Thursday, June 28, 2007

More Than Meets the Eye

DSCN4917.JPG, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

Bumblebee is not a Bug!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

When Bowling Was King

Curbed LA posted this YouTube video yesterday, a mini profile of Chris Nichols who just published a book on Bob’s Big Boy architect Wayne McAllister. He’s been a leader in preserving and saving mid-century modern structures as former president of the LA Conservancy’s Modern Committee.

It’s a nice little piece on Chris, but it’s doubly interesting because it features very briefly Covina Bowl. There are very few structures in Covina now that vividly evoke the city’s years of rapid growth from orange groves to suburban living. Those still standing have fallen into disrepair, while most have been razed and in their place stucco buildings have gone up. Covina Bowl still stands, but I continually think it won’t last either. Inside it’s not in the best shape even though its pyramid entrance is still a striking design element. Nowadays there are more “fun” bowling alleys to go to (Lucky Strike?) but Covina Bowl is a reminder of the days when bowling was at its most popular. It wasn’t just for kids, teenagers with nowhere else to go before their curfew is up, or the parents who were dragged there. Everyone went bowling!

As evidence of what Covina Bowl was like fifty years ago, just check out one of my favorite slides from Charles Phoenix. This woman is enjoying some fine dining at Covina Bowl.

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Song of the Week: "Small Planet"

Download: Ferraby Lionheart - "Small Planet"

Even at my advanced age I still harbor a faint dream of becoming a musician. First, though, I'll have to learn an instrument, and with that in mind, I asked my sister to buy me a ukulele while she was in Hawaii last week for our cousin's wedding. Still, I'm not deluded enough to think that it will come true, but there's nothing wrong with fantasizing.

Had I enough talent to become a musician I would like to think that the songs I write will sound just like Ferraby Lionheart's (that name!). Warm, witty, dreamy and heartfelt, Lionheart's EP was the soundtrack to the last holiday season, and it is with great eagerness that I anticipate his first full length, Catch the Brass Ring, which will be released on September 4.

This week's song--"Small Planet"--comes from that upcoming LP. It may not be the best song of Mr. Lionheart's ouvre but it is representative of his bemused viewpoint on love and heartbreak. In it he tries to persuade his One and Only to be his one and only. It's not an original theme but Lionheart handles it with an arresting sincerity that sidesteps being cloying and provides some originality in expressing the sentiment. "This planet's small enough for two" is the freshest variation I've heard of saying that there's someone out there for you.

If there's any sense in the music world, Ferraby Lionheart would be the It troubadour of 2007. It won't be long!

Monday, June 25, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week: SPECIAL EDITION

Ceremony, originally uploaded by savemejebus.

This week, rather than pick a couple from the New York Times I know absolutely nothing about, I am going to select the wedding of two folks I actually know, the marriage of my friends Lisa and Paul.

On Friday evening, Lisa and Paul were married in a hilltop ceremony overlooking the vastness that is the Inland Empire. It was a small, lovely wedding. I was worried I would be sweating bullets in my suit but thankfully the temperature cooled down and the canopy of trees over us provided enough shelter to make for a comfortable ceremony—at least it was for me. I don’t know about Lisa and Paul.

I’ve known Lisa since the fifth grade—twenty years, practically. She was our spelling bee champion two years in a row. I was considered a favorite but tedious rules did me in. We didn’t really keep in touch during the college years but we both had our friend Preeti to keep us informed of what was going on with the other. After college I heard from Preeti that Lisa was dating a guy who worked at the same law school she did. I made a mental note of it and went about slaving away at my accounting job.

A few months later, Lisa’s law school was assigned to me as a client. I was excited because it meant I get to see Lisa after almost five years. The lead partner and I took the CFO and controller of the law school to lunch before the engagement was to start. As we waited to be served, the CFO began teasing the controller about a “girl” he was dating from the law school. Right away I thought about what Preeti had told me about Lisa, but I didn’t mention her name. They could have been talking about someone else and at that point I wasn’t even sure exactly what Preeti had told me, so I said nothing and decided to verify.

As it turned out the controller was the one that Lisa was seeing, which meant I would be working closely with him. I wondered whether the connection was something that might be problematic to the audit, but since I really didn’t know him other than the fact that he was dating an old schoolmate, I stayed on. It wasn’t the easiest audit. In fact it was close to a mess, but getting to see Lisa and getting to know Paul made it worthwhile. I was auditing the law school when 9/11 happened, so I guess you could say that we all went through a lot. Lisa was stuck back east because of all the grounded flights and trying to get her home was an ordeal.

