In Defense of Rob Zombie’s ‘Halloween’ Movies

The two “Halloween” movies written and directed by Rob Zombie were eviscerated not just by critics but by the fans as well. Some critics, like James Berardinelli of Reel Views, said they did not even feel like “Halloween” movies. Fans were vocal in how characters like Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis were unforgivably degraded compared to how they were portrayed in John Carpenter’s original. Others simply said Zombie’s take on Michael Myers just wasn’t that scary.

Well, I say phooey to all this nonsense! Zombie’s “Halloween” movies may not be as scary as the one which started off this never-ending franchise, but for me this was pretty much a given. There is no way you could recapture what Carpenter thrilled us with years ago. Zombie was aware of how Michael Myers, like other horror icons such as Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, had pretty much worn out their usefulness. His respect for Carpenter’s slasher opus was strong, and after making a true grindhouse classic with “The Devil’s Rejects,” I knew he would take this story and these characters and make them his own.

What makes Zombie’s “Halloween” stand out from what came before it is how he treats the backstory of Michael Myers. Granted, this threatens to take away from what made him so scary in the first place. Carpenter’s original was an unrelentingly visceral experience mainly because we were not sure what to make of “The Shape” as he became less than human throughout. But here we get a strong idea of how young Michael went bad as he dealt with an uncaring sister, a busy mother, and an abusive lout of a stepfather. Seeing all he had to deal with made it understandable, if not forgivable, as to why he went psycho in the first place.

Now whereas Zombie’s “Halloween” was about Michael, his “Halloween II” was all about Laurie Strode, Dr. Loomis and of how the horrific events they went through forever destroyed them. It is here we come to realize what Zombie has accomplished with these movies: They are character studies instead of the average slasher movie we have come to expect. This is made even clearer on the “Halloween II” director’s cut which is available on DVD and Blu-ray as it proves to be infinitely superior to the theatrical version.

Fans hated how Laurie Strode and Dr. Loomis were so different from how they were portrayed in Carpenter’s original film, but they forgot how Zombie’s films were a meant to be a reimagining of the franchise and not business as usual. Strode’s extreme emotional reactions might make her unlikable, but they soon become understandable as no one involved in what she went through can ever walk away from it unscathed. Both Scout-Taylor Compton and Malcolm McDowell deserve credit for not being constrained by what Jaime Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence created before them. In Zombie’s incarnation, these two actors inhabit their characters more than they play them.

In a time of remakes which are as endless as they are unnecessary, you have to give Zombie points for taking this long-running franchise in a different direction. It may not have been what diehard fans wanted or expected, but whereas most remakes repeat the formulas of movies they originated from with negative success, there is something to be said for a filmmaker who willfully goes against expectations. Seriously, this says a lot in a time when originality in cinema is largely frowned upon.

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‘The Black Album’ by Metallica – Welcome to the 1990’s!

Metallica Black Album cover

For many including myself, the 1990’s seemed like the beginning of the end. What was once fun and vibrant in the 80’s had quickly become corrupted and forever broken at the dawn of a new decade. The innocence we felt from the 80’s faded before we even knew it, and we were stuck in a world which reeked of corruption, was full of people I did not want to be around, and I found myself constantly wanting to escape my surroundings and doing so with no real success. In other words, I was in high school back then. The 90’s began with me graduating from junior high, and my journey from there continued on into the adolescent hellhole known as high school. The world became much darker at that point, and so did my taste in music.

Somewhere in my brooding alienation, I came to discover Metallica. I had heard of the band, but their self-titled 1991 release, better known today as “The Black Album,” represented their breakthrough into the mainstream, and it gave them an even bigger audience than they had already. Some called them sell outs for taking this route, as they previously eschewed filming music videos for playing concerts instead. Regardless, “The Black Album” was a thunderous heavy metal masterpiece which laid waste to all the rock and roll albums released at the time. While they may have rocked even harder on “Kill ‘Em All” and “Masters of Puppets,” you could hardly call this a soft record as the band was not about to lose its thunderous power. With producer Bob Rock, they put more structure into their music, and they didn’t just let songs spiral out of control the way they did on “And Justice for All.”

For me, listening to “The Black Album” gave me a much-needed outlet for the bottled-up aggression I felt through the earlier part of the 90’s. It’s funny because back then I used to dislike heavy metal music because all the kids who picked on me listened to it all the time, and I figured it was the music which turned them into thoughtless pricks. When I listened to the CD for the first time, it actually scared me as the music was darker than the kind I typically listened to. I started to wonder if I had made a mistake buying it and if it would warp my fragile little mind. But the truth is the world around me, my realization of how things truly worked, and my endless frustration of feeling like I was never fitting into anything at my high school was doing this already. My dad, god bless him, was very impressed by the album, and he offered to buy it from me if I found I didn’t like it. Fortunately, I came to my senses as my friends were digging this album and talking about it endlessly. It was nowhere as harmful as the prudes of America would try to make it out to be.

