Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Strict Joy

A long time ago, someone who loved music very much told me that when they got an album, they just hoped for one good song on it. I was just getting into music myself, and I was a little shocked. "How pessimistic," I thought. "Why get an album if there's only going to be one song that you like on it?"

However, as I began to compile more and more albums, I started to think that maybe they had been right. I would hear a song on the radio, rush out to buy the album hoping for it to be filled with similar songs, and almost always wind up disappointed. I still refuse to completely admit that my friend was correct in her assumption. With a lot of the albums out there though, it seems to be that there are far more instances in which she was right than wrong. Since I heard her say that, I've spent many years hoping that every album I get will have more than one great song on it. Over the past ten years, my list has included albums such as: Coldplay's "Parachutes" and "Viva la Vida," Jack Johnson's "In Between Dreams," Thrice's "The Artist in the Ambulance," Thursday's "War All the Time," Arcade Fire's "Funeral," and Radiohead's "In Rainbows." There are definitely more to add, but the list is small, and the list of albums where there are more than three or four "great" songs is even smaller. However, today I am proud to add another to the list.

Anyone who has seen the movie "Once" doesn't need me to tell them that Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova work well together. Though not romantically involved anymore, they still form the band "The Swell Season" and their music is as beautiful as ever. Their new album "Strict Joy" is without a doubt one of the best albums out this year and made it onto my list with one listen.

No one likes a one trick pony, and lately it seems like that's what a lot of bands have become. There are so many bands I can think of that are immensely talented, but when you buy their new album, you know exactly what you're going to get before you listen to the first song. It's because of this trend that the surprising range of songs in "Strict Joy" caught me so pleasantly off guard. The songs range from Hansard singing alone with an almost Damien Rice sort of sound in some, to the flamenco inspired "Paper Cups," and from the mystical and almost mythical sounding "Fantasy Man" to the flat out gorgeous and sad "I Have Loved You Wrong." Irglova has the uncanny ability to change the sound of her voice to match the emotions of the song. In "Fantasy Man," her voice is soft with an almost gypsy-like quality to it and seems so delicate that it could crack at any moment. In "I Have Loved You Wrong," her voice seems stronger, but retains a sadness as she confesses: "Forgive me lover for I have sinned, for I have loved you wrong." Coupled with Hansard's restrained harmonies, the song is hauntingly beautiful and maybe the best of the album. Despite the pained and sometimes yearning lyrics that may or may not reflect how the duo feels about each other, there is an unmistakable air of hopefulness to the album that ultimately holds it together. Whether it's the lyrics coming around to resemble optimism or the music itself failing to sink to the emotional lows of the lyrics, I can only say one thing to the end result: "You're on the list."

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Moving Find

I recently moved to a new apartment. Whenever I move, I find tons of stuff that I have no recollection of ever having. This time was no different. During the course of moving and throwing stuff out, I found a bunch of old assignments that I did for writing classes. Things that I completely forgot that I had written. Reading back over something you have no recollection of writing is always an interesting experience. If you're lucky, you have some moments where you're pleasantly surprised by your writing. If you're not, then it's at least a chance to see how far your writing has come. Either way, it can be an interesting experience. Here's one of the stories I found. The assignment was to come up with a scene in which there are two characters and each one knows something that the other doesn't. This is what I came up with.

A Strange Occurrence

“Do you want any more juice?” she asked, crossing the tile floor of the kitchen to where he sat, halfway through that morning’s paper.

He looked up for a moment and smiled weakly. “No, I’m fine, thanks.”

She whistled and pulled her small glass with ladybugs frosted on the outside towards her and poured herself some juice. He glanced up from the opinion column.

“Since when can you whistle?”

“Since forever, silly.”

“You’re in an awful good mood today.”

She looked at him, surprised. “Well why wouldn’t I be? It’s such a nice day and it’s so quiet in here, just the two of us.”

He looked up from his paper again and glanced around.

“It is quiet in here. I wonder if Sergeant Tibbs is awake.”

“Ugh! That bird is all you talk about,” she moaned.

He didn’t seem to notice and went back to the paper. She walked back across the kitchen and began scrubbing a bowl in the sink, letting the soapy water seep through her fingers. She glanced out the window.

“Honey, where’s Mr. Tumnus?”

“What, that cat?”

“Yeah, I haven’t seen the baby all day and I set out his foie gras hours ago, but it looks as though he hasn’t touched it.”

“You spoil that cat too much. One day, it’s going to have to learn to live on its own,” he said. “That damn cat eats better than I do.”

She turned towards him.

“Well maybe if you talked to me half as much as you talk to that bird, things would be different. Anyways,” she said, turning away from the sink, “I have to go to work.”

She walked towards the door and grabbed her black coat, felt for her keys in the pocket, and then blew him a kiss and walked out the door. As soon as she was gone, he put down the paper and walked towards the guest bedroom. Condensation had begun to form on the ladybug glass, and the only sound in the kitchen was the soft ticking of the Felix the cat clock that hung above the sink. Their screams pierced the silence simultaneously, and they both ran into the kitchen at the same time.

“You ran over my cat!”

“Well I was going to get the paper and he was in the way!”

“You had to drive to get the paper? You know he likes sleeping in the driveway! Your car is still on top of him!”

“Well you’re the one who killed my bird and wrote a suicide note to me from him!”

“Honey, he looked kind of depressed last night when I saw him. Maybe there was something he wasn’t telling you,” she said quietly.

"Sergeant Tibbs can't write! And there was box of rat poison next to his cage!"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins (Not the Band)

Ask people what they do for Thanksgiving and the phrases “watch football,” “family time,” and “food coma” are bound to come up. Ask me what I do for Thanksgiving and you might get something a little different.

My dad says it started when I was born. My mom says it started two years later around the time my sister was born. Regardless of when it actually started, I can’t remember a Thanksgiving in which we didn’t go over to my grandparents house, dress up like pilgrims and Indians, and then march up to my grandparents’ roof to throw pumpkins off of it.

Every year, my grandfather goes to the pumpkin patch the day after Halloween and buys as many pumpkins as he can get his hands on. The bigger the better. Days, and sometimes weeks before the actual event, my grandma starts to tell us how many pumpkins my grandfather was able to pick up. Sometimes we even go over a few days early and check out the stock, admiring and making mental notes of which ones we want to lob off the roof. The anticipation builds and builds this way until, finally, the day arrives and my family and I drive the seemingly endless thirty minutes to my grandparents’ house. When we get there, the first thing we do is check out all the pumpkins lined up on the porch. Somehow, my grandpa always seems to outdo himself. I still don’t know how he gets so many pumpkins in an aging minivan, but each year, it seems like there are more pumpkins lined outside the house.

The level of anticipation at this point is almost unbearable, but rules are rules, and no one gets to throw a pumpkin off of the roof without the proper garb. My grandparents were both born in Holland, so they (and anyone else present who was born overseas) get to wear full pilgrim outfits. Anyone who was born in America is deemed a “Native American,” and so boxes of apparel are strewn over the surface of the pool table in my grandparents’ game room, and there is a mad dash for the best headdresses and plastic bear claw necklaces. When everyone is satisfied with their appearance, it’s photo time with the pumpkins. Everyone in the family poses together either perched atop or standing next to the soon to be doomed gourds.
The Thanksgiving photo shoot was the worst nightmare for every kid growing up in my family. It was like someone giving you a present on Christmas and then telling you that you had to wait until the Fourth of July to open it. As a kid, all I could think about during the photo shoots was that pumpkin I was sitting on. After about ten or fifteen photos, I was always sure it was mocking me. I remember nearly falling off of pumpkins I was sitting on when I was little just because I wanted to smash them so badly.

Finally, it’s time. Everyone picks up the biggest pumpkin they can find and marches around the house to the metal ladder that goes to the roof. On the side of the house, the roof lowers to about six feet in height, so we hoist the pumpkins onto the roof first, and then climb up to retrieve them. Once everyone and their pumpkins are on the roof, we march to the highest point, directly over the cobbled patio.

When everyone gets their pumpkin to the top of the roof, it’s finally time. At the count of three, there’s a collective grunt as everyone launches their pumpkins and then about two seconds of absolute silence before the pumpkins hit the ground and explode. After a few rounds of this (no, we don’t just throw one each), the patio is covered in orange carnage. You can barely walk through the patio because there are pumpkin pieces everywhere you step. When the last pumpkin has been pitched, it’s the kids job to shovel the smashed pieces into wheelbarrows, and then wheel the wreckage to the creek. Over the years, we’ve dumped so many pumpkins into the creek that new ones have begun to grow on the banks. Once all the pumpkins are cleaned off the patio, we move on to a much more traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the house.

Even though we’ve done the pumpkin toss for as long as I can remember, I can’t fathom ever tiring of it. It has become something that I associate with Thanksgiving just like most people associate bunnies with Easter. It’s a chance to spend time with family and maybe do something a little different in the process. Every family has their quirks. Mine just happens to be that we like to throw pumpkins off of a roof.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


So right now, I'm watching the Barcelona /Inter Milan game. Personally, I would love to watch more soccer, but it's pretty hard to find televised matches in the U.S., and when they are televised, they're often shown at times I either have work or class. When I do get the chance though, I try to watch, especially when Barcelona is playing. For some reason, soccer is still not very popular in the U.S. (hence the lack of televised matches). I think you could definitely argue that it's getting there. In the last few years, I've noticed an increase in the attention sports fans pay to soccer. However, I think that there is one perception that needs to change before soccer can really become popular. (Note: this is my opinion as a casual observer.)

