Saturday, July 27, 2013

Running Tattoos

Distance Running and Tattoos just go together.  They both give an endorphin rush from an exotic mix of pleasure and pain, and in some ways, both permanently leave a mark upon our bodies that we take to the grave. Running is a long, slow, drawn out tattooing of your insides.

The link between tattooing and runners is an essential part of my novel, On the Lips of Children. One of the characters, Erin Facinelli, was a cutter as a teen. The rush of endorphin relief and the empowerment of cutting her own body brought relief.  As an adult, when trauma hits again and she has the urge to cut, she instead wanders into a tattoo parlor, and falls in love with both the sweet sting of the needle and the tattoo artist himself.

Macon is the tattoo artist, and soon his work starts to cover her body, and the scars from her life as a cutter are covered. Erin is able to quickly hook Macon into becoming a marathoner.

This is a true story, even if it didn't happen.  Runners may be the third most inked up group after bikers and basketball players.

Here are a few of my favorites from their list: (and by the way, I tried to track these folks down, but couldn't find anything definite. If this is your body part, please let me know and say hi.)  All of them are on the feet, which is apropos of running, since foot ink is a real sign of being a bad-ass.

**First up is the phrase "Miles to Go" taken straight from the poem "Stopping By the Woods On A Snowy Evening."  Erin Facinelli has this similar phrase on her own body, but the complete line of "Miles To Go Before I Sleep..." which is repeated in the poem, a testament to the many battles and footstrikes yet to go before we lay down, either for the night or for good.

(from Jamie Benefield)
**Here's one that has already been tattooed on my insides; Met-enkephalin = the chemical compound formula for “Runner's High.” 

(from Natalie Estrada Loop)

**This last one is inspired by the God of Gonzo runners, Steve Prefontaine, whose many famous quotes include: "The best pace is a suicide pace. And today looks like a good day to die."   Yes, it is on both sides of her foot.

(From Mnugent37)

If there are any inked up runners out there, I'd love to hear from you, shoot me an email or leave a comment.

On The Lips of Children
$3.99 for Kindle
Paperback Coming in September.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: "Honey, Do You Need A Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner"

 Jennifer Graham is one of the spices over at Salty Running. She writes and runs in the suburbs of Boston, where she lives with her four children, two donkeys, two cats and a border collie. She is also the author of "Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner."

 This book is fun, smart, witty, and incredible. If you like to read about running, you will love this book. Being a dude runner, I was not in the primary demographic, but loved it nonetheless. I got to believe every runner has something about themselves that separates them from the `real runners' and they will relate.

As the title would suggest, there is plenty of self-deprecation in this book, not only on weight, but on the foibles and neuroses that make the author incredibly human and seemingly immediately available next to you. And as for being fat, you will read the stats of the author and say "wait, is that really fat?" upon which a section will appear magically at the end of the book directly addressed to you.

She may be a middle of the pack runner, but has a passion for running history and running legends. You'll gain perspective on George Sheehan, and most of all, Steve Prefontaine who actually coaches the author. Well, she imagines he has coached her, but I'm convinced it happened, even if it isn't true.

As any runner who has trained hard knows, running weaves in and out of your personal issues. Running becomes the arena in which your internal battles take place and where you look for clarity. And this is what I loved about the book. With wit and emotion and a blunt vulnerability about her divorce and other issues, the running and narrative ran side by side.

I smiled often while reading. I highlighted passages on my kindle every chapter. I looked forward to reading it, and I wanted to listen to the author's inner dialogue, all of this a testimony to a great running book.

If you are uncertain if you should check this book out, please know that I am offering a money back guarantee.
Read “Honey Do You Need A Ride?”  and if you don’t like it, just let me know and I will buy you a book that you do like. Then, I will read this book to you as you go to bed each night. I will read the dialogue and make character voices. I may act out some scenes. I will notice exclamation parts and respond accordingly.  Neighbors may hear.  Still, it seems like a fair trade.

The Author

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Taking Steroids to Run Again

Once you retire.

Once a spouse dies.

Once you lose the fire and purpose in your spirit.

These are things that seem to speed us along to our deaths.  We all know someone who lost their will to go on when something special went missing from their life.

To a lesser degree, I'm starting to feel that after losing running for the last three weeks.  I would cut off my legs to keep my family, but to lose running for this long, after also having taken 23 days off in June, feels like a small death.

Yeah, death is on my mind. Sorry so grim.  Running marathons reminds me of how powerful a human can be. Not running makes me feel all shriveled and old and weak and not as alive and thus closer to death. I can feel my legs losing muscle. My energy is declining. I feel like crap. Better yet, I feel like a piece of crap took a crap and flies were buzzing all around it.