Before you knew it, I was listening to this album all the time and reveled in its heavy rhythms balanced by its deathly solemn music. I became a Metallica fan instantly, and I still look forward to every album they make.

The album gets off to a perfect start with “Enter Sandman” which is about all the frightening things that go bump in the night. It was about preparing yourself as a child for all the horrible nightmares we expected to have, and of the monsters hiding in dark places. The song also served to define the tone of the album and what the rest of it would sound like; dark, ominous, and full of thrashing guitar riffs which would excite you to no end. With “Enter Sandman,” we were indeed off to never, never land.

I do have to tell you, however, that the music video almost kept me from buying this album. Seeing all those snakes slithering around the kid while he slept in bed brought back one of my most horrible dreams involving those slithery creatures. It says a lot about “The Black Album” that I still bought it despite the horrified reaction I had from witnessing the music video, and of things in it I did not see coming.

From there, we get “Sad but True,” which I originally thought was about an abusive relationship, and of the man who lays down the law in the worst way possible. I still think it is the most disturbing song on the album, but it grew on me quickly as you can look at it in different ways. Perhaps it is about that voice in our heads which we so desperately wanted to go away, but we ended up surrendering to it eventually. Either way, the lyrics James Hetfield wrote were more than backed up by the relentless guitar playing from him, Kirk Hammett and Jason Newsted. It’s a song which reaches into the dark side of your psyche, and it awakens you to the things we need to keep an eye on.

“Holier Than Thou” is classic Metallica as it represents the kind of speed metal they were are well known for. Lars Ulrich’s drum playing was matched by the relentless onslaught of the guitars dominating the song. If die-hard fans thought Metallica had somehow gone soft on them, this song showed how untrue this perception was. It sure gets my adrenaline pumping whenever I listen to it.

Then there is “The Unforgiven,” a deeply solemn song about how one man is beaten down both physically and mentally to where his spirit has all but disappeared. This same man spends the rest of his days trying to appeal to those he had such intense bitterness towards. I kind of look at this song as illustrative of the boiling pot I had in my high school, years which was all about fitting in and being seen as one of the cool people on campus. No one ever wants to be the geek or the one everyone picks on every single day. In the process of assimilating yourself into a crowd who you may not actually want to hang out with, we threaten to kill off those parts of ourselves which make us truly unique. When we realize what we have done to ourselves in order to be seen as “popular,” we may end up hating ourselves forever because of it. I may be going off on a tangent here, but this is what “The Unforgiven” means to me, and I bet it is one of Hetfield’s most introspective songs. It’s a tragic song about a life wasted, and none of us wants see our own life as a waste.

“Nothing Else Matters” was Metallica’s first attempt at a ballad, and it is one of their most successful. Most ballads from other heavy metal/rock & roll bands can come off as incredibly cheesy and so out of place in comparison to the kind of music we expect from them. But “Nothing Else Matters” is played from the heart, and there is nothing cheesy about it at all, thank goodness. It also reveals a part of the band and its lead singer which we had not seen before, and there is something brave about that.

“Don’t Tread on Me” seems to many like a pro-war song, and this made critics consider it the worst part of the album. Granted, a very good case could be made for that, but our initial impressions can often be deceiving. I prefer to see the song as an empowerment of the spirit we have, and of not letting others take you down for being who you are. In a way, it is the antithesis of “The Unforgiven.” It’s a song strongly embedded with undying pride, and it is one of my most favorite songs on “The Black Album.”

“Through the Never” and “Of Wolf and Man” are two great songs where the power of the music and lyrics is not held back or bottled up in any way. Both have a structure where you can easily see the beginning, middle and end, but there is still an unbridled fury which doesn’t stop when the songs come to their respective ends. I loved listening to these ones just before I ran at cross country events, and they kept me going as I was running long distance through 80 to 90-degree weather with the sun bearing down on me and no trees to give me shade to where I kept thinking about the cold water waiting for me at the finish line.

Two other songs which didn’t initially appeal to me as much were “The God That Failed” and “My Friend of Misery.” Looking at them now, the music is great in both, but they are more powerful on a lyrical level. With “The God That Failed,” Hetfield looks at his loss of faith and his anger at feeling betrayed and lied to about so many things. If people paid more attention to the lyrics in these songs, they would see themes they can relate to. Even to this day, with the economy in this country still burrowing down into a deep dark hole, many question their faith and of what they felt they were led to believe in.

“My Friend of Misery” captures, even in the title itself, the life of a teenager. How we can be so miserable and upset to the point where we fall in love with our depressive state of mind. I imagine many adults feel this way as well, but I doubt that these feelings could feel anywhere as intense as they do between the ages of 13 and 19. Falling out of love with misery can seem impossible, but I guess it does help to look at the bright side of once in a while.

