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A Blog About Nothing
Hal Higdon
#1 Posted : Tuesday, May 01, 2012 10:25:22 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

The Blog About Nothing

By Hal Higdon


Welcome to my Blog About Nothing. If you are new to the Forums or to the Blog, some time has passed since I began with the several paragraphs below. I now have six pages or more of blog comments, and you don't want to get stuck on Page 1. Some of the links I set on Facebook or Twitter or my website or elsewhere on the Internet take people straight to the most recent post. Some do not. To move forward to my most recent post, click on the highest number you see in the line-up of page numbers. Then use the arrow on the right to scroll down to the bottom. Sorry for any inconvenience, but this is how the TrainingPeaks software works.


Seinfeld once infamously was described as “the show about nothing.” But what does this mean? How can something be about nothing? Here's the pitch to NBC: "Nothing happens on the show. You see, it's just like life. You know, you eat, you go shopping, you read, you eat, you read, you go shopping." Seinfeld's show about nothing dealt with everyday life. It became one of the longest running and best remembered situation comedies in TV history, right up there with The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy.

So maybe these B-Boards could use A Blog About Nothing. Yes, usually I prefer that when people start threads or write blogs here, there be some link-—no matter how tenuous with running—-but to be honest, I don’t run as much as I did in my semi-elite days. More often, I’m out riding my bike with my wife, or working out in a gym, or swimming. There’s a lot of “Nothing” in my life these days, and I say this without apology.

So let me begin this Blog About Nothing. Cool

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#2 Posted : Tuesday, May 01, 2012 12:26:10 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

If I were a TV writer-—an occupation I intelligently managed to avoid during my career—-my show about nothing would probably be located in a coffee shop, not in a Chinese restaurant or in a parking garage a la Seinfeld. Both in Florida and in Indiana, Rose and I have several favorite coffee shops we use to break up our bike rides. Our excuse to get out and do our aerobic thing. This morning, I biked to Al’s Supermarket in the Karwick Plaza just off US 12 heading east out of Michigan City. Rose’s bike is undergoing a tune-up at the local bike shop so she (faithfully) drove over to join me.

We had an interesting conversation with Troy, one of the regulars. Troy supervises set construction for films and TV shows. He worked on the sets for the TV show Prison Break, the first season of which we liked, the second season we disliked, so we skipped the third season. And Terminators, when it was filmed in Chicago, half blowing up downtown. And Playboy Club, which didn’t make it past the third show. (The producers should have asked me; seemed like a dumb idea.)

Currently, Troy has been working on the pilot for a show tentatively titled Dirty Medicine, although he says that title probably will be changed. Don’t anybody leak this to E, but from his summary of the plot, it sounds like a medical Sopranos. The female protagonist murders her mob father, because she is sick of crime in her family. Then, inspired by his dead body, she decides to go to Medical School and become a forensic specialist, or some such profession. Except another Mob guy witnessed the murder and blackmails her by saying that if she doesn’t cooperate and become a Mob Doctor, he will kill her brother, who is a made man. I suppose the pilot will air some time soon on Fox, but Troy claims they have not yet committed to ten more shows to fill out a full season.

If they want a better title than Dirty Medicine, why not Mob Doctor? That would work probably better than another title I considered, The Tenors.

That’s what happened at our coffee shop this morning in the middle of my bike ride. It was the “Nothing” in my life today, although later this afternoon we plan to attend a track meet at the high school to see our granddaughter Holly run. Does that provide enough of a connection with our main sport to justify this blog about nothing?

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#3 Posted : Wednesday, May 02, 2012 11:28:08 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Gary Corbitt emailed me that PBS was airing on American Experience, a show about Jesse Owens, winner of four gold medals at the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, arguably the greatest sprinter of all time, and that covers a lot of talent including later Olympic champions Bobby Morrow and Carl Lewis. Gary is the son of Ted Corbitt, marathoner on the 1952 Olympic team. He visited me just before we returned to Indiana from our snowbird haunts to show me some of his father’s scrapbooks.

And for whatever reason, we started talking about Jesse Owens, prompting me to tell the story about the day Jesse borrowed a pair of my spikes for a photo-op. I’ll get to that story soon.

PBS covered Jesse Owens’ athletic career well, showing archival footage of his races, offering comments by various historians as well as two of his daughters and Louis Zamperini, a teammate on the 1936 team, recently himself the subject of a best-selling book, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

After the Olympics, Jesse Owens returned to a country that celebrated his triumphs, but still would not offer him equal rights. The PBS special correctly documents, even though briefly, Adolf Hitler’s treatment of the Jews, but Americans did not treat its Negroes that much better. In New York for a ticker-tape parade, Owens had to ride a freight elevator in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

The PBS special ends with the down size of Jesse Owens’ fame: Avery Brundage banning him from future competition, because he failed to join a post-Olympic junket to Scandinavia; his having to race horses to earn money; the bankruptcy of his dry cleaning business; his dying of lung cancer at the age of 66 in 1980.

Jesse Owens himself said: "After I came home from the 1936 Olympics with my four medals, it became increasingly apparent that everyone was going to slap me on the back, want to shake my hand or have me up to their suite. But no one was going to offer me a job."

I remember a happier Jesse Owens. I got to know him while competing for the University of Chicago Track Club in the 1950s. Jesse often stopped by the Field House where we trained to chat with track coach Ted Haydon. Simply stated, he was a fan of the sport as was Ralph Metcalfe, another frequent visitor. Ralph finished second behind Owens in the 100 at Berlin and teamed with him in the winning 4 x 100 relay team. On any given afternoon, the owners of a half dozen Olympic medals might be hanging out at the Field House, because it was a comfortable and welcoming environment, not like the racially charged environment elsewhere in the city. Whether pre- or post-bankruptcy, Jesse owned a seemingly successful dry cleaners chain and public relations business. Ralph was a Chicago alderman and later US Congressman, who was coaching his adopted son, Ralph Metcalfe, Jr., to throw the hammer.

It was in 1959 that Jesse borrowed a pair of my spikes. The Pan American Games were to be held in Chicago that summer. Life magazine wanted to feature Jesse running on the track at Soldier Field for use in its Latin American editions. I was among a group of runners asked to appear for the photo shoot.

The problem, after we assembled at Soldier Field, was that Jesse did not own a pair of track spikes. He had not competed for several decades. So everybody compared sizes; my size 9 spikes fit his feet. They were white kangaroo leather spikes with adidas’s trademarked three stripes, die marke mit den drei riemen, in green.

So I watched while Life photographed Jesse Owens, and after the photo shoot, he handed back the shoes, politely thanking me. I continued wearing the shoes and when they wore out, I threw them away! Only decades later, would I curse myself for not having him autograph the shoes.

I like to believe that the last years of Jesse Owens’ life were happier than portrayed in the PBS special. Bankruptcy or not, he had two houses: one in Tucson, Arizona, the other a dozen miles up the lake from me, in Union Pier just north of New Buffalo, Michigan. He was in demand for appearances and as a motivational speaker.

Several years ago, my wife and I were eating at Brewster’s, an upscale restaurant in New Buffalo. There was a couple at the next table, and the man was wearing a T-shirt with “Jesse Owens Invitational” emblazoned upon it. At some point during dinner, I turned to him and said, “You know, Jesse Owens used to live near here.” The man smiled and indicated his wife, “Yes, and this is his daughter.”

Reflecting on that moment, I can’t help thinking that in most of Jesse’s lifetime, he would not have been able to eat at a table near me in an upscale restaurant. We have come along way since he won four gold medals on a track in prejudice-saturated Berlin, but we still have a way to go.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#4 Posted : Thursday, May 03, 2012 10:08:44 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Today, Rose said she planned to skip our bike ride, feeling she needed a Real Breakfast rather than what we get at various coffee shops. “Okay,” I agreed. “Then I’ll go run.” I said this even though not going for a bike ride with her puts tremendous pressure on me, since I need to make her coffee. Before 7:00 AM, small challenges loom as large challenges.

But then when she looked out the window and saw an open sky and 70 on our deck thermometer, Rose changed her mind. Women are allowed to do that; not political candidates.

We biked to Al’s, saw Troy again just before he was heading into Chicago. I told him I had mentioned the TV show he was working on (Dirty Medicine) in my blog, and also mentioned my suggested name for the show: Mob Doc. Who knows? Maybe the producers will go with my title, and I’ll be rich and famous.

Tuesday, we attended granddaughter Holly’s track meet, a Duneland Athletics Conference double dual: City and Crown Point and Merrillville. Crown Point has some of the best distance runners in the conference, so Holly scored only a third against Merrillville in the 1600, won by a girl with long red hair. I thought the red hair even more impressive than her long stride.

But Holly scored a better win. While she was waiting in a line of runners getting their names recorded, her eyes on the scorer not what was happening behind, several friends moved onto the track, two of them holding a banner, the third a bouquet of flowers. The banner said “Holly Prom?” And, yes, the guy with the flowers was destined to be her prom date. (She previously had rejected two others waiting for the Right Guy to finally ask.) A bunch of the Merrillville girls in the infield were cracking up after seeing the banner. Meanwhile, Holly stood clueless in line, not knowing what was behind her. Eventually, she turned, and it was a very funny moment, best reason of all for attending the track meet.

For today’s teenagers, the asking is almost as important as the going. Not so in my day, when I simply picked up the phone and asked the girl out. About prom my senior year at Mount Carmel High School in Chicago. It was the same Saturday as the qualification rounds for the championships for cat'lik schools, the final meet of the year. That afternoon, I had run one of the 880 heats and qualified for the Sunday finals. But that night was the prom, and after the prom we went to the College Inn, then drove to a beach in Indiana, and I didn’t get home until 6:00 AM. I don’t recall whether or not I even got to bed before heading to the track. Regardless, I placed dead last in the 880, but, hey, a guy needs to have some priorities in his life!