Soccer players are a bunch of pansies: At least this is what it looks like every time I see a match. Every time someone comes near them, they fall to the ground grabbing something on their body like they just got shot. By no means is this true for every soccer player, but many of them take more flops in a match than a white center in the NBA.

Having played and watched soccer, I know for a fact that there is a lot of contact in soccer. I don't want to come off like I'm knocking curling here. There is plenty potential for injury over the course of a soccer match. However, isn't it a wee bit peculiar that when a player goes down, he's only "hurt" for as long as it takes the referee to either make or deny him the call? It's a little hard to take a sport seriously when this is allowed to go on. The NBA had a flopping problem and ended up handing out fines to frequent floppers. In soccer, the issue is still allowed to go on.

Here's what I think the real problem is: Too much reliance on referees. In sports like basketball, we see this a lot as star players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James often blindly charge at the basket late in games counting on referees to bail them out with a foul call. In soccer, we see the same thing, with start players like Cristiano Ronaldo falling down and grabbing for their ankles seemingly every time they touch the ball.

On a side note, in the France/Ireland game that ended with a controversial handball by Thierry Henry, the Irish were so sure that they were going to get the handball called that they stopped playing defense and gave up the game winning goal. If you look at the pictures of the goal, you will see Henry's teammate, William Gallas calmly heading the ball home for the winning goal while the Irish defenders around him are looking away from the goal with arms up to signal the handball. Yes, it was a terrible call and the goal should not have counted. However, players can't just count on the referees to always bail them out. This is true for any sport. Referees are human. They're going to miss calls every once in a while.

So, basically, what it comes down to is that soccer players need to focus on playing the game. The game is beautiful when played correctly. However, when there is constant flopping and pleading for calls, people assume that soccer players are a bunch of pansies. In a place like America, that perception can be fatal to a sport. If it's between playing a sport like football (where they can knock the crap out of people without penalty) or soccer (where it can seem like every time you breath in someone's direction, they go down in pain), most young boys in America will choose football. Ultimately, I think that whether or not the flopping issue is addressed will have a huge effect on whether the sport survives.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Case Against Tourism

One of the amazing things about being alive in this age is that it is easier than ever to travel. I have been fortunate enough to travel all over the world in the last fourteen years of my life. It started with a trip to Ghana with my parents when I was ten and my most recent longer distance trip was to Montreal last summer. I love travel and traveling, so whenever someone tells me they're going somewhere, I always ask them what they're going to do there.

"Well, first we're going to wake up on Monday and see the Eiffel Tower. Then, we're going to go to Pere Lachaise at 2 in the afternoon for a tour and then we're hurrying to the Arc de Triomphe by 3:30 and then it's dinner in the Saint Germain at 5. The next day..." Ok...good, I suppose.

To tell you the truth, I have no idea. I just want to see Paris." Better!

Right after I graduated high school, I got to take a five week trip to Thailand with a group called The Experiment in International Living. Occasionally, our group leader would give us short assignments to do when we were there. Usually, it involved him giving us a quote to think about, followed by us freewriting our thoughts on it for a few minutes and then sharing. On the plane ride across the Pacific, he gave us a quote to write on. It went like this:

"A traveler sees what he sees. A tourist sees what he has come to see."

This has since become my mantra for traveling. Here's the way I look at it: Any given place you go to has much more to it than any travel book on it you will ever buy. It's up to you to find it while you're there. I don't think it's a bad idea to plan out a vacation. If you go to London, it's not a crime to see the changing of the guard. However, I don't think you should be so distracted on the way to Buckingham Palace that you miss everything on the way. I think that it's important to stop at places that look like they might be interesting because chances are they probably are.

When I went to Australia with my grandparents a few years ago, my grandpa was very specific with my cousin and I when it came to our souvenir shopping:

"Don't buy anything you can get back at home."

For me, this turned into the purchasing of a didgeridoo, a handcrafted boomerang, a kangaroo pelt, and a cement stuffed cane toad. My grandpa took his own advice to heart and ended up with a crocodile hand back scratcher and kangaroo scrotum coin purses for all of his friends. Since the trip to Australia, I haven't been able to travel anywhere without remembering his advice. To this, I've also learned to add a new element as far as eating in other places is concerned: Don't try anything you can get back at home.

For me, one of the most exciting things about going to a new place is the opportunity to try new foods. In particular, I really like trying different meats. When I was in Ghana, the locals sold something along the side of the road called grasscutter (to non-Ghanaians, grasscutter is barbecued rat on a stick). While at the time I was appalled, now I can't stop wishing I had tried it. Granted, the idea of a rat on a stick isn't really appealing, but the chance to eat something truly unique like that in a place like Ghana is to me. Since then, I've tried not to pass anything up that looks or sounds unique. My first experiment was a crocodile pot pie in Australia. I followed that up with a kangaroo steak a few days later. After that, my appetite for trying new meats had been whetted and I was just getting going. Since then, I've been able to have crocodile again in Thailand, snails and a reindeer pancake in Holland, a wild boar sandwich in London, and rabbit in Paris. On the home front, I've been able to try frog legs, buffalo, deer, elk, eel, crickets, kudu, just about every kind of fish imaginable, and, most recently, sea cucumber.

I absolutely love trying new meats, but there are a few lines that I wont cross.

1. Nothing that might kill me- While you could argue that grasscutter might fit into this category, I'm still putting grasscutter on my safe list for now. The number one thing in this list has to be fugu. Fugu is the name given to pufferfish meat. While, if prepared correctly, pufferfish has the potential to be delicious, I'm staying away from that one at all costs.

2. No weird body parts- I like meat, but there are some types of meat that I'm not a fan of. If someone offered me weasel brains today, I would probably think: "Hmmm...weasel...yes. Brains...no." A few months ago, a friend let me try a cabeza taco at a local taco stand. For those not familiar with Spanish, cabeza means "head," so you can see where they're going with the cabeza taco thing- cow brains. While it wasn't the worst thing I've ever had, I think the idea more than anything else got to me. Therefore- no strange body parts.

3. No endangered animals- As far as I know, I'm still good on this one. I've eaten a lot of strange meats, but I would never eat anything endangered. This includes animals like whales, dolphins, gorillas, pandas. I don't care how good looking a piece of panda meat looks, I won't touch it.

4. No pets- Having had both dogs and cats as pets, I think it would be nearly impossible for me to eat one and keep a clean conscience. Now, I know that the boundaries on this one are kind of vague. There are probably those out there who would consider a rabbit and maybe even a kangaroo as a pet. For now, I'm sticking to the traditional ones- dogs and cats. I'll throw horses in there too. Guinea pigs, you're still fair game.

I think the biggest mistake that people make when they're traveling is being afraid to try new things. Obviously, you shouldn't just go for everything. Streaking down a back alley in Caracas or urinating on Angkor Wat may be new but they wouldn't necessarily be good ideas. Every new country should be looked at as an opportunity to try new things, not just as a chance to see what everyone else has already seen there. So go out, try new meats, explore new places, and see what you see.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

I Got the Blues

So it is now 1 a.m. and I'm procrastinating (as I often do). I have about 400 things to do by 9:30 tomorrow morning so, naturally, I'm spending time here. I've been thinking about posting some of my work on here for a little while. I don't really know if it is in the hopes that someone "big" will read it and I'll get "discovered." As cool as that would be and all, I'm not really that naive. I think I would just kind of like to be able to type in an address and see my work there. There's something about seeing my work online that makes me feel important, like I've made it and I'm being published, even if it's by myself. As silly as all this may sound (and maybe because I'm running on enough coffee to put most people into a caffeine induced coma) I really may do it. Until I decide whether or not to post some of my "serious" stuff, I leave this- the one thing I have finished today since I started working at around noon. The class is called "History of the Blues" and the assignment was to write our own blues lyrics.

Best Friend Blues

I woke up this mornin’ and I head right out the door
Well I woke up this mornin’ and I head right out the door
My baby done left me, she ain’t comin' round no more

No cakes on the griddle and no bacon in the pan
(Said there weren’t) no cakes on the griddle and no bacon in the pan
My baby done left me, done left a broke and hungry man

Walked around the corner, saw that rope tied to a post
Yeah I walked around the corner, saw that rope tied to a post,
Baby, leave me broke and hungry, just don’t take what I love most

Followed that rope to nothing, sat and cried there in the fog
(Don’t you see)I followed that rope to nothing, sat and cried there in the fog
I know I done you wrong, Sugar, but did you have to take the dog?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Phillies 11, Dodgers 0

I watched the Dodger game last night. Or really, I should say that I watched the first inning and then left for an extended period, returning later to find the Dodgers stuck at the same score they began the game (0) and the Phillies at a score that 5 NFL teams failed to reach yesterday. I absolutely love the Dodgers and I still have every bit of confidence in their ability to reach (and win) the World Series. I'm just a little worried now. Ok, a lot.

Last night was more than a little painful to watch. Going up against a pitcher against Cliff Lee, I had a feeling that the odds weren't for the Dodgers going up 2-1 in the series. And with Kuroda, a pitcher who had been out since September, on the mound, I had a feeling the pitching might not be quite as stellar as Padilla had been in Game 2. However, nothing could have prepared me for that first inning. Within seconds, the Phillies had a hit...and then another...and then another. Suddenly they were up 2-0 and just when it seemed like the inning couldn't get any worse, one of my least favorite players in the league, Jayson Werth, hit a 2 run bomb off a pitch that had about as much deception to it as a pitch thrown by my little sister. I felt like one of the vampires in From Dusk Till Dawn getting my heart gouged with a pool cue. Not only were the Phillies winning, Jayson Werth and his stupid facial hair were at the helm. It was an absolute nightmare.

