Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Categorical Denial

I'm sick of categories.  People can not be stuffed and sorted into little boxes and explained so easily.  We are nuanced creatures and as such should escape these designations.  For its need to separate us into groups science fails us here, as does the natural human instinct to make snap judgments about the people we meet.  Yes, I'm gay but that does not begin to define me as a person.  Every male I meet is not a potential sex partner.  I am picky and don't consider most to be attractive.  Even when I am smitten once I know a man is straight that door closes and I respect boundaries.  There are many other facets of my life and as far as the social aspect, time spent playing sports, having an intelligent conversation, or quietly sharing a beer is just as important.  Sadly, since I came out I find myself with more new female friends than male because of sexual tension that should not even exist.
 These are my frustrations and I am sure you have yours.  Our tendency to group the world into gender, race, sexual orientation, and other categories narrows our vision and blinds us to what we truly are: a bunch of individuals each shaped by unique experiences.  I know I have fallen into these traps myself many times.  Every day from now on I want to strive to improve my ability to understand and empathize with friends and co-workers.  I want to challenge convention, not be trapped by the sort of thinking that attempts to simplify what is complex.  I hope you will to.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

MLB All Name Team, The Finale: R-Z

After a series of unforeseeable cost overruns caused by the banking collapse in Cyprus and the discovery of a live marmot in my refrigerator the final list, long awaited by many people (or at least three), is ready for press.  Yes, the likes of Ugly Dickshot, Chick Manlove, and Rusty Kuntz will be joined by thirteen more players whose names/nicknames are capable by their mere pronouncement of returning your frown to the upright position.  Lacking further introductory blather let us now present the greatest names in baseball history falling in alphabetical order somewhere in between infielder Brian Raabe's career zero homers and the last entry on Baseball Reference, Dutch Zwilling (who hit an outstanding .113 in one season for the Cubs).

C: Pop Swett and Pi Schwert - I haven't done a platoon in the past, but these names were so oddly similar and easily interchangeable it seemed appropriate to go with the combo platter.  Pop Swett played one single season for the Boston Reds in 1890, smacking a single home run and batting .191.  Pi Schwert was a .208 hitter in two years with Yankees, and might have gone on not to suck had World War I not interfered with his baseball career.   After serving in the Navy, he went on to become the only former Bronx Bomber to date to serve in Congress, representing Western New York.    

1b: Razor Shines -This was the hardest of choices for me and the fan vote didn't help matters by finishing in a three way tie.  I have therefore played reluctant dictator and chosen this Expos scrub. Although his name does sound vaguely intimidating, his .183 career batting average and zero homers were not.  Razor did achieve impressive longevity at the minor league level, forging a sixteen year career Bull Durham would have been proud of.  Since retiring as a player he has managed several minor league teams and is currently with the Great Lake Loons.  Honorable Mentions: Chicken Wolf, Ed Smartwood

2b: Mike Tyson - The inclusion of a celebrity has become a requirement for this list, and it is hard to beat the long series of bizarre incidents that are brought to mind when the name of a man as mentally balanced as a seesaw with a midget and a linebacker on either side is invoked.  The baseball version of Iron Mike started for the Cardinals during the 1970s, hitting around .250 over eight seasons.  The Northsiders in Chicago saw something they liked and signed him to a contract, probably for way more than what he was worth.  That statement is true regardless of the sums as he proved to be worthless and was forcibly retired within two years of adding his name to the long list of terrible Cubs.  

SS: Tony Suck - I try to let the great ones on this list speak for themselves so I will be brief.  Believe it or not, Tony was actually born with the surname Zuck and intentionally changed his name to Suck.  He lived up to the new name, striking out four times in eight National League plate appearances in 1884 while never managing to reach base via hit.       

3b: Butts Wagner - The older brother of Hall of Famer Honus Wagner had it tough.  While Honus spent nearly a quarter of a century manning the Pittsburgh Pirates infield, gaining renown as one of the best hitters to ever play the game, Butts managed only one season in the big leagues and only one career home run, which did happen to help win a game for the best named team in baseball history, the Brooklyn Bridgegrooms.  The unfortunately nicknamed brother also managed to worm his way into popular culture.  For some inexplicably reason Butts was depicted as an eccentric inventor during a boy's long (erotic?) dream sequence in the book The Mystery of the Wagner Whacker.  