All of this because I have Bronchitis. It's like I'm scuba diving with a tank full of bad oxygen. It's hard to sleep, and when I do sleep, I wake up with what feels like water in my lungs. I am Al Qaeda being water-boarded with my own mucus. 

 I saw a doctor. Twice. First time I was given a Zpac and an inhaler. Second time, a stronger inhaler and steroids and a chest x-ray.

It's been a slow Death through asphyxiation, and it is not a peaceful one.  I can understand how once you get in the middle of the tug of war between life and death, you just want one side to win quickly.

I can't believe our society does not allow assisted euthanasia.

I can't believe how much hyperbole and drama I use.

Someone really should smother me with a pillow. Oh wait, they already are. Until they do, I'm juiced up like Lance putting steroids in my body, hoping it will help me run.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

"A Breaking Bad Marathon"

What if there really were a Breaking Bad Marathon?
No, I don’t mean a ton of past episodes played back to back to back. I mean if all the characters took part in an organized 26.2 mile run? How awesome would that be.

The final episodes are coming soon, and the show is tremendous. Sure, there's a Walter White inside of all of us, but what makes the show work is the distinctly drawn characters. They are all the heroes of their own story and running their own race. So, as they run, here’s my version of:


Marie Schrader – (Hank’s Wife)
Shoe: Saucony- Color purple
Finishing Time: 4:16

Marie has an ideal marathoners body and the neurosis of a runner. She finishes the marathon smooth and easy at 4:36. It would have been faster, but she had to dip into some stores for some shoplifting.

Skyler White
Shoe: Asics
Finishing Time: 4:22

When Skyler first starts to run, every step she takes makes you crazy.  You want to tell her off like Walt finally did when he says,  “Right now what I need is for you to climb down out of my ASS. Can you do that for me honey? Will you please, just once, get off my ASS. You know, I’d appreciate it.”

But as Walt breaks beyond Bad into something worse than Bad,  Skyler becomes someone you feel for. Her plight to protect her children becomes increasingly sympathetic as Walter's madness grows.  Running a marathon may be just what she needs to stop calling herself a “Coward.”

 At the end of the race, all she could say was, “I’m just waiting for the cancer to come back.”

Jessie Pinkman
Shoes: Nike
Finish time: 3:59

His race is perhaps the most emotionally tumultuous. Jessie has some swiftness in him. Some youth. Some bravado. Some impulsive immaturity, YO, and someone who is sick of hearing  others say to him; “apply yourself.”

The marathon is his chance. It will be something that can finallly make his mom and dad proud. He trains hard, and starts to realize that the Runner's High is like Meth but less costly.  He has parties at his house where runners crash for days on end and play loud music from their running playlist.  He brings them stacks of fat cash and makes it rain. They buy shoes. Jessie buys in.

Runners' Resting

But then on race day emotions pour forth for Pinkman as often happens in a marathon. Ghosts of girlfriends overdosing on heroin run alongside of him. Friends and children shot and killed to cover his tracks claw at his heels. He tries to wipe these memories away like sweat at his brow but they stick to his skin.  Screams start from his insides but then blast outward at mile 23 as he cries to the heavens.  “It’s all so Kafkaesque.”

 At mile 24 it seems Pinkman may not finish, but he pulls out a Gu packet and has a snort of Meth (Heisenberg Blue) that electrifies his whole brain.  He runs past the finish line and all the way home, too tweaked to stop for his medal.

Mike Ehrmantraut
Shoe: Brooks
Finish Time: DNF (did not finish)

Mike. Poor Mike. He’s cold-blooded yet with a noble sense of justice in his twisted world.  He’s the guy you trust that you shouldn’t.  In some ways he’s sad.  In some ways he’s a hero. A smoker runner. 
So what does he do in the marathon? He moves along just fine, trotting steady and sure at a 13 minute per mile pace, slightly grumpy, slightly charming. When he sees his granddaughter with a sign in the air saying “Go Gramps Go” he flashes a crooked smile.  “There she is, Kid,” he says to Pinkman. 

Then Walt trips him. Mike’s old age can’t handle the fall to the pavement. Walt tries to apologize.  “Shut the fuck up. Let me DNF in peace,” says Mike as if he’s muttering his last breath.  We move on.

 Gustavo Fring
Shoes: Addidas
Finish Time: DNF

The marathon is an opportunity for Gus to shine under the community’s watchful eyes. In fact, Gus’s chicken place, Los Pollos Hermanos, actually sponsors the marathon.  The “Los Pollos Hermanos” logo is on the back of every marathon shirt, and at the finish line, there is free “Los Pollos” chicken for everyone.   Gus runs the marathon with a conventional smile and eloquent speech to thank those who cheer him on. He thinks he’s going to finish just fine until he runs into his old nemesis in the wheelchair.

