Thursday, August 30, 2007

more marathon shuffle

I'm switching again.

After much thought, and paying attention to my body, I decided that the Rocket City Marathon is too soon for me to adequately train for it. So for a while this week I was making plans again for Miami. But I still can't justify the cost.


I'm gonna do Austin.

Like the one in Huntsville, this is one Allie and I can drive to (meaning Allie can be there to chear me on, which is HUGE bonus). And the hotels are cheap.

The only thing that gave me pause was the reviews, which reveal that the course is very hilly -- but beautiful. But I figure I'll just train on hilly routes, which aren't hard to find in KC.

This is it.

I promise.

My sights are locked in on Austin!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

marathon shuffle

I've decided to not run the Miami Marathon in January.

No, I'm not injured. Training is going well.

Nor am I scared I can't go the distance.

It comes down to money. Miami's just too expensive for a weekend in and out. All the decent hotels in Miami are $200+. The "affordable" ones have horrible reviews that say stuff like "absolute dump" and "the worst." And Allie aren't super keen on doing a long Florida vacation -- not at the top of our list right now.

So instead I'm going to run the Rocket City Marathon on December 8.

It's gotten incredible reviews. Allie and I can drive to it. And the race hotel is mega cheap.

I'm postively thrilled at the prospect.

The only problem is that it kind of undermines my idea of having a goal to work toward during the bleak winter months.


I'm thinking of also running the LA Marathon on March 2 -- if the Huntsville one goes well and I recover in two weeks.

LA is one of the ones I've really, really wanted to do.

I have such an enormous crush on that city, and the notion of running from the San Fernando Valley to Downtown LA sounds like an incredible blast.

Plus it's a lot cheaper than Miami, believe it or not. You can get a reasonable room for $100. And everything -- airport, hotel, starting line -- is on the rail line.

Now we're set. The plan is in place. Now I just have to pray I don't get injured in training.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

the new pornographers

It's been years since I've been the first kid on the block with a copy of the hot new album of the moment. The last time, I think, was in 1990, when I bought Nirvana's Nevermind the day it was released. But yesterday I did it again, quite by accident.

I bought a new iPod recently. It's the 80-gig model, so I have a lot of room for new music, so I've been perusing iTunes a lot more lately. Well, last night I logged on and saw a new release from one of my favorite bands, The New Pornographers, and, without even thinking twice, I added it to my cart and downloaded. It was only after I'd done the deed that I realized it had been released that day.

Jesus Christ, I'm cool.

Or lucky.

Anyway, I've been listening to it all day and loving every note. The music's good, of course, but the purchase has also reacquainted me with an annual rite of passage I'd fallen out of step with: The autumn new album release. I think it's tied in with school or something. I vividly remember loading up with new tunes before going back to college each year, and how that new music seemed to define each new semester, like it was all wrapped up in the hope of new possibilities, or whatever, who knows, but at very least it was cool.

Nevermind was one of those albums. I first heard of Nirvana when I saw them live on my birthday at the Gothic Theater in Denver, opening for Dinasaur Jr. They were by far the best opening act I'd ever seen. They turned the entire concert hall into one giant throbbing beast, pulsating with every strum of Kurt Cobain's guitar. I didn't even know the name of the band until I checked out the T-shirts they were selling behind the bar, but I was blown away. (Incidentally, if you check out the booklet accompanying Nirvana's boxed set, you'll find a poster for this show.) So, when I later saw Nirvana's new release at my neighborhood record store, I quickly snatched up a copy (on cassette, no less). And then I played it constantly as I worked as a driver of one of the campus buses that circulated around the farflung dorms at the University of Colorado. I can still remember this cutish girl asking if it was the new Nirvana album. It became a big hit. But I had it before it was a hit. I felt so cool. (No date from the girl, of course; didn't even try to ask.)

So here I am again, nearly 40, with a big late-summer release, feeling cool as can be. I'm not, of course. But one can pretend.

(BTW, The New Pornographers will be in Lawrence on November 4, and, by God, I'm going. Waddaya say, Joel? Wanna check them out?)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

morning glory

After reading my last post, my grandma wrote me asking where does Allie fit in my daily plans. Well, bearing in mind that what I wrote was a morning itinerary, I'll limit it to that.