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#5 Posted : Friday, May 04, 2012 11:14:04 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

When we got back home again in Indiana, the grass in the back yard was high as an elephant’s thigh. Early spring in the Midwest. Rain. Warm temps. Plus we stayed at our second home in Florida somewhat longer than usual, so the back-yard grass got impatient and threatened to engulf us. Add to that the fact that my lawnmower usually is difficult each spring to start because I fail to give it the attention the mower thinks it deserves. Like using fresh gas and oil and sharpening the blades. Fortunately, Jim, a handyman who was cleaning our gutters and doing a few other odd jobs, helped me start the malingering machine.

The back yard is small, so Jim mowed it in a matter of minutes. This past week we have had people in and out. The cleaning lady yesterday. For all she has done for me, Rose deserves the help that Kathy (who is almost a friend) gives her. And Cindy’s helper stopped by yesterday to cut the beach grass, but she’ll be by in a day or two or three or more, to discuss landscape management. We got rid of the grass in front of the house several years ago with landscaping and a deck, so I wouldn’t have to cut it with my rusted lawnmower, but we simply exchanged one set of troubles for another. That plus the irrigation people, Down to Earth, since during a wall-building project by our neighbor last year, some of the pipes got shifted, meaning water was leaking where water was not supposed to leak.

Rose just talked to the Down to Earth guy, and it turns out he is a runner, and is doing Flying Pig Marathon this weekend. And somehow he had failed to put together the fact that the Hal Higdon, who was his customer, was the Hal Higdon whose training program he was using.

Did I tell you that the little car, a 1996 Ford Aspire with less than 30,000 miles on it, had a dead battery and a soft tire when we returned? I’ll deal with that problem next week.

We don’t have these work issues with our condo in Florida. We are responsible for what’s inside the walls. Outside the walls, “outside the paint” as it is referred to, is the responsibility of the condo association. If the grass reaches to the height of an elephant’s thigh, they handle it.

Busy week. This morning I had to go down to the Medical Center to have some blood drawn, which I do every six months to check my cholesterol (which is usually down in the 150 range), then after stopping for a coffee and almond roll (breakfast after fasting) at Lakeshore Coffee, I headed over to Horizon Bank to shift some money from our IRA into our checking account, because the painter is coming next week, and we have to pay him an advance. Did I forget to tell you about Darrell the painter?

I have about an hour to finish this blog then do some work on Egypt 2012, my blog/article on the Kindle Store, which I am condensing for publication in a local, weekly. A massage at 1:45, then tonight it is First Friday in Michigan City, an increasingly popular event where the stores and art galleries along Franklin (the main) Street open their doors, often offering enough snacks so we can skip dinner. We start at the Lubeznik Art Center, where I am to have an exhibit of my art (including some sketches done in Egypt) in July. I’ll tell you more about this as the date grows near.

If we finish munching our way through First Friday quickly enough, we might catch the late movie at the Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan. I’m not even sure what’s playing, but we always love the foreign and indy movies shown there.

Speaking of irrigation, did I tell you that the water fountain in front of my house is now turned on? If you are training this summer for the Chicago Marathon, be sure to stop and take a drink. It’s like the waters of Lourdes. It will make you run faster. Miracles are possible.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#6 Posted : Saturday, May 05, 2012 12:38:28 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

First Friday is an event that has become increasingly important for revelers and art fans, and revelers who are art fans, in my home town of Michigan City, Indiana. “Increasingly.” That’s a word that us writer types use in first paragraphs to convince you reader types that you have tripped over an article that has spotted a trend, one that might be worth your reading, if you want to retain your hipness.

But it is true. Michigan City long has been somewhat of a nothing destination, with its ugly state prison guarding the town from the West and a power plant overshadowing downtown and the lakefront marina. Chicagoans arrive on weekends, particularly in the summer, to sun and swim at their second homes along the lakefront, but why go into Michigan City when New Buffalo or even Three Oaks in Michigan seem so much more inviting?

That has begun to change, and it is partly because of First Friday: May’s First Friday having been last night. Colder than one would expect this time of year, cloudy, and with a touch of rain, but Rose and I were surprised at the large numbers who turned out at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, which anchors Franklin Street near the harbor and on Franklin Street itself. Each week Michigan City’s main street seems to sprout another art gallery.

Lubeznik currently has a marvelous exhibit of circus posters: huge, somewhat gross, seemingly badly painted, but they grow on you. Sword-swallowers and two-header raccoons and a reasonable image of King Kong, the exhibit did not attract me when I stopped by the Center earlier in the week, but viewed in a crowded room of people enjoying a musical group, it pleases. If you can visit Lubeznik this month, do so.

And let me insert a plug for my own art exhibit, scheduled for Lubeznik in two months, springboarding off First Friday on July 6. The exhibit will be titled “Black and White” and will feature art without color, including some sketches I made on our recent trip to Egypt. More on that later, if you continue to follow my Blog About Nothing.

After Lubeznik, we visited several of the galleries on Franklin Street, as well as Urban Soles, a shoe store with so many people hanging out and sipping wine that they spilled out onto the sidewalk.

We left early, because we wanted to catch the 8:00 film at the Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks. Yes, we got lured to that Hot Spot just to the north of us. We Need to Talk About Kevin was the late film; The Island President, the early film. Vickers usually features two films each week, a new one each week, so if you miss a film one weekend, you can see it the next. That fits in with our schedule, since we see every film at the Vickers. Nevertheless, “Kevin” was… (Ummm, how can I say this without chasing away patrons and making Bill the owner mad at me?) Dark. Very dark. It’s about an evil baby who becomes an evil teenager. Nevertheless, worth seeing if you like films without Marvel comic book heroes.

Today being Saturday, we just got in from our early-morning bike ride on a gloomy but still delightful morning. The Blog About Nothing continues.

Cool

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#7 Posted : Monday, May 07, 2012 10:18:41 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Lightning flashed and thunder rumbled as I rolled over in bed some time around 3:00. Was this the 3:00 wake-up call they talked about in the last election cycle? Donner und blitzen. Several days earlier, another cyclist at Al’s Coffee Shop had commented on how beautiful lightning flashing over the lake had been during a previous storm. I was not motivated to get up to watch the light show; I only respond at 3:00 in the morning for duties best left unmentioned.

So I rolled over on my back and enjoyed the sound show. My main worry was that Rose and I had planned a bike ride to Al’s to start our day, and I did not want nature to rain on our parade.

Florida had a severe drought this winter. Everything was dry, including the marsh that we cross almost daily between our condo and the gym where we work out, Rose in the pool, I in the weight room. Why couldn’t some of the rain now drenching the Midwest be shifted down to the Southeast? I guess Florida will need to wait for the next hurricane passing by, but I should not wish that on them.

Seven o’clock and we got out of bed. It had stopped raining, although clouds over the lake hinted that more rain might be on the way before the day is over. “Let’s get going,” I instructed Rose. I figured that if we hurried we could get to Al’s before it started raining; if we got caught on the way home, oh well.

Rose claims I am "obsessed” when it comes to riding my bike to various coffee shops. She even uses the word “addicted” sometimes, which irritates me because I don’t feel addicted. Besides, I ran on the beach yesterday, so in the scheme of things it was a day for riding a bike, even a gentle 5 miles, which is about the distance to Al’s and back. We have shortcuts so we can juggle the distance between 4 and 6 miles.

Sitting on high chairs leaning against a long table and facing the plate-glass window, sipping our coffee, chomping on the most delicious donuts on Earth, I glanced over my shoulder at the TV over a faux fireplace. Station WGN was suggesting 70% chance of rain. But it already had rained in the middle of the night, more than an inch in some suburbs. Once you cross midnight and the rains come, shouldn’t that automatically trigger 100% on the bottom banner for the remainder of the day?

This evening, we plan to catch the early show at the Vickers Theatre, The Island President, which apparently is about global warning. I don’t know about you, but I believe in global warning. It is a shame, that if you are with one party you do, and one party you don’t. Should political parties dictate our beliefs just so they can attract votes? That supposedly is a bipartisan statement, so don’t get mad at me. I don’t know whether or not global warming had anything to do with lightning striking on the lake, that wake-up call at 3:00 in the morning, but at least we got our bike ride in, and, yes, I am obsessed.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#8 Posted : Tuesday, May 08, 2012 10:44:17 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

We biked past the polling place in the community center en route to Al’s Coffee Shop today. Actually, voting in the Indiana Primary Election was the main reason I chose a bike ride rather than a run this morning, but we did not stop, having decided to vote after coffee and a squishy bismarck rather than before. I figured that I needed a quick shot of caffeine and sugar to assist me in my choices.

Except, unlike some previous years, there were few choices to make this primary day. The President was running unopposed. The Presidential candidates from the other party were done with their mud-slinging. The main question was whether Senator Richard Lugar would survive a primary challenge from a Tea Party activist and make it onto the November ballot. Polling suggested that despite a half dozen terms in the Senate—or maybe because of those terms—he would not.

If you are checking my blog late Tuesday evening, or later, you probably already know the winner, but this entry is not to secure anybody’s vote, but rather to talk about Dick Lugar, whom I have known most of his time in office. I suspect also that I have cast my vote in his favor most, if not all, of his campaigns. I consider myself a Moderate, one of those squishy like a bismarck middle-of-the-road people who supposedly decide elections depending on which way they swing. I’m not sure that is entirely true, but Lugar has been a centrist (his forte foreign affairs) able to work with colleagues on either side of the aisle during most of his time in office. “Most of his time.” I’m not sure that’s entirely true any more. Lugar seems to have tacked to the right these last two years in response to the growing popularity of the Tea Party. Not far enough right, apparently, to prevent being challenged by that group in the primary.

My acquaintance with Dick Lugar came because of a series of races he sponsored beginning around 1978, 10-K, if my memory is correct. Somewhere in a drawer is a picture of the Senator congratulating me for having been a winner one of those years. And although I have not run any lately, the Senator apparently continues to sponsor fitness runs and walks as part of a health fair in Indianapolis. The 33rd running of that event was last fall.