OF:  Pussy Tebeau - Nuff ced.  Pussy played two major league games for the Cleveland Spiders and I would like to personally thank God for allowing his awesomeness into the annals of Major League Baseball history.  I might even Tebeau.

OF: Count Sensenderfer- Unlike most players on this list, Sensenderfer was not utterly terrible.  Nicknamed Count for his aristocratic bearing rather than a desire to drink blood after the sun goes down, Sensenderfer played in some of the first recorded professional games in baseball history, scoring an unbelievable 200 runs during the 1868 season.  He played his entire career in Philadelphia and later went on to a career in politics, serving as Count Sensenderfer, Philadelphia County Commissioner. 

OF: Chappie Snodgrass- Chappie was a nickname, but his real name wasn't that great either.  Born Arnzie Beal Snodgrass, Chappie gets this team back on track in the useless turd department.  He managed only one career hit in ten major league at bats for a whopping. .100 batting average. OF Honorable Mention: Live Oak Taylor, Homer Summa, Rip Repulski, Chick Shorten. 

P: Crazy Schmit - My research came up with two possible reasons for Schmit's nickname.  The first theory is that he was released from a mental institution prior to his Major League Career.   Another tidbit I found suggested Crazy was a wee bit fond of alcohol and his behavior train would remove itself from the rails of civility after a round of overindulgent imbibing.  He played for the Cleveland Spiders 1898 team, which is considered the worst in the history of baseball.  A major contributor, Schmit managed to win two games while losing only eighteen. 

 P:  Mysterious Walker - What is the opposite of a sandwich?  Walker's career was successful at the beginning and the end, but hit a bit of a lull in the middle.  As a college athlete he starred in football, baseball, and basketball at the University of Chicago.  After graduating he chose a career in professional baseball, earning his nickname by playing incognito for the minor league San Francisco Seals.  This is the part that did not go so well.  The Mysterious One went 7-24 over five seasons, finishing his career in 1915 with the Brooklyn side, who had now ingeniously changed their name to the Tip-Tops (they also performed for a time as the Superbas, whatever the hell those are).  Following his playing career Walker went into collegiate coaching, manning the helm as a football, baseball, basketball coach, and once serving as athletic director.  He certainly made the rounds leading teams at Utah St, Mississippi, Oregon St, Williams, DePauw, Carnegie Tech, Washington & Jefferson, Texas, Dartmouth, Wheaton, Loyola (LA), Rhode Island, and Michigan St - all in a span of less than twenty five years!

P: Cy Slapnicka - Like Walker, Slapnicka was another unsuccessful pitcher either unable to cope with an odd name or just burdened with a lack of talent.  The man must have known something about the game, however, as he was able to parlay it into a 50+ year career.   Mainly a minor leaguer, Slapnicka played at the lower levels for eighteen years and compiled a 1-6 during short stints in the big leagues.  Over his decades of service he learned enough to gain employment in the Indians organization, acting as General Manager from 1935-1940, then spending the next twenty years as a scout for the franchise.  His most famous signing?  Hall of Famer and fellow Iowan Bob Feller.

P: Lil Stoner - Jung Bong now has a partner on the all marijuana team.  Apparently the weed assisted his pitching, as the Tiger hurler managed a 50-58 career record, rather impressive when compared to the other losers on this list.  He was said to have a wicked curve thanks to a deformity on his pitching hand, which he received after his brother nearly chopped the digit off.  His brother was also the source of his nickname, since the young boy was unable to pronounce Ulysses or any of the other eight presidents Lil Stoner was named after.  Even Stoner's great breaking ball could sometimes fail - Babe Ruth is said to have hit his  longest home run off the pitcher, an epic 600+ foot blast.

P: Cannonball Titcomb - A combination of the vaguely sexual and outright bizarre, Titcomb's name exemplifies everything we look for in a great name.  He is also the ace of this sorry staff, barely managing a career winning record of 30-29 and also pitching a no hitter in 1890 versus Syracuse.  His minor league career included stints with the Jersey City Skeeters, the Rochester Hop Bitters, and the Providence Clamdiggers.  Honorable Mentions: Phenomenal Smith, Charlie Wacker, Pete Rambo, Biff Schlitzer.

