.”

Jeff looked back again, “Mom’s reeling her in.”

“Now some families, just starting out, don’t have barns yet, so they have to go in the buggies. Have you noticed that there are two kinds of buggies? The ‘convertibles’ like that guy was driving are for single men, so the folks can keep an eye on him. The ‘hard tops’ are for married people, so they can have ‘alone time’.”

By this time Donna was at the rail; Mom had the gaffing hook ready.

“But just to keep everything ‘flowing’ throughout the community, they have to do it while the buggy is moving. You know they can’t have buggies stopped all over Lancaster County while people are screwing. It would be bad for the tourism, plus the traffic would be terrible. So, Donna, if you ever see a hardtop buggy, and it looks like no one is driving …”

The Gods of Coincidence smiled on us. At that exact moment, we passed such a vehicle. The driver was sitting well to the back, so it looked like it was on auto-pilot.

“Oh … my … God.,” Donna was equally fascinated, embarrassed and exasperated, “They’re …?”


Get the net.


Harrisburg is a little further west, down the Turnpike from Lancaster, but it’s great country, especially if you ride. Bikes (road or mountain), cycles (cruisers, choppers, or motocross), horses, it doesn’t matter, this is great riding country.

I first heard of Tröegs HopBack Amber Ale, from an ad in DirtRag magazine. It’s really good, comparable to Magic Hat Blind Faith. It has a great rich amber color, a thick creamy head, not too fizzy. It has some nice orange, mango flavors, with a sharp hoppiness I always enjoy.

I had a couple after a wonderfully sloppy ride on my home trails. It was a nice warmer, after getting out of my cedar swamp water soaked and pine-needled gear.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

You could probably not think of a more unlikely place and time to find a Pink Floyd cover band than South Florida in the spring of 1987. Lightweight metal hair bands like Def Leppard ruled the day, even in muggy Broward County. Countless Bon Jovi wannabees had flocked down I-95 from Jersey to mooch a room in grandparents’ condo while they attempted to make their bones in the beach bar scene. The leather clad heavy metal crowd found the climate far too tropical for their tastes and returned to foggy London or San Francisco; while the girl-friendly, ripped T-shirt and jeans scene felt right at home and stayed. Guns ‘n’ Roses would blow the roof off in just a few short months. The flannel clad fuzz and shriek from rainy Seattle had not yet made its way southeast. The post-Grateful Dead jamband scene was far off on the horizon – Phish was still a quirky cover band playing frat parties at University of Vermont.

The mellowed out prog rock crowd couldn’t keep up with slick, smooth and fast Miami Vice stylishness.

Yet, that’s what I found myself doing, one slow Friday night … quietly enjoying the drone of “Pigs on the Wing” in a nearly empty upstairs room of a bar just off A1A. My new bartending friend, Barbara, and I let forth a continuous stream of ridicule for these poor guys, who wanted nothing more to do than to continue the legacy of Britain’s premier space rock band. Keeping the faith, while Roger Waters and David Gilmour mended fences. That, and make just enough cash to buy new trinkets at the next Dungeons and Dragons festival, or Star Trek convention.

Maybe, Doctor Who would have been more appropriate.

I had been there since happy hour. When the band opened their second set with “One of These Days,” I hadn’t noticed that the seat next to mine had been taken by an attractive young woman, with curly black hair and oversized glasses that gave her that girlish, nerdish Clark Kent look; the one that says, “I may look like I’m all business, but you just wait till we’re alone.”

“That sounds like the Doctor Who song,” she said leaning to my shoulder.

“Don’t tell me you watch Doctor Who?” I replied with a sour grin, “My last girlfriend always watched Doctor Who. That kind of ruined it for me.”

“You never forget your first Doctor. That’s what I’ve always said,” she responded, with a sly grin. I knew it. Clark Kent. “My name’s Cindy. I’m a Tom Baker.”

She held out a cigarette for me to light. I pulled out my trusty Delray Beach Yacht Club Zippo. Nine months earlier, I had used that lighter to light Keith Richards’s smoke at Live Aid. It was at that moment I realized that she reminded me of "Tegan Jovanka" an Australian airline stewardess and a native of Brisbane who was a companion of the Fourth and Fifth Doctors, but you’d have to be a total geek to notice that.

“Randy. Tom Baker, too. Lori liked the white haired guy. Jon Pertwee. I can’t imagine why.”

“Delray Beach Yacht Club? You live down here?”

“Nah, I’m staying just over the bridge there. My grandparents used to live in Pompano. My grandpop was a member. My uncle lives in Boca. I’m from Philly.”

”Get out!!! I’m from Philly. Actually Levittown. Up I-95, near Trenton.”

“Oh, so you would probably watch Dr. Who, Saturday afternoons on Channel 12, then again Saturday night on Channel 23, the Jersey public station.”

“You got it. So what are you doing in the Sunshine State?”

“I gave up SEPTA for Lent, and I didn’t want to be tempted, so I got as far away as I could. How about you?”

“I took the R5 South and missed my stop.” Great sense of humor. This was working out well.

The next hour was filled with reflections upon the Flyers (we both were fans of hockey and the Flyers, more than the Eagles or Phillies), the Vet, shows we’d both seen at the Spectrum and Tower Theater. Each story came with an “I was there, too” revelation. Through the past five years I had lived in Philadelphia, our paths had crossed more than a dozen times, yet we had never met.

Midway through the next set, I went for it.

“Hey, um, like I said, I’m staying just over the bridge there, about halfway back to the beach. We could continue this research, over a couple beers, in a more intimate setting. Or we could walk on the beach. Or both.”

“Beach, then beer, then more beach.”

We stepped outside into a light rain.

“Let’s skip the beach,” she advised. Even though we were on foot, we still had to wait for the drawbridge. With the breeze coming off the beach and the festive lights on the party boat going by, I couldn’t help myself. I kissed her softly. She smiled.

“Thank you,” she whispered, “That was nice. The nicest since I’ve been down here.”

As we walked up the steps to my room, a shocking thought occurred to me.

“Of course, this being a hotel, the only furniture is a table & chairs, a loveseat and the bed.”

“That’s okay,” she assured me.

“I just didn’t want to get the wrong idea.”

“I didn’t. And just so you don’t – I’m not a hooker.” Her service industry black and whites had made that pretty clear, but it was good to have her tell me otherwise.

The door opened with a vault like heaviness that hotels doors have, then slammed shut with a resounding thud. I opened the sliding door to the balcony, to compensate.

“You keep a pretty tidy room, Randy, for someone living out of a suitcase.”

“Sorry, to say, I’m going back home Wednesday. I have to be back at work the following Monday. Again, I hope you’re not getting the wrong idea.”

“As a matter of fact, I’m returning soon as well; at the end of the month. So, it won’t be good bye. We should still make the best of our time.”

We sat on the balcony, watching the boats go by; listening to the rain, the geckoes and the crickets. The warm nighttime Florida spring shower created that musty, musky summer rain scent you can only find there, and once you smell it, you want every other thunderstorm to produce that aroma. Wherever you are.

Gradually the wind, which had been coming off the ocean, turned. The rain started to come into the balcony. We returned to the room. I opened another pair of beers. We snuggled together on the bed. I kissed her again. And again. We were falling for each other very quickly. I lowered my right hand from her breast. I slid it down the buttons of her white blouse to unsnap her black pants. I made an interesting discovery.

As unusual as a Pink Floyd cover band was in 1987, so was a belly ring.

I lowered my head to her stomach, surreptitiously to inspect the curious object more closely. At the last moment I nuzzled my nose and chin just south of her bikini line.

Oh, in case you’re wondering what kind of a beer review this is; consider this:

Brooklyn’s 2005-2006 Black Chocolate Stout tastes just like pussy, in all the best ways: Sweet, sour, creamy, nutty, smoky. It has a beautiful tan head, the kind of a tan Italian girls get when they move to Florida. Poured into a proper pint glass, it has a soft, rich, black body that conjures memories of a well maintained “playground” It has an aroma of pancakes, coffee, and ocean air.