The votes of runners may not be enough to get Dick reelected, because even if he survives today’s primary, he will face a strong challenge this fall from Democrat Joe Donnelley, formerly my Congressman. Which candidate obtained my vote today and who will get it in November? I’ll maintain the secrecy of the ballot box. Maybe I’ll need another shot of caffeine to decide.


Post Script: Lugar lost--overwhelmingly. The runners of Indiana salute Dick--and thank him for his service to us and to the nation. A huge victory for the Tea Party. Whether it will prove a Pyrrhic victory will be determined in November.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#9 Posted : Wednesday, May 09, 2012 11:03:51 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Busy day yesterday. For reasons too complicated to explain, the landscaping guy and the irrigation guy were here much of the morning, trying to fix things. They did, and the important comment is that the water fountain in front of our house is working for all those local (and visiting) runners training through the summer for fall marathons running on Lake Shore Drive in Long Beach.

Enjoy! Cool

In the afternoon, we picked up our d-i-l Camille and headed to the Duneland Athletics Conference track & field championships, stopping en route at Firme’s Art Store in Beverly Shores so I could pick up some acrylic paints: black, white and gray. That might seem puzzling, except that this July the Lubeznik Center for Art in Michigan City will feature an exhibit of my art, the theme being “Black & White,” no paintings or drawings with any color. I hope to show some of the sketches I made while touring Egypt earlier this year.

City’s track team is in sad shape. The coach’s wife has been suffering from cancer, so, understandably, he has not been able to give the team full attention. That plus a lot of girls failed to show up for practice Saturday, so got kicked off the team. Hooray for that, but it left the team weakened for the face-off against some of the best teams in the Region, if not the state. Holly ran on the 4 x 800 meter relay team which scored 2 points, the only points City earned. She will be running cross country next year for St. Mary’s College in South Bend, an all girl’s school, which does not have a track team.

I promised to say something about The Island President, one of the films playing at the Vickers Theatre this weekend, but we saw that two days ago and some of my review-writing motivation has faded. Let me say briefly that it is a documentary focused on Mohamed Nasheed, a charismatic British-educated leader of The Maldives, a country that consists of 1,200 tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. The Maldives had been ruled for decades by a brutal dictator so similar to many in Africa and the Middle East that it causes feelings of deja vu. Nasheed had been among a number of activists jailed and tortured by the previous brutal government, but he emerged to run for the presidency and won! In office, Nasheed discovered that his greatest worry was not necessarily the remnants of the dictatorship, but climate change that threatened the survival of the low-lying islands that formed The Maldives. If scientists are correct and we do not reverse the flow of pollution, temperatures will rise along with the oceans, and The Maldives may disappear accessible only to scuba divers. But so will Florida! Our condo in Ponte Vedra Beach is only 10 feet above sea level with eroding beaches already. So will somebody in those governments please listen to what Nasheed is saying. Save his country and you save ours.

Did I say above this non-review would be brief? I’ll stop then with an end complaint about India, China, Brazil and, yes, the United States, the world’s leading polluters. If you enjoy documentaries and The Island President comes to a theatre near you, the film has our thumbs-up recommendation.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#10 Posted : Thursday, May 10, 2012 11:30:48 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Our backyard offers a tiny patch of grass, 30 x 40 feet maybe, and grass grows there only in the spring, April and May mostly. Then leafs sprout on the oak trees surrounding our house, shutting off light (plus I never water), so the grass goes into hibernation. I mow it only occasionally. From our back deck one story above the backyard, the grass looks about the same as if I fed it with fertilizer and used an irrigation system such as the one I ripped out decades ago.

But this year, we returned to Indiana from Florida late, end of April. That plus the Midwest had a mild winter, even with temperatures in the 80s during one period, so the grass decided to start growing early. Bad grass: I never encourage it to do so. By the time we arrived home, my backyard grass was nearly as high as an elephant’s thigh, (as I commented in a previous blog post).

Our lawnmower left over the winter in an unheated shed with gas and oil in it and cut grass clogging its wheels was not a pretty thing when I took it out for the season’s first mowing. I always have trouble starting the machine. Maybe it is because I have not had it in for repair or a check-up in two or three years. Make that four or five years.

Fortunately, Jim, a handyman, was at the house cleaning the gutters and doing other tasks. (I don’t like climbing ladders two stories above the ground.) He had a stronger arm than I, so got the mower started and gave our patch of lawn its first mow.

But if I was to have success again, I figured I needed to take it in for repair. Ace Hardware charged me $150, but the meticulously cleaned mower looked like it was brand now. Returning from our bike ride to Lakeshore Coffee in Michigan City this morning, I positioned the mower on the grass and gave a tug. Then another tug. Then another tug. Then Rose tried. You would think that after $150, the lawnmower should start itself like the GPS in the car starts itself sometimes. Eventually, through manipulation (though without Jim’s stronger arm), I got the mower going and the lawn mowed. Does mowing the lawn count as cross-training?

Before putting the mower away, I noticed a plaque on the machine saying it was “quieter” and “quicker starting.” Sigh!

I warned you that this was The Blog About Nothing. Today it was about lawmowers. Cool

Tonight, thanks to Netflix, we plan to watch the last two episodes of the first (13-week) season of Mad Men. I may have something to say about that tomorrow.

HAL HIGDON
Liz R
#11 Posted : Thursday, May 10, 2012 3:13:27 PM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

I have always counted mowing as cross training.

Curious what you will think of Mad Men.
Liz R
Hal Higdon
#12 Posted : Thursday, May 10, 2012 4:32:07 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Liz R;793294 wrote:
Curious what you will think of Mad Men.


Assuming we find time to watch two episodes tonight in that period of TV time before Anderson Cooper tells us how to behave, all will be revealed.

In the meantime, for those of you who are following The Blog About Nothing, let me sneak in a gratuitous plug for my novel, Marathon. No, not Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, but the book I wrote several years ago about the fictional Lake City Marathon.

HAL HIGDON
MrMark
#13 Posted : Thursday, May 10, 2012 5:12:42 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 2,819

MrsMark has streak going of getting an hour of exercise every day that she has maintained for many years now. She does not count mowing as exercise, though it seems considerably less lame than some of the stuff that does count. I guess you get to make up your own rules.

For what it's worth, my lawnmower started on the first pull this spring, but I did drain the tank last fall and started with fresh gas. On the other hand I'm cursed with a snow blower that runs great if and only if the temperature is above the freezing point. Think about how useful that is . . .
Bloventhal
#14 Posted : Thursday, May 10, 2012 5:51:27 PM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 33
Location: California

Thank goodness my mower has power assistance. My lawn was so thick this weekend I had to set the mower on the highest cut setting. Definitely a workout, as my 7 year old daughter noticed my constant wiping of my brow and brought me out a huges glass of ice water.
Hal Higdon
#15 Posted : Friday, May 11, 2012 10:58:05 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Indifference. Confused

That word best describes my reaction to the award-winning series, Mad Men. Rose and I just finished discussing our reaction to the show, having watched the 12th and 13th episodes of the first season last night. We did so while sipping coffee and chomping donuts in the middle of our bike ride to Al’s Coffee Shop this morning. Is that enough of a fitness connection to justify my talking about TV in my Blog About Nothing?

Maybe it was all the smoke. For those unfamiliar with Mad Men, the “mad” comes from Madison Avenue in New York, the epicenter of the advertising industry in the 1960s, the period covered by the show. Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! All the men. All the women. If there was a character on the show who failed to smoke, who perhaps was even repelled by the smoke, I don’t recall that person. I feel I inhaled enough third-hand smoke seeping through the TV screen to have shortened my lifespan by several days at least.

I never smoked. My wife never smoked. This was our generation. Were we that out of touch? Amby Burfoot, the renowned Runner’s World retired editor, claims that even today creative people at advertising agencies that deal with Rodale continue to smoke (and do drugs) and work impossibly late hours, the antithesis of the lifestyles of customers to whom they are trying to sell running shoes and food supplements.

Mad Men is well acted. Jon Hamm, the actor who plays the lead ad guy Don Draper, has been nominated along with the show for several Emmies and Golden Globe awards, winning the latter in 2008. A womanizer, he nevertheless treats the females in the secretarial pool with some respect, unlike his colleagues at the agency, who are the crudest of the crude, right out of Animal House, when it comes to misbehavior among women. In today’s climate, they would have been booted for sexual harassment by the second episode—-or at least I like to believe so.

And the drinking during work hours! This was the era of three-martini lunches. Maybe Mad Men accurately portrays that era, and I have forgotten.

But is TV ever about accurately portraying an era or population sub-group? Did The Sopranos correctly portray the Mafia? Did Smallville correctly portray a small, Midwest town? With the help of Netflix, we watched every season of the former. We only watched the first season of the latter, but liked it enough so we might continue to Season Two.

But in the meantime, Rose and I could not come up with another series to watch. We need help with our Netflix choices, apart from the kneeerk choices that Netflix offers us. Perhaps some of you could offer your recommendations.

HAL HIGDON
Liz R
#16 Posted : Friday, May 11, 2012 11:14:04 AM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

Walking Dead? How do you feel about zombie movies? Fringe? I can't say I have see more than about three episodes of Fringe, but it is an over the top scifi show.

I do like Mad Men. I see it as a character driven series, and am interested in the evolution of the people and in their flaws. Hal, I also wonder if it is more attractive to people my age and younger, people who remember watching that adult world of smoking and cocktails and sophistication. (My dad is not a fan either, which surprised me. He wasn't in advertising, but maybe because he lived through the era he isn't as fascinated by it?)We were outside it looking in and marveling at the adult world. I read somewhere recently that the show is from the perspective of Sally, Don's daughter, who would be a little older than me.

Edit to add: to make this running related, I'd not recommend MM as a tm running show because there is too much talking and not enough action. It is good to watch while riding the trainer, however.
Liz R
Hal Higdon
#17 Posted : Saturday, May 12, 2012 11:56:59 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Rumbling over the lake. Distant thunder, but it woke me up around dawn. Sleeping in the back as we do, I could not see the lightning strikes that caused the rumbling, but I worried that a storm was heading our way. “Don’t rain on my parade,” Barbra Streisand once sang. Would our plans for a morning bike ride into town to the Farmer’s Market need to be abandoned?