The album concludes on the propulsive notes of “The Struggle Within,” a fantastic finish to one of the best albums of the 90’s. The driving rhythms of the guitars and drums add fuel to the fire of the lyrics which practically yell out at the listener to take control of their life and to not get swallowed up in apathy. In an album that deals with the dark sides of life, this one lifts it up just enough out of the darkness to where you are not as down as you were a moment ago. The scariest thing about life sometimes is how we come to realize how way too complacent we have been in our lives when we should have done more to make things better for ourselves.

The band members of Metallica have a rather flippant reaction to what people think of their music and what it means to them. The way they see it, they are not trying to make any big points or statements, they are just writing songs. With their music, how one sees it is different for each individual listener. For me, the album was a dark journey which gave me an outlet for my frustrations through what felt like the worst of times, and it gave me a grand introduction to this band whose other records I would soon get a hold of.

Hetfield, Ulrich, Newsted and Hammett succeeded in giving us one of the most definitive albums of the 1990’s, and I would put it alongside Nirvana’s “Nevermind” and Pearl Jam’s “Ten” as the ones which truly defined this dark decade. It remains one of my favorite albums to this day, and listening to it again many years after its release makes me remember how it had a power few other albums of the time could match.

To close out this review, I wanted to include this quote from Marilyn Manson which came out of the documentary “Bowling for Columbine:”

“When I was a kid growing up, music was the escape. That’s the only thing that had no judgments. You can put on a record and it’s not gonna yell at you for dressing the way you do. It’s gonna make you feel better about it.”

What he said sums up what Metallica’s “Black Album’ means to me. It was an escape which was much needed when it felt like the whole world was coming down on me, and there was something empowering about it that kept me going even in my terminally depressive state. It’s albums like these which make me believe in the power of music.

‘Private Eyes’ by Hall & Oates – My First Vinyl Album

Private Eyes album cover

Hall & Oates’ 1981 album “Private Eyes” was actually the first vinyl record I ever got which I could call my own. Years ago, my mother offered to buy me and my brother one vinyl record each, and we were both really excited at the prospect of having one of our own since our parents owned several dozens of them, many of them by Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles (they have great taste in music). I don’t remember exactly why my mom did this. Maybe we were well behaved or something (a rarity for the two of us as kids).

Anyway, my brother got this KTEL album (remember those?) called “Radioactive‘ which featured popular songs of the moment from Devo (their cover of “Working in a Coalmine” is one of my favorites), REO Speedwagon, Rick Springfield and Blondie among others. “Radioactive” was the equivalent of those “Now That’s Music” CD’s which get released every other month, but the music on this particular album was excellent and never groan inducing, and it was a good selection by my older brother.

But for me, my choice was clear from the start, and it represents one of my most decisive decisions at a video or music store.

I first got exposed to “Private Eyes” when I was in Kindergarten thanks to my friend Matthew who lived down the street from me in Marietta, Georgia. Matthew had the album on cassette and we kept listening to the title track endlessly, and when those claps came into play, I made it look like I was punching myself. This made the two of us laugh hysterically, and we didn’t listen to much else on the album at the time. That one song seemed to be enough for the two of us.

But later, we started to listen to “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do)” which I had heard on the radio, but I didn’t realize right away it was also on the “Private Eyes” album. Cool, I thought, this tape must have a lot of good songs on it. Sure enough, it did! Just before I got the album on vinyl, “Did It in A Minute” became Hall & Oates’ latest hit song. Getting “Private Eyes” at that point seemed like a do or die mission in retrospect. Come to think of it, it was!

I still have a lot of memories from listening to this definitive Hall & Oates album after all these years. My brother and I were dancing without a care to these songs, especially to “Did It in a Minute.” This was back before we both became saddled with those inhibitions which more or less came to define the adults we are today. Sometime later, my family moved from Marietta, Georgia to Thousand Oaks, California, and “Your Imagination” started playing on KIIS FM, back when Rick Dees was the morning disc jockey. I thought it was a very cool song, and I later realized it was also on the “Private Eyes” album as well. For me, this album now seemed so magical because it had so many great songs on it, and if there was a song I heard on the radio which I liked, it had to be from this album!

“Private Eyes” was just an infinitely fun album to listen to, and this is still the case more than 30 years after its release. It is one of several records from the 1980’s I can never get sick of listening to, and it always brightens my mood whenever I put it on. Hall & Oates went on to become a dominant musical duo during the 80’s with this album as well as “H2O” and “Big Bam Boom,” but neither of those albums, despite having some awesome tracks, could hold up as well as “Private Eyes” did.

Of all the songs here, I still think the best one is “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do).” While the other songs might seem stylistically dated, this one feels timeless and could fit in with the music of today. For a time, it was the ring tone on my cell phone, and when went off in the office I used to work in, a fellow colleague remarked about how Hall & Oates once auditioned for Smokey Robinson. Robinson ended up not hiring the duo, and he later admitted it was one of the biggest mistakes of his life.

