Wednesday, December 31, 2003

This Christmas, I Smoked A Cigar

Here's looking at you, kid.
Christmas 2003 I got a double-fistful of Cuban cigars from my aunt. It was the most amazingly 'out of left field' gift that season! What a hoot! That alone was worth it.

So now I'm thinking..."today's a slow day, New Year's Eve is tomorrow...what would it be like?" I haven't smoked anything in 24 years. Last week I'd followed a guy smoking a joint on the street. But that was it.

Erring on the side of caution, I saw off an inch from the tip of one of these beauties [fake or real Cohibas, they have a very sweet aroma], and put it in a pipe. I'm sitting out on the balcony, and light up. Blue smoke! euphoria! This is great! I'm in love!

This eternal state lasts 15 minutes. Then I feel my chest constrict. My head is lightened considerably. I sink backwards. I feel an ominous rumbling in my lower depths. I stand up with effort. I am off-plumb by 10 degrees. Stumbling in to the can, I drop trou and unsteadily release the Chocolate Hostage. I sit there for a while, while time shifts from Cretaceous to Jurassic. I stand up, uncertainly. Mr Nausea makes an appearance and I call Uncle Ralph on the Big White Phone.

Looking at the wreck of my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I brush my teeth with the my remaining disposable brain-cells. I stumble back out on the balcony, fall in the chair and pass out.

I came to 30min later. My mouth is oily. I'm hammered. I get up, run some errands on my bike. I'm praying for an oxygen displacement. I come back home and fall down again, this time for an hour.

It takes over 24 hours for the taste to leave my body. I realize, with a mixture of regret and relief, that sometimes you can't go back. I recall with fondness the most excellent education I got the summer of '73 in Havana when I smoked Cuban cigars, drank the mojitos, and managed to get over it. Now I've got as pink a lung as I'm going to have here in the LA Metro area, and it's not the same.

The upshot is that I will happily give them away, so that people who want to enjoy them can. I say happily, remembering the sour bad manners of one Jack Miller in 1973 when presented with a box of Cubans as a wedding gift. He loudly told all and sundry to "come and get them".

I did. That was the first time I smoked real tobacco instead of the loose-leaf burning tires I had been exposed to earlier.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Evolution of Leadership In Iraq

Saddam is in the bag. The insurrection continues with no let up. The Bush Administration is deluded in this process. Iraqis hated Saddam. And now that he’s gone, they hate the Americans more. This is not what Bush & Co had in mind, and it certainly riles Paul Bremer, the erstwhile caretaker. All this was not “supposed to happen” Why?

Leadership is undergoing rapid evolutionary change. For the first time in thirty years Iraqis have decentralized decision-making opportunities. Sunni, Shia, nationalist, Baathist—everybody is on the move. People are making direct decisions without oversight, or approval from a distant centralized source. Motive and weaponry intersect neatly in a wide-open gun-culture that would make the NRA proud. Some will be caught and killed, no doubt for their own good, if the Coalition is to be believed. Along the way they are sharpening their game. The knowledge-base will increase.

Coalition appointees like Chalabi have been sidelined, and they are uneasy. They know that sooner rather than later, the US will abandon them, and their countrymen will come after them. They may have something to negotiate with. They probably won’t. And the sponsors in Washington, Bechtelistan and Halliburtonia will murmur their regrets.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

New Menace From Above

New Menace From Above

Yesterday, a new aerial menace was unleashed above the Los Angeles
basin--I took my first flying lesson. This was a birthday gift--a Three Hour Tour; 1 hr of ground and 2 hrs in the air.

We were going up in the single-engine Cessna 172 high-wing 4-seater, N107AF. And that's what came back. I am not making this up--Mary Pat rode along and saw the white knuckles of Dover herself.

My flight instructor was a genial steely-nerved nice-guy named Lewis.

First I got a clue at the dials I was going to be making friends with. Then we went over basic aeronautical theory, Bernoulli Effect and so forth. That effect sometimes requires a bag, but not today. It was clear and calm.

Then we went outside and did the entire methodical preflight; wagging the ailerons and rudder, optically testing the fuel for clarity [he declined my offer to hold a zippo up to it], checked the tires, removed the cotter pin from the yoke, and so forth. Oh yeah, also disconnected the tie-downs from the plane. We also were briefed on the 5-second rule, the "arc of death". and other fine points. He exuded the calm aura of a man who was in no hurry to die from aerial misadventure.