We were together for eight months after she came back. We parted as good friends; we were just geographically incompatible.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Quite possibly the worst Thanksgiving breakup story ever ...

Usually bad breakup stories are reserved for Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day. This one just happened to occur over Thanksgiving week.

I met her while I worked in the Print Shop in South Philly. If Kim Deal [The Pixies; The Breeders - "Cannonball"] needed yet another twin sister, she was more than qualified. She may have been the Proto-MILF. She was a proof reader, I was a layout guy. She wrote poetry and liked my artwork. She was 28, I was 22. She was separated (her husband was really flaked; Goth before Goth was Goth, you know; never went out during the day, didn't work, smoked a LOT). We got real flirty at work, went out after work a couple times, just for a drink or two. One afternoon (we got out at 3:00 on Fridays) she took me down to Roosevelt Park, across the street from the Vet - now Citizens Bank Park. We started making out, in her VW Beetle. We really going at it. She couldn't exactly take me home, and I was living in Jersey, so she gave me, well, you know ... something to remember the day by.

I still do.

By the following spring, we were super serious, but she wasn't divorced yet. I had moved back to Philly to be closer to her. We'd go to her poetry readings and openings. Everyone in her nouveau-beatnik clique knew who I was. During breaks, we'd slip off to have sex in bathrooms, and stuff like that. All my friends at my neighborhood bar knew her, too. Then her kids started asking me to stay over. Her husband got even nuttier. She wanted to reconcile with him - for his mental health, such as it was. I said fine, "Let's take the Summer off."

In the meantime, I got a new job, so it wasn't a workplace situation anymore. I met new girls, my "horizons" expanded. However, her whacko husband - who all the time begged her to come back - didn't want to now. She moved in with her parents in Upper Darby and tried to make another go of it with me. I was seeing a couple of much less, shall we say "dramatic", women at the new place and didn't really share her enthusiasm to try again. But, being the sweetheart I am, and attempting to make a nice ending to the story, I went out with her a couple more times. She must have thought I was just running a game on her; that my heart wasn't really in it anymore; that I was just looking for sex. Feeling used and betrayed, she tried to snuff me in my sleep with a pillow. She wasn't really trying that hard, but the point was made. She went home that night.

The following Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving - I received a letter from her stating that we would both be better off without each other, and that I shouldn't try to call her because she wouldn't talk to me. Even though I had other things going on, the attempted murder and subsequent "Dear Randy" letter shook me up quite a bit. I went to the Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia and watched it alone in the cold rain.

By December 1st, I was adjusting to life in Florida.

I made it till March.

I thought that I'd shaken her of my scent [so to speak], until one April afternoon after I moved back. I'd managed to sub-out my apartment while I was gone and returned to my old neighborhood like nothing had happened. As I was doing my daily run up at Penn, behind me I heard a screech, crash, yelling and screaming. She had driven her VW up unto the curb and tried to drive me through a store window.

Missed me!!!

She told the cops that her kids were fighting in the back seat and she was trying to calm them down when she lost the wheel. Oh, yeah, I'm beyond "Stab-worthy" ... I'm "Smother-him-with-a-pillow-and-if-that-doesn't-work-run-the-Bug-up-on-the-sidewalk-by-Franklin-Field-the-Friday-of-Penn-Relays-worthy"

About a year after that, she called me to borrow some money to move to Arizona.

That was all twenty years ago this week.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Another winner - literally ...

This was entered in Jim Anderson's Beer Philadelphia: Beer Lit 101 Contest, sometime back. The task was to craft a story around a dozen or so beer/brewing terms. Can you find them???

It was early to mid-April. I’m not exactly sure now. But it was definitely after Easter.

Anyway … I had just settled down in front of the TV for the evening. I put on the Comcast Sports channel to see what was on tap. Hockey or baseball? The Phillies were winning; the Flyers losing. I should have known there was trouble brewing.

Mother’s Day was just a few weeks away. Who was I going to bring to enchant dear Mother? Would it be Nikki Mars, the tall blonde candy heiress? Or perhaps Muffy Busch, the petite auburn brewery babe? I had been dating them both without the other’s knowledge for nearly sixteen months now and both were getting anxious. Both thinking I was after their fortunes as well as … well … ass.

My decision would be made for me and sooner than I had imagined.

Just as the penguin was singing “Doo-bee-doo-bee-doo”, my door flew open. It was “Batchelorette Number One.” And she was upset. I should have never given her one of my spare keys.

“So! You didn’t think I’d find out,” she ranted, “You thought you’d covered your tracks. A clever little bunny who hops from one garden to another and eats all the flowers he wants. Well, I followed your pellets right to your hole, Bugs!”

Even in her agitated and much pissed off state, she put a rise in my trousers like yeast in fresh bread.

“I want a commitment and I want it now!” she shrieked.

“Honey, relax. Let’s go to the soda shop and get a chocolate malt,” I pleaded with her. I figured that if I said the most stupid and clichéd thing I could think of, I could buy some time while she tried to get whatever it was that I just babbled. It didn’t work.

“When I think of the times I waited for you to call, and you didn’t. Of course you didn’t. You couldn’t. Because you were with her.” If it was possible she was getting even madder as she thought about it. “It makes my blood boil!”

“Hey, baby,” I was really back-pedaling now, “There were times I didn’t call her ‘cause I was with you, too, ya know. I played it fair, right down the middle. I wanted our relationship to ferment a little before I made up my mind.”

“Well, it didn’t ferment; it aged. And now it stinks like bad cheese.”

Those were the last words she’d speak to me. Someone else would do her talking now.
She reached into her purse and pulled out the most elegant hand-cannon her trust fund could buy. And I was sure she’d gotten the matching lawyer and self-defense plea bargain to go with it. The light was dim, but I could see five little Indians smiling at me from the cylinder of the revolver, and the Big Chief was already in the bottom of the barrel.

When my body hit the floor, the spilled lager from my glass mixed with the blood on the Pergo in a gruesome raspberry vinaigrette of loss and guilt.

I knew I wasn't going to die, not today anyway. I found the strength to look up her skirt, perhaps for the last time. My heart lifted when I saw that she wore the ring I gave her for Valentine's Day. She was mad now but she had already forgiven me.

I could barely hear the dialtone from the ringing in my ears as I called 911. (Quick lesson, never discharge a firearm in a small closed room.) As rapidly as the Police and EMT’s arrived “on scene,” as they like to say, I was down at least a pint or two as I was loaded unceremoniously into the vehicle. The multi-colored lights on the truck looked like candy. And the red and white truck looked like a big can of Bud. I lost the grip on my consciousness like it was a canoe paddle and I had just realized I was too drunk to swim to shore if I had to, which too far away to make it anyway.

Although we weren’t married, or even living together for that matter (and never would be now), it still went down as “Domestic Disturbance”.

Sometimes life isn’t all Skittles® and beer.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Life Inside A Ping Pong Ball

A lost gem - and, may I say, I'm kind of astonished that I wrote it.

Since the room was spherical, stark white and totally featureless, I had no landmark to say what was up or down. I had come to call the space immediately below my feet “the floor”, immediately above “the ceiling” and everything else “the wall” Its translucent shell bathed me in a diffuse twilight, with no definable shadows or highlights, much like I’d seen during a partial eclipse of the sun.

I was just sitting there minding my own business when the whole room suddenly and completely lost any regard it had with the laws of physics in general and gravity in particular. In the matter of a brief second, I was squashed to the floor, thrown to the ceiling, and spun around the walls with such abandon I could only imagine that it must have been what Dorothy felt while in the Twister, on her way to the fatal encounter with the Wicked Witch of the East, and subsequent adventures in OZ. Except there was no way for me to open the door and have my black and white world transformed to delicious Technicolor.

Nope, I was going to be here a while.