Of course, I don’t want to leave out other songs like “Did It in a Minute” which ends the first side of the record. A great up-tempo song, it was one which got me really excited about life when I listened to it (I was 5 or 6 at the time, so what did I know?). Going onto the second side, we have “Head Above the Water” which proves to be an appropriate selection to listen to during aerobic exercises. Lesser known songs like “Tell Me What You Want” and “Some Men” resonated strongly for me even when I didn’t understand the lyrics. Then again, it took me a long, long, long time after the first grade to really pay attention to a song’s lyrics. The music itself was all that mattered to me at the time.

I always kept wondering about John Oates though. Daryl Hall was always the most prominent of the duo, and John seemed to be there mostly as backup. I wonder if Mr. Oates ever got seriously resentful of Mr. Hall in a “Fatal Attraction” kind of way. But they are still together, so I guess it never got quite that bad. John, however, proved he is every bit as good a singer on songs like “Mano a Mano” and “Friday Let Me Down,” a song title which would have a depressing significance on me during my adolescent years. It didn’t even matter how I had no idea what “Mano a Mano” meant (it would be several years before I took my first Spanish class) because the song itself has a catchy rhythm which every decent 80’s song needed to have.

It should also be noted how Hall & Oates were a big hit on the R&B charts with their music back then, and this was a rare feat displayed by what some would call a “white act.” While many of us today may laugh at white people doing what others simply saw as “black music,” this musical duo was never seen as a joke, and they were respectful of the influences which inspired their musical choices. The song “Looking for a Good Sign” was actually dedicated to the original lineup of The Temptations, a huge influence on their work. The duo would later perform with two of the vocalists from The Temptations on the “Live at The Apollo” album.

“Private Eyes” is not an album with any big theme to hold all these songs together. It is not a concept album like Pink Floyd’s “The Wall,” an album which took me many years to fully appreciate. In the end, “Private Eyes” is still an endlessly entertaining album which can never be construed as boring, and it holds up really well. I still love listening to this album to this very day, and it remains one of my favorite albums of all time. Considering how it was my first vinyl record, it will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Years later, I did purchase the remastered CD of “Private Eyes, but I do still have the original vinyl record in my possession. Believe me, I will never get rid of it. Ever.

 

Finishing the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon in One Piece

2019 LA Marathon half runners

So, the time had come again. The day of the Los Angeles Marathon had arrived, an event which brings the city of angels together in a way which is beautiful. Strangers cheer you on no matter who you are, and volunteers of all kinds are on hand to give you all the water, Gatorade, oranges, bananas and, yes, beer you could ever possibly want as you pound the pavement for 26.2 miles. We’ve trained for this endurance event for months, and now all we can do is hope it pays off as we pound the pavement for what those who do not run openly think is an insane distance to travel on foot. Of course, many of those same people keep telling me they cannot even run a mile, so their bewilderment at such an event is understandable.

This is the ninth year in a row I have participated in the LA Marathon, but things were different this time around. After running the full 26.2 miles for the past eight years, I decided the time had come to run the half marathon instead as it was harder to find time to train, and I was unable to complete certain runs either because my knees were hurting more than usual, or because I stupidly lost my cell phone and had to go searching for it. Seriously, hell hath no fury like a human being who has lost their cell phone.

2019 LA Marathon Ben running gear

In a time where I find myself oversleeping for far too often, I actually woke up about a half hour or so before the alarm on my cell phone was set to go off (4:45 a.m. to be exact). Since I was running the half marathon, I didn’t need to be in Santa Monica until about 6:00 a.m., so I took it easy as I got my running gear on and made sure to apply generous amounts of Body Glide and suntan lotion to my far too pale body. As I drove out to Santa Monica, I played music from the “American Flyers” soundtrack to pump myself up. I usually go with that or Queen’s extended version of “One Vision” as the key is to get myself all psyched up for a day in which I travel all parts of Los Angeles while saving gas money in the process. And, as I always like to tell people, I have to get back to my car somehow, and taking an Uber or a Lyft is out of the question. It’s not like any of the drivers can deal with all those road closures in a sane fashion anyway.

I drove over expecting traffic to be backed up to a crawl but I was astonished to see things weren’t that bad as getting into Santa Monica proved to be a piece of cake. Since the full marathoners had long since arrived, parked and made their way via bus to Dodger Stadium, the half marathoners were the only ones left. I parked in a lot off of Ocean Avenue, the cheap seats of LA Marathon parking, and made my way over to where the buses were waiting. Of course, unlike when parking at the Civic Center off of Main Street, the path to the buses was not a straight line like it once was. I realized this when I found myself approaching the Santa Monica Pier and began wondering where the hell I was.

As I made my way up, people were already gathering around as the last touches were being put on the finish line, and I was already getting congratulations from strangers for participating. I was in a hurry so I didn’t have time to tell anyone I had not actually started the marathon yet. Still, no one questioned why a guy like me who is carrying a little more luggage on his belly than he cared to admit could have finished running the LA Marathon so quickly. As much as I would like to believe I am faster than speeding bullet, there is a wealth of evidence to suggest otherwise.