Well that's it folks, except for one last late addition to one of our earlier teams.  Sometimes the nicknames aren't listed unless you go to a player's page so oversights can easily occur.  While researching this list I came up a bit of nickname greatness I had overlooked.  This player not only had one great moniker, he had three, and they are way too good not to be included retroactively: Arlie Latham, AKA the Dude, AKA The Hustler from Hustletown, AKA...wait for it....."the Freshest Man on Earth."     



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

We Have Nothing to Beer Except Beer Itself

Earlier today, while exercising on a fake bicycle, I began thinking back upon one of the saddest days of my life.   I had just entered Ohio on my cross country hike, and was excited about the prospect of having a beer or two to celebrate the completion of West Virginia.  The town of Belpre did not boast many choices, so I made my way to the local Pizza Hut.  To my shock and horror they did not serve beer.  In fact, the entire county was dry. 
The scars from this discovery have yet to heal.  I have racked my brain since to solve the problem, which is bigger than mere local prohibition of alcohol.  Despite evolving a great deal since Gwynzoggg invented fire and Boltroggg used it to burn down the Great Artrusian Forest in 25078 BC, mankind has not learned impulse control.  As a result society has been forced to come up with half measures, laws which attempt to govern our use of alcohol, fire arms, drugs, and other useful items. 
I admit, even from a personal perspective, it is very hard to perceive someone's ability to act responsibly.  As a twenty year old I had no idea how to properly ingest alcohol.  I'd use a bowl, funnel, can, bottle, syringe, or any other object near at hand to introduce the liquid to my liver as quickly and efficiently as possible, with no regard for the amount of consumption beside what my body chose to reject.  The next day I would usually feel horrible, questioning the sanity of such mass consumption.  Amnesia would thankfully offset feelings of regret and another binge was soon underway.
Or so I thought in those days.  I now know as a responsible adult that drinking should be properly regulated.  My youthful indiscretions are regretful, and I was lucky to survive this period of my life without following in the footsteps of the great artist and alcoholic Edgard Allen Poe, who finished up his final session by passing out in a gutter dead.  
Should someone have stopped me?  Maybe, but I sure would have a lot less funny stories to tell.  I am not an angry drunk and no one was ever hurt physically by my actions while intoxicated.  I did, however, occasionally operate a motor vehicle when I shouldn't have. 
Blanket bans or prohibition is unfair, we end up punishing everyone for the sins of a few.  Properly separating the wheat from the chaff is the real issue if we are to make sensible policy.  How can we possibly decide who is well-suited to hit the bottle or the bong?  I think the driving test is a good model. After a period of training, an exam would be administered, one designed to weigh your knowledge and gauge your responses to certain situations.  A panel of five experts would rule as to whether you are capable of enjoying the pleasures of drugs and alcohol or various levels of lethal weaponry safely.  If successful these panels might expand their role.  Don't we all know someone who probably shouldn't be allowed to procreate?  I know this sounds like more government interference in our lives, but once we have passed the exam we will be allowed to defile ourselves in peace forever.  Who doesn't want that?  

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Baseball All Name Team: M-P

Now done with wandering the countryside momentarily, I'd like to wish the Thoughts Askew readership a Happy New Year.  I would like to inaugurate 2013 by welcoming back our standard drivel, the continuation of a project I have been working on intermittently for a period of time bordering on forever, the greatest names in Major League Baseball history.  We have seen an amazing list of candidates so far, from Rusty Kuntz to Ugly Dickshot to Stubby Clapp.  Amazingly, only half of the players have been named Dick.  Don't expect a notable rise in maturity level amongst the choices below, especially since I've allowed several of you degenerates to vote.   With no further procrastination, I present to you the most apt appellations sandwiched in the directory between Duke Maas and Tim Pyznarski.   You'll probably notice the high rate of alcoholism amongst our contestants. 

Catcher: Chick Manlove - Our world would be a much less happy place if Manlove had not been deemed worthy of seventeen major league at bats in 1884.  Never has a name sounded so ineffably gay while also retaining a tinge of heterosexuality.  The extra impetus of the odd nickname gives Chick the edge over second place finisher, Kurt Manwaring.