1. Either intercept or immediately turn off the alarm, so as not to wake her.
2. Make a double batch of smoothy, one for me, one for her.
3. Grind a half pot of coffee for her, even though I'm off the stuff for now.
4. Either wake her or urge her to get up to do her morning routine.
5. Kiss her good bye.

Also, do domestic things count? Thiings she appreciates, such as:

1. Let the dogs out.
2. Feed the dogs.
3. Put away the clean dishes.

These are all little things, but are among the ways I tell her I love her.

Monday, August 20, 2007


Last week I ran into a friend I hadn't seen for a month or so. He told me he's on an adventure to meditate with as many different religious groups as will have him. Doesn't matter what they believe. Just that they meditate together, and that they'll welcome him.

It was an inspiring thought. I happen to be looking for some sort of spiritual practice or connection or whatever. Well, not exactly looking, but readying myself to look, I guess. It seems to be the one piece that's missing. I've got a solid relationship, good job, I'm exercizing regularly, eating very well, doing my chores, keeping up with my hobby, brushing my teeth, etc. But I'm not quite right with God, so to speak.

Actually, that's not the only thing that's missing. I feel a lack of creative outlet. I.E. I miss writing. Which is hard to believe, because when I actually am writing I'm pretty much in constant pain.

So I'm strugglng to find some sort of routine around the new job where I can write something more than just these little posts on this blog. It's not easy. I'm still in the get-used-to-it phase on the job, and it consumes a lot of mental calories. But I can feel it beginning to even out. I'm certainly not as hung up about it as I was in the first couple of months. It's starting to feel more and more like a job, which is at once comforting and horrifying.

And it only serves to heighten my craving for writing.

So here's the plan as it stands for now:

1. Up at 5:30.
2. Out the door by 6:10.
3. An hour at the gym.
4. An hour or so writing.
5. Work.

If I can get that to gel, then I'll add an hour of nonwriting writing in the P.M. -- tending to the more tedious aspects of journalism, such as transcribing notes and tapes and organizing documents and files so as to gleen stories from them.

Which brings me back to my meditating friend. He said his adventure was inspired by a book he'd read by a woman who said the secret to life is rhythm. It's finding a distinct pattern in each day, week, month, season, year, and becoming devoted to it. Living that pattern as if it were a meditative template.

I'm intrigued by the notion. I'm a guy who has never lived a pattern, at least not for longer than a summer. I've sometimes wanted to. But something always comes up to break the rhythm. Maybe it's time to find a groove.

Does this mean I'm getting old?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

eating death

Good comments on the previous post.

To Waldo Oiseau: I just so happen to be reading The Omnivore's Dillemma right now, and it's fantastic, inspirational, life-changing. (Pete and Evan: I think you'd both enjoy this book immensely.)

To my buddy John: I still have a pair. I bought and ate a T-bone today, and I loved every last bite of it. I also bought a buffalo ribeye and three pounds of cow liver, which are sitting in my newly purchased freezer, waiting to be eaten some day in the near future.

Allie and I went to the City Market today. We've been before, of course. But we both left this time with our arms weighted down with bags of delicious stuff and a conviction to make it a regular thing.

It was hot today, not as hot as its been, but hot none the less, yet the place was still packed, which is a mixed blessing: people watching good; people navigating bad.

We bought:

A yellow watermellon
Four red tomatoes
Red and green okra
Three star-shaped zucchini
A pound of homemade pasta
A buffalo ribeye
A T-bone from a grass-fed cow
Three pounds of grass-fed cow liver
A dozen ears of sweet corn
A peck of peaches
Several pounds of nuts
Two bottles of French wine
A big bottle of olive oil from the "the Holy Land"

Over the course of the last month I've undertaken a dramatic dietary shift. For the most part, I'm noly eating whole foods -- unprocessed grains, nuts, lot and lots of veggies from the garden, locally and humanly grown meat, wild fish. Gone are caffeine, refined sugars, factory farm meats.

I can totally feel the difference.