In any event, I’ve gotten to know both of them since then, and I’m happy to see them married all these years later. The strange thing about my interest in the New York Times wedding announcements is that I generally don’t like listening to wedding stories or looking at wedding pictures of people other than my friends. In fact I don’t think I really believe in the institution of marriage now. What interests me about the NY Times wedding announcements is finding out how two people found each other. I suppose it has something to do with me still searching for someone—anyone. In any event, Lisa and Paul’s wedding was a wonderful and inspiring thing to witness and it—just like reading the NY Times wedding announcements every Sunday—provides some hope that it’s not a futile search.

Extreme Court

I just glanced over the front page of the New York Times and the list of Supreme Court rulings on there is scary and sad. The most disappointing decision is the one that just about gutted the Endangered Species Act. It really isn't surpring, though. What really is sad is the fact that the decisions are all following ideological lines. It's officially a conservative court, so I'm sure there will be challenges very soon to some heated issues.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Si, See Sea Wolf!

I won tickets to Sea Wolf's show last night at the Echo, so I had the opportunity to see them again for the fourth time (or is it fifth?).

As a frontman, Alex Brown Church has grown more comfortable in the role. Where in his earlier performances he looked awkward and aloof, Church seemed more at ease last night, even bantering a little with the crowd. The set, too, has evolved. I recall being a little bored the first time I saw them because the songs were predominantly slow and acoustic. Sea Wolf is by no means a hard rocking band now, but they now have a more diverse set that includes more faster-paced songs, providing Church and his bandmates an opportunity to let loose. Still, the moddy, heart-on-sleeve, sad-sack songs are still Sea Wolf's best assets, andy dispersing them throughout, the set progressed well. Of course they capped off their set with "You're a Wolf" and returned for a two-song encore that included "Black Dirt," a highlight of the evening.

And, after messing up the lyrics to "Middle Distance Runner" the last two times I saw them, Church finally ran through the song with no slip-ups.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dinner at Monty's

Monty's, originally uploaded by BlueAlgae.

I have never lived in Pasadena, but I still feel like it's my second home and as such I'm fully aware of Monty's place as a beloved restaurant. As a building it's not much to look at, and the interior is only slightly more inviting, but the food--I heard-- was something else. It has been on my list of places to eat, but I've been saving it for a special day since it is a bit pricey.

When news hit that Monty's will be closing this Saturday, though, I mobilized the TNT crew and we made reservations for dinner last night. Our check was huge, but I think everyone enjoyed their meals. I sure did. The NY cut I ordered was juicy and cooked to perfection. I could have ordered another one. I'm not a fan of baked potato, but the one at Monty's--dressed tableside--is quite good. Even dessert was good. The bread pudding was the best I've ever had.

Good food, good friends, a good night. I'm sorry that I only had this one chance to eat at Monty's, but I'll surely remember it. There is a location in Woodland Hills, though, so if I ever crave bread pudding again I can trek over there.

Farewell, Monty's!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

I love to run, so it was a no-brainer to select a couple that emphasized marathon training as part of their courtship.

Yun Cho and Peter Lyons

Admittedly I started running with the hopes that I'd meet someone through it, and while I've met plenty of people, I have yet to land a date because of it. Almost three years later, hundreds--if not thousands--of dollars spent on shoes, gear, registration fees, hotel and travel, all I have to show are medals and bibs in a plastic bag. I guess I'm healthier than I've ever been, but I'd gladly trade a little of it for some action.

Back to our couple. Running wasn't how they met, but it did seem to unite them together. Ms. Cho and Mr. Lyons had known each other for twenty years but never got beyond the "acquaintance" phase. Years of bumping into each other finally led to a date, then love. Mr. Lyons proposed during a training run for a half marathon. Ms. Cho's reaction, though, is a bit telling.

“I had absolutely no idea it was coming,” she said. “Who proposes when you’re going on a run?”

Is she unhappy with how he proposed? Would she rather have done it on DiamondVision at Yankee Stadium? I'm probably taking it out of context. She's just emphasizing how unexpected the proposal was. It's not the most extravagant proposal, but it's certainly thoughtful and effective in surprising her.


Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm Rusty

The Buried Car 2, originally uploaded by digihuman.