Some time later, I stepped out onto our deck to check the thermometer (60 degrees) and felt drops on my face: drops somewhere between a thick fog and a slight rain. Bad news. But some time after that, the sun was out. Time to take a chance.

But not too much of a chance. I told Rose that we would start out on our bikes from our house at Stop 28 and by the time we got to Stop 26 or Stop 24 on Lake Shore Drive, heading into Michigan City, we would make an executive decision whether or not to continue into town (round trip: 10 miles) or detour to closer and safer Al’s (round trip: 4-5 miles). The clouds over the lake were dark. No thunder any more, but we detoured.

It was after 8:00 when we arrived at Al’s. Only a few donuts remained. “It was crazy here earlier,” Melissa, the coffee gal, told us. I spotted a couple of gushy bismarcks that had survived the onslaught by sugar breakfasters and claimed one.

While we were sipping, Rick Lutterbach arrived. Rick’s daughter Erin had run on my cross-country team when we placed 5th at State. Erin did not have as much running talent as a few of her teammates, but she overachieved. Actually, the entire team overachieved, otherwise we would not have placed that high, a story I tell in my book about cross-country, Through the Woods.

Erin later went on to attend the American Film Institute and became a producer of mostly Disney-like documentaries, “alligators wrestling,” Rick joked. But one of her documentaries was about Michael Vick and dog-fighting. “She was the one who sent him to jail,” bragged her father. Currently, Erin has taken time out from film producing to have a baby. Her younger sister is now 26. I never coached the sister, because she was too young at the time I was coaching at the local high school, but, Rick said, she did use one of my programs to run the Indy Mini this spring. Just over 2 hours, Rick proudly said. He flew in from a California business trip just to see her run. Fathers are supposed to do those kinds of things.

Shifting subjects, let me give a shout-out to a film we enjoyed last night at the Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan: Jeff Who Lives at Home. Yeah, I know, a dopy title, but a very funny film with a satisfying (read: feel good) ending. Susan Sarandon plays a supporting role. Somehow the aging Sarandon continues to show up in small films we like. After the movie, we ate across the street at Dewey Cannon Winery and Brewery. If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, or next, or for the rest of the summer for that matter, consider a Vickers/Dewey Double. Sorry, if you’re a blog reader who lives out of driving distance, but maybe you can at least find Jeff at a theatre near you.

Donut consumed, coffee sipped, Rose and I climbed back on our bikes. It had rained a bit while we were chatting with Rick, but looking outside, I could spot no drops plinking the puddles. Nevertheless, rain continued to threaten. Halfway through the ride, Rose called that she planned to ride on ahead. (She has a much faster bike, plus I haven’t had mine into the shop yet for a tune-up.) As I pulled out onto Lake Shore Drive at Stop 26, I could hear the drops hitting my helmet, so I thought I was cooked. Rose, meanwhile, had turned into our driveway a quarter mile ahead. I went into a flat-out sprint, like the closing kilometer of Le Tour de France, and outran the raindrops.

Too bad we missed Farmer’s Market, but there will be time for that on Saturdays all through the summer. Cool

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#18 Posted : Monday, May 14, 2012 12:08:32 PM(UTC)

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Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

The couple three tables away at Stop 50, the restaurant just south of the Michigan border, had biked all the way from Washington Park on the lake in Michigan City. They probably had rented their bikes there. Round trip? Maybe a dozen miles, except they had lost their way finding the restaurant and were asking the waitress the best way back. I listened to the waitress’s directions, then shouted across that they could avoid a steep hill at Stop 37 just before the lake by doing a quick-right-quick-left at an appropriate time.

Stop 50 features what arguably is the best pizza in Michiana depending on your taste: crisp rather than Chicago-style thick. Small, so you don’t overstuff yourself. Add to that a bottle of Orion Beer, brewed in some town up in Michigan, plus an ice cream dessert and you have the perfect snack-meal for the middle of a sunny Sunday afternoon bike ride. Given that there was still another cyclist couple at the restaurant, we were not the only ones to figure that out.

I had started the day, Mother’s Day, with a run on Lake Shore Drive. A short run, but a running workout nevertheless. After that, we went to our son Kevin’s home for breakfast: pancakes and bacon. Then to St. Stan’s Church for 11:00 Mass, granddaughter Holly leading the singing. I told our daughter-in-law Camille that she should upload a version of Holly signing Ave Maria with organ accompaniment to You Tube. Immediately after Mass, a young woman approached Holly and asked if she was available to sing at her wedding. Not until next summer! I told Holly that I would serve as her agent and make sure she got well paid for the gig.

Having already run, I didn’t need a second workout later that day, but if you stop in the middle for beer and pizza, it’s not exactly a workout, is it?

The priest during his sermon mentioned Adam & Eve and linked them to Mother’s Day. I don’t want to irritate anybody, but why are Adam & Eve blamed for Original Sin? It’s not like there was anybody in the Garden of Eden to marry them. So shouldn’t it be called Original Love? If Eve hadn’t taken a bite out of that apple, we wouldn’t be riding our bikes on a Sunday afternoon.

After paying the check, Rose and I climbed back onto our bikes and headed home. A mile down the road, I looked in my rear-vision mirror and noticed that the couple from Washington Park were behind us, a comfortable distance behind so as not to be intrusive. We executed our quick-right-quick-left to avoid the hill at Stop 37, and I noticed they did the same.

A good day for a bike ride. A good day for pizza and beer.

HAL HIGDON
halhigdon
#19 Posted : Tuesday, May 15, 2012 12:03:23 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 1,644

Biking home through Washington Park this morning, coming off the bridge over Trail Creek, turning at the monument onto a 4-lane divided road, me in the left lane, Rose in the right, I alerted her, “Car right!”

After the car passed, I added, “Car right, woman texting!”

I could have said, “Car right, young woman with long blonde hair probably texting her boyfriend who is driving 95 mph on the Interstate”--but that might have irritated a few of you, and I want to keep as many people reading this Blog About Nothing as possible. Except I have nothing to say. Nothing!

Well, maybe I have a few things to say. Last night I accompanied Rose to an AAUW meeting, because one of the members, a retired engineer for NIPSCO was talking about wind machines, and she thought I might be interested. AAUW has a hard time maintaining its aging membership, because so many younger women have jobs leaving little time for community activities, a problem for many traditional women’s groups. There were 12 in the audience; I was the only male.

Interesting talk. In the discussion, Rose mentioned that my alma mater, Carleton College, erected a wind machine that provided for 50% of the college’s power needs. I thought it was 100%, but I may be wrong. Carleton recently erected a second wind machine and may or may not be able to export energy. That happened in Egypt, as we learned during our tour to that country in March. After Nasser built the High Dam at Aswan, it fulfilled not only all of Egypt’s energy needs, but the country now exports one-third of the Dam’s power to Sudan, the Nubia of ancient times. You don't see many wind machines or solar panels in Egypt. Everybody agreed that we must continue to explore alternate power sources. One woman has a geothermal source for her house's elecricity. I'm not sure how the system works, but it involves a pond and a well in her backyard. More power to her. (Pun intended.)

Enough history. We both had appointments with Dr. Robert Angelo to have our teeth cleaned, so we biked into town to his office, which is only a few blocks away from one of our coffee shops. Dr. Angelo has two dental hygienists, so we were able to have our teeth cleaned at the same time. Not in the same room, however. It was not like that TV commercial with a couple in bathtubs on the beach. Asked to choose a flavor for the tooth polishing, I chose Strawberry. Rose chose Mint. I asked for a kiss afterwards, but failed to score. I guess, I should have chosen Mint.

Later this afternoon we have a Sectional Track & Field Meet at Chesterton High School to attend. It may be granddaughter Holly’s last high school track meet, given the high level of competition. Afterwards, there is an Area Artists meeting scheduled for the Lubeznik Center for the Arts, and I had hoped to attend to obtain help planning my art exhibit at the Center in July, but we may not make it.
Hal Higdon
#20 Posted : Tuesday, May 15, 2012 10:03:34 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

We drove to the Sectional Girls Track & Field Championships at Chesterton High School Tuesday afternoon not expecting much. The Michigan City program, both boys and girls, has been down the last several years. The coach has been distracted all season by the illness of a long-time companion, assistant coach, who died only a week ago. There must be some fast and strong athletes in the school, but for whatever reason, they don't come out for the team. The top runner from the cross-country season did not run track, but won a local 10-K last week. When a number of team members skipped a Saturday practice, the coach dismissed them. His patience was at an end, and I don't blame him, but that included one of the girls on the 4 x 800 meter relay team, on which our granddaughter Holly was running. Given the ability of her replacement, that would cost the team 15-20 seconds making it extremely difficult for the relay team to advance from the Sectional to the Regional the following week. Holly was running the 3200 too, but with Valparaiso, Portage, Chesterton and New Prairie in the field, the depth of distance talent was great, and she probably would not place in the top four and advance. This might be not only her last high school track meet, but her last track meet, since while Holly plans to run cross country next year at St. Mary's College in South Bend, that school does not field a squad in track & field.

Oh well. That may not seem important to Holly, who is en route to looking more stunning than anyone else at the prom, but grandfathers (and fathers too) can get nostalgic.

Most important, it was sunny and warm. When Holly's older brothers were running track, Rose and I attended our share of meets where it was cold or wet or windy or cold and wet and windy. In cross country, spectators can run around and chase the runners. In track when the weather is bad, you just sit around on cold aluminum bleachers and be miserable.

The 4 x 800 was the first race run, and it started badly for City. The replacement girl who lead off fell far back leaving the team in 7th, and it seemed like Holly had a half straightaway gap to catch the girls in front of her from South Central and LaPorte running 6th and 5th. Fourth seemed a universe away.