I'll write more later. Right now I feel a little too sleepy and satisfied from a meal of steak and sweet corn and beans from my garden.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

fast food nation

Allie and I watched Fast Food Nation a week or so ago. With the exception of a thin slice of Canadian bacon I had in California, I haven't eaten any meat other than fish since.

I know, it's a little odd. I'm married to a vegan. Been with her for seven years. I've heard a lot of her arguments against eating meat. Not only that, I actually toured a meat processing plant back in 2000, after which I wrote probably the most gruesome lead of my writing career, and I still had steak that night. Yet I've kept eating meat, with only the faintest bit of guilt and disgust.

ThenI watch a DVD and suddenly I'm averse to meat.

Guess it was powerful movie.

Or maybe I was just ready for a switch.

What got me was the climax of the movie, when its most sympathetic character was led across the floor to her own symbolic death: a job pulling kidneys from stench ridden intestines. As she moves slowly along she watches the cows killed with a single jolt between the eyes, drained of their blood and dismembered. It's one of the most masterful montages I've ever seen in a film, balletic almost.

In the nearly two hours leading to this scene, we're given a top to bottom view of that fast food chain, from the Big One burger wrapped in waxy paper to the illegal immigrants making the dangerous passage across the border to fill jobs in the meat plant. It reminded me of that movie Traffic because it revealed a secret world few can deny being a part of, and it showed the many ways in which it worsens society.

And since watching it, I haven't had the stomach for beef. Or pork. Or chicken.

I'm not sure how long this will last. I think I will eat meat again, but for now m sense is it'll more than likely be from local, grass-fed, humanely raised animals.

I think Allie's pleased with this recent turn. And I don't think she's the least bit jealous that it was a movie, of all things, that ultimately persuaded me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

mingus mingus mingus

I was chatting with a friend recently about jazz when I said that Charles Mingus is my favorite, and he nodded and said something like, "Ah yes, that west coast sound."

I'd never really thought of Mingus that way, as an artist that's somehow rooted in a particular place. I've always liked him because his music is a totally unique blend of a symmetrical 1950s avant garde jazz and thoroughly structured and catchy big band tunes. A Mingus number is usually an exercise in falling apart and coming back together again.

Well, to test the West Coast label, I decided to listen to my favorite mingus album, The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, as I walked the mile or so from the hotel to the restaurant where I was to have an orientation meeting for the thing I'm in town to observe.

Most of the walk was along Hollywood Boulevard, from Highland to just past Vine, along the sidewalks full of stars, most whose names I couldn't recognize for the life of me. A lot of the stars were cracked. Close to Highland, right outside the wax museum I swear I visited on my first trip to LA, in 1977, when I was nine, the crowds were unnervingly dense and slow moving, in a tourist shuffle sort of way. The store fronts were dominated by souvenir shops, tattoo parlors and sexy costume boutiques, with an odd restaurant thrown in here and there. For several blocks I kept pace with an Asian man pushing a very old white man along in a wheel chair. And there was an art gallery, with really edgy contemporary Latino art, including a piece called Mambo, which was a row of snare drums that had chrome spinner rims instead of drums. The closed stores had murals of vintage stars on the metal garage doors they pull down to protect the glass windows. There was no order to the architecture. Some buildings appeared to come right out of Brooklyn, some were modernist, some old west OK Corall style, some Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish, even Eqyptian, all in a phony California way, all crowded in around this sidewalk full of stars. Every other block there was a filthy man sleeping on a filthy sleeping bag. People walking by wore polo shirts and khaki shorts with bootie bags, and low cut jeans bearing tattoos in the small of their backs, and big baggy hockey jerseys, and evening gowns, and suits and ties, and sandals, and sneakers, and high heeled pumps, and army boots, and T-shirts that say things in Spanish, and T-shirts that say things in English, and T-shirts with pictures of dogs and rock stars and sports stars and food and Hollywood itself. Trees grew out of the sidewalk, some palm trees, some tree trees. And hundreds and hundreds of cars drove by, small ones with dents in their bumper, gigantic SUVs sailing smooth as cruiseliners, rusty Hondas, hybrids. People paused here and there to take pictures. It was sunny, of course. I say the famous, round Capital Records building. Every block or so I caught glimpses of the Hollywood hills. Or, to the south, I saw busy streets stretching for miles, suggesting that the near chaos I was walking through extended, in varying ways, far, far beyond the horizon. And all the while Mingus's orchestra blared, and I knew what my friend meant about West Coast style.