The Buried Car of Tulsa emerged from its vault rusty, a disappointing outcome. I imagined it being unearthed looking very much as it did in 1957--nothing that a little dusting won't fix. Unfortunately water had seeped into its vault and kept it submerged for many years. Instead of a new, vintage car, the Plymouth Belvedere is a rusty relic.

No word yet on who won the prize. If I did I'd keep it. It's still a wonderful car with a wonderful story behind it.

If we were to bury a car to be unearthed fifty years from now, what would it be?

Grab Your Pitchforks!

Pitchfork has it in for Cold War Kids. Unfortunately I did criticize the Kids' cover of "A Change Is Gonna Come" the first time I heard it at the El Rey show as pointing out a gap in genuine soul in their music. Still, I'm quite appreciative of their music and enjoy it very much. I have problems with it, but they are talented and quite entertaining to behold.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Song of the Week: "Cha Cha Cha"

Download: The Little Ones - "Cha Cha Cha"

It seems as if I've been choosing too many downer songs. One after another the Songs of the Week have been about unrequited love, death, addiction, with only a couple of chipper songs tossed in for variety. This week my mission was to find an upbeat, happy song from my collection. I didn't think it would be a tough thing to do, but I couldn't settle on one for a few days. The Cold War Kids/Little Ones show on Tuesday changed all that.

Listening to the Little Ones perform their magic, I just about slapped myself on the forehead and said, "Duh." It was obvious. In their brief life, the Little Ones have become leading purveyors of shiny, happy music, songs that make you shake your booty. As with most of their songs, the biggest of many selling points is Greg Meyer's enthusiastic drumming. It's even more impressive in a live context as you see him clobber the drum set, but even in their sole recording thus far, Sing Song EP, the vibrant intensity of Meyer's drumming carries the songs--including "Cha Cha Cha"--along.

Which is not to say that the rest of the band are just in it for the ride. The drumming is one thing, but without the Reyes--Ed and Brian--brothers' infectious vocals and rapport, Ian Moreno's excellent guitar work and multi-instrumental support, and Lee LaDouceur's youthful exuberance, the Little Ones' magic would be incomplete. As stated in their website, the band follows what they call Uncle Lee's Rule of Feet, which "stated that a song was deemed appropriate if, and only if; each of the Little Ones’ feet could shuffle. Once they adopted this new rule they began to realize what they had right in front of them." They've succeeded well under this rule thus far, but I wonder how long they can stand by it and how far they can stretch it?

As for "Cha Cha Cha," I have no idea what the song is about. I imagine it's about a bright, shiny day, with its bouncy calypso feel and delirious "la la la's". The song also demonstrates the Little Ones' unique ability to write a pop song that lasts well over four minutes without it ever wearing out its welcome. The songs are sophisticated in the sense that they don't rely on one hook of a melody. The songs turn and evolve so that they are never predictable; the beginning is never like the end. With a song like "Cha Cha Cha," for example, most bands would have coasted on the feel-good vibes of the beginning and taken it all the way to the end. The Little Ones, though, ride it for a bit but then sends the song soaring near the end with the aforementioned "la la la's" and turns into an anthem for the "waking people."

Wow, I really thought this would be a brief post. It turned out to be the longest one I've written yet for a Song of the Week, and I still dont' think I've done the song justice.

Just listen to it.

Friday, June 15, 2007

In the Year 2007

Charles Phoenix set out on a wonderful adventure last week and NPR is following him. High up on my list of Things to Do Before I Perish is to set off on an extended road trip across America. Mr. Phoenix is not only traveling halfway across the country in a 1961 Pontiac Bonneville, but he's doing so to see the grand unveiling of a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere in Tulsa, OK that has been buried underground for fifty years. It's the conclusion of a half century-long contest, and whoever best guessed what Tulsa's population would be in 2007 will win the car. If that person has passed on, the next of kin wins this brand new vintage car.

Unfortunately, when the vault was opened up, the car was found sitting in a pool of water, so it may not be in as pristine a condition as one would hope. Still, it practically has no miles on it.

Read all about the unveiling in the Charles Travels blog.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Elvis Perkins on Letterman

I got home from seeing Wicked last night at around 12:15, so it would have been in time to catch Elvis Perkins on Letterman performing this week's Song of the Week, "While You Were Sleeping." Unfortunately I didn't realize it and went straight to bed. Thanks to YouTube, though, I can watch it over and over again. So can you!