Yep, Hector opens up his colostomy bag sending Gus slip-sliding away until he falls on the pavement and rips the side of his face off.

Hector "Tio" Salamanca
Shoes: none
Finish time: 2: 28

Speaking of Hector, he of course gets an age group award for the wheelie division. He carb loaded with burritos. He is wearing his pajamas. He hits the bell every mile.

‘Ding. Ding. Ding.’

 Saul Goodman
Shoes: Snakeskin
Finish Time: 3:12 (under investigation)

When the going gets tough, you don’t want a Criminal Lawyer, you want a criminal, lawyer. Saul runs the fastest time of all. But Saul cheats. He knows a guy who knows a guy who knows a guy who figured out how to rig it. He qualifies for Boston, makes the trip to Hopkinton, and stands in the chute wearing his bluetooth handing out business cards.  “Better call Saul”

Tuco Salamanca
Shoe: Saucony Kinvara
Time: 4:10

Tuco runs the marathon tweaking the whole way, and he easily wins the award for the best grill in the event.  He’s also got an infectious, creepy bad-guy laugh.  When  the intensity grows in each mile he was heard to scream out loud: “BOOYAH!!! Kicks like a mule with his balls wrapped in Duct tape.”  Well, Psychopath runners don’t pace themselves well, and Tuco shot out of the chute a bit too fast and eventually limps to the finish.

Tucco’s Twin Cousins: Leonel and Marco Salamanca 
Shoes: Matching Lucchese Leather Boots ( retail $1,195)
Time: DNF

Running hand in hand, matching each other stride for stride, with smoothly shaved heads, they are the best dressed runners in the whole race. They get ejected for an incident whose description is not appropriate for this site. Yeah, it’s like that.  Days later, they sneak into the race director’s house, sit on his bed with a machete, and wait for him to get out of the shower. 

Hank Schrader
Shoes: New Balance
Time: Unknown

The classic Clydesdale runner at 245 pounds and one of  John Bingham's Penguins, the miracle isn't that Hank finished, it's that he had the courage to start. Hank started as the over-bearing, domineering  ass to Walt meekness, but when Hank suffers from Walter's insidious moves, he become the sympathetic guy to root for.  We’ve felt his trauma. At one point, Hank couldn’t walk (yes, due to Walt) and seemed to have given up (Maria got him up again.) He still walks with a limp, so running in the marathon is monumental. He’s the one I’m feeling for now as he rounds mile 20.  His shoes have been bugged, he’s at mile 26, about to cross the line, but first he has to have a showdown with….

Walter White: AKA Heisenberg.
Shoes: Mechanically Altered Vibram Five Fingers
Time: Unkown

Walt first started training for the marathon by sneaking out at night for two and three hour  runs. During the day, he would tell Skylar he was going for diapers and then grind out ten milers. All of this because he was running to fight cancer. It was noble. It was brilliant. Running brought out the parts of Walter that were unrealized. The parts he had put aside to lead his conventional life as a teacher. Running was the empire he was going to build as a chemist at Gray Matter before he took a buyout. We loved watching his mild-mannered nature and steadfast moves. A sense of sweetness. An everyman champion mixing in with the darkest of the running world.  He brought back the Tighty-whitey’s.

Walt shaved his head to run. “Bad Ass,” his son said proudly. Walt had new respect.

Sure he had to whack Crazy 8 in his basement, but who wouldn’t during the madness of a taper? Maybe he missed the birth of his daughter due a long, 20 mile run, but that was just bad luck.  Directly or indirectly, Walters death count piles up, and he may have caused a plane crash or two.

Walter is warned about the danger of Marathoning; of not hydrating, of hitting the wall, of not training correctly, of a million things that can go wrong on race day. He ignores all these dangers, puts on a black hat, and declares: 

I am not in danger, I am the danger!  A guy opens his door and gets shot, and you think that of me? No! I am the one who knocks!"  

So, when Walter White runs a 26.2 mile Breaking Bad Marathon it might teach him some humility. It might shatter that growing narcissism which is making Walter into just a smarter, educated, and sophisticated Tucco. In the long run, Walter will learn that sometimes you are the windshield, sometimes you are the bug, but when you run enough marathons (or cook enough meth), sooner or later,  you’re gonna go splat.