Friday, August 10, 2007

hollywood hills

I'm in Los Angeles for a couple of days. I got in a little after 1 Pacific time, and I had some time to kill before my first appointment so I headed out for a walk.

My hotel is right next to the Kodak Theater, where they have the Oscars, and the Mann Chinese Theater, where they have all the stars in the sidewalk with stars' names in the stars. The place was jam packed with tourists, and outside the Mann theater there were people in costumes. There was a Wonder Woman, a bi-pedal being with an octopus for a face and a pirate done up just like Johnny Depp, mascara and all. I looked long and hard at his pirate mustache and beard, to see if they were fake, but they seemed real, and I wondered if the guy was getting paid nearly enough to goof up his face like that.

I think a lot about money when I'm in LA. I just can't fathom how people can afford to live out here. When I eat at LA restaurants, I always wonder where the waiters live, and how far they have to drive, and how bad the traffic is on their commute.

I couldn't stand the tourist scene, so I took a right and found myself at the foot of the Hollywood Hills. I decided to climb them.

They're steep. Winding one-lane roads snake across them with no sidewalks for a walker like me. The houses crowd the curb, most of them showing little more than a slender garage door or a gate separating two walls of dense tropical vegetation. But as I climbed I caught glimpses across the horizon, the hillsides covered with all sorts of houses, from Spanish colonial to 50s modern to 21st century pomo 50s modern redux. I passed a couple of rentals. There was a one-bedroom for $2,000 a month, and a two-bedroom for $3,000. I saw a plot of land for sale, too. It was a triangle, I'd guess 45 feet by 25 and 25. Guess someone will spend a couple million for a tall skinny house there some day.

The path led to a restaurant built to look like something out of Japan, perched atop a perfect view of Hollywood and the alien-looking skyscrapers downtown. It was a hazy day, but I lingered there for a song or two on my iPod. I was listinging to Kind of Blue. A couple of hellicopters gently stirred the sky above.

LA looks even crazier from a lofty vantage point. I stared out across all the buildings and highways and billboards with giant creepy pictures of famous people and I thought, What strange creatures we.

I don't know. I guess it all looked like some ginormous hive or something.

I love LA.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

why marathon?

Gina left a comment on an earlier post asking why in god's name would anyone want to run a marathon.

I have basically two reasons.

To have something to aim for.
This will give my leisure life a little more focus for the next five or six months. And, at the end, if all goes well, I will have accomplished something. This, it seems, is a basic formula for life. You aim. You shoot. And, hopefully, you hit. Then you aim again.

You get to tour a city.
The reason I chose Miami is because it looks like a really cool course, passing, as it does, by seaside and boats and palm trees and such, and it gives me a chance to tour a relatively foreign environment in a kind of slow, admittedly painful way, with the added bonus of feeling sense of Herculean accomplishment at the end. And it's fun to fantasize about doing this in all sorts of places, like D.C., San Francsisco, Rome, etc. And to think that each time I do it I will not only see each of those cities in a unique (admittedly painful way), I also will have accomplished something, which, again, is sort of the meaning of life, at least in a twisted capitalistic country like U.S.A.

If I were to throw in a third reason (and this might well be the best reason), it's that it's becoming increasingly clear to me that I need a regular routine of cardiovascular fitness, and aiming for a marathon in a strange, new city, gives that routine a shape and purpose.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

edible yard

The garden is doing pretty good this summer. Last year we had long stretches of mega-heat and no rain. I was out of town for a lot of those days so I wasn't able to keep up on the watering. So I had sickly tomato and pepper plants with no or little fruit (except the habanero plant; that did well.)

This year I've been watering everyday. And so I've been able to eat a lot more of my yard.

We've had a steady stream of tomatoes.