Dave seemed to enjoy Elvis, which makes me happy. Way to go, Elvis!

Live: Cold War Kids and the Little Ones

A couple of nights ago, two of LA’s best bands performed a concert at the Echoplex benefiting 826LA and Water Wells for Africa. The Little Ones and Cold War Kids have gained a tremendous amount of traction in the last year, the latter especially is on the cusp of mainstream success. I first saw Cold War Kids when they were touring with another buzz-heavy band, Tapes n Tapes, and they just about burst the seams of the tiny stage at the Echo with their flailing, energetic performance. The playing was a little messy at times, but they had the spirit. A few months ago they were the headliner at the El Rey, and it struck me how much the Kids seemed to be trying hard to be a hard-playing, messy, blues band. Perhaps thrown in the larger stage of the El Rey, the band was thrown out of context and had to work harder at achieving the raucous vibe they exuded months before.

Their show at the Echoplex was good. The Kids were as confident as I’ve ever seen them and the songs popped. Some might accuse Cold War Kids of being derivative, but I think they’re just very good songwriters. A song like “Hang Me Up to Dry” may not be entirely original, but the band is savvy enough to know what to put in to make you think it’s the freshest thing out there. The band’s songs are like comfort food—easy to like and often a welcome flavor to the palate.

It’s also obvious that the band is at a tipping point, and their tour with the White Stripes may just be what tips them over to a level of success equal to the Killers a few years ago. Based on the crowd at the Echoplex, the Kids are attracting a following of frat boys, Westside players and the women who love them. Liz and Erica had to duck out from the crowd because they were getting slapped by a party dressed girl and her hair extensions as she danced in unequal rhythm to the song being played. I have a feeling that this may be one of the last shows the Kids can be called an indie band. Yes, I sound like an elitist prig, but I’d actually be happy to see the Cold War Kids hit it big. Their songs would be a welcome antidote to all the Incubus, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Linkin Park being played on KROQ.

The Little Ones are probably destined for some success, but at the moment they are only where the Kids were about a year ago—a buzz band. Their set the other night wasn’t the best I’ve experienced because it was marred by excessive chatter around me and the bad sightlines of the Echoplex. My friends, though, were impressed, but I only wished they could have seen the other, more exuberant performances I’ve seen them deliver. Their encore of “Cecilia” on the last night of their Spaceland residency last year still ranks as one of the most joyous concert experiences I’ve had.

On another note, the Echoplex gets way too hot. I guess it adds to the ambience, but I’d rather not be so hot and sticky when I’m clothed.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

It's Grand

I read the L.A. Times piece on the first phase of the Grand Avenue project featuring a Mandarin Oriental Hotel during lunch yesterday, and my amateur opinion, I agree with Christopher Hawthorne's take that it will complement Disney Hall (as it should) and would be a terrific architectural piece for the city. However, it is dismaying to hear that the best feature of Frank Gehry's design, the mirrored surface on the hotel tower, will probably go or be revised since it might face the same problems with neighbors that Disney Hall's shiny surface did. To me, the mirrored surface makes the hotel look like a giant pillar of Jell-O with a large section taken out of it to reveal air pockets and stuff. Hopefully they can find a way to keep it.

Monday, June 11, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

Apologies for not having an Announcement of the Week last week. Marathon weekend kept me away from my laptop and when I finally got home I was too tired to do any posting. I still intended to post an Announcement, though, but after reading through last week's batch I couldn't find one worthy of being called the New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week. Rather than taint the prize, I opted to not select one last week.

This week's batch isn't that much better. The last two weeks featured The L Word-caliber lesbians getting hitched, and it being Pride weekend here in LA, one of these might have made for a good choice. However, I opted to feature a union that highlights a trend I noticed in three or four of the announcements this week.

Gray Holmes and William Hughes

I noticed this week that a few of the grooms are getting married just before they begin an MBA program. Mr. Holmes, for example, will be starting Harvard in September, which leaves his new bride to possibly be the primary breadwinner for a couple of years. It does sound like, though, that Mr. Hughes will be working while at school, but a few of the others seem to be tackling their MBA programs full-time. Are MBA programs the new Army now with couples getting married just before the hubby goes off to battle? No one can accuse the brides, though, of trying to tie down their future MBA hubbies before they hit the big time. The new Mrs. Hughes, for one, has an MBA herself from Harvard.