Somehow Walt ends up like this.
A head full of hair, taking medicine, with a machine gun in this trunk.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Cover Reveal and

For the past several months, I have been revising, rewriting, and regrinding blogs posts, and if all goes well, the material will be available as a book on Amazon soon. (and free to anyone who asks) The focus will be on running and the role it plays in recovery from addiction, with all sorts of other stuff thrown in.

At first I tinkered with picture software for the cover, but it was beyond my skills. So, I went to Here's some new possible covers so far:

If you haven't been to yet, run, don't walk. It's the coolest site around. Kind of like Target. Once you go there you will realize there are things you need you never knew about. 

Do you want a personalized message shouted out loud from a woman wearing a Banana costume? It's here. All for just 5 bucks. Bells and Whistles are an extra five bucks, so shop wisely.

This includes book covers. My short story on Amazon; "Zombie Dash" (over to the right, check it out) was made at Fiver. 

The covers may not all be professional grade, but I think they are sharp, especially if you get the right person. 

And here's a secret: Go there and ask for Ilian from Bulgari. That's Ilian. (Yes, I know, this is how the movie "Hostel" started. But it's okay.)  Here's his link:

And for the record and a disclaimer, he had no idea I was going to post this until he was done. I like to pass on the word for good work. All of this because Instant Karma's gonna get me. Gonna smack right me in the face. 

We all shine on.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Kabbalah, The New York City Marathon, and The Indigo Girls

 And then I think about my fear of motion, which I never could explain. Some other fool across the ocean years ago must have crashed his little airplane   ~Indigo Girls, "Galileo."

In case you are one of those who regularly read this blog (Hi Mom!) I did not run Sick last week despite my plan to do so, and as described in this post. My sickness has grown into epic proportions, and I have a terrible case of bronchitis. Antibiotics and inhalers are on the job but no match for the viral stew that is bubbling in my chest.

I've layed awake coughing for hours pondering how in the hell we don't allow assisted suicide. If I had to live in that condition forever, I would fasten on my parachute and jump into the next life.  Maybe I should also add that I have a huge skin rash from an antibiotic allergy.

All of that, but running is what's on my mind. Funny, because everything else is impaired, but I can at least partly perform the other roles in my life, but I can't run.  Maybe I got issues. (what do you mean maybe?) but not running is one my biggest concerns, and the fact that I have to basically start all over to train for the New York City Marathon. I had a 16 mile week last week, and zero this week. I'm like Sisyphus from Greek mythology who keeps rolling an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down again, repeating this into infinity.

I hate self-pity. I used to live on self-pity. It was "poor me, poor me, pour me another drink." I try to live on the opposite of self-pity. Gratitude for what I have, and feeling I have the power to handle any challenge that comes my way.

Kabbalah teaches a spiritual tenent where obstacles we see in our lives are self-created. That our spirit knows exactly what it needs to grow, so we ourselves create specific barriers and put them in front of us. These self-created problems pull out and build specific strengths that we require to move on. Reincarnation happens until our souls get it right. Randall, from my novel STRAY, likes to spout off on this Kabbalah tenet.

I love this idea because there is nobody else to blame and no room for victim-hood or self-pity. And as I try to run the New York City Marathon, I have a long list of things I have caused.

I have caused injuries, I have caused a hurricane. I've had my running gear lost by the airlines on the way to New York. And now I've caused an evil case of bronchitis.  What the hell is wrong with me? 

Kabbalah might say I'm serving time for mistakes made by another in another lifetime. Perhaps so would the Indigo Girls.

For the record, I do believe there are real victims, and terrible tragedies that happen, but I also love the concept of survivor-hood as the ultimate growth. We should judge ourselves by our scars, not our trophies.

I'm gonna cross that finish line God dammit, ain't nothing gonna stop me.  Give me your germs, give me your hurricanes, severe my tendons, treat me like your servant Job, but I'm gonna cross that finish line if I have to rip my lungs out at the start and drag my intestines across the 26.2 miles and smear the remains onto Central Park. Won't that make a cool finish line picture.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Running Sick: How My 6 Miles Triggered the Apocalypse

To run sick or not to run sick.

I’ve got some sort of chest infection. Whole family’s got it down to the rodents. (No Joke)

I am always getting sinus infections and respiratory infections. I have resigned to the fact that I will die of a lung related illness or pneumonia in the hospital after I go there to get a mole removed.  Shortness of breath is perhaps the second most terrifying feeling second to chest pain. It sounds a bit like Fred Sanford, but I know it’s coming.  

"This is the big one, Elizabeth! I’m coming to join you!”

I want to run, but I don’t want to get worse. What the hell to do?