“Come on, doesn’t anyone want to play?” I heard a muffled voice ask. It had been a long time but I could still recognize a human sound when it presented itself. And this voice had the characteristics of a girl in her late teens, obviously drunk, definitely bored, and probably very attractive.

I had some physical evidence to support the first three assumptions.

Her voice had given up the helium filled timbre of childhood, shed the squeaky uncertainty of adolescence, and matured with the husky confidence to challenge the world, or at least her corner of it. It also was soaked in the summery vapor of once cold beer, now warm in a cooler of melted ice upstairs on a sun bleached deck, next to the cobwebbed gas grill, between two mildewed vinyl chaise lounges, purchased from Kmart in the beginning of the last decade. That voice held the breathy impatience of seeing too many sunsets across the same open expanse of Midwestern prairie, evening after evening, summer after summer, and knowing that the sun that was setting right now behind her house was at the same moment rising in front of an equally desolate house in Australia. But it was a rising sun, and rising suns bring warmth and hope. Setting suns only bring cold and darkness.

A young woman with that much inner awareness couldn’t be plain. Not in my world, bleak and monochromatic as it was.The room rushed over itself again, then leaped up and crashed down.

“You guys are all afraid of me, aren’t you?!!! Well, I can wait. You’ll get bored and want to play.”

Slushy voices called down the stairwell, and echoed off the bare ceramic tile. The music in the background gradually grew louder and more distinct as the speakers from upstairs were positioned strategically in the doorway to provide the most perfect balance of thundering bass and shrieking guitar.

“The music of pickup truck rebellion will never change,” I thought to myself. As long as there are girls, beer, and cars there will always be songs to sing. And as long as there are boys, beer, and guitars, there will always be someone to sing them.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005


- from XPN / World Cafe 885 Greatest Albums of All Time -


1977 was a pivotal year for me. I was short, fat and had a Mom-inflicted bowl job haircut. I looked like Oliver in the Brady Bunch. That summer I got contacts, learned to surf, discovered the Clash and Talking Heads and started school in the Fall a changed person, inside and out. I felt more confident, and (this is the important part) girls liked me. And not just the usual, geeky girls I always knew, but the attractive, sporty, "Cool" crowd. I was the "Bad Boy" ... but not really. Girls that wouldn't talk to me the previous year were now asking me what I was doing over the weekend, etc. I hadn't changed my personality, I just looked more like the Real Me, and was more approachable and more confortable being approached. Girls wouldn't talk to the little nerdy guy / the little nerdy guy was uncomfortable with the girls. Chicks digged Surfer Randy and Surfer Randy let them show him how much.

It was a hot summer night and the beach was burning
There was a fog crawling over the sand
When I listen to your heart I hear the whole world turning
I see the shooting stars
Falling through your trembling hands

You were licking your lips and your lipstick shining
I was dying just to ask for a taste
We were lying together in a silver lining
By the light of the moon
You know there's not another moment
Not another moment
Not another moment to waste

Her name was Carol. She was my second. It was pretty much what you would expect. A little bit "Beach Blanket Bingo," a little bit "Born to Run" ... after all it WAS Jersey.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

885 All Time Greatest Albums

XPN / World Cafe (88.5FM - are playing back the results of their "885 All Time Greatest Albums" listeners poll; a follow-up to last year's "885 All Time Greatest Songs."

My nominations were:
1) Quadrophenia - The Who (1973)
2) Electric Ladyland - Jimi Hendrix Experience (1968)
3) Exile on Main Street - Rolling Stones (1972)
4) London Calling - The Clash (1979)
5) Kind of Blue - Miles Davis (1959)
6) Time Out - Dave Brubeck Quartet (1959)
7) Remain in Light - Talking Heads (1980)
8) Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys (1966)
9) The Joshua Tree - U2 (1987)
10) A Ass Pocket of Whiskey - RL Burnside (1996)

I can hear the questions now ...

Randy, if you voted The Who #1, why not "Who's Next???"
Frankly, I have heard "Behind Blue Eyes" more than I ever need too. I have too much of a history with Dr. Jimmy, to let him go by.

You love the Grateful Dead and Phish. Why are they not represented in your top ten???
"American Beauty" does contain many classic Dead tunes ("Truckin'," "Friend of the Devil," " Box of Rain") but I really can't stand "Attics of My Life." Also, like many jambands, The Dead, Phish and others are better on bootlegs, and I don't think they were "invited"

Only two jazz albums???
I think jazz albums are too "hit and miss" Not consistent, track to track.

No Marley???
Sad to admit but the only Bob Marley album I could recognize would be "Legend" and that's a Greatest Hits package, truly.

Why did you ignore metal??? Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Def Leppard, etc.
1) C'mon ... it's XPN!!!
2) Much like jazz, metal albums are too much "Hit and Miss." For every "You Shook Me All Night Long," there is a "Rock and Roll Ain't Noise Pollution."

Where are the 80's Pop Stars ... especially Van Halen and Cheap Trick???
Still playing in my head, with my dorm room flashbacks.

XPN's game plan is to play two songs each from #885 - #500, then three songs each up to the Top 25, which they will play in their entirety.

This could take weeks.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Today would have been the day ...

... But it's not. It's a beautiful day, too. 70° slight breeze, no clouds.

I'll be having Stella Artrois at 3:00, as I would have. It's still just a bit too warm and Summery to get into Oktoberfests yet. They are on display en force: Paulaner, Hacker-Pshorr, Spaten, SA, Stoudts, Victory FestBier, Flying Fish OktoberFish.

John the ParrotHead will be coming over, but last night I just had to get something to say "Summer and your troubles, be gone from this house." I didn't feel like diving into a whole six pack, when I spotted a 22 oz. with a maniacal pumpkin on it.

"This will do nicely."

It poured nicely into the glass with a beautiful pastry colored head. It wasn't as over the top spicy as Post Road or Buffalo Bills are, just slightly suggestive of a fresh baked treat. If you apply yourself, you can taste the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. I couldn't pick out the cardamom, only because I don't know what it tastes like and unlike Woody Boyd, I'm not allergic to cardamom.

At 8% ABV, it carried quite a kick, and knocked me out of my knickerbockers, right into Sleepy Hollow.

From the website:
Brewed with Pumpkin and Spices(Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cardamom, Cloves). This 8.0% ABV pumpkin ale is heartier, spicier, and more caramelly and pumpkiny than its faint brethren! Perfect finisher on a cool autumn night, or match it up with a slice of pumpkin pie and fresh whipped cream. If you don't agree this is the mother of all pumpkin ales, then you just don't like mothers!

Friday, September 09, 2005

Betrayed ... and out

After the extraordinarily good run Sunday morning, I thought I could do no wrong. I hadn't pushed the mileage or speed up in any drastic increments. I kept the build-up at a smart and safe level. I had done a nice 8-miler the previous Saturday. I would have liked to go a little further at this point but eight was fine. A success at the Distance Run on the 18th was "in the bag."

What I didn't count on was what was "in the cart." The Cart being Bonnie's beach hauler contraption, which suspiciously resembles an overgrown collapsible shopping cart; the kind old ladies use downtown. When loaded properly, this wirerack wheeled wonder can hold: 3 beach chairs, two and a half Boogie boards (Mariel's kid-sized one only counting for half), two Playmate coolers, one beach bag, one beach blanket, three towels and a large bagful of beach toys.

Getting this cart on and OFF the beach is an ergonomic nightmare. It has small, skinny wheels, which tend to plow into the soft sand, rendering an incredible amount of resistance for its weight. This requires the operator - herefore referred to as "mule" - to either lean forward at a 45° angle and pull, with his arms behind his back nearly dislocating his shoulders; or to lean backward at the same angle, pull with all his might and hope that his feet maintain some sort of traction in the sand.

One of mine didn't.