I also love that the bride will have the wonderfully colorless name Gray Hughes by taking on her husband's name. She'll never hear the end of it.

Also, one of my favorite local blogs, Franklin Avenue, mentioned me in his blog today. I'm so honored!

Race Report: Pride Run 10K

Race: 26th Annual L.A. Frontrunners Pride Run
Distance: 10K
Time: 46:49 (unofficial) ***PERSONAL BEST***

I have not run a competitive 10K in a long time. I've done 10K distances for Run Hit Wonder and the Camp Pendleton Mud Runs but those weren't run seriously with the intention of posting a good time. Our Mud Run team last year posted a time just under 2 hours last year. In that sense my last competitive 10K must have been the horrid Hills Are Alive 10K in Palos Verdes way back in summer of 2005. I didn't even PR there. My best 10K time was at Fiesta Days in May 2005--to date my only race where I placed in my age division--where I ran a 50:51. I guess I hated the Hills Are Alive so much that I refused to do another 10K--that is, until today.

The Pride Run has been a race I've planned on doing since I started running. For one reason or another I haven't been able to. Last year's excuse was a troublesome foot. This year, though, I had no excuses. The fact that I had just run a marathon the week before could have been one, but I felt good and recovered and resolved to run a conservative race any way, so there was no getting around it. The only thing that would have kept me from running would have been lack of sleep. However, I was able to get up on time, albeit very groggy, got dressed and headed off to West Hollywood.

It was a small race, so I thought I had a good chance of medaling. However, my short run with TNT yesterday was marked by very stiff calves, which I thought would bother me a lot today. I made sure to warm up and test out the calves before the start. Although they weren't completely troublefree, they felt good enough to run on, so I had high hopes that I would at least finish under fifty minutes. Based on my performances in half and full marathons, I'm really overdue to finish a 10K under 50 minutes. I should be able to do 48 minutes in the kind of shape I'm in.

The course is a loop that starts on Robertson, turns right onto Santa Monica Blvd and heads east up to Crescent Heights. At that point you do a U-turn and head west, past Robertson and then another U-turn. The loop is 5K long, so for the 10K you had to do two laps. I liked this because (1) elevation changes balance out; and (2) I knew what to expect on the second lap, allowing me to conserve when the course was on the downhill or push harder on the hills knowing where it would end.

I tried to start off slow early on, but that didn't' work out. The group took off fairly fast so it was hard for me psychologically to focus on slowing down. Basically I would have been running with the slowpokes. I ran the first mile in 7:49 when I was planning to do it at closer to 9 minutes. My calves felt fine, though, even with the fast start. The warm up must have helped. The second mile was uphill but also featured the first turnaround, so the second part was downhill. I ran this in 7:39. By this time I just tried to remain comfortable and save fuel for the second half when I was going to need it. I ran the first 5K in about 23 minutes, which compares with my fastest 5K, so I'm curious what my new 5K PR would be.

In the second half I focused on picking people off. By this time those who took off too fast were paying for it, so I was able to pass those people fairly easily. Then there were those who were moving well but I thought I had a chance of passing if I maintained my speed. The main one was an Asian guy whose lead kept yo-yoing as we were running. There were a couple of times I almost caught up to him and then all of a sudden his lead would grow. I focused on him and eventually passed him at mile five. After that I zeroed in on another guy with earphones. He had slowed down a lot, though, by the time I caught up to him, so it wasn't as much as an effort as the other guy. There was one more older guy near the finish that I thought I could pass, but I couldn't move my legs fast enough, so I just settled on a new PR and coasted to the finish.

As far as I know, I finished 34th out of about 90 runners, possibly fifth in my age division, but I don't know how many are in the division. I could have been last!

Overall, quite a good race. It was well-organized and it was fun to run down a deserted Santa Monica Boulevard and glance over at people eating breakfast and having a cup of coffee. I will definitely do it again.

Afterwards, I stuck around for a bit to watch the parade and to catch a glimpse of this:

Waste of Water

...and this

Asian Guy

...and this


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Write Here, Write Now

I got my hair cut today. It's nice. My stylist is a really cool guy and he does a great job, not to mention that he only charges me $20. Despite being a stylist, he's straight. My gaydar says so, and he's engaged to be married next month and has a daughter, but I suppose these things in themselves are not proof that he is, indeed, heterosexual. He did give me a hug today after my appointment, albeit a man hug--a hand shake followed by an embrace with the left arm and two taps on the back. I tend to be faithful to my stylists but I've never been hugged by one before. This was a first, and I like it! I'm all for the personal touch.