Got strapped in, put on the radio headset. Listened to chatter all around as planes came and went. Heart rate monitor was pegging out at 140. The mikes do not voice activate at mouse-squeak thresholds.

Lewis fired up the bird, and I did some runway taxi work. This was the first time I was requested to hit the Botts Dots on the yellow line. I'll demonstrate next time we drive somewhere. Working the steering from the pedals alone was "interesting". Lewis and Mary Pat
didnt laugh too hard. they make runways wide for a reason.

Now it was time to slip the surly bonds. Lewis handled the formalities with the tower. Nobody rushed out to tie on a cow-bell. It was me, my sweaty palms & bulging eyes, 180 horse and a full throttle.

We're rolling. Don't fuck up. When the wheels were no longer on the ground I'd never felt so vulnerable. After all, its only 2300 GWT and 52 gals of 100 octane which properly combined are equal to about 20 sticks of dynamite. The buildings and people got mercifully smaller. Remembered to breathe.

Lewis asked me to look down. No fucking way. Not yet. Let me stare straight ahead and keep the horizon where its supposed to be. We did the noise-abatement wiggle over Santa Monica, climbed up to 2000 feet, and headed north. Started to learn about trim tabs. I'll take
Lewis' word for it right now. Exhale.

Did 2 minute turns, which means the bird was banking at a 30-degree angle. Forty-five degrees is where drinks wind up in laps. We'll save 60s for later. Flew over the Santa Monica Mountains. Updrafts and thermals were giving my ass love taps. Flew over trails and canyons
tucked away in the Boney Peaks.

On the return leg flew over steroidal mansions in Malibu. We flew over Arnold's house in Brentwood. I was sorry we'd left the napalm on the runway.

Now it was getting on time for a landing. Lewis alerted the tower. Took the downwind all the way to the Pacific Design Center, turned right, then started the line up on final approach. Ghosted over the top of the 'twin towers' in Century City. Watched the PAPI lights line up to keep the approach angle consistent. I never thought 65mph would be so fast. Tried not to fishtail. If those unsuspecting people on the ground only knew that Mr Trail Safety was in the
air...they'd all run screaming for cover.

The runway is close, and oh sweet jesus, it is wide. I'm thinking about those wee rubber donuts they call wheels. A bounce. Land solid. A least it wasn't a nose-over. Everybody is still connected. Braked to a sedate stop.

Taxi out, hit some more Botts Dotts. My quads stiff from all this relaxation. The crystal on my heart-rate monitor is shattered. Lewis is still on a paid vacation. The tower is alerted that N107AF is about to take off again.

OK, it's a little less freaky. Full throttle is good. Punch it up to 110. Pull back gently. Keep the stall horn harmonica for another occasion. This time after the take-off we bank left, and fly towards LAX. If they only knew. But we had plans for later, so we did a second landing. The Twin Towers survived another day. We touched down again, not so bouncy.

Flying is a sobering experience. But after that, who needs crack?

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Misty Mountain Double-Donger: Ontario & Cucamonga Barking Duck Expedition

Misty Mountain Double-Donger: Ontario & Cucamonga Barking Duck Expedition


"Morning had broken, like it does for infidels" as once was sung by Cat "Jihaadi" Stevens hung in the air like a cheap coat. This uplifting canticle set the tone for the Late Season Ontario & Cucamonga Barking Duck Expedition. The mandate of the expedition was clear: to seek out and destroy new worlds of understanding in the rugged and vertically-challenged peaks above the Ontario Mills Mall and Jail-Bait Recreation Zone.

The Crack Team was assembled in the gathering light: Dr Casino Bingo, Mr Trail Safety, and "Micah White" [not his real name]. It was to be a lightning strike, an unsupported scientific enquiry into the lives of the secretive and reclusive San Gabriel Barking Duck.

The Expedition would insert at Ice House Canyon, make a rapid upward foray up the [Roy] Chapman [Andrews] Trail to Ice House Saddle. Pausing "to whiz not" [Yoda, 1999] the Expedition would launch decisively at Cucamonga Peak. Upon attaining that objective, air samples would be left, and then we would descend by the same route.