My right foot skidded out from under me and further to the right. My knee took the weight which should have gone to the foot. The pain was not excruciating, there were no crackles or pops, I was pretty sure I hadn't torn anything. It was more of a "I knew that would fucking happen" experience.

"Daddy, are you okay??? Did that hurt??? Did you know your knee bent the wrong way??? I heard a crunch!!!"

I took it easy the rest of the day. There was no swelling, no discoloration, no tenderness. When I got home, I put a neoprene wrap on it. I kept the wrap on Sunday night and all day Monday. Tuesday, it started feeling better, but still hurt when going up the steps. Wednesday and Thursday were pain free.

Friday was Mariel's second half-day on Kindergarten. With no after-school program the first week, Donna stayed home with her Thursday; I stayed Friday.

I had a plan. Drop Mariel at the bus at 8:00. Put some laundry in, stretch, be out of the house and on the road by 10:00 or so, do an hour trot, shower and pick her back up at the bus at 12:45.

Stretching was fine; no pain. The weather was warm but not hot, humid but not oppressive. Everything looked good.

Until I got about a 3/4 of a mile from the house. Something began to go wrong.

The shock of each footstrike began to focus itself within the center of my right knee. My foot began to wobble outward, placing more stress inside the joint. It began difficult to keep it moving in a straight line. I took a moment to wait for the stop light at the Pike. I took off again. I didn't get more than a few hundred yards along, just across the railroad tracks - one mile travelled, total - before the pain came back.

"We're done. It's not happening."

I shuffle-trotted back home, as best as I could, trying to look like I had planned to go for only a mile.

I took the 2005 Philadelphia Distance Run course map off the refrigerator, and congratulated myself to have had the foresight not to send the race application (and $60) in yet.

Epilogue: For all the training I had done from May through September, I had only burned down 40 beers. I had reached a low of 146 pounds. We will try again after a six-week rest.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

You Have to Grab These Moments

Somehow, when I woke up at 6:10 AM Sunday, I remembered that sunrise was at 6:31. I must have picked up that little bit of information on the Weather Channel sometime Saturday afternoon. I had enough time to get my gear on, stretch, get out the door, and be on the beach, just as the sun came up over the horizon, on a crisp clear morning.

How often am I going to get a chance to do that??

Okay, considering we stay overnight at Bonnie and Pete's house (three blocks from the beach in Brigantine, NJ) maybe three times during the summer, the opportunity has been there. Unfortunately the night we come down usually involves the men consuming of 4-6 bottles of beer each, some sort of rum, and the smoking of cigars. Not condusive to getting up early to enjoy some of God's best work.

However, things worked out to my favor on this particular trip. Bonnie made a giant dish of Taco Bell-esque Mexican food. I ate one giant "burrito" and was set to say "Enough," until my buddy John the ParrotHead said he ate three. Granted, he didn't load them up as much as I had, but I still felt compelled to take another. Damn, my competitiveness.

The combination of two burrito bombs, three Amstels and a nice robusto out on the patio with Pirate Pete and John the ParrotHead, helped me nod off quicker than I had expected. When Mariel announced that she was tired, wanted to go to bed and wanted someone to lay down with her, I jumped at the chance.

"I'll just lay down till she falls asleep, then I'll come back out," I told D'Wife.

There was no coming back out. The giant mound of refried beans, ground beef, cheese and tomatoes in my tummy acted as a massive anchor preventing me from rising. I was solidly in slumberland.

So, when I woke to the pre-dawn, without a headache, well-rested and just a slight cigar taste in my mouth, I just had to sieze the day-break.

I had been smart / lucky enought to sleep in my running shorts and socks, so all I had to do was change my shirt and find my shoes ... which were still in the family room, a great place to stretch. I wasn't even that tight, so my "punk yoga" session was a breeze.

I figured I'd save a little wear and tear on the knees in the early mile(s) by going down Ocean Avenue till it runs out at 40th, then cut through the dunes and run on the packed sand along the ocean.

I took off down 16th Street right about 6:30. I made the turn just as the sun burst over the horizon. The dunes hid the actual sunrise from me, but I caught its magenta reflection beaming toward me from the golden windows of the Borgata in AC. The white beachfront condos glowed orange from the sun and pink from the glare on opposing walls.

"I'm glad to be here for this," I panted as I tried to find my pace.

I couldn't quite remember how many blocks there were per mile on the island. It had been almost a year since I'd run there. In years past I had done the Brigantine Island Triathlon (1/4 mile swim / 11 mile bike / 4 mile run) but since that is always on the first weekend of August - our wedding anniversary weekend - D'Wife kind of got tired of me spending that exact weekend either racing or recovering. Something in my head said it was 14, 15 or 16 blocks to the mile. When I checked my watch at 31st Street and saw 8:15 had gone by, I decided that 15 was the number. That gave me about five minutes before I'd be able to cut through the dunes to run with the dawn. In the meantime, I'd just run through the sprinklers and duck under the low branches of the salt pines.

The path through the dunes at 40th Street is a twisty affair about 50 yards long with a little dip halfway down. As I trotted on the soft sand, I saw a pack of three dogs, jumping and leaping among the reeds. Wait, those weren't dogs. Their tails were much bushier, with white tips. They had long pointy noses and big ears. They were foxes, playing in the path. "There must be some rabbits back here, too," I said to myself. They scampered ahead of me for a few feet, then zipped back into the brush. "Well, that's not something I'm going to see everyday. Not on the beach anyway." Thirty seconds earlier or later, I would have missed them completely.

When I emerged from the path onto the real beach, the sun was about two fingers above the horizon. The beach was a dusky orange with muted blue grey hollows in the sand. I reached the semifirm sand at water's edge and turned south. My shadow stretched ahead of me about 15 yards at a 45 degree angle. It looked like a clown on stilts with enormous feet and a tiny head.

There were only two people on the beach between me and the jetty. One appeared to be a nice old lady about a quarter mile down. How could I tell she was nice??? Mean old ladies don't come out at sunrise to collect shells. How could I tell she was old, from 400 yards away??? Young ladies don't come out at dawn to collect shells wearing pink windbreakers and floppy hats.
The other person was the guy driving the backhoe with the giant rake that smooths the sand out before all the people start coming down for the day. I call the contraption a "Sand-Boni" ... for obvious reasons.

The newly risen sun was gleaming throught the waves. I had to slow down a few times, to analyze them. The usually murky ocean looked very inviting this morning ... I may have to take the boards out today.

I had set my watch for an easy 45-minute run, not being sure of the mileage down the beach and back. I wasn't sure if I'd make it all the way to the jetty before the turnaround. The jetty looked so clean and inviting I decided to go for it; go ALL the way to the jetty and just leave my run short on the way back (or push a little further, go a couple minutes longer and finish the route). The last 50 yards or so up to the rocks were more steeply banked than the previous two miles, so I took it gingerly, not wanting to twist anything.

I couldn't help but to physically "tag" the boulders when I got to the jetty. I climbed up, said hello to a man fishing there and proceeded back.

Twenty-four minutes down - twenty-one minutes back - difference of three - about a third of a mile - 15 blocks to a mile - five blocks short - two blocks to the beach - leaves three - so I should be done by 13th street ... nah, that's too close ... I'll push a bit and try to make it all the way back to the Brigantine Inn at 17th.

I ran high on the sand to avoid that steep camber, now to my right. I was running into the sun now. It was backlit the incoming waves so the faces shone with a beer bottle green glow.

I got past the steep part and moved closer to the ocean. I tried to match my footstrikes on the way back to my footprints from the way down. I was amazed to see that alothough the beach was far far flat, my path down was a remarkably straight line. There wasn't a lot of wavering from the terrain, just a few places where my path would wander inshore and disappear into the flat wet sand ... I had run to avoid a wave, it came up behind me and earased my steps.

Ten minutes or so away from the jetty I saw something I hadn't seen on the way down. A young man and his "girlfriend" were cuddled under a fleece blanket in one of the lifeguard shacks. They may have been sleeping there when I went past, but I didn't notice. He held a worn acoustic guitar, she snuglgled on his shoulder.