The worst part about last night's game for Dodger fans is that the Phillies are now one step closer to taking the Dodgers out again. It's deja vu in the worst possible way. To see the Dodgers finally win a series in the playoffs and then get crushed by the Phillies last year was rough, but this year, I really felt like the Dodgers had the pieces to beat another tough Philly team. Last night's game left an awful taste in my mouth and it's really making me worry about the game tonight. The biggest question is: which Dodger team will show up? Will it be the Dodgers of Game 1, who went bezerk at the plate and nearly matched the Phillies run for run? Will it be the Dodgers of Game 2, where they decided that pitching is kind of important if you want to win games? Or will it be the Dodgers of last night, who basically put a "Hit Me" sign on their chests and laid down in front of the Philly-driven steam roller? I can only hope for the best. Go Blue.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Hood to Coast

It's 2 pm on a Wednesday afternoon in northern Oregon and I'm driving towards Mount Hood in a minivan. The mountain's bare brown peak and snow speckled sides are looming ahead and my heart is racing. I look out the window. In about 4 hours, I'll be following thousands of other runners down this mountain as we begin a mad dash with our teams to the town of Seaside on the coast of the state, 197 miles away. Most of the teams have already started and I can see a trail of runners with numbers affixed to their chests chugging down the slope. A few look like they're ready to give up already. And this is just the first of their three race legs. Great. What have I gotten myself into?

The Hood to Coast race began nearly thirty years ago and takes place for two days at the end of every August. The first 1,000 teams to register for the race are entered as participants and each team is made up of 12 runners. In addition to the 12,000 runners on the course, there are 3,000 volunteers who do everything from telling the runners not to go down certain roads to setting up the party tents at the finish line on the beach. This makes for a huge number of people converging on the lodge at Mount Hood (where the race begins) all at once. To deal with this, the start times are staged based on each runner's projected 10k time. This year, the start times for the slow teams began on the morning of August 28th and teams were starting all the way until 6:45 pm that night. The race officials try to get everyone into Seaside by the next afternoon, so if your team is projected to run the race in 36 hours, you'll have one of the first start times. If your team is projected to run around 26 hours, as ours was, you'll have one of the last times in the race.

So here's how the race works. Each team is split into two vans. Van 1 carries runners 1-6 and Van 2 takes runners 7-12. The race is made up of 36 legs, with each leg being anywhere from around 3.5 to 7.5 miles. After you drop a runner off, your van rushes up ahead to the next pit stop, where you park and wait with anywhere from about 20 to 200 (or more) other vans for your runner to arrive. When the runner comes in, the next runner waits to take the baton (a neon green slap bracelet). Once the exchange is made, the runner who has taken the "baton" runs off and the runner who has finished is met by the rest of the team, who then all get back in their van and drive to the next stop where they do the same thing over again. Once the sixth runner has run, the first runner from the next van (runner #7) takes the handoff and then the second van takes over. When the 12th and last runner has run, the first runner takes the baton and the first van takes over again. This goes on for 36 grueling legs of the race and yes, some would even call this fun. I didn't think I would be one of them.

I was the second runner on the team which meant that around 6pm that day, I found myself standing in the designated handoff zone watching our first runner, Steve, getting closer and closer, ready to hand me the slap bracelet. All the waiting had finally come to this. He took the last few steps and extended the bracelet towards me. Here it goes! I grabbed for the bracelet and started running...but forgot to actually hold on to the bracelet and dropped it behind me. I picked it up, and then, just like that, I was off.

My legs felt light and the cheering from the groups behind me faded. In front of me were the bouncing forms of a few runners down the road and the open highway stretching down the mountainside. We had been in Oregon for nearly three entire days now, and I couldn't believe how good it felt to finally start running. Maybe it even felt a little too good. I found my legs bolting down the hill at a pace I knew was too fast, but it just felt too good for me to want to stop. When you talk to anyone who has run the race, the advice they give you is usually going to be, "Save your energy on the first two legs. You're gonna need it for the last." So really, I'm not sure what I was thinking going as fast as I did on the first. I guess I really just don't like to hold myself back when I run. I figured that if I was going to run on this kind of downhill, I was going to take advantage of the fact that my legs were years younger than most of the other guys out there. Ha!, I'd think as I passed them, You're going to regret taking the downhill leg tomorrow, old man. Bet you wish your knees were as young as mine.

I kept up my pace the entire way. My iPod was blaring in my ears and the songs couldn't have been better. Nothing was going to stop me. I rounded the last bend and saw my dad waiting for me with a walkie-talkie to tell the rest of the team that I was close to the end. I sprinted by him and passed the baton to our next runner. Only then did I feel the fatigue in my legs and a blister forming on my right big toe and I realized, Crap, I have to do that again. TWO more times.

We made it through the entire van and handed off to the first runner from the second van. It was dark by this time and we had our first break. We drove to the home of one of our teammates and I was asleep within what seemed like 2 minutes of getting there. It was like my body knew what I was about to do to it and was gathering as much energy as it possibly could before the real test began.

I don't really remember anyone waking me up, but I woke two hours later to the sight of my teammates hurriedly packing things up and getting ready to leave. Was it really time already? "We only have a few minutes," one of them muttered, and I threw my things together and laced up my running shoes. I looked at my watch. It was one in the morning. What was I doing putting on running shoes?

We headed out for the Hawthorne Bridge in Portland and were met there by what looked like thousands of runners. There was a narrow chute between all the people where the handoff would take place and Steve squeezed into it and waited. Soon enough, we saw the twelfth runner, my cousin, Mike, running out of what looked like a dark alley and turning the quarter to meet us. Mike handed off to Steve and, suddenly, I was next. I felt nauseous the entire drive to the next handoff point.

The next handoff point was in something that looked like a warehouse parking lot and I tried looking ahead to see where my route would take me, but I couldn't really tell. The runners who were taking off ahead of me ran down what looked what looked like some kind of truck delivery route and then disappeared around a corner.

If you run the Hood to Coast, you're inevitably going to have a night run (my dad was lucky enough to get two). When I looked at our projected running times a few days before the race, I saw that my second leg was going to start around 2:30 in the morning. This was, by far, the leg I was most worried about. I had no idea if there were going to be street lights, nor if the road was going to be clearly marked. We were going to be wearing reflective vests and headlamps, but I didn't know how effective the headlamps were going to be. I was worried that I would be so focused on the tiny patch of light ahead of me that I would wander off in the wrong direction. What if I was running in the woods somewhere and took a wrong turn? I had visions of creepy men pretending to be runners just waiting for guys like me to go off course so that they could lead us to our demise.

Soon enough, I saw Steve coming at me and I turned on my headlamp and waited. The baton came and I nailed the handoff this time and started to run. Right away, I knew that this leg was not going to be as easy as the last. My legs felt like they were still asleep and it took a while before it felt like they went, "Hey! We're running," and woke up a little bit.

To my surprise, I found that the streets were well lit the entire route. I was glad to have worried about that over nothing. Now if my legs would just start working. The road ahead of me was nearly empty, but I could see a few bobbing lights ahead, letting me know I was on the right path. Luckily for me, there were no major turns in the road and my run was almost entirely along a highway along the river.

I tried my best to enjoy the second run, but even in the dark, the scenery was dismal. It seemed like I was going by one refinery after another. Even though it didn't look uphill, my legs felt like I was trying to run up Mount Kilamanjaro. There were mile markers along the road that I found myself looking forward to. To anyone else, they would just look like bland white stencils reading "HTC (Hood to Coast) 1...HTC 2," and so forth, but to me, they became stepping stones on my path to freedom. My second run was around five and a half miles, so when I saw the "HTC 5" sign, I felt my heart jump. I was finally almost done. Time to turn it up, I thought, and quickened my pace. After a while though, the terrifying thought occurred to me: "What if the markers are wrong?" Soon enough, I passed a marker on the ground that said, "HTC 6". Son...of...a...

Mercifully, the end came soon after. I handed off the baton and immediately realized that I had nothing left in my tank and another run ahead of me. I was toast. We got back in the van and began driving to the next stop.

Before I knew it, I was on the road again, waiting for my third and final run to begin. I did everything I could to get myself pumped up to run. I had managed to catch about two hours worth of sleep during our second break and I had taped my blistered toes up to keep them from causing me too much strife during the run. Still, when I lowered myself out of the van for my last run, I found that I was already having trouble walking. How was I going to make it through this last run?

Months before the Hood to Coast, we all got to plan out the legs we wanted. On the website for the race, you can download a map of the course as well as the difficulty ratings for all of the legs. I scoured the course, looking for the legs I wanted. Finally, I decided to be the second runner, stupidly not realizing that it would mean that not only would my last run be the longest of my three runs, but that the only true hill I would have to run up would come on my last mile of my last leg of the race.

As I saw Steve crest his final hill and run towards me, I thought back and cursed my idiotic decision making skills. Still, the decision had been made and now it was something I'd have to deal with. I took the baton and ran.

About four steps down the road, I cramped up. To tell the truth though, running was feeling better than walking at this point, so I decided to try and run through it. About a mile down the road, my van passed me and gave me a honk and cheer as they passed. Secretly, I wondered if I would ever see them again.