Most any run I take even while sick, I feel better during the run. Once I get warmed up, it will be the best I feel all day. Relief!  I may shoot some bigger snot rockets and cough up some demon sized phlegm, but it’s the best temporary medicine for what ails me.  This continues for the rest of the day.

Ah, but the next morning it all changes. I wake up the neighbors with raspy coughs and weird things come forth. Dead mice, hair balls, lung tissue.

It seems that running pushes the infection deeper. Like my rapid breath has circulated the virus and my boiling blood was just the incubator where the evil infection is able to reproduce to a more powerful strain.  I’m worse for the wear. But hey, I’ve added to my weekly mileage.

Being sick can be more nagging than an injury, and cause an annoying delay in training. I’m already plenty behind for the New York City Marathon on November 4th.

The “neck” rule about running sick is it’s okay to do if you’re sick above the neck but not below.  From a Runner’s World article:  

 David Nieman, Ph.D., who heads the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University, and has run 58 marathons and ultras, uses the "neck rule." Symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off, while symptoms above the neck (runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing) don't pose a risk to runners continuing workouts.
Like most rules, I tend to break them to suit my needs, so I’m sliding it down from the neck to my waist.  I don’t feel any bit of sick from my size 32’s down to my shoes, so I suspect I will be doing at least a few miles this weekend, and then dragging myself to the doctor for some antibiotics on Monday.
 Of course, by then, I will have brewed up the most powerful strain of black bubonic superflu critters in my lungs.  I suspect my coughing will infect some medical staff, who will then go home to their families with hugs and kisses.  This will lead to an apocalyptic explosion of deaths and despair from the super virus we have all been fearing.  I will be Patient Zero, first to have the infection. All because I chose to take a run.

Better make those miles worth it.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Night Max Wore His Wolf Suit: "WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE"

“I only have one subject.
The question I am obsessed with is:
How do children survive?”
Maurice Sendak, author of “Where the Wild Things Are”

Deep question from an amazing man. My own answer to this question is in my novel, “On the Lips of Children.”  

I consider my novel a near adult retelling of “Where the Wild Things Are.” The dark is a little darker, the rumpus is a little wilder, the dinner may not still be hot when you return home, but I was fully guided by the book which made a psychological imprint on my psyche as a child.

It is certainly one of my favorites, and once my own children came of age I dutifully read the book and had them memorize the first few pages. I would say out loud; “THE NIGHT MAX WORE HIS WOLF SUIT” and my  daughter would follow with “AND MADE MISCHIEF OF ONE KIND AND ANOTHER.”   She would look at the monsters on the page during the wild rumpus and name off relatives who looked like them in real life.
The story speaks to all of us, but particularly boys dealing with primitive urges of aggression and anger and the need to channel the wildness to make it acceptable.  Like Max, we all need to find the magic within us to become the wild emotions ruler. The reward for this is finding the love we need, just like Max who wants the comfort of his mother. For "mother is the name for God on the lips of all children."

 Instead of the private boat that Max uses to sail off through the night and day, in and out of weeks and almost over a year,  it’s a trail run that transports the characters in my novel. The run down the trail towards the beach from their hotel is, to me, just like Max sailing his private boat off to where the wild things are. A child character in a jogging stroller says as much during the story.

My worship of "Where The Wild Things Are"  doesn’t
stop there. The characters in the novel, Erin, Macon, Lyric, and Max, are chock
full of references.

Erin has named her son Max based on the boy in the book. And she actually gets a Max character tattooed on her navel.

Erin's  second child, Lyric, is able to recite the book from memory she has heard it so much, and in fact, tries to ‘tame’ the wild things with a magic trick she learned from Max while they are being chased in the novel. 

And then there’s Macon, who, like Max, suffers from an out of control aggression and faces a passage where he is challenged to become its ruler.  Tattooed on Macon’s skin is the phrase, “Attack life it’s going to kill you anyway.”  It’s his mantra, and propels him through life but tends to get him in trouble. Macon is a grown up Max, always trying to handle his overactive aggression to win the love he wants.

Any good journey to the dark places is really just a journey inside of us, where we learn to face the wild things and become their ruler.  In the children’s book, when we come home, Mother is there to love us and make us feel safe. When Maurice Sendak died and arrived at his final resting place, you can be assured that he found his supper waiting for him. And it was still hot. 

 As for the end of “On the Lips of Children,” you’ll have to read it to see. All I can promise is a wild rumpus.

$3.99 On Amazon for Kindle. Paperback in September


Garden of Fiends: Tales of Addiction Horror IS ALIVE!! $4.99 for Kindle $12.99 for paperback  (buy the paperback, and you can get t...