My biggest fear was of getting on the wrong bus and ending up at Dodger Stadium. I was told there would be buses which would take us to Beverly Hills where the half-marathon starting point was, and that they would be leaving between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. I had to double check with the traffic cop on duty to make sure I wasn’t about to make the dumbest mistake possible. It would have been catastrophic had I gone on one heading to Dodger Stadium as I could easily see myself going into full on self-flagellation mode. Heaven forbid I take it easy on myself, huh?

2019 LA Marathon full runners

Anyway, I did get on the right bus which led me to the corner of Fairfax and Orange Grove. As I arrived, I had the good fortune to run into several of my fellow Pablove runners who were all set to run 13.1 miles from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica. To my surprise, there were more Pablove runners taking on the half-marathon than I originally realized. Like me, they decided to do the half as they were unable to devote the time they needed to training. But on the upside, we got to avoid running up those steep hills in Downtown Los Angeles as well as having to endure all those religious people who keep yelling into their bullhorns about how we have to give ourselves to Jesus. Methinks those people take the word of the Bible far too literally.

The day turned out to be warmer than I expected. This was a surprise after experiencing the coldest winter Southern California has had in lord only knows how long. For a while, I figured we might be greeted by cold weather this marathon hasn’t seen since 2012. But no, it was warmer than many would have preferred. Still, it wasn’t a scorcher like it was a few years ago.

At Dodger Stadium, the runners have to count the number of times Randy Newman’s “I Love LA” is played before they cross the starting line. From where we were, we were not subjected to that undying anthem. Instead, we got a school band performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” for us which we proudly stood for. But yeah, in retrospect I should have kneeled.

We had to wait a bit to start as the elite marathon runners, those who are Kenyan or anyone else determined to finish it in 2 or 3 hours, passed by. Once they came and went, we were led out in waves onto Sunset Boulevard. I decided to run this marathon at a 2:2 pace which means I ran for two minutes and then walked for another two. It didn’t take long for me to lose my fellow Pablove runners as they took off with no signs of stopping for any walk break, and once again I was “all by myself.” But was I? After all, thousands upon thousands of people were participating in this event, so I had little reason to ever feel lonely.

It is an exhilarating thing to run this particular marathon as it brings the citizens of Los Angeles together in a way I want them to be brought together on a daily basis. I don’t know the religions of everyone who volunteered, but they were definitely on display whether or not it called for its most loyal followers to wear a turban . I have to tell you, the endless supply of bananas came in handy as they gave me the extra burst of energy I desperately needed. In retrospect, however, I should have taken more of those orange slices as the juice was much needed on a day where Southern California returned to its unseasonably warm temperatures after going through one of its coldest winters ever.

Another joy I have in running this particular marathon is in seeing the signs spectators feel free to put on display. Among them was one which stated how we run better than the government, but then again, who doesn’t these days. One of my favorites came from someone eager to address the current controversy involving celebrities helping their kids cheat their way into top-rated universities.

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Not once did I ever feel the need to take one or two extra strength Tylenol caplets. If I ran 26.2 miles, I would have taken at least one by the time I reached mile 13. My feet can only get abused so much before they start to complain as if to say, “why have you forsaken us?” Trust me, I have run this marathon before without taking any pain relievers, and I came out of it wondering why I could be so cruel to myself.

The sun did shine a lot brighter than I thought it would, but there was a cool breeze blowing in our direction as we approached Ocean Avenue. Of course, we had to suffer through San Vicente Boulevard before we got there, and this street feels never ending. It’s like a dolly zoom in a movie in that you are making progress, but the visual ahead suddenly looks a lot further away than you thought. Remember the moment in “Jaws” where Chief Brody slowly realizes that kid on the yellow raft is being attacked by a shark? That’s what I’m talking about.

I came into this year’s LA Marathon a bit depressed as I fell backwards in terms of training and ended up realizing I would be better off running the half. I had to accept the fact that my body is not the well-oiled machine it once was, and this involved acknowledging to myself of how I am not as young as I look. Regardless, this day was still a triumphant one, and I felt a sense of pride as I crossed the finish line while holding nine fingers up in the air to indicate how many times I have participated in this particular endurance event.

We still had to keep walking upon crossing the finish line as to suddenly stop would not be in our best interest. We were greeted with medals, and the LA Marathon always has the best ones, as well as servings of bananas, bagels (no cream cheese, damn it), water and Muscle Milk (which was not cold enough). Coach Kerry, who ran the half marathon with us, said he tried to wait for us, but security kept moving the runners along so they could make room for all the runners who had yet to finish.

So I walked slowly back to my car, put on deodorant, changed my shirt, got in and drove home. Although I only ran 13.1 miles, I was still wiped out and discovered a significant of sunburn on my back. I did put suntan lotion on, but my arms can only reach so far to cover everything.