Somehow, I made it about halfway through the run without walking. Then I came to a long stretch of road through a meadow that seemed like it stretched out about 15 miles straight in front of me. Ahead, I recognized an older Brazilian man who I had seen back at the last pit stop. He looked to be in bad shape, but he too was determined to keep running. He was muttering or singing something to himself in Portuguese as he hobbled along. The result was something that looked less like a long distance runner and more like an old lady jazzercising down the road. I laughed to myself until I realized that he was going faster than I was.

I summoned up all the energy I could and decided, Cramps or not, I'm going to finish this race and I'm going to finish it without walking. Also, there is no way I’m letting a jazzercising dude beat me.

So I forced myself to run a little faster, slowly passed the Brazilian and found myself at the bottom of a dark and thickly wooded hill. Obviously, this is not the kind of thing that anyone wants to see in front of them, much less while they’re in the middle of a run. But I remembered from looking at the map of my run that the hill in front of me was at the very end of the race. All I had to do was make it up the hill and I was done!

In Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” he mentions that every long distance runner needs a mantra that they can repeat to themselves when the going gets tough. Murakami says that his is: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.” I tried as hard as I could to repeat this in my head while I was running. The truth is, I couldn’t stop thinking about how I shouldn’t have eaten half a pan of rice krispies treats in the van with Steve before running.

A lot of things went through my head as I ran up that hill (some that probably aren’t fit to print). With each step, my legs told me to give up, but somehow, I kept going. One positive thing I was able to think about was my team waiting for me at the end. Walking, even for one step of that hill would have been letting them down in my mind, and I couldn’t do that. I thought of the look on Steve’s face when he had finished. It was somewhere between “I’m gonna die,” and “I just won the lottery!” He had been the first one of us to finish all three legs and I wanted that look.

I reached the top of the hill and pushed myself as hard as I could towards the finish. Finally, I could see the next checkpoint. I handed off the baton and stopped my legs and then doubled over for a minute to catch my breath. I was done.

I think that in my experience, life isn't always about finishing the goals that you've set from the start. Sure, that's part of it and that feeling of total completion is tough to beat. But sometimes, life is about being realistic; adapting and setting new goals. These goals may not as vast as you would always have wanted from the start, but maybe it's getting through adversity and dealing with our own mediocrity that gets us through our failures and allows us the ability to succeed later.

When our van finally made it to Seaside, my cousin asked me, “So do you want to do it again?” My reply was an immediate, “No!” However, as the last runner, Mike, came into Seaside and the whole team ran across the finish line together, I felt a bigger sense of accomplishment than I have in a long time.

To me, the Hood to Coast was more about humility than anything else; realizing that maybe I'm not as great of a runner as I thought I was capable of. But at the same time, it was about realizing my own potential. After the race, it was hard not to think about how much better I would have done on the last leg if I had trained semi-properly. However, I couldn’t help being proud of myself for making it through such an intense experience. I had counted on my youth and athleticism to get me through and I had finally come to the painful realization that counting on things like that isn’t always going to be enough.

We had all set goals coming into the Hood to Coast. Some of us did better than we hoped to. Some of us did worse than we had hoped for. And some of us were humbled to the point that their goals were reduced to trying to pass jazzercising Brazilians on the way. But as we crossed the finish line together, we all realized that we had all accomplished the most important goal in the Hood to Coast- finishing.

Hood to Coast, I’ll see you next year.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Earlier today my cat, Truffles, passed away.

I met Truffles two and a half years ago in a Petsmart near my work. I wasn't looking for an older cat and I definitely wasn't looking for a fat cat. In fact, the cat I had my eye on when I decided to adopt one was a skinny gray cat in the cage next to hers. The lady who assisted with the adoptions offered to show the gray one to me and I was excited to meet my new furry friend. But when the cage door opened, my furry gray friend turned into a hissy pissy mess.
"Maybe not that one," I told the woman.
"Are there any others you'd like to look at?"
I looked at the cats in the cages surrounding the gray one and a chubby orange one caught my eye. I asked the lady if I could see the orange one and I braced myself for the worst again when the cage door opened. But this cat seemed normal; nice even. I put my hand inside and she sniffed it and then began rubbing against it and purring. And that was how I met Truffles.

Truffles wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I had set foot in the Petsmart. She was six years old, fat, de-clawed and spayed. When I took her home, I also learned that she was one of the strangest cats I had ever met. Our first night together, it was two in the morning and I was just falling asleep when she walked up onto the pillow next to my head and flopped down right on my face. The next night, she got stuck inside a grocery bag and thrashed around inside it until I woke up and got her out. I began thinking that maybe owning a cat wasn't for me. As Truffles would show me though, a cat can teach a you lot.

Truffles taught me patience. Two summers ago, I started having massive panic attacks, which eventually needed professional help. Whenever I was alone, I would start to panic. My breaths would get shorter, my airway would constrict, and I would start moving closer to hyperventilation. After I was diagnosed with panic attacks, I realized that I was going to need to fix myself. I would have to find a way to calm myself down whenever I felt an attack coming, otherwise they were going to ruin my life. Every time I was alone and would feel an attack coming, Truffles was there. If I felt my breathing getting short, soon enough, a furry orange mass landed in my lap, waiting to be pet, and the focus on the act of petting took my focus away from everything else. Whenever I needed her, Truffles was there. In the book "The Cave," Jose Saramago says that a dog always knows when he is needed. I'm the last person in the world who will ever disagree with anything Saramago says, but I would add to his idea that the right cat knows when it is needed just as much as any dog you will ever meet. And Truffles was the right cat for me.

Truffles taught me persistence. If you stuck your head in a refrigerator and someone shut the door on your head, you probably wouldn't ever do it again, right? Not Truffles. Every time I would open the refrigerator door, there was Truffles' head. The first few times it happened, I was completely surprised. I had never met a cat who was so active in searching for treats. The weird thing was that I had never given her a treat from the fridge. I wouldn't until a few weeks later, and yet still, every time the refrigerator door opened, Truffles head was in there. It was like she was waiting for the treats to materialize. Finally, I gave in and put treats in the fridge to give her on occasion when I opened the fridge. Maybe her persistence seemed stupid to some people, but I loved it. If Truffles had a motto it would have been: Look hard enough and you'll find something. Maybe there's something we can all learn from that.

Truffles taught me unconditional love. Truffles was the first cat that I was completely responsible for. To tell the truth, I had no idea what I was in store for, or what I was doing half the time. There was feeding, petting, brushing, litter box cleaning, flea treating, barf swabbing, and all kinds of things that you never would have imagined before you got the cat. Sometimes, a few days go by before you realize that you've forgotten something, sometimes important things like water. And yet every time that this happened, I found Truffles coming up to me and curling up on my lap the first chance she got. To her, the only thing that mattered was that I was there. The hand stroking her head at the end of the day was more important than the food in her bowl or the water in her stomach. Truffles needed to receive love just like anyone else. The love she gave in return was without grudges, without prejudice and without parallel. She lived to be loved and as I spent more and more time with her, I realized that a part of me was happy and alive because of her love.

Truffles taught me friendship. I didn't set foot in Petsmart two and a half years ago expecting to find a friend. But as the time went on and as Truffles became a bigger part of my life, I realized that a friend was exactly what she was. Maybe she wasn't the kind of friend you go to baseball games with or go shopping with, but Truffles loved and Truffles listened, and if I can't think of two more important characteristics in a friend. When my girlfriend and I were driving today, she told me that she never had liked cats, but she liked Truffles. This was true for plenty of people that met her. Maybe you didn't like cats, but you liked Truffles. So many people call their pets their "furry friends," but how many actually find a friend in their pet?

And so today, I watched as the vet began to put a pink liquid into my friend's leg as I cradled her in my arms and told me: "This is going to stop her heart and lungs," and there was only one thing I could say to her: "I love you, Truffles."

It's hard to lose a pet, but it's harder to lose a friend.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Love IS a Battlefield

Wow, so this whole blog writing everyday thing is going really well. Yikes. The next few weeks may not go much better given the way things have gone so far this summer. When did summer get so hectic? Anyways, without further ado:

There's a fairly new song out there right now by Jordin Sparks: the season 6 winner of American Idol. The song is called "Battlefield," and is currently all over the radio. Here is one chorus of the song:

"I never meant to start a war
You know, I never wanna hurt you
Don’t even know what we’re fighting for
Why does love always feel like a battlefield, a battlefield, a battlefield"

Ok, now let's stop for a second to think if this reminds us of anything. Maybe a song that came out quite a while ago but is still very, very popular. Wait for it...No? The second I heard the line: "Why does love always feel like a battlefield," my jaw dropped. Here's a sampling from the chorus of the song that this one feels just a little too similar to:

"We are young, heartache to heartache we stand
No promises, no demands
Love Is A Battlefield
We are strong, no one can tell us we're wrong
Searchin' our hearts for so long, both of us knowing
Love Is A Battlefield"

The song above is, of course, the 1983 hit from Pat Benatar: "Love is a Battlefield." A few things struck me when I heard the Jordin Sparks song. One: Why would the songwriters go near using the word "battlefield" anywhere in the vicinity of the word "love"? I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I'm probably not the only one who thinks of Pat Benatar every time I hear the new song. The rest of the song's lyrics are pretty typical for modern day pop, maybe even a little above the average pop song today. But "why does love always feel like a battlefield"? We had to go there?