"Awww, that's so Jack Johnson of you" I mocked as I breezed by. This was either the end or the beginning of a wonderful summer romance - for one of them anyway.

A mile and a half to go. My outbound footprints retraced their steps back to the dunes. This was fresh sand. I had no reference to whether my stride was shortening as I went further along. I hoped I would find some mysterious artifact washed ashore. A few years ago I found a backbone from a whale - a single vertbrae, to be specific - about a foot a cross and 6" thick. As much as I wanted to keep it, I was told to throw it back. Last summer I found a big old hook with some strpping on it. I cut the frayed and dirty nylon off, and told my daughter I found Captain Hook's hook. She's going to have a hell of an imagination when she gets older. I pray she uses it constructively.

Inside the last mile, I began doing the math again ... 15 blocks to a mile ... I should finish at 13th Street ... where am I now??? ... how much time left??? ... six minutes???

A roadblock ahead. A group of half a dozen surf fisherman and their sons. It was not long ago that I learned what the PVC pipes bolted to pick-up trucks grilles were for, or why they sometimes had those big aluminum extensions out there. Not wanting to be impaled by a lure, I slowed then walked around them. The aroma of Dunkin' Donuts and Wawa coffee reminded me that it was still only a little past 7:00 on a the last Sunday morning of summer.

I was just about half a mile from the "finish" ... but when or where would I finish??? At the end of the time set on my watch or when I got to the Brigantine Inn??? I decided that I would keep going to the Inn; after all it would only be a minute or so longer. Or less.

Three minutes remained on my watch. I didn't want to push it all out and look like Rocky racing Apollo Creed on the beach. I kept my pace steady. Two minutes ... a quarter mile ... 400 yards ... if I was at the gym I'd have three laps ... where am I now??? ... I should be around 18th, or 19th ... the last minute ... I might make it ... thirty seconds ... there's the lifeguard building, that makes it 17th ... 15 seconds, 16th ... 10, guard shack, 9 ... 8 ... 7 ... rescue boat ... 5 ... 4 ... volleyball nets, ... two one ... beepbeepbeepbeepbeep ... overtime ... and done!!!

I made it back just a hair past the 45 minute mark. I walked in a gentle arc to the water. I took my shoes and socks off just as the foam washed up to me. I threw them back onto the sand a few yards and wandered into the surf. As cool and refershing as the ocean was, I resisted the temptation to dive in. That would surely bring instant corornary failure. I did, however, let the cold salty water come up to about my knees. It felt alternately wonderfully soothing and annoyingly numbing.

I left the beach at the 16th Street pavillion. There were people setting up a sunrise prayer service. I turned around to the water and gave a little prayer of thanks on my own ... "Thanks for getting me up and out. I could have missed this whole thing."

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I still got it ... it's just a matter of gettin' to it

From ... the "Extra Curricular" forum:

Need Tattoo Design
Not having a lot of luck getting my idea across to the artists here in Chattanooga. My own sketch looked alot like my 4 year old did it. Very specific picture in my mind. I just don't have any artistic talent.Looking for a spooky scene with a someone riding a bike through a graveyard with a Jack-O-Lantern for a head . Kind of Nightmare Before Christmas looking with lotsa Halloween icons. Ghosts,Pumpkins and Bats etc....Three to five inches tall for a left arm band....Promise proper credit would be given in the form of initials on my body for the rest of my days....Thanks

It was a call to action ...

I remembered seeing a typeface of "Nightmare berfore Christmas" dingbats (FREE!!!) 'cuz I knew I couldn't fake the head. Did a Google search for any other elements I might need.

I came up with this ....

The response (from another DirtRag poster)

Randy- As a guy who rides a black penny farthing with an "Evil" sticker and an upside down cross above the rear wheel, I think that is one of the coolest illustrations I've ever seen

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Not in the Plan

I had originally planned to do an hour in three 20-minute segments, with a water break between each. I didn't really feel up for pushing myself, since I had a brutally busy weekend. I was just getting started as Dr. Boston came up to the track. He pulled up next to me and asked "Hello, Greg," - he calls me Greg - never try to introduce yourself to anyone while running past a Spinning class.

"Hello, Greg. How var are you goink zoonite?"

Before I could explain my strategy "Six Miles" blurted out from my mouth.

"I hupp I can keep up wizz you," he replied.

Well, I was in for it now. You see Dr. Boston isn't real fast - maybe 8:30 miles - but he keeps a metronomic pace and never takes a break. Instead of my conservative paln of 3X20 minutes, I had just signed myself up for 1x50.

We ran side by side, since I knew that if I got out in front, I'd push my OWN pace to hard and blow up. I just let him take it. The first mile was a quick 8, followed my a leisurely 8:15. I felt great. I wasn't gushing with sweat, just barely starting to dampen. I was breathing only a little harder than a run up the steps. "I can really do the whole six, in one lump."

We got to three miles in about 25, a bit quicker than I'd been running out on the street, but that would be expected ... no hills in Bally's.

The track was getting crowded ... we were out there between aerobics classes. As we came around the turn on lap 40-something, i saw two chubby women crowding the walking lane about halfway down. Immediately behind them, was a large man with a red shirt drifting into the running lane. He was the size and shape of a fire truck. My faux bike messenger spider sense quickly calculated where I had to be to get around him before he completely shut down my lane. I accelerated to hit the gap between Tubby and the warning track next to the windows. My footsteps must have startled him. The instant I got on his back he turned to look over his left shoulder, shutting the door. I tried to backside side-step into the gap, but it was gone. I slammed my left houlder into the metal window pillar. When a one hundred and fifty pound man moving 7.5 mph hits an eight inch steel beam ... he bounces. I rebounded backwards right into Tubby and ricocheted AROUND the pillar facing where I had just come from. Somehow I managed to keep my feet under me. In a low mumble he apologized, but I wasn't sure whether it was for being in the wrong lane or resembling a rescue vehicle.

AT the other side of the track, a young woman in white T-shirt and white sweats came up the steps. "Zat iss . She iss a goot rrunner. She vill rrunn wizz uss." It took her about a mile worth of our running for her to get ready to come out. We now only had two to go. As I had said to Dr. Boston (whose real name is Joe) "The good looking ones either are just finishing when I start or start when I just finishing."

Laura - I asked later - is training for the State Police and brought her 7:45 pace with her. Joe and I gladly met the challenge and carried on. I was hesitant to really stretch out under 8, but since I only had a couple miles left, I felt that I had come close enough to bail if I started to crack. We took off together as a small pack, Joe and Laura in front, with me behind. Whenever I spotted interference with our lane I moved to the front and elbowed the offender out of our lane. Tubby had left, so I felt i was in no danger of getting checked into the glass again.

Even with the elevated pace, the two of them were able to chit-chat. They had "rrrun togezzzer bevore." I had nothing to add, so I just stayed back and waited for lap 72.

"Um, Joe, You ARE counting right???"

"No, I zaught you verr."

"Uh, yeah, I just wanted to see what lap YOU thought we were on." I looked at my watch ... 46 something ... at 8 minutes per ... 48 would be six ... that leaves two ... 40 seconds ... 40, 80, 120 ...

"I got three to go."

"I zink I got fife denn."

Much to my surprise I found something on Lap 70 ... It resembled a kick, it felt like a kick, and since I ran the last 2 laps in 1:15, it must have been a kick.

I might actually have a shot to break two hours at the Half on September 18th.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Lesson

If it's a Saturday afternoon in August ...

If you go for a run around noontime ...

If buzzards follow you ... As you go past the cornfield ...

You might want to back it off, just a little bit.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Seven Weeks Out

The Philadelphia Half Marathon is seven weeks away now. I am in good shape to start the final ramp up to the longer training I'll need. In years past (from reviewing my old logbooks) this is the part where we started adding miles onto the long runs on Saturday and Sunday. The race is 13 miles, but I've never put in more than nine or ten going into the last month. I might have just enough runway.