But Holly ran a great race, catching and passing the South Central girl, narrowing the gap on the LaPorte girl just before passing the baton. (She ran near equal to her best time of the season.) The next two girls caught, passed, then held even with LaPorte, the anchor runner summoning a fierce kick to pull away and put City in 5th place. Close, but only the first four teams qualified for the Regionals. In the 3200, Holly ran well but not good enough to advance in that race either.

Rose and I debated whether or not to stop for dinner, but decided to eat at home instead. Just as I was getting out of our car under the back deck, my cell phone rang. I thought that odd. Hardly anybody calls me on my cell phone. It was Camille, our daughter-in-law. "City's advancing to Regionals," she said. I asked how could that be, the team apparently having missed by one place. But one of the teams, she did not know which, had decided to drop out of the relay, saving several members of its girls for the individual events next week in the Regionals. Sometimes, you are good and sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you are good and get lucky.

Regardless, it looks like the track season will last for us one more week.

HAL HIGDON
Liz R
#21 Posted : Wednesday, May 16, 2012 11:29:44 AM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

Congrats to you all! Three generations of runners!
Liz R
Liz R
#22 Posted : Thursday, May 17, 2012 8:25:50 AM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

I hate to dilute your message about training programs, but I had to tell you that there was a story about Dick Lugar running a 5K on NPR yesterday evening. I didn't hear the start of the story, but suspect it was a Congress related run. Lugar came to run despite losing the primary and said it was a race he wouldn't miss.
Liz R
MrMark
#23 Posted : Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:33:27 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 2,819

Liz R;793457 wrote:
I hate to dilute your message about training programs, but I had to tell you that there was a story about Dick Lugar running a 5K on NPR yesterday evening. I didn't hear the start of the story, but suspect it was a Congress related run. Lugar came to run despite losing the primary and said it was a race he wouldn't miss.

I missed that story, but was able to find a recording here: http://www.npr.org/blogs...ake-defeat-sitting-down

Full transcript is here: http://www.npr.org/templ...t.php?storyId=152841891

Event website: http://www.capitalchallenge.com/
Hal Higdon
#24 Posted : Thursday, May 17, 2012 10:19:09 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Liz R;793457 wrote:
I hate to dilute your message about training programs, but...


Not to worry, Liz, since this is the Blog About Nothing, not always even about running. When I post today's blog entry later this morning, it will be about a couple of classmates at the Laboratory School of the University of Chicago, one a miler on the track team. But I need to go shower after my morning workout, "workout" being run-related even though it was a bike ride with Rose.

I haven't checked the link yet, Mr. M, but the outgoing Senator probably still sponsors the health/fitness event in Indianapolis, which grew out of the Dick Lugar runs that I participated in many, many years ago. BigGrin

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#25 Posted : Thursday, May 17, 2012 11:51:00 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Beth from the Lab School stopped by for lunch yesterday. The Lab School is the Laboratory School of the University of Chicago. The students who attend are called “Labbies,” although the school was more often known as U-High when I attended in a previous millennium. The President’s daughters were Labbies when their father lived in Kenwood. The same with Richard Loeb, whom I wrote about in my book The Crime of the Century—although I’m not sure he is among the school’s favorite alumni.

Maybe I am, because the purpose for Beth’s visit was to discuss the Lab School’s giving me a Distinguished Alumni Award at a breakfast at a class reunion next month. Or maybe she wanted to determine whether I can move from table to podium to accept my award without using a walker. (I can.) Or whether I can confine myself to the 3-5 minutes allotted for my acceptance speech. (I can.) A previous accepter apparently had taken an hour to present her theories on why 9-11 was actually a plot by the U.S. Government, not Al Qaeda. It is refreshing to hear that there are Whackos on the Left as well as Whackos on the Right. U-High and/or the Lab School certainly must pride itself on diversity.

Beth also inquired about memories of the school; perhaps she thought our discussion might offer some structure for my 3-5 minutes. Well, that enters into some Dark Territory. My most vivid memory was from 9th grade featuring an upperclassman, who to protect his identity I’ll call Duncan, center on the basketball team, miler with me on the track team. Duncan owned a Jeep and one day after school, with me and several others on board, he lined it up facing the school’s main hallway. We drove up a half dozen steps, through a double doorway, straight through the hall, then down a half dozen steps a block later. Never got caught.

U-High might have been the brightest school in that era, maybe still is. The children of University of Chicago professors attended, so did a number of Quiz Kids, that being a famous radio show feauring questions asked bright kids. I'm not sure how I was accepted into U-High, except maybe along with their quota for two Negro boys and two Negro girls in each class, they had a quota for Irish Catholic artists who could draw comic strips for the school paper. To maintain myself academically with my brainier classmates, I took Mechanical Drawing, allowing me to score an A. I also scored an A in Shop. Don't talk to me about Physics or European History. For one class assignment in Mechanical Drawing, I designed a stairwell from the shop into the basement, which actually got built. Beth was not sure if the stairway remained, but that section of the school is scheduled for demolition soon anyway, erasing one of my memories.

Perhaps I need to erase another memory involving Duncan, who achieved a certain notoriety a decade or so later, after his wife was murdered. I don’t know the details, because I was in the US Army in Germany at the time. John Bartlow Martin, a famous writer, wrote an article about the case for the Saturday Evening Post. Duncan was found Not Guilty, the Jury taking only 80 minutes to reach that verdict after a three-week trial. Several years later, Duncan showed up at the Olympic Trials to say hello to several of the runners coached by Ted Haydon at the University of Chicago. I was among them, but I had not yet arrived in town. I never got to see Duncan and do not know what happened to him. I don’t think I’ll talk about him in my allocated 3-5 minutes.

I don’t know if I dare discuss another memory, since it involves a member of the opposite sex long since moved out of my life. At an earlier class reunion dinner, a dozen of us were sitting around a table at a Hyde Park restaurant. One classmate began to talk about a girl whom I’ll call Noreen to protect her identity. She was the best-looking girl in the school in addition to being a Quiz Kid. My classmate wistfully recalled his once being in a classroom, Noreen arriving to sit at a desk beside him. He hoped for a moment she might be interested, but she was not. I told him she was my girlfriend.

Going steady back then for someone in 10th grade (me) or 9th grade (her) meant you went out on a date maybe once a month, but hung around a lot during school hours. My meager allowance was not enough to support a serious romance. At that age, guys (except maybe Duncan) didn’t have cars or back seats of cars. Noreen lived on Chicago’s West Side, meaning for a date, since I lived in South Shore, I had to take the I.C. downtown, switch to an elevated line, then to a bus, then if we were double-dating with my buddy, whom I’ll call Edmund to protect his identity, we had to take bus and El and I.C. and another bus to his girlfriend Sara Ann’s house in Beverly on the far South Side. Little wonder we only dated maybe once a month, given the logistics of transportation, but riding the I.C. allowed me to put my arm up on the seat behind her, if not on her shoulder, for what today might be called a V.D.A, a Visible Display of Affection.

But alas for my first romance: U-High under the Hutchins Plan back then only went to 10th grade, then you transferred to the University of Chicago. I didn’t feel I was mature enough for college life, so I transferred to another high school, Mount Carmel, later attended by the President’s Brother-in-Law if you allow me another name-drop. Noreen went her way and I went mine and never again did the twain meet.

Maybe instead of talking about my teammate or my girlfriend, I’ll discuss during my allotted 3-5 minutes going out for track at U-High, which eventually led me to where I am today, writing a Blog About Nothing.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#26 Posted : Friday, May 18, 2012 4:38:57 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Let me blog about art. Even thought my exhibit at the Lubeznik Center for the Art will not open until July—-specifically First Friday, July 6—-planning already has begun, including a meeting this morning with Janet Bloch, director of the NIPSCO Gallery on the first floor of the Center. We discussed the countdown for the show, beginning with submission of the exhibit title 5-6 weeks out, images of the art and paintings I plan to show 3-4 weeks ahead, and the prices for tags 2 weeks out. There is more. Connie Kassal, the Area Artists Association’s exhibit coordinator, emailed a 2-page procedures memo this morning. I'm so busy coordinating, I don't have time to paint.

The title of the exhibit is Black and White, reflecting the fact that all of the art I plan to exhibit will be, well, just that: black and white, no color. This includes several large paintings, including one just begun, but the focus of the exhibit will be sketches I made in a tiny notebook while touring Egypt in March. Sitting on the deck of our ship, the Misr, cruising the Nile, watching the sights seen by the ancients slide by, I frequently pulled out a large notebook and sketched what I saw. Hills. Mountains. Sunsets. I also carried a tiny, 4 x 6 notebook, one that fit in a side pocket of my pants, as our tour group wandered from monument to museum to monument, and often I pulled that notebook out and scribbled a sketch, taking as little as 5-10 seconds sometimes. Scratch! Scratch! Scratch! There I captured Nefertiti, notebook shoved quickly back into a pocket. Scratch! Scratch! Scratch! Now I had a line here, a line there, representing Ramsses II.

In my meeting with Janet, I showed several sheets torn from the notebook. Raw art, throw-away art, done almost carelessly, the margins overflowing with notes of what we had seen to aid me in writing daily blog on the Misr's laptop computer. I suggested to Janet that I might expand on those sketches, gussy them up a bit, turn them into more finished Works of Art (caps intended).

Janet, an artist herself, stared at the notebook sheets tumbled onto on a table in the gallery. “Why don’t we just show the sketches as they are, pages torn from your notebook?” she asked.

And that’s what we will do. Following my stop at Lubeznik, I visited The Framing Station on Franklin Street in downtown Michigan City. I discussed our idea with owner JoAnn Finney. We will mount the notebook pages on black matting with black frame. Black and White! Just like the theme of the show.

Other than that, life has been busy. I picked up a canvas at Firme Art Supplies in Beverly Shores yesterday afternoon en route to the boys Sectionals in Portage. Cheered Chesterton’s Andrew Kearney as he placed 3rd, qualifying for Regionals. Finished the book I’ve been reading: Lottery by Patricia Wood. Good read: I need to do a review for y'all. Just got back from a massage. Tonight if you go to the Vickers (In Darkness the movie), you may see Rose and I seated in one of the overlooking balconies. After that dinner at the Elm Street Grill. Life is busy, but life is good.