Here's my biggest problem with the song (besides the total knockoff of "Love is a Battlefield): how unconvincing it is. When you listen to "Love is a Battlefield," what's the first thing that strikes you? Let's start with the title: Love IS a Battlefield. It's not just a title, it's a statement made with total conviction. There's no doubt in your mind when you're listening to that song: Pat Benatar is serious about this one. It's not just one of the most popular songs of the 80s, it's a nod in the direction of every love torn soul.

In some respects, Sparks' effort is also geared towards people going through difficult times in their love lives. However, "why does love always feel like a battlefield," feels more like a teen crying to her mom than a woman standing up for lovesick women everywhere. There's absolutely no conviction behind it. For further proof check out the difference between Sparks' video (here) and Benatar's (here). The main problem I have with the Sparks' song is that the songwriters had to know that comparisons were going to be made between their song and Benatar's. However, rather than giving a nod to Benatar, they took it the complete opposite direction. The line "don't even know what we're fighting for" pretty much sums it up. If you don't know what you're fighting for, why write a song about it? Benatar's song leaves no doubt in the listener's mind that she knows exactly what she's fighting for, while Sparks' song is pretty much just melancholy indifference. Instead of empowerment, the songwriters for "Battlefield" took the direction of self pity, which is a disgrace to one of the most famous love ballads ever written. Sparks is a talented singer and I doubt that this song will be the last we hear of her. However, I think it's better she (and her songwriters) leave the battles to the singers who know what they're fighting for.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Someone Stop Christian Audigier!

I'm a believer in sticking with what you're good at: It's why Michael Jordan should have stuck to playing basketball instead of baseball, and being retired and playing golf instead of trying to be a general manager; it's why Scarlett Johansson should stick to acting and not singing; it's why Paris Hilton should stick to being rich and not acting; AND it's why Ed Hardy should stick to tattoos and not anything else.

Now don't get me wrong- Ed Hardy is a good artist and I can see why people originally would have wanted his work on their bodies. I first saw his artwork a few years ago and I was really impressed. Then I started seeing it more... and more...and more. Soon it was on t-shirts and it was pretty much the beginning of the end from there. In 2004, Christian Audigier started producing clothing for Ed Hardy and that was around the time that it got old for me. Now, you can find Ed Hardy products literally everywhere you look. It's not just shirts anymore. Now, you can find Ed Hardy jeans, sandals, rhinestone cell phone covers, belts, scarves, sunglasses, perfume, shoes, and pretty much anything else you could imagine on any street corner in America. I was already convinced that Audigier had taken the trend too far when I found an Ed Hardy bottle of wine at Whole Foods. I can't remember ever seeing a trend that went so overboard. Wine? Are we really supposed to believe that a wine with Ed Hardy's name on it is going to be good? Someone needs to get Christian Audigier to stop. I can't even think of what's going to be next. An Ed Hardy professional sports team? Ed Hardy Hemorrhoid Cream? At this point, nothing would surprise me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Crazy of Love

I don't watch much television. When I do, I try to keep it to Sportscenter or games that I really care about. However, sometimes I wander off and end up watching things that I regret immediately, namely reality TV. I remember when reality TV was first coming out. "Survivor" was the first one I can remember other than all of The Real World shows. Survivor was a cool idea and I didn't watch much of it, but I could get the appeal. Then a bunch of new shows came out; some good and some bad. As more and more came out, I kept thinking that reality shows were just a phase. There was no way that people could keep getting entertained by something so idiotic. I was wrong though, and soon we moved into the unfortunate phase of reality dating shows. This probably started with shows like "Blind Date," and then moved into the "Elimidate" and "Next" age. Eventually came "Flavor of Love," and it was all downhill from there. Soon we moved into the age of "Rock of Love," and I'm sorry to say it's only getting worse.

Lately, my girlfriend and I have been watching a newer show called "Daisy of Love." The girl, Daisy de la Hoya (yes, she's related to Oscar) was previously on "Rock of Love," and apparently, the producers loved her so much, they decided she needed her own show. While watching, I'm constanly asking myself a few questions:

1: Who's voice does her voice remind me of? - I still don't know! Every time, I spend the first half of the show trying to answer this question. The closest thing I can think of is that it's kind of like listening to Fran Drescher's voice on helium and then put inside a girl who's IQ is comparable to a dish sponge.

2: How does a guy who's name is "Sinister" make it past the first episode? - This may have something to do with the whole IQ thing. Or it may have something to do with the fact that the other choices have names like "12 Pack," "Torch," and "Dropout." Ouch.

3: Why am I still watching this? - Ummmmmm....

That's the thing about reality television. You never know why you're watching it, but you know you're strangely entertained. 5 years ago, I doubt that a show that's about a girl who has more plastic than a life size Barbie doll sorting through 20 tools to find a boyfriend would have sold. But now, people need to be shocked by their television, and it's taking more and more to shock them. Sure, shows like "Blind Date" had their place at the time, but compared to "Daisy of Love," "Blind Date" looks more tame than my de-clawed cat. What scares me is that now it seems like reality shows AREN'T going anywhere anytime soon. If we've moved from shows like "Blind Date" to shows like "Daisy of Love" in such a short time period, I am more than a little terrified of what is going to come next. So stay tuned and brace yourself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Coolest Man in Movies

The other night, I watched a movie that I was probably more excited for than any other movie that came out last year: Gran Torino. The reason: Clint Eastwood. The man is what, 80? 113? But he still makes killer movies. He proclaimed that this movie would be his last acting role, so I knew I had to see it.

To start, I should say that I probably have more respect for Clint Eastwood than any other actor in Hollywood. The man has a resume that is tough to top and he is truly a Renaissance man. Don't believe me? Look at what he did for Gran Torino: Not only was he the lead actor, but he directed and produced the movie as well as co-wrote and sang in the theme song for the movie (which was nominated for Best Song in this year's Golden Globes). He also directed the movie Changeling last year and wrote the score for that film. The man does it all and does it well.

So what was the final verdict on the film? The truth is, I'm still trying to figure the answer to that out myself. I do know one thing though: Clint Eastwood was amazing. The main problem for me was that he didn't have much surrounding him in the way of acting or, for that matter, a script. He had some amazing lines, but a lot of the other actors got screwed with lines that I doubt anyone could make sound normal in their circumstances. There were a few scenes that made my girlfriend and I look at each other like: Did that really just happen? And not in a- That was awesome! Did that just happen??? way. Despite the awkward moments and acting around him, Eastwood's performance makes the movie worth watching. He speaks each line with a growl that simply cannot be topped. It's epic. I would love to be able to growl like that. Somehow, he always manages to land some great lines and this film doesn't disappoint. When he shoulders a shotgun at a young punk and growls: "Get off my lawn!" I got chills. At another point of the movie, he's confronting another punk and says: "Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn't have fucked with? That's me." What other actor can you think of who, at nearly 80 years old, could say that line and completely convince you? Can you see Tom Cruise pulling that off when he's 80? Jake Gyllenhaal? Vin Diesel? I don't think so. Clint Eastwood is in a class of coolness of his own, and if you're not convinced, watch Gran Torino.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Curse

The other day, I went to my first Dodger game of the season. I had a really great time, but when I got the tickets, I forgot about one important thing: The Curse.

In case you don't follow baseball, the Dodgers are having one of their best years ever so far. They have the best record in baseball and they show no signs of slowing down. Even with (arguably) their best player, Manny Ramirez, suspended for 50 games for steroid use, they continued to play strong and with him back, they look poised to make a run at the World Series. Going into Friday's game, they were even riding a 5 game winning streak. So basically what I'm saying is that I should have know better than to go to the game. You see, statistically, the Dodgers lose 90% of games that I attend.

My girlfriend and I were late getting to the game, so we strolled in around the 4th inning (I should note at this point that usually when I am late to a game, the Dodgers are down by multiple runs and the starting pitcher is fuming on the bench next to a cooler of Gatorade he has smashed with either his fist or the nearest bat). I cringed a little as we found our seats and looked at the score: Dodgers:1, Marlins: 0. Whaaaaaat? Maybe this really is their year. However, shortly after we took our seats, the Marlins made a charge and went up 3-1. To my shock, the Dodgers came right back, and tied the game at 3. Around the 7th inning, something happened that I have learned to accept through the years. Though I can't know for sure exactly what transpires each time, I imagine it to go a little something like this:

Joe Torre (the Dodgers manager) signals to home umpire that he wants to come out to talk to the pitcher and heads to the mound, looking into the outfield as he walks out. The pitcher is looking at him, confused.

Torre: Look, I know that you're pitching well, but did you see who's in section 313 tonight?

Pitcher (looks out at the bleachers. A look of disbelief comes over his face): Seriously? Doesn't he know we're trying to make the playoffs here?

Torre (shaking his head): I guess not.

Pitcher and manger sit in silence for a few seconds

Pitcher (looking up): Listen, I know the drill, but do you think maybe, just once, we could do things a little differently? I mean, my ERA is down below 2 for the first time in my career.

Torre: I'm sorry, there's just a way things are done when this guy shows up.

Pitcher looks at his feet and kicks some dirt, looking dejected.

Torre: Tell you what, Washington is coming into town in a few weeks. I'll play you a minimum of 2 innings a game when they're in town. Your ERA will be back down in no time. I'll even take you out for a Shirley Temple after the game. Deal?

Pitcher (smiling): Deal

Torre: Good. This guy likes high fastballs.

(Torre hands the pitcher the ball)

Torre (starting to walk back to the dugout): Serve it up!