We would then, so to speak, be "back in the Saddle again" [Tyler, 1979]. From there we would strike decisively at Ontario Peak. At this point "Micah" revealed his true Inner Self and took the commanding lead with references to an unspecified Tiny Dancer. Dr Bingo was on the ropes, and struggled to regain with the Huey Lewis Smackdown. Mr Trail Safety dropped back to examine the wheels on his Little Cart. He paused on a ridgetop to take CryptoBarometric Readings, and await the Return To Forever of Bingo & "White".

In the fullness of time, before the wild cat did growl, two runners were approaching, and the wind began to howl. Safety rejoined the scrum. The downward spiral rejoined the saddle, and thence forwards backwards down the [Roy] Chapman [Andrews] Trail.

We passed the Darva Conger Scenic Overlook after traversing the Gary Coleman Avalanche Chute without incident. Basecamp was rejoined, victory was declared, and a full report will be filed with the EPA at the Edwin Meese State Office Building in Puta Vista, CA by this Friday.

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Joshua Tree VisionKwest 3.2

JT 3.2
Joshua Tree VisionKwest 3.2
.69 CEUs

PRE-REQUISITE: Basic Knowledge of VisionKwest Study Materials.
ESSENTIAL READING LIST: Shakira, Heidi Klum, Saul Alinsky, Maxim.
FACULTY: C Bingo & D Poker

Become as One with the Indifferent Vastness of the Sonoran/Colorado Desert Interface as you accompany Professors Casino Bingo & Draw Poker on a select scenic running tour of the Joshua Tree Nat Park.

Seminar begins at Boy Scout Trail and ends up at Split Rock. Landmarks encountered along the way include but are not limited to Cap Rock, Geology Tour Road, chubby boy Scout Leaders, sweating German tourists, Pine City, Queen Mine, corpulent RV drivers, Dildo's Cave, and sweating poodles running in circles around parking lots.

Runner expected to provide own pickle-brine and chorizo.

1 mtg: Sat Mar 22, 0700.

=======SECTION CLOSED=======

My hands shook as I read the course description. Where was mention of awards, prize money, permits and short-course PRs???? I hadn't been this nervous since I had trained for the Wifebeater 50k Challenge several years ago. I ached as if I had awoken in a Phillipine motel room on a bed of ice, and both of my kidneys were missing.

I tried reaching Professors Bingo & Poker, but couldn't get through. Somewhere far away a rabbit sneered at my naivete. Oh well, that French word described my state, hoisted on my canard again. I rushed out to Joshua Tree in the pre-dawn hours hoping to find an opening in the seminar.

The rosy-fingered rose over the wine-dork Salton Sea as I pulled up to the parking lot in a spray of gravel. Bingo and Poker in their distinctive garb were making their way out of the campground, deftly side-stepping ground-hugging vapor-pillows [QUADDE, 92, TORRENCE, 99] left by LadderButt Barking Ducks.

The Boy Scout trail began its unpermitted rise up through various canyons and slopes. The morning was quiet save for my earnest questions which got the full attention they deserved from Bingo & Poker. I had brought my LED-ZOSO to field-test looking for Houses of
the Holy.

At Keys West we were met by the enigmatic and hospitable Dr B. She relayed a colo-rectal harangue by a Boy Scout Leader regarding 12" cat holes and Having To Hold It If You Are In The Rocks. The lads hopped from one foot to the other in grim anticipation. Bottles were filled and we were off.

Bingo and Poker set a fierce pace. I could barely stub out my Kool 100s fast enough as they turned S towards Lost Horse. The sun had hoisted itself higher in the sky. My stingy-brim pork-pie was proving inadequate to the sun, although the temps were only in the high 70s
at this point.

The magnetic oracle was consulted and she said "140" which I remembered from my bootleg Skeleton Key CD as 69 x 2 + 2. Whoooooooaaaaaa.


We arrived at Juniper Flats in a record-setting pace. The rubber was melting off the backs of our shoes as we sunk wankel-deep into the asphalt.

Dr B was joined by the alert and snappy-reparteed MP, the mutual better halves to Drs Bingo and Poker. They efficiently extracted Bingo and Poker from their repose with tasers and spatulas. We shoved off to make a detour at the sun-blasted NPS Hospitality Suite at Ryan Campground. Dr Bingo went to check on "Cable service". He returned momentarily, seemingly satisfied. We we were off to climb around the south flank of the indifferent Ryan Mt.

As we summitted the plateau overlooking the Geology Tour Rd in the far distance, the sun began to bore into our fragile eggshell minds. We paused to investigate on-site geologic performance art installations that might appeal to jaded exercise-bulimic Manhattan performance artists. Call were made on my cell phone.