First Base: Jackie Mayo - In an effort to avoid being gross or sophomoric, mainly to keep the audience confused, I will refrain from making any comments on the discharge brought to mind here.  Mayo managed to spooge out (okay I lied) over fifty base hits for the Phillies during a short career in the late 40s and early 50s.  Honorable Mention: Talmadge Nunnari

Second Base: Frank "Scat" Metha - I believe guano is an ingredient in Methamphetamine, which is without a doubt how Scat obtained his nickname.  I base this stone cold fact on absolutely nothing, except that after such a short career (36 total at bats) Frank was probably in need of another source of income.  Honorable Mention: Dick Padden.

Shortstop: Chick Naleway - with two Chicks on this team, I feel it likely we will have a menage a trois.  Naleway surely must have gotten into porn, because like the rest of the fellows so far, he did not have a long, majestic stay in the big leagues.  Two measly plate appearances in 1924 and it was all over.  From a sociological perspective, I imagine the relentless heckling these players must have endured did not lend itself to great success.  Predestined failure: is it all in the name?  Postscript: Chick is buried in Resurrection Cemetery, leading me to think first of zombies, then of this classic scene.

 Third Base: George "Doggie" Miller - Pickings were slim at third base to be perfectly honest.  Miller actually had quite a long career, which according to the previously stated theory, means fans were not able to make much hay from his name.  In fact, he was the first player in Pirates history to finish ten full seasons for the franchise.  What sets him above the other weak contestants are his two other odd nicknames: Foghorn and Calliope.
According to Baseball Reference, he earned his most commonly used moniker by breeding dogs.  The article goes on to mention he is the only player ever named Calliope (but not Foghorn) and that he was somewhat fond of obliterating his liver.

Outfield: Les Mann - Let's sing Hedwig and the Angry Inch together now!  Les was also nicknamed Major, but that was before the surgery.  Or was it a horrible hedge-trimming accident?  Either way, he went on to have a long major league career, playing outfield for the Cubs in the days before they became consistently terrible.   

Outfield: Dizzie Nutter - Some of these can only be ruined by comment.  I'll let you sit back and savor the comedic possibilities of sexual vertigo on your own.  Nutter played one brief season for the 1919 Boston Braves.

Outfield: Angel Pagan - Angel currently plays for the World Champion San Francisco Giants.  I have not been able to confirm whether he is an atheist, but wow would that be a wonderful bit of irony.  Honorable Mention: Queenie O'Rourke.

Pitcher: Dick Pole - I think by now we are all aware I can't make one of these lists without including a man named Dick somewhere.  Assign the blame to my proclivities if you will, but I think if we are honest with ourselves we can all agree that a name just can't have too many wiener inferences.  Dick Pole lasted six seasons in the mid 1970s, with a nicely inflated ERA above five, which he no doubt blamed on Carter's economic policies.  Proving the old Shaw axiom about those that can't do, teach, Pole went on to become a pitching coach for the Cincinnati Reds.

Pitcher: Wedo Martini - Wedo wanted to prove that an Italian could go on to become something besides a gangster or a priest.  With a career ERA of over 17 I'll let you decide for yourself how well that turned out for him.

Pitcher: Doug "Buzz" McWeeny - Chicagoan McWeeny, (which is something that should definitely be on the McDonald's menu), was a lot more successful than Martini, winning 37 games for his hometown White Stockings, which is a mere 37 more than Martini won.  Doug also had a bit of luck in that the term Weinie did not enter the American lexicon until twenty years after he retired.  It makes me want to travel back in time and give him the heckling he missed out on. 

Pitcher: Cletus "Boots" Poffenberger: What determines the course of a man's life?  Is he predetermined to fall thanks to a terrible name choice by his parents?  Does the intemperate life of baseball carry him down into the depths of disgrace?   What happened to form Boots, who had a short three year major league career, is uncertain, but we do know the result:
    *During one game in Nashville the free-spirited ballplayer had a few shots of gin before he first took the mound.  It didn’t take long before Boots became angry after some calls that did not go his way, and decided to fire the ball at the umpire that resulted in a 90-day suspension.   In retrospect Boots admitted that he had previously taken a few beers before scheduled to pitch, and said of the umpire incident, “It just slipped up on me this time.”  
 Former Pirate Dock Ellis, who once pitched a no hitter on acid, was unimpressed.  