Pitcher: Wait...what if he comes to the games against Washington?

Torre (stopping in his tracks and turning slowly): Then God help us.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Save the Pandas!

I really really don't like SUVs. I think the habit was ingrained in me by my mom. I don't think my mom would ever get behind the wheel of one unless someone put a gun to her head and told her to drive one. When I was little, my mom would always complain about them (how big they were, how much gas they guzzled, etc.). As I've grown older though, I've realized that she wasn't just being a weird mom. There's something about SUVs that I really don't like, and it doesn't have anything to do with their ridiculous size or their unconscionably bad gas mileage. In fact, I'll even take foreign SUVs out of the equation (I still hate them, just not as much). I save my utmost dislike for American SUVs, and here's where it starts: the name.

When I was in Europe a few years ago, I caught sight of one of the smallest SUVs I've ever seen. Having seen all the small cars in Europe, I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, but seeing an SUV in Europe kind of blew me away. I decided to go check it out. When I got closer, I noticed that it really wasn't all that bad. It had all the space that five people could realistically need, and it didn't look like a direct descendant of a World War II tank. I moved around to the back to read the name: Panda. The Panda??? I'm from America: land of intimidating SUV names. My foreign made Civic is used to driving alongside Excursions, Navigators, Armadas, and Titans. Not Pandas. Can you imagine the crap GMC would take if their next SUV was called the Panda?
Then I started thinking about it more. Is there actually a reason that American SUVs have to have intimidating names? Really, what's wrong with a name like the Panda?

The truth is, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a name like the Panda. But for a culture that prides itself on it's bad-ass-ness, naming a car (especially a car as American as an SUV) anything short of "bad-ass" would be admitting defeat to foreign companies. So while I can hope for more Pandas and less Envoys and such, the truth is, I'm more likely to live to see an Apocalypse than a Panda made by an American company on the highway.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sun Turner

Having used one for as long as I can remember, I would have to say I'm a bit of a fan of languages. I think that you can't really appreciate your own language until you try to learn another one. Right now, I'm taking Spanish through UCSD and it is not an easy language. It has really made me appreciate the beauty and adaptability of languages though. When languages don't have a word for something, they tend to have really interesting translations. For example, I'm reading a book in the class called "Los Girasoles Ciegos," or "The Blind Sunflowers."

The word "sunflower" in English is basically nothing more than a description of what that particular thing does: it's a flower that follows the sun. In Spanish, the word "girasol" comes from the verb "girar" which means "to turn," and "sol," which means "sun." Put those together, and again, it's a verbal depiction of what the flower is: "sun turner." As you learn a new language, there are countless words like this that come up, and (at least for me) it makes the process of learning that much more enjoyable.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


I feel really crappy for breaking this nice little run I had going so quickly. I'm not going to have time to make an actual post today. Therefore, I promise two entries tomorrow...and, they'll be quality.

Friday, July 17, 2009

End of the Underdog

If you know anything about golf, you know that throughout the PGA season, there are 4 major championships: The Masters, The US Open, The British Open, and the PGA Championship. To me, it feels like The Masters and the US Open get the most credit. If I could pick one major to win though, it would be the British.

First of all, I have to say that all of the other majors are amazing. Each one has it's perks. If you win The Masters, you get the green jacket, which is probably the coolest piece of clothing in all of sports. If you win the US Open or the PGA, you get the cool trophies, and all the history that goes with them. These are all great and, don't get me wrong, I would gladly take any one of them in an instant. But here's why I love the British:

One: The British is the most unpredictable major. Case in point: Today. Tom Watson, a 59 year old, is winning and Tiger Woods missed the cut. Going in, everyone (including me) was picking Tiger to win. There were stats going around like: In the three British Opens held at Turnberry, (the course where the tournament is being played this year) the number one player at the time has won each one. But here we are going into the weekend, and Tiger Woods is going home.

Two: The British Open is completely un-Americanized. The three other championships are all held in America every year and use this theory: Bigger is better. The British is played in England, Ireland, and Scotland, where the game began. Maybe we should take a tip from them. Every US Open is held on a course that is longer than the last. While yes, it makes for low scores, it effectively takes out over half the field. It's the end of the underdog in golf. Sometimes, there are still unexpected winners, but you had better bet they hit the ball a long ways (like Lucas Glover this year at the US Open). The British Open is tough, not because of how long the courses are, but because you have to play smart golf to win on them. Maybe watching guys hit one irons off of most tees isn't as exciting as watching someone rip a drive 350 yards, but shouldn't there be a place in the game for where it began? Golf began as a thinking man's game, and the British is proof that it still has a place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

John Leguizamo's Voice...But Worse

Don't ask me why, but lately, I've been thinking a lot about animals. Wild animals that is; not dogs and cats and those annoying little guys from G-Force. All this thinking got me to pondering a very important question: If you could pick any wild animal NOT to be in the next life, what would it be?

Obviously, there are a lot of possible choices. You can go with the "prey" approach. I mean, really, who wants to spend their whole life getting chased by lions and cheetahs? Being an impala would definitely suck.

You could also go with the "dirty jobs" approach. Who would really want to be a dung beetle anyways? Rolling balls of elephant turds around all day sounds like fun and all, but I would probably pass. Or what about a sea cucumber? Well, ok, it might be cool to throw up your stomach to distract predators. Fine, that one's off the list.

Then you could go for the "just plain boring" approach. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that you would be hard pressed to find someone who would want to be a legless lizard or a cane toad.

As for me, the animal I would least like to be would probably be a crow.

For starters, let me go over a few things that crows have going for them. Obviously, they can fly, which is awesome. They also don't have very many predators, which is definitely a plus. Also, they're a major part of Native American mythology, which is definitely a perk. And lastly, they're black, which is sweet because if you were a crow, you could go dive bomb people at night.

Now let me tell you why I would never, ever, ever want to be a crow: the noise they make.

When I was little, I lived in a guest house on my grandparents property. It was a fairly large property that had a huge yard full of old oaks. During the springtime, these little green worms would come down from the trees, suspended by this silky thread they secreted. As soon as those worms came, so did the crows. When we were outside the house, the cawing would be so loud, we could barely hear. Seriously, they couldn't think of a better noise to make? Not only that, but if there's one thing you can say for crows, it's that they know how to project. Their caws are way too loud for an animal that size.

Here's one for you: If you were a female crow, how would you choose your mate? If I was a girl crow, I woudn't be able to take all the cawing. I would probably fly myself into a window faster than the crows in those Windex commercials. Also, can girl crows really tell the difference between caws? My guess is yes. Even though any two caws sound the same to me, I would bet money that to lady crows, some guy crows sound like Barry White and some sound like John Leguizamo.

So, finally, let me refine my previous statement: If I had to pick one animal to NOT be in the next lifetime, it would be a guy crow who the lady crows think sounds like John Leguizamo.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Systematic

A few things: Lately, I've realized that this blog, which I have proclaimed and even named "unsystematic" is becoming more and more "systematic." Since I've been watching a lot of movies the last few weeks, (some good, some bad) my writing has slowly shifted towards reviews and critiques. Well no more, I say. From here on out, there will be unsystematic-ness in this blog! Or at least I'll try. I may throw in a movie review or rehashing every once in a while, but mark my words, I am going to try to get this blog back on track.

Also, I am taking it upon myself to start doing the things that I keep telling myself to do; namely writing and running. In about six weeks, I'm scheduled to run a race in Oregon called the Hood to Coast. It's a 197 mile relay that is run by 12 man teams. That makes the distance I have to run somewhere around 17.5 miles. For a solid 3 months, I have told myself that it's time to start training. I even took a few short runs to start the process. But somehow or another, I keep finding excuses to get out of it. So in the morning, I'm going to start my training. For real.

In fact, today I am going to embark on a mission. I am going to run at least 4 times a week and I am going to try to blog every day until the race. I'm going to apologize ahead of time because I feel like as I near the end, I am bound to start cranking out some truly terrible entries. Maybe they'll involve my cat's bowel movements; maybe they'll involve my secret love for late night MTV. I don't know. But should something like that pop up, I'm sorry. There, I said it. Now let's get this going.

Let this be the beginning of a less systematic blog and a more systematic life.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Curse you, Michael Bay!

You know those bands who are insanely talented, but once they get popular, they feed off the popularity so much that you can tell they feel like putting their name on a song is good enough? The best example I can think of is the recent Green Day song: "Know Your Enemy." The song has a whopping two chords throughout and the lyrical diversity is as sparse as the chords. All I could think of when I heard it was: "Green Day's not even trying anymore." This past weekend, I watched Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and, summed up, it is "Know Your Enemy" but in film form and stretched into a painful two and a half hours. However, to me, this film is far more sinister than anything Green Day could conjure. Not only did it feel like Michael Bay wasn't even trying to make a good film, I felt like he was taunting me for its entirety.

If you are planning on seeing the movie, let me give you some things to look out for:

One: The movie is a shameless two and a half hour commercial. There are numerous products advertised, ranging from General Motors to LG phones to Dyson Vacuums. However, if you saw the first movie, this is nothing new to you. Remember when the Mountain Dew machine turned into a Decepticon? You remember...
Two: The producers are really hoping you think that Megan Fox is hot, because she's sure not there for her acting.
Three: Neither are the rest of the actors.
Four: Here is what aspiring filmmakers should take away from this movie- Never let something as petty as a storyline get in the way of some good action.
Five: Noise, noise, noise, and more NOISE!!!!!!
The UK version of FHM had one of the best reviews of the movie I've seen:

"It's like watching a blender for two hours while someone shouts at you. And then the last half an hour is the same, except it’s more like having your head strapped to a washing machine while you watch a blender and someone shouts at you."