As I walked home after parking my car, strangers noticed what was around my neck and were quick to say congratulations. Like I said, this event is the kind of thing which brings the citizens of this crazy city together in a beautiful way.

There are certain visuals from this marathon I will keep with me always. Among them is watching a physically disabled man slowly making his way to the finish line with a walker while still being in a lot of time. I also saw a young female runner being loaded onto a medical vehicle even as she screamed over the pain from her leg. I hope she’s doing better now.

I want to thank Coaches Kerry, Joaquin and Lourdes for all their help this past season and to congratulate my fellow Pablove runners for crossing the finish line. It has been an honor running in support of The Pablove Foundation which continues its fight against childhood cancer. These group of runners succeeded in raising over $50,000 for the organization, $1,000 of which was raised by me. Last I checked, my fundraising page is still up and running, so please feel free to make a tax-deductible donation to a great non-profit.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW YOU CAN MAKE A DONATION TO THE PABLOVE FOUNDATION.

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Confessions From a Veteran Marathon Runner

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So, it has been a few weeks since I last wrote about my training for the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon. The last time I did, it was in regards to my 20-mile run which had me suffering an emotional breakdown. In addition, my knees have been hurting more than ever before. I am not in excruciating pain mind you, it’s just that after running the LA Marathon eight years in a row, my body is really feeling the mileage.

After giving much thought to it, I have decided to run the half marathon on March 24, 2019 instead of the full. After suffering several setbacks, it seemed like the smart thing to do. Still, I feel a bit depressed about making this change as it marks the first time in years I will not be running the full LA Marathon. As a result, my enthusiasm for this yearly event, the kind which brings Los Angeles together in a beautiful way, has been dimmed significantly.

But maybe the diming of my enthusiasm is the result of realizing where I am in life. In short, I’m not a young guy anymore. As much as I try to convince myself I am still demographically desirable, I have to face some inescapable facts: I am not as fast as I used to be, my body is failing me more than I care to admit, I am trailing behind everyone to where I cannot catch up with even their vapor trails, and those pounds I aim to shed off my body refuse to be shed. As much as I refuse to act my age (and who does anyway?), my body is changing, or devolving to put it midly.

I remember watching “City Slickers” on the silver screen back in 1991, and this piece of dialogue from Billy Crystal has always stayed with me:

“Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I’m ever gonna do, this is the best I’m ever gonna feel… and it ain’t that great?”

I was still a teenager when “City Slickers” was released, and I kept thinking to myself, thank god I won’t have to worry about that for a long time. Well, a couple of decades have passed by, and there are things I need to accept as reality: lines are slowly showing up on my face, I’m getting hair where there shouldn’t be hair, and my knees are started to feel like they will collapse without much notice. I was told when I turned 18 how it was all downhill from there, but now I feel like I am going downhill faster than before, and the brakes to slow me down are a lot wobblier than they should be.

For the record, I am still keeping up with marathon training and have been attending each Saturday run the Pablove runners are expected to be at. It has been the rainiest and coldest winter Southern California in years, but neither rain nor the treacherous road that is Forest Lawn Drive can keep us from getting ready for the big day. We even broke our routine up one week and trained at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and running a couple of loops outside of it was refreshing.

Pablove March 9 run

The major upside of the last few runs was, for once, I got to run with others instead of just by myself. It’s nice to have the company as it sure helps motivate me in a way I cannot do on my own. I particularly want to thank Esther and Glendale, both whom are also running the half-marathon, for allowing me to keep up with them. And yes, it allowed me and Glendale to have a discussion about “I Spit on Your Grave” and its upcoming sequel, “I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu.” The two of us are tickled to death over a direct sequel being made to this controversial cult classic all these years later, especially when you consider just how awful the first film was. Esther hasn’t seen or even heard of it, and she should consider herself lucky.

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Running with these two reminded me of what kept bringing me back to LA Marathon training for several years now: the people. It’s fun running with people and talking about what the past week was like. Usually I end up running by myself to where my motivation to run more than walk is not as strong as it should be. It’s like I am Charlie Brown and lost in my own thoughts to where I inadvertently trick myself into believing I am going to win the decathlon, and we all remember how “You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown” ended.

And again, there’s the issue with my knees. How much cartilage do they have left to work with? They ache more than usual, and I am not sure what to do about that. I keep thinking they will buckle on me when I least expect it, and I am trying to remain conscious of my running form from start to finish. George Harrison once sang about his guitar gently weeping, but my knees are not exactly weeping gently.

Also, I have been getting fatigued a lot. I spend a lot of mornings sleeping in even when I know I need to work. Maybe I was a bear in a previous life. A least they have an excuse to sleep for a long time; they hibernate. It makes me long for all the testosterone which starting leaving my body at 40. Testosterone, testosterone, my kingdom for some testosterone! Maybe I should get a bottle of Nugenix and see if it makes a difference. Frank Thomas did say “she’ll like the difference too,” so shouldn’t that be considered a solid endorsement?