Pitcher: Heine Meine - Known as the Count of Luxembourg (the area of St. Louis in which he lived), Meine was a feisty hurler who managed to survive on wits and control, as he lacked velocity.  Baseball made him many connections in the world of alcoholism, which he parlayed into a second career as the owner of a speakeasy.  The bar served a variety of moose milk (a combination of vanilla ice cream and several liquors) which was supposedly potent enough to peel the paint off of a battleship.   Honorable Mentions: Jeff Manship, Ossie Ozborn,  The Only Nolan, and Limb "Big Pete" McHenry.  

 *Reprinted from Chatter From the Dugout. 



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Epilogue Jammin'

October 15

Its always 4:20 in Haight Ashbury
There is always a day after.  No matter how momentous the occasion life does not stop, except in case of death.  Mark, Colin, and John left Saturday night on the red eye.  Ken took off the next morning.  I was alone once more, my flight not scheduled until Tuesday.
San Francisco surrounded me on all sides and I had some time to kill.  I figured I would stick to what I do best.  I went for a walk.
I was based once more at the Fort Mason hostel.  Departing from there i headed inland to Lombard Street.  San Francisco is known to have roads which challenge a car to defy gravity.  None are more precipitous than one block of Lombard, which is composed of a series of hairpin turns.  The speed limit is five miles an hour and I suggest you adhere if you care to live through the experience*. 
Next up was a trip to the cable car museum.  Trolleys once operated in cities all over the United States.  The introduction of bus lines after World War II led to their demise all over the country.  Three lines continued to function in San Francisco, defying the onslaught of technological advances in favor of attracting tourists.  One hundred and forty years later after the first bell rang, passengers are still being summoned for yet another magical ride. 
I won't ever know any of that stuff from the last paragraph, because the museum wasn't actually planning to open until 10 and I arrived at 8:30.  I didn't want to wait around.
The Chinese don't sleep in since they have a world to conquer, so I moseyed over to their little town.  Lanterns hung above the streets as if in preparation for a parade, but a multitude of dragons never materialized.  I trod quietly by storefronts decorated with Oriental characters, wondering at the mystery of what lay behind the doors.  I never gathered the courage to venture inside, the sidewalk carrying me inexorably onward like a river.  Only food could have pushed me ashore and he restaurants were not yet open either. 

I rolled on, past numerous city blocks, thousands of steps adding themselves to the millions that had gone before.  I stopped at the Mission district, where the Spaniards had first set up shop centuries before.  Father Juniper Serra established the Mision de San Francisco Asis here in 1776, although the first actual building was not completed until fifteen years later.  A larger church was constructed next door in 1918. 
The mission remains a major center of Papist sentiment to this day.  Pope John Paul II himself gave the sanctuary a visit in 1987.  You too can walk right up to the altar where J.P. prayed for the destruction of the Protestant faith#.  The basilica, chapel, and sanctuary are all open to the public, as is the cemetery where all the famous local Catholics rot in peace.
The Mission, with the Basilica looming to the right

Leaving the holy I went amongst the sinners in the Castro section of San Francisco.  This district is home to thousands of gays, lesbians, transgenders, bisexuals, and trisexuals.  Maybe you knew the city has a large gay population, but what caused the same sex loving masses to flock here?
Even before "In the Navy" was written, an extensive segment of that branch of our armed forces was infested with man love.  When during World War II the military decided to expose and expel these deviants, many of them were off-loaded in San Francisco.  Once outed, the ex-soldiers were frightened to return to their small communities in Minnesota, Texas, North Carolina, etc.  They opted to stay where they were and start a new life free from prejudice.