As an added twist, we're going to "try to go dry."

Friday night, I bought a "big box" of "Wizard of Oz beer." When that's gone, it's gone. I'm not having any more beer till after the Distance Run on Septamber 18th ... and then I'll have ... well, what will it be???

Chimay is the easy answer, but maybe not. I might opt for Fin du Monde, Maudite or Trois Pistoles from Unibroue; Ommegang, Hennepin or Rare Vos from Ommegang in Cooperstown, New York. I might not even go with a Belgian style at all. September 18th might be a cool, rainy day; perfect for an early Rogue Shakespeare Stout, maybe a Brutal Bitter. In any case, it's going to be a big bottle, maybe two. If Duffy comes over for the celebratory grill ... well, being a Bud man, he really likes Pilsner Urquell, or Stella Artois - which brings us back to Belgium. McGinnis??? Well, duh.

I may be overthinking this a bit much, a bit early.

Oh ...

In case you're wondering - in July, I burned off 38 beers (even after going back in the hole for 22 on July 4th Weekend), so we're sitting comfortably at a even 350. Averaging 22 miles or running per week, and not putting any beer back in, I could (conceivably) be below 200 by race day.


Thursday, July 28, 2005


Finally, the back on this oppressive weather has been broken. Yesterday's high of 98 (and a heat index of one hundred and something teen) made it the hottest day in the past three years.

Massive thunderstorms blew through last night as I was painting the kitchen at my daughter's school. Tuition offset, as anyone who sends their kids to Catholic school knows. You have two choices: summer cleaning or bingo. Due to D'Wife's asthma, bingo and a hall full of it's chain-smoking pracitioners, is not a viable option. So it falls to mops and buckets, rollers and brushes, and 50 hours of parish service, to kick our bill down by $350 ... I'm getting $7 an hour for this??? I collected more when I had to paint my high school in the summer of 1979.

The first round of storms came out of the East, and curled around before going back out the same way. A perfect set up for tornadoes. "It looks like the Wizard of Oz out there," the announcer said on the radio. Fortunately, there are no trailer parks near me.

After putting in my time at the school, and between downpours, I was able to make a run to pick up some
Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA - my favorite beer on hot summer evenings. It's got a great copper color and a hoppiness so sharp, you can cut galss with it.

After dinner the second wave of thunderstorms came in. I went out to the porch to relax with a smoke and a pint. My buddy
Pete had given me a Te-Amo to bring home from our visit this past weekend. I lit up, took a sip of beer, and put my feet up on the porchrail to watch the "light show." With the first couple of flahes, cracks of thunder, and sheets of rain, seeing my rose bushes swaying in breeze (they reach nearly to the porch roof) I couldn't help but think "McGinnis would love this."

Dan McGinnins is a friend of mine from way back. He's a Hunter Thompson fanatic, a polo watcher, a gourmand, a historian. He is an encyclopedia of 80's Pop music (Who sang "Happy Birthday" by Altered Images ... Why Claire Grogan, of course) He claims to be directly descended from the Guinness clan that produced the beer of that name. If Edward Gorey had ever been a young man, I'm sure he was much like Dan. I hadn't heard a word from him in many years. On an excursion of mine a couple of weeks ago, I got the email address of another lost friend, who in turn forwarded mine to Dan.

The Mysterious Mr. McGinnis

The mysterious Mr. McGinnis
Must surely love his house,
Because once he's in it
You can not drag him out.

He must work early in the morning
And go to bed early at night
Because after 6 o'clock
No one’s ever seen a light.
At least at the front of the house
Or on the second or third floor.
The thing that frightens me most, my friend,
Is that there's no light above the door.

I've heard that he has parties,
So he probably has friends.
But his parties go on so long
And no one's ever seen again.

There are weeds he calls a garden.
And dead bushes that he calls trees.
What flowers he might have
Don't even attract bees.

No one come in and no ones comes out.
Unless he says so.
Will I be invited back someday

Unfortunately, I guess, no.

This morning dawned bright and clear ... not crystal clear, like after a hurricane, but more like Carnival Glass, with its iridescent blues, purples and pinks.

And, as a bonus, the cicadas are quiet.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Hot Fog

The heat and humidity continues here in The Pines. I'm doing my best to maintain a positive and healthy attitude. Training in this weather is a test every day. It's like trying to run with someone sitting on your feet and holding a warm pillow over your face.

Something I know a thing or two about ...

I met her while I worked in the Print Shop in South Philly. If Kim Deal [The Pixies; The Breeders - "Cannonball"] needed yet another twin sister, she was more than qualified. She may have been the Proto-MILF. She was a proof reader, I was a layout guy. She wrote poetry and liked my artwork. She was 28, I was 22. She was separated (her husband was really flaked; Goth before Goth was Goth, you know; never went out during the day, didn't work, smoked a LOT). We got real flirty at work, went out after work a couple times, just for a drink or two. One afternoon (we got out at 3:00 on Fridays) she took me down to Roosevelt Park, across the street from the Vet - now Citizens Bank Park. We started making out, in her VW Beetle. We really going at it. She couldn't exactly take me home, and I was living in Jersey, so she gave me, well, you know ... something to remember the day by.

I still do.

By the following spring, we were super serious, but she wasn't divorced yet. I had moved back to Philly to be closer to her. We'd go to her poetry readings and openings and everyone in her clique knew who I was. During breaks, we'd slip off to have sex in bathrooms, and stuff like that. All my friends at my neighborhood bar knew her, too. Then her kids started asking me to stay over. Her husband got even nuttier. She wanted to reconcile with him - for his mental health, such as it was. I said fine, "Let's take the Summer off." In the meantime, I got a new job, so it wasn't a workplace situation anymore. I met new girls, my "horizons" expanded. However, her whacko husband - who all the time begged her to come back - didn't want to now. She moved in with her parents in Upper Darby and tried to make another go of it with me.

I was seeing a couple of much less, shall we say "dramatic", women at the new place and didn't really share her enthusiasm to try again. But, being the sweetheart I am, and attempting to make a nice ending to the story, I went out with her a couple more times. She may have thought I was just running a game on her, that my heart wasn't really in it anymore, so she tried to snuff me in my sleep with a pillow. She wasn't really trying that hard, but the point was made. She went home that night.

The following Wednesday - the day before Thanksgiving - I received a letter from her stating that we would both be better off without each other, and that I shouldn't try to call her because she wouldn't talk to me. Even though I had other things going on, the attempted murder and subsequent "Dear Randy" letter shook me up quite a bit. I went to the Thanksgiving parade in Philadelphia and watched it alone in the cold rain.

By December 1st, I was adjusting to life in Florida.

I made it till March.

I thought that I'd shaken her of my scent [so to speak], until one April afternoon after I moved back. I'd managed to sub-out my apartment while I was gone and returned to my old neighborhood like nothing had happened. As I was doing my daily run up at Penn, behind me I heard a screech, crash, yelling and screaming. She had driven her VW up unto the curb and tried to drive me through a store window. Missed me!!! She told the cops that her kids were fighting in the back seat and she was trying to calm them down when she lost the wheel.

Oh, yeah, I'm beyond "Stab-worthy" ... I'm "Smother-him-with-a-pillow-and-if-that-doesn't-work-run-the-Bug-up-on-the-sidewalk-by-Franklin-Field-the-Friday-of-Penn-Relays-worthy"

So, if I say that the heat and humidity is "smothering," it probably is.

Friday, July 22, 2005

A Secret Language

I pick my daughter up from pre-school almost every Friday afternoon. On the way home - in addition to other errands her mother assigns me - we go to the Beer Store. She and I have developed a secret language to communicate my choices for the weekend.

