Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Little Swim...

Following that December slice and dice in my lumbar region, I was anxious to do something...


The doctor took his dear sweet time releasing me for exercise. And knowing my obsessiveness, his conservative nature was probably a good idea.

I had around 5 months of solid swim workouts with my masters group, and then...

Elk Lake beckoned.

The Cascade Lakes Swim Series. Same nightmare I did in 2012. Any one of five swims, ranging from 500m to 5000m.

Or, if you're me, you do all of 'em. That elusive Survivor mug only goes to those who complete all 11,000 meters.

Friday night, it's the 3k. A little under an hour, and choppy water. Everyone came thru the chute burping the water they swallowed.

One down.

I didn't camp at the lake this year. Three back surgeries make for an awfully tough night's sleep in a tent. So I simply drove the 66 mile round trip for the three sessions.

Saturday morning. So pretty up there....that's 10,000' South Sister, a great climb and better view.

Saturday was the 500m and 1500m races. The shorter one was an out and back course along a line of buoys, see above.

My lunch, after I stopped eating to inhale.

All good so far. I'm even going faster than six years ago; those long slow workouts on the weekends have been helpful.

Sunday morning, and the big boy looms. Five thousand meters is a fairly short run, but it's a bastard long swim. I just want to get thru it.


I notice that I'm fourth in my age group standings in cumulative placings. Top three placings win a ceramic coaster with the race logo. And the third place swimmer is a whisker ahead of me.

Groan. That means I have to BUST the 5k, not just survive.


I suppose I could stay warm and dry in my nice pretty parka, but what fun would that be?

I get after it. Normally I wouldn't bother with a warm-up for such a long race, but I had to floor it from the start. So I loosen up for 500m before the gun, and then I hit it.

Never felt great, that's because I was motoring. After one lap, I'm substantially faster than last time. Laps two and three were also good, tough yet smooth. Just punching the clock and grinding it out.

At the finish, I'm eight minutes faster than as a young (47 yr old) buck. Call it a win.

The final race, the 1000m, is a joke. Arms are shot, shoulders are gone. I laugh my way through the first half until I loosen up, then I get mad and walk down four or five swimmers on the homestretch.

Didn't quite squeeze my way into 3rd place. I needed ten minutes on the other guy in the 5k, and got seven. Still....

Once again, I'm a Survivor.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018


Some kids might shy away from the big city.

Not mine.

Zoe is selected with 15 others to attend a Girl Scouts film camp in Los Angeles. She's been heavily into video arts for around three years and loves making films. One GoPro (and Premier Pro subscription) later, she's bonafide.

I suggest we extend the trip a bit, so I make plans to meet her after the camp ends. She flies down on her own, great experience navigating LAX solo.

Film camp is a blast. Set at Cal State LA, the girls split into teams to make a short film from soup to nuts. Everyone has a chance to plan, write, build sets, direct, shoot, edit...they even hire a couple of local actors. And a tour or two...

Who's the cutie on the left?

Some Navy guys have a heart-shaped tattoo that says "Mom." Mine will say "TSA Pre-Check." No one in my line, and a 30 minute wait for the masses.

PDX is a veritable buffet of the good stuff.

Really? "Preventative?" It's not a word, people!

Flying Southwest, I'm in position A-22. Five minutes to boarding, and absolutely no one in front of me. Do I offend?

 Out my window...someone's radio must be broken.

Screaming baby on the flight. Parents are doing what they can. Just deal with it, everyone.

And is there a more delicious feeling than when your earplugs expand to full size and all the sound goes away???

I fly down and check into our accommodations. Since I'm a maniac when it comes to logistics, I find a place centrally located between the ocean and her camp at Cal State LA, someplace convenient to mass transit...in other words....


Oh, and use the Burbank Airport....From the time we touch down until the plane stops at the gate is  literally two minutes. And not much longer until I'm seated on the Metro Red Line. Lots and lots of private jets at that airport, too.

But 114F degrees. A bit tropical for my taste.

Almost forgot the flight attendant's warning: "Be careful retrieving your bags, as shift happens."

(I see what you did there!)

First star I see on Hollywood Boulevard.

My trip is already complete!

Next guy: his books as good as his acting...

Freddy Krueger walks past. No wonder he slashes people; gotta be roasting in that mask.

A quick trip on the 222 bus up the freeway, then a mile hike farther uphill to the Mulholland Overlook, and the best view of the city. Except...

the overlook closes at 6pm. It's 7 now.

Shoot.  But a helpful policeman tells me it re-opens at 6 in the morning. Okay, except I have to meet Zoe 20 miles away at 10am. I won't come back up here, will I?

When you consider that I declined submarine duty because I wanted to see the sun rise once in awhile, you're damned right I'm coming back. At 6 the next morning.

So worth it.

On the walk up...

For the 1983 Army-Navy game at the Rose Bowl (all 9,000 flew out for the game), some of my amazing classmates pulled off a recon raid for the ages:


Pretty soon, I'm picking up Zoe over there... 

Hollywood Bowl from above: we'll be there tonite.