Despite the setbacks, I still soldier on. Why? Well, these Saturday morning runs help give me a schedule which self-employment does not always invite (but probably should). It’s a great way for me to keep in shape even as the boundless energy I once had as a youth continues to disappear. And yes, I am doing this for a noble non-profit, The Pablove Foundation, which continues its fight against the insidious disease called pediatric cancer. No one should ever die young. No one.

Pablove Foundation logo

We need to put more of a face on this disease. The Pablove Foundation has certainly done this, but we as runners don’t always know who we are doing this for on a personal level. Well, at least I don’t. It would serve as a strong reminder of the importance of what we do.

I hope my former marathon coach, JC Fernandez, doesn’t mind, but I wanted to share something he sent me recently:

“I neglected another important thing that I hope you have already taken to heart: YOU ARE A HERO. It can be difficult to consider when you’re focused solely on surviving the next mile of a course, but you have inspired people. People saw you run and thought, ‘Maybe I can do that.’ Furthermore, the people you’ve supported all these years are not grateful to you because of your pace. I’ve said often enough through the years that what we do is not abstract. And somewhere there is a person who at the very least struggles a bit less because of you but at the most remains alive because of you. Do not ever forget that, even if you decide to hang your cape up forever.”

JC certainly has a great point, and he and I learned from the best: Scott Boliver.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: To date, I have raised $1,062 for The Pablove Foundation. I want to thank all of you who have supported me so far on this voyage to another LA Marathon. My fundraising goal is still $1,500, and there is still plenty of time to make a donation.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION (PLEASE?)

The Ultimate Rabbit and Keon Kobra’s Live Commentary on ‘Night of the Demons’

Night of the Demons 1988 movie poster

I recently had the pleasure of checking in with Keon Maghsoudi (a.k.a. Keon Kobra), a most excellent friend of mine from high school. We joined up to do an online commentary on the horror movie “Night of the Demons.” Released in 1988, the same year we got “Child Play’s,” “Maniac Cop,” “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers,” “A Nightmare on Elm Street IV: The Dream Master,” “Phantasm II” and the completely unnecessary “Poltergeist III,” it was made for $1.2 million and shot over four weeks in South Central Los Angeles. Despite negative reviews from critics, it went on to gross over $3 million after its debut in Detroit. Since then, it has become a cult classic and was followed by two sequels and an obligatory remake.

Before Keon and I started, I admitted I had not previously seen “Night of the Demons.” I was aware of it, having seen its posters in newspapers and a trailer on television. But back then, I was only slowly getting into horror movies as they were the kind of cinematic experiences I was fascinated by but quick to avoid. These days, I look forward to them as I have long since become deeply fascinated by the dark side of humanity.

“Night of the Demons” tells the twisted tale of a group of high school seniors who decide to celebrate Halloween at Hull House, an isolated funeral parlor which (surprise surprise) is said to be haunted by evil spirits. Despite this, one of the seniors gets the group to participate in a séance which, as you can expect, leads to all hell breaking loose. This demon, which kind of looks like the anglerfish from “Finding Nemo,” rises up and begins to possess these foolish teens, and it is clear from the get go many of them will not survive the night.

This is one of those movies best watched with a group of friends as watching it by yourself serves as a reminder of how a party of one is not much fun. Director Kevin S. Tenney and screenwriter Joe Augustyn employ a large number of horror movie clichés to where we feel like we have a good idea of which characters will live and die. It’s almost like a guessing game as I was tempting to place bets as to which one would bite the dust first. I kept thinking it would be Stooge (played by Hal Havins). Was it? Watch the movie.

Dread Central, in its review of the cult classic, described it as being “fun. Lively. A masterpiece, it’s not.” I think this perfectly sums up “Night of the Demons” as it was made not to ascend to the cinematic heights of “Lawrence of Arabia,” but instead to satisfy its core audience which was into blood, gore and hair/glam metal bands which the 1980’s was famous for producing. I want to thank Keon for inviting me to be part of this commentary as watching the movie with him proved to be a lot of fun.

As we watched the movie, I had its Wikipedia and IMDB pages up on my computer, and I found out the following:

  • Cathy Podewell, who plays the virginal Judy Cassidy, lived in Walnut Creek, California, a city not far from where Keon and I grew up.
  • Judy’s boyfriend, Jay, who is portrayed by Lance Fenton, played Kurt Kelly in one of the greatest teen movies ever made, “Heathers.”
  • Linnea Quigley, who plays teenager Suzanne, was 30 years old when she was cast. Quigley initially turned down the opportunity to audition as she felt much too old to play a teenager. Nevertheless, she was cast.
  • Quigley is best known for playing teenage punk Trash in “The Return of the Living Dead,” another in a long line of movies I still need to see.
  • This movie was recorded in Ultra Stereo. Remember Ultra Stereo? That seems to have gone the way of VHS tapes.

I have included the entire video of our commentary down below. I hope you enjoy it.