To me, the film is a bit of an enigma. Somehow, it manages to be a vast exhibition of excess and a pitiful display of minimalism all in one. Granted, the special effects in the movie are amazing. However, with all of those people working hard to make those work, you would think someone would have put in some effort to make the script work.

Here's my theory about the film: Not only was Michael Bay not even trying to make a good film, he was banking on people (like me) seeing the film even after nearly every review told them not to. He knew the reviews were going to be brutal. How could he not? But Bay banked on two things going into this movie. One was the carrying over of the fan base from the first movie. The second was that he seems to think that the American public is mindless enough to be entertained by senseless action and dialogue that could have been penned by fourth graders. The thing that scares me isn't so much that he thinks that way; it's that he might be right.

So maybe it's fitting that when the film finally ends, the Green Day song "21 Guns" comes on for the (not kidding) 4th time. It's the final "F-You" from Michael Bay as you exit the theater in disbelief. Well you won't fool me again, Michael Bay. I'm sick of being conned. Now excuse me while I go buy a Dyson.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Let the Right One In

For as long as I can remember, I have loved movies. I think it's safe to say that many of us feel the same way. Movies transport us to wherever it may be that we want to go (or don't want to go). They're our passport to adventure and the only one that guarantees a safe trip back. They are our fantasies, our fears and our gateways to the unimaginable. And lately, they've become so cliched and predictable that the fun seems to be lacking. At least that was what I thought before I saw the film, "Let the Right One In."
Let me give you the premise: boy is getting picked on at school, boy meets new girl, boy notices new girl never comes out during the daytime, people start disappearing in town, boy and girl fall in love, more people disappear from town... A vampire movie? you say, I've seen those before. Not like this you haven't.
Rather than dwell on gore like most American vampire films would do, (Let the Right One In is Swedish, by the way) the film chooses to focus on the strange love story that develops between the two main characters, Oskar and Eli. The film sticks mainly to the vampire rules we all know-vampires must drink blood to live; vampires must stay out of the sun; vampires cannot enter a room to kill someone unless they are invited in. Where the film strays from the norm is in it's form. At first, I thought there was a problem with my speakers, but then I realized that a large part of the dialogue is muted. What this does is to focus your attention on other things. The smallest sounds that the director chooses to give the audience are amplified. It creates a movie watching experience unlike anything I've ever seen. The end result is a vampire film that is less reminiscent of more recent films like "30 Days of Night" and more reminiscent of the early silent vampire films like the original "Nosferatu." The film exudes a creepiness throughout that far surpasses the cheap scares that have become expected from most newer horror films. So give "Let the Right One In" a chance. It's a film that is both haunting and beautiful, and one that will stick with you far longer than most films you will ever see.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sweet Caroline

I just got back from a trip to Boston a few days ago, and I have to say, it's an amazing city. I loved the feel of it. Like my girlfriend's roommate said, Boston is like a big town that wants to be a city. If it wasn't so cold all the time, I might even think of moving there.
While I was in the city, I got to go to a Red Sox/Yankees game. It was without a doubt one of the best sports related experiences I've ever had. Being in Fenway felt so different than any other ballpark I've ever been to. I will always be a Dodger fan, but being at Fenway made me see how so many people get lured into the Red Sox nation. The major difference: the fans.
First of all, how many fans to do YOU know that would still be pumped if the song played between the top and bottom of the first inning at their stadium was Augustana's "Boston"? I get the relevance, but Augustana? It's just not the song I would choose. If anything, I would probably go with Boston's "More Than a Feeling." It's upbeat, still uses the word "Boston" in some way, and has some great guitar riffs to get the crowd pumped.
Second, I experienced three of the "bests" I have ever experienced at a baseball game.
Number One: Best Wave. The wave that went around Fenway sometime around the sixth or seventh inning was epic. Everyone in the crowd was doing it. The wave rounded the stadium a good six times before it settled down. Amazing.
Number Two: Best Jeering. Every time the three most hated Yankee players came up to bat (Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, and Alex Rodriguez), the entire stadium was engulfed in boos. The last time that Alex Rodriguez came up, first the crowd started yelling "A-Roid!" Then, nearly the entire stadium started chanting: "You do steroids!" I loved it.
Number Three: Best Sing Along. During the middle of the eighth inning, "Sweet Caroline" came on. Everyone in the crowd started singing. This alone made the game worth going to. I've never been a part of anything quite like this sing along before. When the song stopped midway so that the eighth inning could start, everyone kept on singing for another full chorus. Fantastic.
So the next time you go to Boston, do yourself a favor and go to a Red Sox game. I promise, you will not regret it.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Turn the Other Way

On March 14th of this year, a 59 year old man in Miami, Mario Reyes, was struck and killed by a car. The driver had just left a bar and his blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit. Today the driver was sentenced and received...30 days in prison. 30 days??? This makes absolutely no sense. Well, that is until you look at who the driver was: Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth.
Hearing about this case outraged me. How many times are we going to let celebrities off the hook for major infractions just because they're celebrities? I should note, to Stallworth's credit, that he did the right thing after the accident. He stopped and took responsibility for his actions, and since the accident, he has seemed to be extremely remorseful. However that doesn't change the fact that Mario Reyes is still dead. The maximum penalty for the crimes Stallworth was convicted of was 15 years, and he got 30 days. Maybe Stallworth really didn't deserve the maximum sentence. He's done everything right since the accident. But this man does not deserve to set foot on the football field again. We've seen this time and time again with football players (Ray Lewis, Plaxico Burress, Pacman Jones, etc.). So many players seem to think that they are above the law; that they can do whatever they want and count on their celebrity status to merit them a get out of jail free card if they get caught. And what has society done to prove them wrong? Absolutely nothing. These players ARE above the law and the case of Donte Stallworth shows this for the umpteeth time.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


I absolutely love the Los Angeles Lakers. Some of the best memories I have growing up are of watching them. Watching Kobe and Shaq play together was something I will always remember. I guess I didn't realize what I had until Shaq was gone, and all of a sudden, so were the championships. I was thinking a lot about what's been wrong since then. What has stopped the Lakers from winning another title? I mean, they were close last year, but ultimately flopped in the finals. My feeling is that it comes back to urgency.
Watching those Lakers, there was something about them that these Lakers have lacked for the most part. The Kobe/Shaq Lakers played every game like it meant something. Watching every game of the playoffs was like watching a game 7 of the finals. Kobe was hungry, Shaq was hungry, and it showed. Remember the Kobe/Shaq alley oop that took down Portland? The Lakers were hungry then because they knew that they were talented, but that other teams actually had a chance against them. Because other teams could realistically hope to beat them, the Lakers played hard, they played with heart, and they played with urgency.These Lakers have more talent than any other team in the league. Hands down. Who else has a player like Lamar Odom coming off the bench? Most teams don't have starters with as much talent as Odom. However, Odom has the unfortunate habit of not really showing up to games that really matter. He's shown flashes these playoffs and I'm hoping that it carries into the finals. If last year's finals was any indication though, things aren't looking good.
So what do the Lakers need? They need to find that urgency again. When they've played with it during the playoffs, no other team has had a chance. The Lakers have won every single game that they "had to" (see games 5 and 7 of the Houston series and game 5 of the Denver series). But in games where they don't face elimination or good odds of elimination, they decide not to care and lose. What gave me the most hope is when the Lakers won game 6 of the Denver series. I didn't think there was any way they were taking that one, based on how they have played in every other game they didn't have to win. But they did, and now my hopes are high for the finals. Looking at the matchups, the Lakers should take it easily. But wasn't the same the case against the Celtics? Sorry Boston, but the Lakers had the better team last year. The problem is they didn't play like it. If the Lakers can play the way they're capable of, I will be celebrating another championship shortly after game 4. If they don't, it will be another long summer of hoping they wake up and find the urgency again.