Introducing James Morrison

After work yesterday I headed off to Dutton's in Brentwood for James Morrison's reading of his new book, The Lost Girl. Prof. Morrison was my writing instructor in graduate school, and he's a wonderful teacher, so I was more than happy to come support him and his new book.

I would love to be a working writer, but to be one I need to write. Since graduating last year, I have been a terribly undisciplined. I've started a couple of stories but have yet to finish one. I also have yet to send out some of my better pieces to be published. Laziness is partly to blame, but fear is also a factor. I suppose by not trying I can say that I'm not a writer yet because I simply haven't made an effort. But should I try and still not succeed it would be a heartbreaking disappointment. It's possible I could succeed, but the fear of failure is overriding that possibility in my psyche. I need to just bite the bullet and make a go at it. No excuses!

Being at the reading last night reminded me how much I'm letting myself down. I really could do better, and I need to learn that failing isn't so bad. It's how you respond to failure that distinguishes a man. Then again, I've said and thought all this before and see where I am. I know what needs to be done but I just need the courage to do so.

As Mariah Carey once said: make it happen.

Pick up Prof. Morrison's new book. I hear it's quite good.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rock N Roll (Marathon) Splits

Per my trustworhy IronMan watch, which is unfortunately in its last legs as the band is falling apart, here are my splits from the marathon. I stopped my watch at 3:44:46, just a mere two seconds off my official time, so I was quite an accurate time keeper. I did miss a few mile markers--missing the first two completely.

Based on the splits, I ran a very well-paced race. I only had one mile greater than 10 minutes, and that was a hill (mile 10). The very next mile, going down hill, I ran a 7:14 for my fastest mile of the race. Even in the latter stages of the race when I was beginning to feel miserable, I still managed to maintain my pace--and I ran a negative split for the very first time in a marathon by running the second half slightly faster than the first.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Song of the Week: "While You Were Sleeping"

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
[Photo by Sam Erickson]

Download: Elvis Perkins - "While You Were Sleeping"

This week's Song of the Week is tardy because I was in San Diego running a marathon. Better late than never, I say.

FJ recently nominated Bright Eyes' "If the Brakeman Turns My Way" as a future Song of the Week, and while I love the song and may consider it for a future installment, I am instead going to choose a different artist and song FJ brought to my attention: Elvis Perkins's "While You Were Sleeping."

Practically every piece of media on Perkins mentions his Hollywood heritage--the son of Psycho star Anthony Perkins and photographer Berry Berenson--and the fact that both of his parents endured notable deaths, his father from AIDS-related causes and his mother as a passenger on American Airlines flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11. The fascination with his backstory would be mere media nosiness if it wasn't for the fact that Perkins, himself, seems to reference his parents' deaths in his songs. "While You Were Sleeping," in particular, seems to address 9/11:

While you were sleeping
You tossed, you turned
You rolled your eyes as the world burned
The heavens fell, the earth quaked
I thought you must be, but you weren't awake

It's not simply about 9/11, but as the opener to his debut, Ash Wednesday, the song establishes the album's predominant theme of the soul's resilience in the face of unquantifiable grief. "While You Were Sleeping" and the album's other songs are indelibly melancholy but it is a testament to Perkins's songwriting and singing that they never verge on depressing. Perkins's voice has a lazy, wearied quality that sounds resigned to the trials and tribulations of life, and the songs, rather than surrender to the hardship of life, affirm the virtue of living even in the presence of heartwrenching loss.

"While You Were Sleeping" is my favorite song from the album. For a while I thought it was the title track, but "While You Were Sleeping" is a hypnotic, haunting lullaby that I can't get out of my head. It starts quietly and gradually builds, instrument by instrument, but never rises above a well-paced amble to become a comforting, suprisingly inspirational song. It comes to life near the end when horns carry Perkins's words towards a flowing stream of imagery, the song rushing forward as Perkins sings, "Thank God you're up now/Let's stay this way/Else there'll be no more mornings/And no more days." And when the song drifts off it does so with a sweetly pained series of "oh's".