First Friday in July. If you expect
to be near Michiana, put that on your calendar!

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HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#27 Posted : Saturday, May 19, 2012 11:50:20 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

The French Guy wasn’t there. Nor was the Mushroom Lady. In fact, the open lot at 8th & Washington in Michigan City, Indiana was nearly half empty, or maybe was half full, when we arrived at the Farmer’s Market on our bikes around 8:30 on a stunningly beautiful Saturday morning: Sunny, 67 degrees, a tough headwind out of the Southwest, which would convert to a tailwind once we turned for home. Mostly flowers, and they don’t travel well in bicycle baskets. Neither do pies. After making a quick clockwise stroll of the Market, we settled for two cups of coffee at a table operated by Lakeshore Coffee. Rose bought a couple of biscottis for only $1.00 to support the Michigan City High School marching band. I felt less obligated, so went to another table where I earlier had spotted an apricot Danish during our circular stroll.

We headed back to the benches where we had parked our bikes and sat down to sip our coffee. The benches were near where the Mushroom Lady usually offers her wares. Perhaps mushrooms had not yet sprouted, and she would reappear later in the summer. The Farmer’s Market had only been open for a couple of weeks. We missed last Saturday, because of wet weather, okay if you come by car, less so if your mode of transportation is bikes. The French Guy offers the best breads, and usually there is a long line at his tables. I don’t know much about him other than he has a French accent and that he comes from Chicago, stopping at a Farmer’s Market in Chesterton to set up there, then continuing to Michigan City. Thus, even though he gets up at 3:30 AM (his wife once told us), he usually doesn’t arrive at our Farmer's Market until after 9:00. But Rose worried that he might not be returning to Michigan City this summer, not having seen his name on a list of participants published earlier in the News-Dispatch.

Just as we were about to depart and make one more run through the Market, a woman arrived and sat down at the bench opposite us. We chatted briefly, then I asked her to guard our bikes, and we went back to pick up some baked goods. Rose bought some more biscottis, thus contributing $3 total to the band. I acquired several more Danishes for dessert tonight. By that time, the French Guy had arrived and was setting up, but, allons, we didn’t want to wait so bought a long piece of French bread at the Danish table. “Would you like us to cut it in half?” the woman asked. We told her that was a good idea.

Then we rode the tailwind home. Another great start to the weekend. Cool

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#28 Posted : Monday, May 21, 2012 2:34:08 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

I don’t get it. Sherlock. Well hyped. Highly praised. Its actor, whose name escapes me for the moment but is very British, supposedly the best Sherlock Holmes of all time. Better, according to today’s critics than every other Sherlock, including Basil Rathbone, who (along with Nigel Bruce as Dr. Watson), defined the iconic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle character for my generation. Apparently not, however, for the next generation or the generation after that or whatever generation lately is throwing its hero up the pop charts.

Anyway, it had been a busy Sunday. I had run early, farther than I’ve gone since we returned home from Florida. Then Rose and I decided we had time, before church, for an elegant breakfast: waffles and bacon, rather than our usual coffee-and-donut-middle-of-a-bike-ride early meal. Then church, then a nap, then I worked on a poster I had promised to draw for Madeline. The poster—3 feet by 9 feet—would hang in the church vestibule during a bake sale and allow volunteers to sign up to work on a garden. And so went most of my Sunday afternoon.

After finishing the poster, I called Madeline and left a message on her answering machine. I could have brought the poster to her, except I wanted her to see the work laid out on the floor of our living room. I killed some time working on a painting in my office, then the bell rang. It was Madeline and her husband Sean, so Rose and I invited them in and offered beers to drink while sitting in our front room looking out over the lake. A couple of hours passed faster than they should, so Rose said, “Why don’t you stay for dinner?” Easy, since we were planning spaghetti, so we moved into the kitchen and opened a bottle of Chianti that some friends had given us a year or two ago, except we couldn’t remember which friends. And after a few hours they rolled up the poster and walked home, the four of us promising to do this again. Who needs party planning when spontaneity works just as well, even if you still wind up doing the dishes?

Then Sherlock, which came on at 8:00 PM. Masterpiece Theatre. According to the hype, the British actor, whose name, I now have remembered, is Benedict Cumberbatch, is the best Sherlock ever. (I said that before, didn’t I?) But the article hyping this latest Sherlock indicated that 75 actors had played the role in 221 films. Seventy-five! How did the critic know Cumberbatch is the best? Better than Basil Rathbone? I am not inclined to trust a critic who had viewed all 75 Sherlocks. Get a life, Dude. And if he had only viewed 74 of them, is he sure of his assessment? What if the one Sherlock Holmes he missed was Rathbone?

The Masterpiece version of Sherlock is an example of style over substance. Sherlock talks so rapidly so that plus his British accent means you can hardly understand what he’s saying, although maybe it makes little difference. The show viewed was titled “Crown Jewels,” and it opens Topkapi style with the evil Professor Moriarity attempting to steal those jewels, except he apparently has another purpose, that being to catch Sherlock’s attention, so after nearly 90 minutes quick scene switches and British-accent mumbling, the two enemies appear on a London rooftop, which looks suspiciously like the rooftop where the Beatles gave their last live concert, and Sherlock shoots Moriarity, then jumps off the rooftop and kills himself. Did I forget to offer a spoiler warning? Sorry, but the book on which the film is very loosely based is more than a century old? Didn’t the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle version end with one or both jumping into a waterfall, and didn’t Doyle kill off his main character mainly because he was tired of writing Sherlock Holmes stories, but the character lives on after him, every generation throwing its hero up the pop charts? I understand a 76th actor has already been signed for the next Sherlock film.

And so went our Sunday. Somebody tell me if I’m missing something.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#29 Posted : Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:00:33 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Stepping outside after a visit to Dr. Benjamin Mannix’s office in LaPorte, it was like someone had jabbed hot pokers into my eyes. Instant pain! I had gone to see Dr. Mannix for a 6-month check-up following cataract eye surgery last year. Yes, I know. That brands me as an Old Person, a generation or two removed from most of you who follow my training programs, but then certainly you know my age. Like Jack Benny: 39!

The pain came from sunlight cascading into my eyeballs, even through dark glasses. My eyes had been dilated for Dr. Mannix’s examination. (He is a runner, by the way, having recently run a downhill half marathon with his daughter in Colorado.) When they dilate your eyes, it is like swinging the gates open. Sunlight can penetrate, and that can hurt. Usually, it takes several hours for your eyes to return to normal.

Fortunately, I had come with a Designated Driver. Rose drove me home, while I sat shotgun with my eyes closed. Even with that and with the sunglasses, I could still feel the brightness of a sun in a cloudless sky. Ironically, we had planned to see a film at the Vickers Theatre in Three Oaks, Michigan that evening. Its title: In Darkness. More on that later.

I started wearing glasses in college. I probably should have worn glasses in high school, but when as a growing boy your eyesight starts to deteriorate, you don’t know it immediately. While at Carleton College, I used to watch basketball games from the front row of an indoor track hung above the bleachers below. The numbers blurred on the shirts of the players. When I attended my first basketball with new glasses, I was stunned by how much better I could see and wondered why I had waited so long to get my eyes checked.

My problem was long vision. I didn’t need glasses for reading. I needed them to see objects far away, like signs while driving. And over the years for several decades, my eyes seemed to stay about the same. My vision was probably 20/100, bad enough so I never would fly a fighter jet, one of my ambitions when I was still in grade school.

At some point, my vision got worse, not greatly worse, but worse enough so that my eye doctor, Dr. Carl Golightly would fine-tune my prescription from time to time. Then several decades ago, my short-distance vision began to improve, while at the same time my long-range vision got better. Don’t ask me why; your eye doctor could explain how the muscles of the eye weaken causing shifts in fields of vision.

Then a half dozen years ago, Dr. Golightly explained that my eyes had begun to develop cataracts, no major problems yet, but at some point I might need surgery: "In five years maybe." I shrugged, but in the meantime, my wife and my sister-in-law both had cataract surgery. When choosing surgery, you had two options: 1) remove the cataracts, covered by Medicare; or 2) insert lenses to improve your vision, not covered by Medicare. Costs money, but you can throw away your eyeglasses. I chose the latter, one eye at a time, and was surprised how easy the surgery went.

Suddenly, I had 20/20 vision, good enough to fly jet planes, maybe even ride the space shuttle into space. Back in the 1980s, I was one of the finalists to become Journalist in Space, but the Challenger explosion ended that program.

About In Darkness. It is a Polish film about a dozen Jews who, to avoid being gassed by the Nazis, hide in the sewers beneath Lvov for 14 months. They are aided by a Polish sewer worker, who hides them first for money, later for compassion. It is a moving movie, but also a depressing one displaying once again the inhumanity of man to man.

In Darkness played last winter in Florida for a week, but we missed it. The film will stay one more weekend at the Vickers. In Darkness chronicles the true story of Jews, who survived only by subjecting themselves in the sewers to the vilest filth imaginable, as vile as the filth of the Nazi murderers above ground. In all honesty, I don’t think I could have survived as did these courageous people. I probably would have said, “March me to the gas chambers instead.” But European Jews did not have many choices during World War II.

A remarkable film. One might say: an eye-opener.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#30 Posted : Wednesday, May 23, 2012 11:58:42 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Being there: That’s what it’s all about!

Michigan City’s 4 x 800 relay team edged into the Regionals through what might most politely be called a back door. At the Sectionals last week, Coach Tim Bumber led with his slowest runner, putting City far behind by the first exchange, the three girls following narrowing the gap on several teams ahead, City’s anchor edging rival LaPorte at the line. But that was for 5th place, only four teams advancing.