Cinderella Beer - St. Pauli Girl

Sleeping Beauty Beer - Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest

Scarry Ghost Picture Beer - Hacker-Pschorr Weisse

Key Beer - Beck's

Red Star Beer - Heineken

Fat Daddy Beer - Amstel Light

Blue Star Ocean City Beer - Newcastle Brown Ale

Kangaroo Beer - Foster's

Sun Beer - Sol

Green X Beer - Dos Equis Lager

Red X Beer - Dos Equis Amber

Wizard of Oz Beer - Magic Hat Blind Faith

Angel Beer - Magic Hat Fat Angel

Number Nine Beer - MH #9

Pretty Pink Eye Beer - MH Heart of Darkness

Bug Beer - MH Hocus Pocus

Shark Beer - any Dogfish Head variety

White Shark Beer - specifically Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA

Airplane Beer - Flying Fish

Bat Dog Beer - Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale

Dinosaur Beer - Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA

Skeleton Man Beer - Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter

We also discuss whether to get a "small box" (6-pack), a "big box" (12-pack) or a "really big box" (case)

So, for example this past Friday I got "a Big Box of Red X Beer and a Big box of Sun Beer plus a bottle of Pirate Beer (Captain Morgan)"

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Mistake ... Sort of.

I woke up this morning to a considerable decrease in the humidity ... but I also laid in bed about 20 minutes longer than usual - I got up at 5:20AM instead of my designated start time of 5:00.

The first consequence of my tardiness was that the "Girls Gone Wild" commercials were over - I like to listen to my MP3 player and watch them while I stretch. I had to make due with the Weather Channel ... Jennifer Carfagno's cute, but I seriously doubt she'll take her top off.

After assembling furniture at the Church last night, I was very stiff. My Punk Yoga stretching routing took a little longer than usual - I had to go through the routine twice to achieve a level of flexibility I could work with.

Punk Yoga??? - I combine classic yoga asanas with some old school stretches from my soccer and surfing days. I have no training; I'm sure the form is not 100% spot on; some days I rush through it; I just kind of make it up as I go along ... like punk rock.

I didn't get out on the road until 5:50, most of the neighborhood sprinklers were either off, or hadn't gone on yet. Plus, with the decreased humidity, there wasn't enough dew on the cars parked on the street for me to swipe a handful of water to wipe my sweaty face with.

I set a water bottle on the porch so it would ready when I got back and trotted out to "Cemetery Ridge" still very stiff. I loosened up nicely by the first mile, but I felt sluggish the whole way through. I only had about half a mile left when Pat from up the street turned the corner on his route and started to kick back into the development. Eight hundred yards out is a little early for me to even think about ramping it up, so I let him go and just cruised myself in. I didn't realize that he stops and the beginning of the street, maybe 200 yards from home. I took the opportunity to blow past him like he was standing still, which he was. I finished with a 24:18 for the three miles, in spite of never quite finding the groove. I picked up my bottle, kicked off my shoes and took a cool down stroll around the neighborhood.

Sure ... THAT'S when the sprinklers came on!!!

Cemetery Ridge
3 Miles

Loop around the cemetery on Bartram Road
Gentle uphill from Oakton to the cemetery, a steep downhill to 3rd street, a steep uphill on the Elwood / Raritan curve, then a gentle downhill back home. One extra loop around the development brings it to three miles.

Monday, July 18, 2005


I ventured out for my first post-vacation training run and was greeted by an extreme case of the "Mugglies."

Mugglies??? Muggy but in a very ugly way. It's so f'n muggy, you become a sweatball just walking from the porch to the street ... Hot fog ... Fog shouldn't be hot, it should be cool and refreshing.

Thanks to a scheduling anomaly (i.e., no one had planned anything for me to do after work), I was in a position to bail on the morning trot and hit the gym in the evening for a run and a bike.

I got to the Bally's around 6PM and through the next hour and a half I saw all my "buddies" ...

Leisure Suit Larry
Larry used to live a couple houses down from me when I lived with my family in Haddonfield, c. 1983. Seeing him at Bally's for the first time was quite a shock for me, since - back then - I was f*cking his kids' babysitter. She was sixteen. I think he may have known about it, too.

Tick Tock Black and Tick Tock Red
Some nights I'm having trouble keeping up with these two Asian guys, who used to have trouble keeping up with me. They both click off 6-8 miles at exactly 7:45 pace 1/2 lap apart. One usually wears all black, while the other favors red shorts, white tank, red headband.

Lean Mean Gene
Probably the oldest looking 52-year old I've ever met. He and I used to knock of six-, eight-, ten-milers on this 12 lap per mile track, without problem. Now, his knees are blown and I'm fat.

Doctor Boston
Joe may or may not have ever run Boston ... I'm not even sure he's a doctor. He just keeps that very steady, consistent tempo a marathoner would. He's German or Austrian or something Bavarian. The truth is, he looks like a small version of Laurence Olivier in "Marathon Man." If he ever asks "Is it safe?" I'll scream like a little girl.

She will spend an hour on the stepper, run only 5-6 laps, then blast past me. Once, she mis-timed her start and couldn't catch up (she was about 1/2 a lap short.) I finished my miles as she was cooling down.
"You didn't quite get me tonite," I said.
"Well, I be back on Wednesday. I'll get you then," she replied, emphasizing "Get" with a flirty wink.
"I won't be back until maybe Saturday."
"Oh well, I'll have to get you when I can, then," with another wink, smile and swish of her (firm) ass.
If all the girls at Bally's are just whores, I can't let my membership lapse.

Leigh Lehigh
She's the babe on the stepper, the kind that looks like half an escalator, with her back facing the track. She prefers to wear the baggie sweatpants shorts, with the waistband rolled over, jogbra, bare midriff - the whole Brandi Chastain thing going on, of which I am a big fan. I'm not too tall, so her reverse cameltoe is usually right there at my eye level as I go around the track, over and over, around and around. I thought from the big letters on the back of her shorts that her name was "LEIGH," but it turned out she went to "LEHIGH" ...

Fitness Center Blues

Jog bras and ponytails,
What's a man to do?
Camel toes and whale tails,
What's a dirty old man to do?

I just came in here to burn off my gut.
I found myself surrounded by low budget smut.
I should be counting reps, not looking at the butts.
Man, these girls are such sweaty little sluts.

Jog bras and ponytails,
What's a man to do?
Camel toes and whale tails,
What's a dirty old man to do?

Keep your eyes on the track just one more mile.
Hey there sweetie, won't you give me a smile.
I know the baggy shorts may not be your style
But I got a workout that beats Pilates by a mile.

Jog bras and ponytails,
What's a man to do?
Camel toes and whale tails,
What's a dirty old man to do?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

But first ... Laundry

The Sock Reunification Program

The simple principle behind the Sock Reunification Program is something we're all taught early in life ... The Buddy System. Class trips, swimming lessons. ”Stay together. Where's your buddy?" We start off as a team, we finish as a team. You watch my back, I'll watch yours. You're okay; I'm okay. Joined at the hip. No man left behind. That also works in reverse. If one fails; you're both out.

Maintaining the Program is easy at first glance. As long as the "Pairs Go In; Pairs Come Out" rule is followed, there should be no problems. Once that trust is betrayed, however, everything starts to fall apart. Regaining order can be costly, time consuming and can destroy relationships (I've seen it happen - to be fair, they were going to split up anyway; they just needed one final conflict. Do mismatched socks fall under the category "Irreconcilable Differences?" Apparently so, according to judge Mitchell R. Beane.)