The Mulholland hillside; houses essentially cantilevered in an earthquake zone, with itty bitty little columns as support. Label this under the category "Nope Nope Nope."

On the way back, lots and lots of EMT vehicles coming down. I wonder if Jack Nicholson or Warren Beatty finally hit their party limit.

Joe Gillis might wanna have that pool filled in, or at least the bullets removed from Norma Desmond's gun.

Iconic building...


Not sure of this guy's resume, but why not?

Starbucks was packed, so I pick the place next door at Hollywood and Vine for breakfast.

On the train; I thought this was a movie poster or something...

Between transfers, Zoe texts me and requests that I get held up in traffic. Guess she's having a good time!

At Cal State, I find the three 'local' girls who don't need a ride to the airport...

My movie star...

This ain't Branchburg, NJ (my hometown)

After a long week, I figure she might need some sleep. Nope: she's ready to roll...Off to Burbank and Unique Vintage, a store Zoe knows about from her surfing time.

Some stationary that a few 'friends' might like...

Lunch. Zoe picked watermelon/basil lemonades for us. Great choice!

A detour to the Trader Joe's in Toluca Lake, because all the celebrities shop here. My choice of 'B' list folks to find:

Gary Cole (ok, maybe an A- lister)

 Clancy Brown (Shawshank's nasty guard, and this guy from Highlander)

Bill Sadler (Bill and Ted's Reaper, also a Shawshank alum)

Antonio Vargas (because who doesn't love Huggy Bear?)

I see no one. Kinda wanting my money back.

Time for the concert. I'm not a frequent flyer on mass transit, this weekend being an exception. The buses don't hit every stop unless you tell them to. Zoe and I are halfway to Van Nuys before I realize this important fact, so we end up hiking a mile back, though all downhill.

It's not Space Mountain, but it's close...

Incredible venue.

And a view of the sign...

What a venue. My first album purchase was Chuck Mangione's Live at the Hollywood Bowl from 1978. Later, as a high school senior, my Central Jersey Region Jazz Band played several cuts from that same concert. And I wanted to see this place ever since.

Now I have. So cool.

 BTW....Jennifer Hudson has serious pipes.

Sunday morning, we're on the bus westbound. A woman elbows past me to get on the bus first, then throws some garbage out the window. Evidently she's on the way to her Dale Carnegie course.

The coast....

A stroll up Venice Beach so Zoe can see the humanity...ending at Santa Monica Pier.

Uber ride to Sprinkles: use the ATM, get a cupcake.

Still no sign of the Dollar Store...

And she's not done yet.

 The first Cheesecake Factory...girl loves her some crab puffs!

It's a bird...it's a plane....It's the Mamma Mia cast

Somewhere on Hollywood Boulevard...

How come I don't get royalties? I guess because they're not showing my initials (this time).

In front of the Chinese Theater, there's a guy with an 8' long, very thick, yellow snake wrapped around his neck. Once again: Nope Nope Nope.

Zoe can't stop laughing at me.

Monday is meat and potatoes day. Since we're in Los Angeles already, why not look at a few colleges?

The bus ride thru Beverly Hills

 First stop...

My dream school from childhood...never asked whether it's possible. I am now!

But of course....I'm liking this campus more and more.

I'm sayin'

Powell Library...pretty sure a scene from The West Wing was filmed here.

A fast Uber ride across town to Occidental.

Zoe asked why I'm taking a picture of the track. I say, "because I love track."

Zoe: "You're so weird." If she's just finding that out now, perhaps I've been too muted.

Dinner: she recalls a show where two guys rate sushi in LA from the low, medium, and high ends. Sushi Stop was the low end, and overall winner. Great stuff.

Couple months ago, I give Zoe a fashion ad with a model posing at this very intersection (Hollywood and Ivar). Have to get a shot of my own little model.

 Amoeba Records! So much vinyl, so little time...

It's been a long day. Not sure if Zoe will survive the last visit...Hardly! Wanna see a girl's face light up, especially one who likes movie making? Bring her to the LA Film School for a tour.


Four people on our tour: the two of us, and two 30-something guys trying to break into the biz. My little 15 year old stands toe to toe with them, talking movie edit software and sound stages. Such a proud papa!


Zoe loses her mind in the editing room....kid is CHOMPING at the bit!!

 350-seat screening theater.

The Green Screen...

 An LA Film School student can reserve any of the school's equipment or facilities, for free: the cameras, sound equipment, mixing boards, lights, theater....anything.

Zoe is beside herself.

Back to our room...the one with a view.

And the rooftop pool...

 The flight home. Poor kid just never has any fun.

 Saw this bad boy during the SeaTac layover. Looking forward to riding upstairs someday!

 Leaving the lounge...

Our commuter flight, courtesy of the University of Oregon?

Yes, it flew like a duck. All over the place.

Here's Zoe before the turbulence hits. The week finally catches up with her.

Superb visit. My organizational skills courtesy of the US Naval Academy make for quite the thorough trip. And my girl lights up at every stop.

Call it a win.