Castro became the unofficial capital of rainbow and fairy land in the late 60s, just as nearby Haight Ashbury was being overrun by the hippie hordes.  Artists, musicians, and homosexuals alike were drawn by the low real estate prices in the wake of white flight.  They created vibrant communities which still flourish today.  My only quibble with the Haight is the preponderance of head shops.  I appreciate mother nature as much as the next guy, but dedicating the square footage of a super Walmart to bong sales is going a bit overboard.
I had a disappointing lunch at one of the restaurants in the Haight.  Mea culpa, I should have figured the standards would be low. People with the munchies are not exactly what one would call a discerning clientele. 
Circling back towards the Presidio, I found one of the great architectural wonders of San Francisco.  The Palace of Fine Arts is the kind of public building we don't make anymore. The mammoth Roman/Greek rotunda and the accompanying columned halls soar above.  They are surrounded by immaculate gardens , the landscaping equal to any monument in Europe.  I was particularly reminded of the Crystal Palace in Madrid's Buen Retiro Park.  Originally designed for the Pan Pacific International Exposition in 1915, the Palace was so beloved that citizens petitioned to prevent its demolition after the fair ended.  I'm elated at their success; the Palace of Fine Arts was easily the highlight of the day's stroll.

My happy balloon burst next door at the Exploratorium.  A hands-on science museum, the Exploratorium had delighted a younger me when the family and I had visited it twenty five years ago.  I wanted a nostalgia fix, but I was denied when the doors were locked.  Monday is the staff's sabbath it seems.
Unable to get my learn on I was thrown into a cyclone of dazed confusion, uncertain where to go next.  Barely avoiding epilogue epilepsy I regrouped at the hostel, where I showered and ran into my idols.
Karen and Jerry were only a few days from finishing their own epic three year journey across America.  They were also staying at the hostel that night, so we decided to have a premature^ celebration at restaurant Asqew.  The meal was excellent, a fabulous utilization of the cosmopolitan cuisine available in San Francisco. I can't exactly walk around the corner in South Carolina and grab restaurant quality shish kebab.
The conversation with Karen and Jerry was equally enchanting.  We have shared experiences that few humans can even comprehend, much less have the opportunity to undertake.  Needless to say, we have quite a bit to say to one another.  We took our blabbering back to Fort Mason, where we unwound by watching the hometown Giants defeat the steroid shooting St. Louis Cardinals in Game Two of the National League Championship Series.  I have a funny feeling the Giants are a team of destiny.  I believe they will go on to defeat the impotent Cardinals and then sweep the World Series.  Anyone want to bet?

*Steve McQueen excepted  
#  I recommend texting God instead, I hear he is a bit of a technophile
^Post-mature in my case

Miles: Don't care. Total miles: doesn't matter.  I'm done.

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Fitting Climax

October 13

I had come to the last walk.  Point Reyes lay merely fourteen more miles away.  After nearly ten months of hard work the finish line was in sight.
As if I needed any more inspiration, Ken had shown up in the middle of the night, set to join me for the end run.  You may know Ken from our two days together in Ohio last June or because I am kind of doing the trek in honor of him.  It was somewhat of a big deal having him there.  My feet didn't touch ground much all day.  I was too busy floating.
Colin completed our squad and we set out on the trail towards the Pacific.  Time flew by despite my best efforts.  I wanted to linger over every last step, but our momentum carried us on in a blur.  Unsurprisingly, having people to talk to does tend to speed the process.  Ken filled our ears with his usual litany of penis jokes as well as the newest version of how he lost his arm.
When you are missing an appendage or two, people tend to ask you how the loss was incurred.  Ken had told one recent inquisitor, a young child, that he had been in a light saber duel with Darth Vader and the showdown had not gone his way.  The child fell for the ruse.  No shame there, Ken convinced a man in Las Vegas that he had his arm amputated after being caught cheating while gambling in Dubai.
Before I knew it, Point Reyes was in sight, although still a few miles away.  We had been blessed with a clear, cool, sunny day.  The Point jutted out into the Pacific, a thin finger of land indicating the way to Asia.  At this juncture we were supposed to call Mark, who had recovered somewhat from death and wanted to meet us for the last couple of miles.   We all had multiple bars on our phones, but were unable to call or text him.  No matter, Mark had the same problem, so he ventured out on his own to meet us.
The fellowship now consisting of four, we came to the southern edge of Limantour Beach.  One could simply walk out to the ocean from there, but that would be contrary to the very essence of the American Discovery Trail, which looks at hiking as the Tantric practitioner views sex, something to savor as long as possible, the climax delayed interminably.  The trail headed inland and I took it, worried we would miss the post signaling the end of the ADT, or perhaps one last magnificent vista.
The detour turned out to be pointless.  There was no sign and the path didn't take us to a grand overlook.  We wondered after thirty minutes whether we were even going to turn back towards the ocean.  Defeat was not be snatched from the jaws of victory, for eventually we did get going in the right direction.
My heart began to race as the runway approached the sand dunes.  I surmounted that one last, small barrier.  The ocean was only one hundred yards away.  I stripped down to my shorts and took off with an exultant yell, the eloquent speeches forgotten in my ecstasy.  A movie of the ten months I spent on trail, scored by Vangelis, played in my mind as I rushed towards the water.  As the crashing waves and I collided, the magnitude of what I'd done struck and I collapsed into the Pacific, then rose, waving my arms in triumph.  Suddenly, a great white shark came along and ate me.
There was a celebration that night.  Fortunately, it was not the shark who was exultant.  He found my flavor profile not to his liking and spit me out upon the beach.  After I spilled a few tears in the sand, Mark, Ken, Colin, John*, and I were able to enjoy one last supper together.  We devoured a Brazilian feast at Pizza Orgasmico in San Rafael.  A fitting climax. 