A simple way to manage it is just to buy only two kinds of socks, three at the most, per person. For the men: Black Wool Blend Gold Toe for work, weddings and "dress up" occasions; White Champion Half Crew for the gym, pickup basketball and marathon training; maybe a nice LL Bean rag wool for those snowy events ... shoveling, skating, sledding and so forth, or just relaxing by a fire with a special person, a fine brandy, and a Hudson Bay blanket. For the women it's shockingly easy; just wear pantyhose, it's physically impossible for them to be separated. If you're an active woman and need to wear socks (for the gym, pickup basketball and marathon training) just use your guy's - the sizing is ambiguous enough that a small woman can wear a pair made for a large man without side effects. Kids under six are simple, if not downright stereotypical: pink for girls, blue for boys. Boys and girls six and over: all white; all the time

Get three to six pairs of each and you can double them up through the laundry cycle with no problem. Put all the black ones in with one load, all the whites in with your t-shirts and undies; you're good to go. You still need to put in a little work on your part though; no one gets away for free. Even if all you have are white and black, by all means count them as you put them in. If you care to, take the extra step to actually load them as pairs ... "Here's your buddy, try to stay together." Keep in mind that if you have, say seven or eleven going in, you have a problem. This is not to be taken lightly. At least one sock is out there somewhere, alone, probably scared and hungry. When a child, a stranger to you, goes missing, entire communities band together, the media is called, new milk cartons are printed up. Shouldn't you take a reciprocal course of action for something more intimate?

You have two paths at this point. The first would be to hold up the whole laundry process right then and seek out the errant footwear. As unappealing as this may seem, this is the more prudent option. Search from front to back, top to bottom. Follow the whole "Un-Wear Path": Off the feet, into the hamper (or onto bathroom floor), down to the laundry. You will find the renegade, return him to the tribe and all will continue their journey together, as it should be.

Suppose you take the easy route? "Hey, I'll just set one aside. I'll find its match another time." When will that another time be? You don't know, no one does. Are you sure that when you find that "missing one," its match be there waiting for it? Are you sure you will recognize it? You can't be. You might set the oddball aside for next week, maybe on the ironing board, folding table, or drying rack; making a mental note to yourself that "next time I put the socks in, remember to match this one up." I hate to let you down, but the odds are that "next time you put the socks in" this one won't match up. Sadly, it's more likely that you will again have an odd number (even with Mr. Lonely added back to the pile), acerbating the situation. That means there's still another sock out there, waiting, watching. This can continue into a spiral of degradation and remorse you've never experienced before; except that one time, with Sheila.

If the situation goes unchecked, you will be forced to take the path of utmost desperation: the Entire House, Every Drawer, Dump. The EHEDD is not for the Proud, the Meek, or the Busy. You must be able to say to yourself, with full resolve "This, which was once a good plan, has gone awry. I hold myself accountable. I have failed in my responsibilities, to myself and to my family. I will do that which needs to be done, whatever it takes, that we may be whole again" There will be casualties, some WILL BE left behind. It's a good thing. They will meet again on the Other Side. This WILL take time. If you intend to go start to finish without stopping, take a day out of the calendar. It is the Ironman, the Boston Marathon, the Wing Bowl or Laundrydom, at best. If you attempt the head-down, get-out-of-my-way, one-day classic Paris-Roubaix bulldog sprint version. It is not for family play. I've tried it three times myself and have always had to stretch a Saturday plan into Sunday. In a twist of fate, the forces that made the EHEDD necessary, also impeded it's execution.

Once you have steeled yourself to the EHEDD, there is no turning back. Once it has begun, anything less than total fulfillment only makes the situation worse. At some point on a Sunday evening it will come to you ... it needs to be done. Get through the week as best as you can. Focus on the weekend ahead of you. This is a development where having a wife that works on Saturdays, works to your advantage. You have to get up anyway (How many women can let their man sleep if they have to be up?) Gather around yourself at least one, if not two or three good-sized laundry baskets or hampers. Then, with cold and callous precision, gather, from room to room, every sock you can find. This is a purge, plain and simple. As much as it may pain you, if two socks are found together, bundled as a pair; for who knows how long, separate them. It would be nothing more than a well deserved cleansing to them (after all - if they're still that close and others are missing ... when were they washed last?) Every sock in every drawer, on every bathroom floor, in every closet, buried in every gym bag, comes out, as an individual, for redemption, for reconciliation.

And into the wash. For the next forty-five minutes to an hour you will be redoubling your search to make sure there are none who escaped unaccounted for, because this is the harsh fact: (Pure logic follows) If all socks are in the wash, and every sock has a mate, then all mates are in the wash. If any sock emerges without a mate, then it's mate must be lost. If its mate is lost, then it should be lost to meet its mate. Sad and cruel, but all will be the better. Order will be restored.

Out of the washer, into the dryer; be vigilant. Mistakes often happen here. A crew sock drifts between washer and dryer; thought for lost, its match, through no fault of its own, is presumed an orphan. It is on its way to St. Vincent de Paul, at best. Do the Homeless care if their socks match? Will unmatched socks cost them that job interview?

Once clean and dry, the final hurdle must be cleared ... rematching. The entire pile (or piles if you are so fortunate) is deposited in a centralized reunification location. This is where many solid relationships come unglued: "Those two argyles from 1995, neither of whom had any place without the other. Well, I only have one here." And some are re-glued "These are the socks I wore to Lisa's wedding. Remember how drunk you got? We had to pull over on the way home and..." Any unmatches to the trash or Goodwill, your preference. Only pairs win here. You have to be cold. As much as you loved those fishy's, if you can only find one, the other has to go. Find a new pair that reminds you of the old pair and keep better care of them.

You will wonder "Why the bother? Why the pain, torment and, trouble" Trust me, my friend, when you see those two olive socks with the little black checks (the ones that go perfectly with your lucky dark green suit and black wingtips) laying side by side and you say to yourself "Oh, that's where they went" all the time and pain and trouble will be forgotten.

Saturday, July 09, 2005


What's one of the first things that you need to do when you begin your vacation??? If you're not going anywhere, just staying home and shoo-bee-ing Downnashore, you had better load in a bunch of beer. I chose Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA.

From the Sierra Nevada website:

Our most popular beer, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, is a delightful interpretation of a classic style. It has a deep amber color and an exceptionally full-bodied, complex character. Generous quantities of premium Cascade hops give the Pale Ale its fragrant bouquet and spicy flavor.

“Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is the flagship beer, the one that made Chico famous. It is a flawless beer that opens with bright, perky high notes of maltiness and orange blossom and segues into a delectable hoppiness.”
– Elaine Louie, Premier Beer—A Guide to America's Best Bottled Microbrews

Great American Beer Festival (American Pale Ale: 1995, 1994, 1993; Classic English Pale Ale: 1992; Pale Ale: 1990, 1989, 1987)

From the Dogfish Head website:

Our family of Indian Pale Ales includes the 60 Minute I.P.A., the 90 Minute Imperial I.P.A., and the 120 Minute IPA. All feature our unique continuous hopping program, where they receive a single hop addition that lasts over the course of the entire boil (60, 90 and 120 minutes respectively). This breakthrough hopping method makes for a beer that is extremely hoppy without being overly bitter. "Feel the burn?... That's the sickness and the cure"

60 Minute IPA - Our best-selling beer!

A session I.P.A. brewed with Warrior, Amarillo and Mystery Hop X. A powerful East Coast I.P.A. with a lot of citrusy hop character. THE session beer for beer geeks like us! Bottle-conditioned bottles and draft available.

6% ABV / 60 IBU
Approx. 212 calories and 23 carbs per bottle
Available year round, 12-ounce bottles & draft
Desriptors: Citrus, cedar, pine and candied-orange flavors, floral
Food pairing reccomendations: Spicy foods, pesto, grilled salmon, soy-based dishes, pizza
Suggested serving glass: pint glass
Comparable wine style: a busty Chardonnay

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

See, this is what happens ...

I finished June in pretty good shape for the summer. Thirty-four beers burned off, 366 left to go.

Then came Independence Day Weekend 2005.

Starting with 2 Hoegaardens left over from Wednesday, we / I plowed through a 12-pack of Sam Adams, a half-dozen Coronas, and four Sierra Nevada Pale Ales ... There might have been a couple of Coors Lights in there as well.

I ran 4 miles Saturday morning.

In other words, I added 22 beers back onto the "To Go" column.