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Cat Thief

My two favorite writers are Jose Saramago and Haruki Murakami. Since I'm an aspiring writer myself, I've been thinking for a long time about what it is that makes these two so much more enjoyable to read than anything else (for me). What sets Saramago and Murakami apart from the Nicholas Sparks' and Maeve Binchy's? (Note: no offense if you like Nicholas Sparks and Maeve Binchy. Surely, there is a time and place for almost any author out there. Nicholas Sparks and Maeve Binchy are just popular authors whose works I happen to not be crazy about and who were the first to come to mind.) I'm still kind of working out the answer, but I think what I love most about both Saramago and Murakami is that they are amazing salesmen. They can each take a bizarre character or subject and make it work. In Saramago's "Blindness," (probably still my favorite book ever) an entire city goes blind. This is not an easy thing to sell at all, but he does it. He puts everything he has as a writer behind it and completely convinces the reader that it's plausible. In Murakami's "Kafka on the Shore," there is a character who goes by the name "Johnny Walker" who kidnaps cats, cuts off their heads and freezes them, and sucks their souls out of their body. I really feel that with anyone else writing that book, the character falls flat and doesn't work. With Murakami's conviction behind it, "Johnny Walker" becomes one of the best characters I have ever come across in literature. In my opinion, the reason so many movie adaptations of books fall flat is that they can never convey the force behind characters that an author can convey in a book. That is why everyone says that the movies never add up to books. Good authors know how to convince a reader and a good director knows how to convince an audience. Each are masters of their own medium. But if a good director tries to imitate a good author's work, it's just not going to happen. It would be like Van Gogh trying to imitate Picasso or vice versa. Van Gogh has some beautiful work, but only Picasso can paint a Picasso. I think that's what director's don't get. The movie adaptations that work the best are the ones that are not afraid to stray from the plot and take liberties that allow the work to cross over from effective words to effective images. A movie that remains hell bent on sticking to the book it is trying to replicate is almost always doomed to fail.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Today, I went to the driving range for the first time in months. There's something about whacking the crap out of a little ball that seems so therapeutic. It doesn't matter how bad your day has been, if you go hit balls on the range, it will make you feel better every time. Unless of course you suck. Then it might make you even more frustrated.
I think that more professional athletes should take up golf. I know a lot of them do when they retire, but I think that pro athletes have a lot they could learn from golf. The main thing is humility. If you mess up on the golf course, you don't have anyone to blame but yourself. If you're a pro golfer and you don't win a tournament, you know it's no one's fault but yours. The only thing stopping you from beating anyone else is you. As Will Smith said in The Legend of Bagger Vance: "Golf is the only sport I know where you can call a penalty on yourself." And golfers do. Imagine an athlete like Terrell Owens always blaming everything that happened in a game on himself. It's just not going to happen. Or imagine Kobe calling a foul on himself. There's no way. That's the beauty of golf. When you lose, it's no one's fault but yours. But when you win, the feeling is total because you know that all those hours at the driving range have finally paid off.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I Just Ate Your Baby- Do Something About It

Lately, I've been trying to catch up on movies. When I was growing up, my parents didn't expose me to a lot that was out at the time. It wasn't that I didn't see anything worth while. But as I started getting older, I realized how much I missed. I made some new friends through my girlfriend, and through them, I've been exposed to a variety of action films, and I'm so glad for it. I finally saw all of the Die Hard movies (awesome!), Predator (some of the best lines I've ever heard in a movie), and I recently got some more movies with Steven Seagal, Arnold Shwarzenegger, and Jean Claude Van Damme. The Van Damme movies came in a box set, and looking at them, I realized something. The man only has one look. It's not quite a "Blue Steel," but it's like a "I Just Ate Your Baby- Do Something About It" look. The only thing that changes in the posters for his movies is the background and the angle he's facing the camera. In two of the posters (The Quest and Timecop), I'm 100% positive that they used the same picture.
I guess that was the thing about action stars back then. Give the audience a few snapped necks and a one or two fancy karate moves (Seagal, Van Damme), or just show a lot of muscle and shoot a lot of guns (Arnie), and to hell with a story, you had a film. Now things aren't so easy. Today, people demand plausible plots, character development, realistic action sequences. While this has undoubtedly led to some really good films, to me it feels like the fun is missing. I love movies that make me think, but sometimes it's just fun to be entertained. I guess we still have people like Michael Bay for things like that, but now it's saturated with product placement and actors who don't belong (Transformers, Pearl Harbor). Maybe some audiences still like to laugh at how ridiculous it is for a gun to fall down stairs and somehow shoot and kill every bad guy in the area (True Lies). Maybe sometimes things are fun because they don't make sense. Yeah, a van isn't going to blow up if it falls 10 feet into water. But isn't it more fun if it does? There must be someplace in our hearts still for an actor like Jean Claude Van Damme. Sure he couldn't act, but how much fun did people have watching his movies? There has to be a way we can put the fun back in the movies, and put the "I Just Ate Your Baby- Do Something About It" back on the big screen where it belongs.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Peckerwood Park

About a week ago, I decided to do a piece on the Salton Sea for my journalism class. I'd been wanting to see it for a while, so I thought that this would be a good chance for me to explore a place I had never seen, and to write a story about it in the process. I had heard from a few friends that the sea is a weird place, but nothing could have prepared me for what was waiting for me there.
My piece was originally going to be about an abandoned resort town called Bombay Beach. I thought it was a cool name, so I picked it, and I thought that there would be plenty of people to interview there. When I got there, I didn't see anyone. The place wasn't just a trailer park, it was an abandoned trailer park. Crap. What was I going to do? I found a liquor store off of the main street and went in to try to find someone to talk to. There was one guy working there, but he was less than friendly. Then two guys came into the store, and the store manager said I should try talking to one of the guys, "Patch." It didn't take me long to figure out who Patch was. One of the mean was missing an eye and had a big black eyepatch over it. I asked him a few questions and then he said that he and his buddy were going over to "Peckerwood Park" to go drink, and he invited me to go with them.
Peckerwood Park turned out to be a park bench that Patch had put under a tree and a swing bench next to it. Patch and his friend, Terry, spend their days hanging out in the park and reminiscing. In the few hours I spent with them, we were visited by a few other guys who were residents of Bombay Beach. Listening to them, I heard a lot of stories I don't think I would ever have heard in San Diego. Let's just say that they do things a little different in Bombay Beach. One of the guys who came by complained about how his wife had hit him with a shovel the night before, so he had to beat her with a chain. As if that wasn't a big enough trip, I looked at his arms and saw not one, not two, but three swastika tattoos on them.
Leaving Peackerwood Park a few hours later, I left with more information than I can possibly process into a story. I've decided to forget about writing about the town and instead write about the park and the strange men who spend their days there. I'll probably never go back to Peckerwood Park, but I don't think I will ever forget the few hours I spent there.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Do You Have a Brother?

First of all, let me start by saying that I love my name. I think it's really cool to have an original name. I've only met one other Walker in my entire life. It's not that I have anything against more common names. I just like that there's something about me that sets me apart from most people right off the bat.
However, as you can imagine, especially with a certain TV show around which starred Chuck Norris, the name Walker carries certain connotations, and therefore makes people think that by saying my name, I've directly set them up to make a joke. The list of knocks I get on a nearly daily basis is endless and very repetitive.

"Like the Texas Ranger?"...You got it!
Oh, so do you have a brother named Runner?"...Hilarious!
Did your parents name you after Chuck Norris?"...*slaps forehead*

I can understand people saying something about my name. It's not a name most people hear every day, so I'll give them that. What I don't get is how every person who asks me if my parents named me after Chuck Norris expects me to start rolling on the floor in fits of laughter. Usually, I give them the courtesy "that really wasn't funny and I kind of hate you now, but not enough to make you look like an idiot in public" laugh. If I'm not in a giving mood, I'll tell them that no, my parents didn't name me after Chuck Norris or that I was conceived way before the writers for Walker Texas Ranger decided to use my name.
So here is the message I'm really trying to get across. People: think! If someone is named Whoopi, it's probably safe to assume they've heard a few Whoopi Goldberg jokes through the years. If I'm meeting you, I want to like you, I really do. So do us both a favor and leave Chuck Norris out of it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


Us humans have strange ways of connecting with one another. The longer I work in a place where talking to people every day is part of the job, the more I've realized that there's always a way to connect to someone. This doesn't just apply to customers. Sometimes, there's a new worker and they're really shy, and you want to help them, but you're not sure how. As a shy person, I can say that it's definitely true that some people just don't want to talk sometimes, or even at all in some cases. There's always some way to get through to someone, the trick is just finding it.
In a lot of cases, maybe the person isn't talking, but you notice something about them, say, a tattoo. If you bring up that tattoo, (note: this doesn't work in cases where the person has a tattoo that they really regret getting. In those cases, bringing it up will just result in a really angry glare) chances are that person is going to start talking, and it's going to be hard to get them to stop. I think that's one of the things I like most about having tattoos. Even if you just have a one inch star on your wrist, or a ladybug on your foot, having art as part of your body gives you an instant connection to anyone else with ink. Maybe a ladybug isn't going to get you crazy street-cred, but it puts you in a sort of club that only people with tats have. It's a bond through the process and the pain and everything else involved with getting a tattoo. And that bond is something that's easy to build on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


There are times when I love having big feet. There's something empowering about having bigger feet than someone you don't get along with. Don't get me? Let's go with an example (not based on fact):
You're at the bowling alley with a bunch of friends, including your girlfriend. You get in the door, and some short guido with greasy hair and single frame sunglasses sees your girlfriend and starts hitting on her while you're all waiting in line. You're talking to your friends and giving him the stink eye, but he's not catching on. You get to the register and he decides to invite himself to bowl with you guys. So you get your lane number and the cashier asks for your shoe sizes. Right after the short guy says "8," you stand right behind him and say "13," in the lowest voice you can, and slowly put your arm around your girlfriend. You can see he's getting nervous, and when he sees the cashier put your clodhoppers next to his, which now look like the shoes of a 6 year old girl next to yours, he says, "Alright, catch you later," and then runs off, nervously looking over his shoulder. Yeah, there are times when having big feet is sweet.

And then there are times when having big feet is about as sweet as having a TV that's specially programmed so that all you can watch is reruns of Kathy Griffin's "My Life on the D List."
Take today for example. I work at Trader Joes; a store known for its good prices and food, but not it's wide aisles. When I stock products that are on the lower shelves of the store, I have to get on my knees to do so, thus blocking half the aisle with my outstretched legs and feet. Today, in the minute and a half it took me to stock a case of pasta, two old ladies tripped over my feet, and one of them almost dove headfirst into one of the frozen cases with a loud "Aaahhh!"
So it's really the situations that you find yourself in that determine whether your feet are going to be used for good at your command or for evil against your will.