The terrain gently sloped out northwards at the Geology Tour Rd Crossing. At this Juncture, Bingo and Poker decided in favor of Sensory Overload by turning north and avoiding the sword, and made for the Pine City/Queen Mine junction instead of being Mileage Grinders on the scenic declining Trail of Tears to White Tank.


Air-conditioned cars whipped past us as we did high-knees, butt-kickers and intervals up to The Queen Mine. The miles ran by.

Now we were in the heart of the Queen Valley. We became as stony template pilots jigging and jagging thru the descent and then ascent thru the abandoned Queen Mine. We were able to admire the handiwork of cyanide leach mining on trees down canyon from the site, and reverence the continuing foresight of our Senate in maintaining the 1872 Mining Act.

Further switchbacks led us past what is truly Dildo's Cave. It was true after all. But there was not time left for you, babe...our bootheels had to be wandering in the desert tonight. We summitted the Pass and were rewarded with a view that would have done Catherine Zeta Jones good and proper.

From there it was about 1200' drop in a mile or so, a top end fuel eliminator fer sure!

The ladies Dr B & MP met us in the parking lot. We were treated to cold Cokes, and watched poodles racing in circles in the lot--eager to run off and elope with coyotes. But this is a tale best told another day.
Yr Humboldt idiom Savant
Terrazo B Silex
Cultural Proctologist, Media Phrenologist

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Lies, Damnable Lies

Lies, Damnable Lies

A sultry whisper in my ear. “Finishing a marathon is like pie…warm Apple Pie…” It was Denise Richards. I began to sweat. I looked at my wristband.

WWSD. What Would Satan Do? I was stuck for an answer. I smelled brimstone. A deep laugh boiled up beneath me.

“Silly wabbit…Carboplex! Carboplex!…Remember last summer at band camp!”

Dark laughter fading away. It takes a brain to laugh and a train to cry.

A sound like a gunshot. The relentless Music-Box Dancer replay of “Chariots of Fire” Swirling issues of JoggerzWhirld blinded me. Recipes for low-fat smoothies and better 10k splits blighted my vision! I was trapped in a crowd of 50,000 gerbils wearing bibs and ChampionChips! I fell down. I was being trampled! Denise Richards was laughing at my incompetence… again! I tried to get up and she faded away in the crowd that swirled around her, as I woke up with a jolt.

I was not running the XX LA Marathon. Praise Gawd.

I lit a Kool 100 to settle my frazzled nerves, put on my fuzzy house-slippers, and proceeded to get ready. Because its high time we went. A 26 mile trail training run. Rocky trails. Deep ruts. Mud so colorful that when your shoe landed in it it looked like it barfed up a burrito. Up and down. And if your sense of time is elastic—a three hour cruise; at least for half the way.

The first mile was all high knees. Then I did at least 2 miles of butt-kickers.

I was running this as a benefit for the Rev Tom Krüll, and his Little Chapel of Propwash in Dallas, Texas. Tom has been a Youth Pastor at the Retreat For Wayward Cheerleaders for many years.

I was racing to meet a challenge grant from D&L Holistic Industries. Part of the Challenge was that I have to meet the reclusive Co-Chairman “D” at his Fortress of Biscuit-Joinery sometime in 2011. He would have a check for the amount stuck to his forehead, and I would have to match it. It is high-steaks financing, with fries to go. I was a little too tall coulda used a few pounds. I was also dressed in a chubby-child’s Batman costume.

The good news was that I was in the lead, far ahead of the pack. Doesn’t hurt to stack the deck either. Ask Mr Diebold; who counts the votes makes a difference.

All of Gawd’s Magnificence was on full display. I could see the White Massif of Mt Bäldy in the faraway distance. I was unable to see if the vice-prone Bighorns were gamboling with their captive sex-slave Sierra Club members. Maybe later.

I heard mariachis. I was an Army of Juan. Just when I couldn’t take it anymore, Avril Lavigne, the Once and Future Cher, fixed her doleful coon-eyed self and began to serenade me. It was so complicated.

I finished like two trains running. It was only 6:30 by my watch. Not bad for an old-school finish in a brass diving helmet. The shoes were something else. All I could hear inside the suit was the phantom echoes of Barking Ducks. I now rest on my laurels and contemplate the next stage of my ultra career.

Bone Regardez,
Mr Trail Safety