*John joined us after we finished taking a few last pictures.  He had wandered over to where the ADT would have hit into Limantour Beach if the trail made any sense whatsoever. 

14 miles/4116 total miles  THE END

Monday, November 5, 2012

Me Walk, You Walk, Ewok

October 12

Sadly I have lost a portion of my crew, at least for today.  Mark's legs may never work again and the damage done him caused John to think walking with me may not be in his best interest.  John does not normally participate in day time activities anyway, so we left him at the hotel. Mark was kind enough to drop Colin and I back at Pan Toll Campground, where we resumed the march at eight P.M. Bangladeshi time. 
The trails took us north, paralleling the coast, although the reappearance of the mist prevented us from getting more than an occasional glimpse.  Nonetheless, the scenery did provide topics of conversation.  First we came upon a rusted car, lying upside down and unlikely to ever get up again. The location of the vehicle, only a foot off the trail, left us bewildered. The trail was too narrow to have driven down.  The state of the car indicated it must have been thrown from the bluffs above, but how did it get there?  There was no road in sight.
Mad man blocking view of the mystery car

We had nearly ceased speculating and given up the case as an unsolved mystery when we heard a string of curses coming from the forest.  An angry man was yelling so loud and frantically we though him to be in a manic state.  I was reminded of some moments I'd had when lost on the trail.  What would my outbursts have sounded like to someone unlucky enough to overhear them?  Ah, nostalgia...
Later, we heard the squeaky wheels of a bicycle coming up behind us.  We heartily waved at our trail mate, the first human we had seen in some time.  We received no greeting in return from the middle aged man, who grimly pedaled by, head down.  I looked at Colin.  "I think we just met Angry Man."
These oddities aside, the forest surrounding us was the main attraction. Conversations about a sequel to "The Passion of Christ" subtitled "Up in Your Ass With a Resurrection" could not compare to the ancient trees reaching high into the sky above us.  Colin and Mark had talked the day before of a resemblance to the Ewok Forest from "The Return of the Jedi."  As it turns out, the analogy was spot on - Mark later discovered George Lucas lived nearby and had used these very woods in the movie.  The name Ewok was surely plucked from this region as well.  The Native American tribe which once inhabited Marin County was known as the Miwoks.

Another stretch of forest reminded me of a different fictional creature.  A bright green moss clung to these trees, thickly matted to the trunks like a fur pelt.  Were these the coats of the Grinch and his family, taken as trophies?  If so Whoville's vengeance was indeed swift and mighty.

By the last few miles I worried Colin might be the next casualty.  His right leg had locked up and it swung clumsily forward like a rusty gate.  He limped well behind, but continued to soldier on despite the pain, until we finally reached the day's ending point at Five Brooks.  I was quite proud of the lad.
Mark met us a quarter of an hour later with a story of his own.  He had been driving around the San Rafael area, killing time while Colin and I forged up the coast.  While stopped at a red light he ran into this man:
Mark had wanted to give the man money to reward his creativity, even though, as Chris Rock says, "a homeless man with a funny sign hasn't been homeless very long."  I countered with a different version of events.  Consider this:  an illiterate homeless man unknowingly approaches a smart ass and asks him if he would write him a sign.  Ah, the possibilities of such a blank canvas...      

16 miles/4102 total miles