Then City saw the door creek open allowing the team to wedge at lest one sneaker into the gap. At the conclusion of the meet with coaches permitted 30 minutes to make changes, the Wheeler coach decided not to contest the relay at the Regionals. City moving into that school’s qualifying position. Two days later at the Boys Sectionals, I chatted with the Wheeler coach, who explained that two of her relay runners felt they had better chances in the individual events. A third runner was on her 4 x 400 team, so would get to run. The fourth runner shrugged and sat out. That girl's father, however, was not happy, complaining angrily, but the Wheeler coach held her position. If you want to coach in any high school sport, you need an understanding of parental politics.

At the Regionals in Chesterton last night, City was seeded 16th out of 16 teams, thus relegated to the slowest of the two heats. City's qualifying time, embarrassingly, was not even close to any of the teams seeded immediately ahead of it: 10 seconds slower than the 7th squad; another 10 seconds slower than the 6th squad; still another 10 seconds slower than the 5th squad, and so forth. It looked like the girls would be relegated to trotting along far, far behind. Still, City’s girls at least got a chance to run. Advancing from one level to another in the countdown for State is accomplishment enough. It's all about Being There.

Interestingly, the City coach decided to reverse the order of his 4 x 800 squad, opening with the fastest girl, ending with the slowest. Sitting in the stands, I explained the strategy to Rose: “This way, City can stay in the race longer. It’s easier to motivate yourself when you’re at least close to a few other runners.”

And that’s how it went. City’s first runner ran out of her skull and passed the baton right on the lead. The next two girls, including our granddaughter Holly, stayed close. The fourth girl gutted it out finding some final-straightaway mojo, City remarkably placing 4th in the heat, running 24 seconds faster than they had in the Sectionals, each girl running personal bests for the year, leaving four better-seeded squads far behind. City would not advance to State, but, excuse me if I pump one fist in the air and shout, “Woo hoo!” I considered their race a huge accomplishment. Huge!

The two Wheeler girls later that evening would place 5th and 2nd in their respective individual events, the latter girl qualifying for State, justifying their coach’s strategy in ignoring parental pressures.

Later I spotted City’s coach leaning against the fence on the other side of the track. I offered congratulations coupled with condolences. It had not been an easy year for Tim. He had lost his assistant coach, after a lingering illness, only a few weeks before. He had been forced to dismiss several team members, including one relay runner, for missing too many practices. But a couple of 9th graders—-one a sprinter, one a hurdler—-show promise for next year. And the season had ended on a high note, all five City girls who competed in Regionals (including a 200 runner) with personal bests.

“That’s what happens,” he said, “when you have runners on your team who want to be there.”

Want to be there. I thought of all the runners who had used my training programs to finish one, two, three, four or more hours behind the Kenyans in marathon races. Yet many, perhaps most, of those individuals achieve personal achievements as great as those of more talented runners. You may not qualify for the Olympics. You may not qualify for State. But you achieve. You be there.

Hooray for all of us whose highest goal is to get to the starting line—-and proceed to the finish line. We want to be there, and running is a sport kind to those with that goal in mind.

HAL HIGDON
Bloventhal
#31 Posted : Wednesday, May 23, 2012 12:24:57 PM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 33
Location: California

Well said. Being there! I can't wait for the next being there.
Hal Higdon
#32 Posted : Thursday, May 24, 2012 11:42:23 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

To understand Marvel Comics and the current blockbuster film, The Avengers, you need to consider the revolution that Stan Lee brought to the comic world. Stan Lee was the editorial genius who during the so-called Silver Age of comics in the 1960s created heroes from Spider-Man to Thor to the Fantastic Four to the Incredible Hulk and (my favorite) Daredevil. These aged warriors continue to dominate on newsstands today as well as lure movie-goers (including me last night) to theatres.

Uniquely, under the Stan Lee creative system, comic books emerged less from scripts written by writers than pages drawn by artists. Artists dominated the genre, most specifically artists working in pencil who then hand off to others to finish the job.

Lee would begin with the shallow outline of a story that might look something like this:

Splash Page: Loki descends to Earth on a beam of energy, his goal to subjugate humans.

Page 2: Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D learns of his plans and enlists The Avengers to save Mankind.

Eighteen Pages of Fighting, ending with Loki beaten and banished.


And that, pretty much, is the story line of the summer’s first blockbuster film, The Avengers.

Beginning in high school, I began collecting comic art: the original art for comic books and comic strips. Among the originals hanging on my wall in Long Beach is an Iron Man page by George Tuska (pencils) and Mike Esposita (ink) and a Captain America page by David Fase, if I read his autograph correctly. In our Florida condo, I have an Avengers page featuring Iron Man by John Byrne (pencils) and Paul Ryan (inks) and an Incredible Hulk page by one of the Buscema brothers, Sam I think. But that is only part of my collection. I don’t collect comic art much any more, because I have no more space in my offices to hang it. Some of the comic art on my wall has some value (including a Peanuts daily strip), but a lot of it does not. I collect art because it looks nice, not to impress the experts on Antique Road Show.

In the Marvel Comics system, Lee would hand his plot outline to one of his key pencillers, a Jack Kirby or a John Romita. The “pencillers” would lay out the action (those 18 pages of fighting). Sometimes they had a hint of what Lee wanted; sometimes not. There was not yet a written script. When done, the artists would hand their penciled pages to a writer who would create dialog. After being okayed by a copy editor, the art then passed to a letterer, who inked the dialog into word balloons. The next person to touch the art would be the “inker,” who did just that: ink the penciled drawings. (Inkers got paid less than pencillers.) Finally, the art would go to a colorer, who selected the colors, doing so on a photocopy made of the original art. All of the original art hung on my walls in Indiana and Florida is black and white.

The emergence of computers has changed the way comic books are drawn today, but the penciller remains the key creator.

I don’t know the exact details of how a film overburdened with special effects such as The Avengers moves from plot outline to what we see on the screen, but for The Avengers, similar to Stan Lee requesting “18 pages of fighting,” a director would ask his creative team for “two hours of special effects.” Dialog? Someone must have written the funny lines put into the mouth of Iron Man, the film’s comic relief, but that probably came later.

At the very end of the film, I thought I spotted Stan Lee as among several citizens being interviewed on TV. Similar to Alfred Hitchcock, Stan Lee usually has a walk-on in most Marvel pictures. The battle between Loki and The Avengers pretty much destroyed New York City and probably killed more people than September 11, but such details get shrugged off in Special Effects movies, where death and destruction makes us feel good.

I felt The Avengers was an okay blockbuster as summer blockbusters go, but I’m waiting to see if films featuring Batman and Spider-Man trump The Avengers later in the summer.

Tomorrow, I promise to include in my blog at least some reference to running. Cool

HAL HIGDON
Liz R
#33 Posted : Thursday, May 24, 2012 4:51:58 PM(UTC)
Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 4,931
Location: Texas

There is running in The Avengers....
Liz R
Hal Higdon
#34 Posted : Thursday, May 24, 2012 6:40:31 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Liz R;793625 wrote:
There is running in The Avengers....


Yeah, but most of the characters are on steroids, especially Captain America, thus ineligible for the Olympics this summer. Sad

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#35 Posted : Friday, May 25, 2012 10:38:24 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

“Life? Bah!” snapped Wolf Larsen in Jack London’s archetypal book, The Sea Wolf. “It has no value. Of the cheap things it is the cheapest. Everywhere it goes begging. Nature spills it out with a lavish hand. Where there is one life, she sows a thousand lives, and it’s life eats life till the strongest and most piggish life is left.”

I quoted London in my book about the Leopold and Loeb case, The Crime of the Century. Third chapter. Page 29. You could look it up. Wolf's arrogant comment seemed to typify the attitude of the two killers profiled in my book. But most of us would disagree (I hope) with the statement that life has no value. We cling precariously to life, carefully nurturing each moment we have on Earth. If we live 50 years, we want to reach 60. If 60, 70 is the goal. At 70, age 80 seems almost unreachable. At 80—-if we get that far—-we want to get farther.

When asked which day was the happiest day of your life, the correct answer should be, “Today!” To reach “today” means we might also reach tomorrow.

Yesterday, I had my biannual physical examination with my doctor, Samuel West, MD, who practices in New Buffalo, Michigan. Rose and I also have a second doctor for winters in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida: Michael Haghighi, MD. We bump back and forth between our two MDs. Most of our visits are perfunctory, because our health is generally good. I recently moved into a new decade of my life; I hope to reach the end of that decade and bring Rose with me.

My blood test numbers suggest a good prognosis: 70 triglycerides; 152 total cholesterol; 46 HDL; 92 LDL. Rose also sports good numbers. Sam would like to get my LDLs down closer to 70, and so I take a statin.

I always have been health conscious, even at an earlier age. This is at least partly because of my coverage of health issues during a long career as a magazine journalist. Long before seat belts were mandatory, I wrote several magazine articles on traffic safety, and realized how seat belts might protect people in automobile accidents. As a runner, I wanted to protect my legs and the rest of the body atop those legs. I paid extra and put belts in the first automobile Rose and I bought after our marriage. Fortunately, and because I drive defensively, we never have been in a serious traffic accident. But sometimes defensive driving is not enough, so you play the odds and don’t tempt fate by speeding and dodging from one lane to another. And you buckle up!

I never took up smoking. I drink moderately, mostly wine with dinner. I follow a good diet: 55% carbohydrates, 30% fats, 15% protein. I don’t believe in supplements, but take a multivitamin daily along with a single 81 mg aspirin and the statin mentioned above. Obviously, I exercise, although more on a bike now than on the run. I am a dozen years past the age when my father died of a heart attack. My mother had better genes, lived longer, and I will reach her age in a couple of years.

But there is no guarantee, as Wolf Larsen might tell you. My college girlfriend had parents who lived to the ages of 100 and 102. She fell 30 years short of that goal and is gone now. I never had any contact with her after graduation, so I don’t know why. Cancer, I think.

During his exam, Dr. West mentioned a comment made by one of his colleagues, a man in his 70s. “As we get older,” the other doctor said, “we are forced into a series of compromises, many of which are unwelcome.”