I've got a couple dozen plants going, so there are a lot more to come.

Lots of beans, too -- some of which are purple! I planted two plots, so we've been having fresh beans a couple nights a week. They're delicious when fried with garlic and soy sauce.

(purple beans)

I decided to do a mid-summer plot of radishes. They're always easy to grow. And they're good on toast with hummus. And on salads, of course. I have a lot of delicious radishes in submerged in water in the fridge. I'm eating about two a day.

(ginormous radishes)

I've also got four eggplant plants, and Allie and I have eaten a few and they've been delicious. I've also got about ten pepper plants that are starting to bear fruit. I planted two habaneros and they're both among the most productive. Which is great, because they're so flavorful. But a few habaneros go a long way. They're mega hot!

Oh yeah, basil. I got about six of those plants and they're all enormous bushes. We have pesto a couple nights a week, but it doesn't even put a dent in the supply. I need to get a freezer so I can make up a bunch of batches for winter.

Soon I'll be planting for the fall. I ordered a bunch of greens, including purslane and mache, which are new for me. I also plan to try the late fall spinach planting trick, so I'll have nutricious greens in early March. And I think I'll try beets this year. After two years of frustration with root veggies, I amended the soil last year with phosphates and bone meal, and I planted a bunch of turnips, which did real well. Turnips are nice, but they're not beets. Beets kick ass.

Bottom line: Allie and I have saved a lot in groceries over the last couple of weeks. And we've been very well nourished.

Moral: Edible yards pay.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

marathon goal

For the past several years, I've toyed with the idea of running a marathon. But every time I've taken a few semi-serious first steps on a three- or four-month training program, I've gotten injured.

Well, this time I'm serious. I'm going to run the Miami Marathon on January 28.

Why so confident this time around?

I heard about Jeff Galloway's "injury free" training program, where you do just one long run a week, and you break it up with intermitent walking. Seems real doable to me.

Why Miami?

Well, in order to follow Galloway's plan reasonably well, I'd have to wait unti at least January to run. There are a couple of other big, popular races that month -- most notably, the Disney Marathon -- but Miami appears to have the most interesting course. Plus, it'll make a nice mid-winter get away for Allie and me. Also, it's gotten really good reviews.

Ideally, I'd like to be one of those people who does two or three marathons a year. I think it'd be a blast.

These are some that I'd like to do:

Marine Corps
Los Angeles
Twin Cities
Big Sur
San Francisco
New York

It's fun to fantasize.

Saturday, August 04, 2007


For the folks back home...

There was an article about me in today's paper.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

good review

I don't do it as much any more, but every so often I Google the title of my book, to see if anyone has written anything new about it. If I let a month or so pass between searches, I usually get a few new hits, typically blog entries by some stranger out there who's reading the darned thing. It's kind of satisfying, in a narcisistic sort of way.

Anyway, that's all a long-winded way of saying that tonight's search turned up a full-length review that came out when I was on my honeymoon. I can't recall having read it before, but it's a good one. I liked it so much that I clicked on the link from the writer's name, trying to find an e-mail address, and I discovered it was written by a guy who appeared with me on this weird-as-hell late-night radio talk show in New York, back at the beginning of my tour. His name is Joe Williams, and he's also written an important book about public education.

In other book news, we're gearing up for release of the paperback on October 2.

It did decently in hardback, but I have a hunch it's going to do a lot better in paperback. The publisher is Picador, and they tend to market their books pretty well. But even if they didn't, it's been my sense that the natural audience for it -- teachers, schools, college education departments, high school kids, book clubs -- tends to buy paperbacks. So, who knows? Maybe I'll sell 20,000 or so, and it'll remain on the shelves for a decade or two.

None of which means I'll make any more money on the deal; I'll never buy my way out of my advance. But it does mean more people will read it.

And, after all, that's what we write for, isn't it?

To be read.

So you can Google the title every now and then and discover that someone out there has spent a few hours of their life immersed in your work, and that they thought enough about it to write a note on the Internet.

Worth more than a big, fat royalty check, doncha think?

(Me neither.)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


I am totally hooked on this dressing.