The song, from what I gather, is about all the things--the very imminent to the distant--that loom over us in our daily lives. It's also about what is missed in life ("While you were sleeping/ Your babies grew") and how the most significant events in life transpire while we have our eyes closed. Perkins's impressionistic lyrics don't offer direct explanations, but they do offer suggestive images of life that is unpredictable yet fair. Ultimately the song is a carpe diem song minus the overzealous optimism. Life can be harsh, Perkins argues, but the best way to cope is to simply live on.

[Note: It seems fitting that I fell asleep while trying to post this late Monday night.]

Sunday, June 03, 2007

2007 San Diego Rock N' Roll Marathon

San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon Medal

Time: 3:49:44 ***PERSONAL BEST***
Pace: 8:46/mile
Overall: 1937/15958 runners
Gender: 1501/7729 men
Division: 263/1348 (M 30-34)

What did you do this weekend?

I hopped in my car and drove down to San Diego on Saturday, ponied up $120 and signed up for the San Diego Rock N' Roll Marathon taking place the next day. I've been planning on doing it for a while and was set to do it after LA. However, a long layoff due to my knee injury caused me to reconsider running it. By the time I was well enough to start running, I had six weeks left before the marathon--enough for me to get back into running shape but hardly enough time to train for a marathon. I decided to go ahead with the training and see how I progressed while all the while feeling out my knee to make sure it was OK. I managed to regain my running fitness quickly and bumped up my mileage quickly, so that with three weeks left until the marathon I managed to run 20 miles. While I was able to get some long distances in, they were far from promising runs. Each long run was tough and filled me with worry that I was in no shape to run San Diego. I had the option of running it just to run it and not worrying about time. In the end, the deciding factor was that I had told so many folks that I might run it that it became a reality. So on Saturday I made it so.

As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. Before the race I made peace with the fact that I won't PR and this will be the first half marathon or marathon that did not show an improvement from the previous race. My goal was to finish under four hours, if possible, or at least close to it. I was set on running the race with FJ and FJ's friend, Mich. And for the first eight miles we did. We were on a slightly above nine minute pace early on, which put is in good shape for a sub four marathon. I had never run a marathon straight through with another person, so this was going to be the first one. Or so I thought. At mile six or seven, my left calf showed signs of stiffening. It worried me. It meant that I was going to start cramping up very early. I reverted to my LA game plan and picked up the pace hoping to make up enough time so I can hold on at the end. I picked up the pace and ran ahead of FJ and Mich intending to take a walk break at the mile marker and wait for them to catch up. It worked for mile eight but after that I missed the next mile marker. When I realized I had missed the marker, I just kept going. I was on my own now.

I maintained a strong pace the rest of the way, between 8 and 9 minutes per mile, with a couple of sub-8's on the downhill portions. The course is quite scenic, especially the run along Highway 163. The weather was excellent, too. Overcast and in the 60s. What was bad were the cambered roads. It was rough on my right hip, which I've been having issues with since the 20 miler. I managed to cope but my calves were still stiffening up. I varied my gait, but there was no use. I simply waited for it to give way.

Apart from the calves, I felt really good. My heart rate and breathing remained stable and I wasn't fatigued. Walk breaks were taken at the mile markers and I took in water every couple of miles. I avoided the Accelerade sports drink after taking a sip of it and not liking the flavor. Rather than risk getting sick from a sports drink I had never used before, I just avoided it all together. The Clif Shots ought to be enough to replenish my electrolytes.

I felt quite good up until mile 22. Sonia ran with me at mile 21, but after she left me I began to unravel. I didn't hit the wall but I did get more sluggish and more defeatist. I told myself I would skip the walk breaks and pick up the pace, but my brain wouldn't let me. I was doubting my own capabilties. I couldn't psyche myself out with promises that the end is near. Looking back now I really didn't slow down a lot from 22-26, but I probably could have pushed harder than I did. It wasn't until mile 26 when I entered the Marince Corps Depot that I picked up the pace and my to my surprise, my legs were moving fast. I had it in me after all. By mile 22 I knew I was going to PR, so I made it my goal instead to finish under 3:50. I tried not to look at the watch and focused on running a strong pace. I snuck one peak near the end, which assured me that I was in good shape. When I crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch: 3:49:46 (officially 3:49:44). Close but I'll take it.