No longer being able to run 26.2 miles at a pace fast enough to muss my hair, I do regret somewhat the loss of my earlier speed, but only somewhat. My goals have changed and will continue to change. Today! That’s what this life is about. Thumbing our nose at Wolf Larsen, we do the best we can with each “today” that is handed us.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#36 Posted : Sunday, May 27, 2012 5:18:35 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

A quick congratulations to grandson Wesley, a member of the Purdue University crew team, a NATIONAL CHAMPION. Wes switched this weekend from an Eight to Four boat. Purdue placed 1st at the ACRA National Championships for Men's Novice Lightweight Fours on Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia. Purdue rowed 2000 meters in 6:42.5, soundly beating teams that included Michigan and the University of California Santa Barbara. Let’s hear it for Wesley!

BigGrin

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#37 Posted : Sunday, May 27, 2012 6:38:31 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Sunday morning Rose and I were seated at an outdoor table at Cosi, a coffee shop at the corner of Grand and Rush in Chicago. We were in Chicago for a series of events staying overnight at the Conrad Hotel. I was facing west looking down the street at a pair of runners, man and woman, approaching. The man was wearing a red Chicago Marathon shirt: 10-10-10. The woman had on a pair of crazy-loud sneakers.

I smiled. The woman stopped. She said: “You’re Hal Higdon. I recognize you from the picture on your website!” How could I deny that fact. Luckily I was eating healthy: oatmeal and a bagel.

She had used one of my training programs to qualify for Boston in her first marathon. They both had run the Pike’s Peak Marathon, both the up and the down. That qualified them as better than me, because although I had run Pike’s Peak a couple of times, setting a masters ascent record once, I chickened out of the quad-pounding, knee-bloodying descent. At the finish line, I saw runners coming across the line bearing the wounds from falls on the rocky course.

“That’s because they weren’t focusing,” claimed the woman. She and her partner bade us goodbye and headed for the lakefront running paths. Rose and I returned to the hotel, grabbed our bags, and headed for the South Shore Lines station beneath Millennium Park to head home to Long Beach. The weather forecast called for temps in the high 90s. We figured we would be more comfortable at home rather than wandering downtown Chicago.

Backing up to Saturday afternoon, we had taken the train into town to attend a birthday party for our cousin Johnny at Gioco Restaurant, 13th and Wabash. Because the train runs on a limited weekend schedule, we arrived a couple of hours early so filled the time by visiting the Art Institute of Chicago, specifically the Roy Lichtenstein exhibit running through September. I have long been inspired by the Pop Art work of Lichtenstein. I currently am readying several paintings for an exhibit at the Lubeznik Center for the Arts July in Michigan City, Indiana. You can’t walk around Chicago without stumbling across multiple images of Lichtenstein paintings: on walls, on banners, on buses.

Walking through the Loop, we heard one young man say to another: “What is this Lichtenstein: an artist or a comic book?” A little of both, I would say.

From Gioco , we grabbed a cab to Conrad, which gave us a couple of hours rest before meeting friends, David and Dorceen, at the Russian Tea Time Restaurant on Adams Street, near Orchestra Hall. David and Dorceen had tickets to last night’s Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert featuring Emanuel Ax playing Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto. The concert was sold out, but I hoped maybe we could scavenge some last-minute return tickets. Alas, the only seats available were separate singles at $166 each and above. So we left our friends and headed back to the hotel. And the encounter the next morning with the running couple. And the train ride back to Michigan City. And here we are, only halfway through the Memorial Day weekend.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#38 Posted : Tuesday, May 29, 2012 5:57:45 PM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

Nothing much has happened since we returnedSunday afternoon from our weekend in Chicago . Well, this is the Blog About Nothing.

My bike was being repaired, so Rose and I couldn’t go out for a bike ride on Monday (Memorial Day) morning. So we half compromised. I ran to and from Al’s, leaving early. (Total distance: maybe 4-5 miles.) She rode, catching me about halfway, riding along at my unbelievably slow pace, so slow it was barely enough to keep her upright, then she sprinted ahead to buy a few things at the grocery store part of Al’s before I staggered up looking like I was in the last 385 of a marathon. It was warm, soon to get warmer.

Being Monday, there was no Mass to attend, which would have killed some time along with providing a snack (bread and wine). So what did I do the rest of the morning and all afternoon?

Nothing! Cool

Aren’t you sorry now, you got trapped into following this blog. Oh, I did spend part of Monday writing my speech to give after receiving an award from my high school Saturday morning. They’re only giving me 3-5 minutes to thank everybody. If I had an hour to speak, I could wing it. For so short a time, I need to be much better organized.

Monday evening, Kevin and his family came over for spaghetti. But you don’t want to hear what we talked about. In fact, I can’t remember what we talked about.

Tune in tomorrow when I will be able to talk about:

Something! Cool

If nothing else, I now have my bike back, so I can tell you all about our ride to Al’s Tuesday morning for coffee. Life goes on.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#39 Posted : Wednesday, May 30, 2012 11:45:27 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

If you decided well ahead to sign up for a race on the just-passed Memorial Day weekend, you may have regretted it. My condolences. It has become an unfortunate trend that if you want to get into the most popular races, you need to enter months in advance, because they fill fast. We register not knowing what other activities might cause us to drop out before we start. Weather proved the problem this past weekend. Hot weather in the case of the Midwest. Rose and I spent the weekend in Chicago and encountered temps near 90. No problem if you’re hanging out in Millennium Park sipping a beer, but bad luck if you had planned to run a marathon. Add to that the near hurricane that hit near our winter digs in Ponte Vedra Beach. Beryl came ashore in Jacksonville Beach only a few miles north of us, where each year they "Run 26.2 with Donna." Right on Donna's course, for Pete's sake. This caused the cancellation of a 5-K race in Jacksconville. No damage to our condo, however. Just a lot of rain, and we needed that.

Several marathons apparently got downsized, if not cancelled. One runner posted a question to me related to the Madison Marathon, which became for him the Madison Half Marathon, because of what I considered a very wise decision by the race director. The runner wasn’t complaining, but he wondered whether he could utilize his marathon training for a different 26-miler in 2-3 weeks. I told him, yes, and featured his question on my weekly column: Q&A w/HH.

Race directors are smarter now than they were when I was more serious about my racing in a previous millennium. The 1964 Olympic Marathon Trials featured temperatures in the 90s. The race started at High Noon, because that’s when they started races in the Dark Ages. Who back then wanted to get up in time for a more reasonable 8:00 start? Buddy Edelen was the favorite, having set the world record for the marathon (2:14) the previous year. I foolishly challenged him, racing his pace not mine, and was forced to drop out while still running in 2nd at 17 miles, because my ears started ringing, an early sign of heat distress.

Ironically, what got me in trouble was my high level of fitness, which allowed me to push my body to places it should not have been allowed to go. Several years later, retired at least briefly from serious running, I happened to be in New England on business the same weekend as the (infamous) Mount Holyoke Marathon, qualifier in 1967 for the Pan American Games team, another marathon plagued by temperatures in the 90s.

I had no expectations of qualifying for the team, but showed up to for a 26-mile workout with a few of my friends. I set my pace for a 3:00 finish (not the 2:20 finish I had hoped for three years earlier at Yonkers). So I trotted along well behind the leaders, miles behind the leaders, and every few miles someone on the sidelines would inform me what place I was in: 60th, then 40th, then 20th. My place kept improving—-except I wasn’t passing anybody! The top runners were dropping out well before I could catch and pass them. I finished in the top ten that day not too far behind my 3:00 goal, mainly because I wasn’t running hard enough to raise my temperature to dangerous levels.

Fortunately, race directors (like the smart one in Madison) have learned from mistakes made long before running marathons became a popular pastime. For all of you, if you show up at a starting line any time this summer or the next, hope that the organizers are better prepared to seek your safety than the race directors of my time.

HAL HIGDON
Hal Higdon
#40 Posted : Thursday, May 31, 2012 11:01:45 AM(UTC)

Rank: Advanced Member

Posts: 29,125
Location: Long Beach, IN

I am back on my bike! BigGrin

Excuse me, because even though this is a Blog About Nothing, I know most of you come here for insights on the sport of running. But running is only part of my life, and as I age and as my legs lose a little bit of their old punch, I spend more relax time these days riding a bicycle. Don’t feel sorry for me, I love it. Mostly this is because my wife and I have rediscovered each other. We bicycle regularly to and from favorite coffee shops, not only home in Indiana, but winters in Florida.

But for most of this spring, I have been struggling to keep up with her. She has a bike that is both lighter and also has thinner tires. She also has toe-clips on her pedals, whereas I do not. Normally, this is enough only to give her a slight edge in speed, but this spring it has been a huge edge. I pump mightily to keep my front tire close to her rear tire, while she cruises along barely out of breath.

Part of the reason was that I took her bike in for a tune-up after we got back from Florida, but failed to do so for mine. I knew we would be returning to Florida for a long weekend centered on a grandson’s graduation from high school. Normally, it takes the Bike Stop in Michigan City a week or more to execute repairs, so I figured that waiting for that weekend would permit less down time between coffee shop rides.

Then several days ago, I tested the front wheel, raising and spinning it. The wheel spun less than a half revolution. The problem, I finally realized, was that the front brakes were locked. I had been biking most of the month of May fighting that front-wheel brake. Time to take the bike in early, which I did, and the Bike Stop actually managed to execute its repairs faster than normal. (Maybe they knew I would talk about it in my blog.

Not only did the front brakes need adjustment, but I also needed new gears for the back wheel and a new chain. Plus my saddle was worn, so I replaced that too. Cost of everything came to near $180, and I almost could have purchased a new bike for that much money, plus I decided I needed a new helmet at the same time. Rose offered to pay for the helmet so she could give it to me on my birthday in a couple of weeks.

But, oh my, what a difference those repairs made. Yes, they had cost almost as much as a new bike, but it was like having a new bike. I rode home from the Bike Stop rather than stuff my cycle into the rear of our car, and it was like I had the wings of an eagle.

This morning’s ride to Al’s for coffee was a pleasure. I am looking forward to many pleasant rides with Rose this summer.

HAL HIGDON
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