It's only a five minute PR, but considering that I thought I wouldn't even finish under four hours in the beginning, it's a welcome result. A PR is a PR and I'm happy. Even more impressive is how sore-free I am and how I never cramped up. Yes, my calves were stiff, but they never cramped--the first marathon I've done where I had no cramps. Success! My quads which are usually very sore after a race feel great right now. It's like I never even used them during the race. My calves are sore but not unbearablly so. While I'm glad to be in good shape after a marathon, I'm sad that I'm not so sore. How else would people know that I just ran a marathon?

Also, while at the Expo, I signed myself up for the San Jose Half Marathon in October. I plunked down quite a lot of money this weekend for things that are akin to self-torture.

Friday, June 01, 2007

While You Were Working

How do bloggers with full time jobs do it? Work has been very busy. Throw in the long commute, overtime and a messed up sleep pattern, and what's left is a couple of hours to eat and relax. It hasn't been all work, though. The long weekend allowed for some entertainment.

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Charles Phoenix and I

Saturday found me bored out of my mind. I sat at home and edited the tags on my posts. I had been putting it off for a while, so the lazy day was put to good use in taking care of a neglected chore. Regardless of how useful the free hours were, I had no intention of staying at home all weekend.

While reading my e-mail, I came across Charles Phoenix's Slide of the Week e-mail, which then led to me visiting his website. It was on there that I found out that there were still spaces for Phoenix's (possibly) last Disneyland tour of Downtown Los Angeles. I had been dragging my feet about doing it, mostly because of the price, so that I ultimately decided to put it off another day. I was also under the impression that the tour had been sold out. Faced with no major plans for the weekend and the fear of missing out on a one-of-a-kind tour of downtown, I went ahead and booked a spot on the tour.

I'm so glad I did. The tour was a blast. Phoenix is a true LA original. I saw his slide show a few weeks ago and had a terrific time. He's funny and also quite knowledgable. For the tour, Phoenix sought out to show that Southern California has two Disneylands, the second being found amidst the living, breathing surroundings of downtown Los Angeles. We started off at Union Station where we then took the Monorail--er, the Gold Line--to the next stop in Chinatown. We explored the various shops in Chinatown and then boarded our yellow school bus for Olvera Street, or as Charles called it: Old Town Los Angeles. Charles treated us to a taquito.

The tour included stops at Clifton's Cafeteria for lunch, a walk through the Arcade--LA's oldest shopping mall, a visit to the Bradbury Building, Grand Central Market and an old Dutch chocolate factory. Our next stop was at Bob Baker's Marionette Theater where we were treated to a short show. I thought puppeteering was a dying craft, but here they were training young men to be the next great puppeteers. Bob Baker, himself, came out to perform an amazing tap dance routine with his puppet. After the show, we we had some cake and ice cream while Bob Baker took questions. We then took the bus to Angelino Heights and the Victorian houses on Carroll Avenue before finishing up at Bunker Hill for a scenic walk through the sunken garden, then up to Disney Hall. On the bus back from Disney Hall, Charles and his crew gave us parting gifts, which included a marionette from Bob Baker's theater. Six hours after we started, we finished back at Union Station, said our good byes and looked forward to the next tour. Pictures from the tour can be found on my Flickr page.

Still not wanting to go home, I stopped by Audrey and Nate's neighborhood and had some bbq.

Despite drinking a bit of wine and beer at Nate's, I woke up early to meet up with FJ for an eight mile run. Again not the best run, but we finished strong. I doubt I'll be setting any personal bests in San Diego, but I think I should at least finish. Breakfast afterwards with Audrey was a debacle. The restaurant was understaffed and, of all things, took forever to bring Audrey's oatmeal--the simplest dish we ordered. It took us two hours to finish our meal, most of it spent waiting for food.

FJ invited me to a bbq at his place later in the day. He warned me that all the guests are neighbors and to expect old fogies and their little spawns. I had a great time talking to FJ's neighbors even though I was the only single non-parent there. I felt like I was living out a scene from Little Children. Still I had a good time and ate some great food.

The rest of the evening was laundry.

To kill time as traffic died down after work, I went to see Voxtrot at the El Rey. Good show, but I was kicking myself that I didn't get Erica and Liz's phone call. Apparently they had an extra ticket for the Arcade Fire show. I missed it!

Work. Work. Work. After work I ran six miles at the gym.

Drove to San Diego for work. The event went well but the drive was rough.

Quiet day at work.

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So that was the week. Tomorrow I drive back to San Diego to sign up for the marathon. If all goes well I should finish the race in about four hours.

I'm dog tired. Time to sleep!