Click here to check out Keon Kobra’s Movie Review Strike!

Click here to check out Keon Kobra’s YouTube page.

Keon Kobra logo

Let’s Call This Run ‘King of the Hill’

Pablove 2019 Week Eight 2

This week, I remembered exactly where I parked my car and arrived at Griffith Park in Burbank 15 minutes before the clock hit 7 a.m. Coaches Kerry and Joaquin were there waiting patiently for the Pablove runners in temperatures which were frigid even by Los Angeles standards (yes, we do get cold temperatures from time to time in Southern California). Coach Kerry brought along his dog and had him (or her, I don’t remember) firmly on a leash as this pup was ready to chase after any bicyclists or squirrels in its radar range. Once the first set of bicyclists went by, the dog was ready to hit warp speed, and I think his barks translated into, “Hey, I want to run with you! Yes! Yes! I want to run! Wait up!”

Once Coach Kerry got his dog under control, he suddenly said, “Maybe we should call this run ‘King of the Hill.’” Little did I know what I meant. We have run up and down hills before, and I have come to welcome them as they are part of the LA Marathon. But this week had us going up a hill like none other before it, and it was definitely not the one Kate Bush sang about back in the 1980’s.

This run would be our first double-digit run of the training season as we were running 10 miles, and the coaches had us going up the hill first on the backside of Griffith Park. Good, I thought, we will get the hard stuff out of the way first. Of course, this particular hill always wipes me out long before I reach the top. Even if I wanted to be like Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky IV” when he reached the top of that mountain and yell out “DRAGO!!!” for all to hear, I never have the energy or enthusiasm to do so.

But here’s where the run took a sharp turn both literally and figuratively speaking. Instead of going down the backside of Griffith Park, we took a right onto a paved road which was shut off to cars but not to runners or bicyclists. The only thing is, this road kept going up instead of down. And once I thought I went as far upward as I possibly could, I found I hadn’t. And then later on, I found this out again, and again, and again. As determined as I was to finish these 10 miles, I realized it would probably be longer than the running time of Lars Von Trier’s latest cinematic opus, “The House That Jack Built.”

Look, I am fine with running up hills, but none of those hills we Pablove runners have ascended previously compared to this one. As my walk breaks increased over my running, I wondered if two maintenance runs during the week was even close to being enough to prepare for this or any other marathon. Just imagine if I had hills like this to run up during my cross-country days in high school. Oak Hill Park has nothing on what Griffith Park has to offer!

Nevertheless, I persisted like all those female politicians running for office during the past midterm elections (many of whom won mind you) and did my best. I tried to keep up with everyone else, but as usual I fell behind the rest of humanity and was more than confident nobody would be waiting for me by the time I got back. On the plus side, there was a nice breeze in the air and, even as the sun rose high into the sky, it was neither too hot nor too cold. On the downside, there were no bathrooms or portable toilets nearby, and at one point I had to drop the kids off in the bushes. That’s probably more information than you need, but I don’t want to leave anything out here.

Pablove 2019 Week Eight 8

Coach Joaquin was on hand throughout to make certain we were all doing as well as could be expected. Of course, before we started this run, he did tell us all that if we became sick or died on this run, it was not his fault.

Upon approaching Coach Joaquin at one point, I saw a sign which, from a distance, appeared to say “HELL SPOT.” This sign seemed more than appropriate as this was road which people will have better luck hiking up than running up. But once I got closer, I realized it actually said “HELI SPOT.” I don’t know, maybe I’m becoming dyslexic.

Pablove 2019 Week Eight 4

One thing this particular course did have going for it was the view it gave us of Burbank and Glendale. Looking at Burbank from a higher elevation, I was reminded of how it is a much bigger city than I ever bother to realize. It’s not at all dwarfed by the IKEA store which, by itself, probably has its own zip code, and the buildings, homes and apartments stretch out for what seem like miles.

Pablove 2019 Week Eight 5

I also thought I could see Pasadena from where we were, but Coach Joaquin informed me were looking at Glendale and that Pasadena was further off into the distance. I knew that. Anyway, at least I could tell it wasn’t Russia.

After making a sharp left turn at one point, I assumed we would not be running uphill anymore, but I was incorrect. Still, Coach Joaquin assured me what goes up must come down. You know, like the Trump Administration.

I did catch up with my fellow Pablove runners who encouraged me to keep on going as they made their way back. One of them told me, “I’d tell you the turnaround is right around the corner, but…” Believe me, I appreciated the honesty.

Pablove 2019 Week Eight 7

The turnaround point was at this enormous puddle of water which was truly impossible to miss. Looking at it reminded me of a scene from “Stand by Me” in which the four boys come to what looks like a shallow pond they think they can walk across with no problem. River Pheonix even checks to see how deep it is with a stick. Once he convinces everyone it is safe to cross, they walk straight ahead and realize just how deep the water really is. But that’s not all, remember? LEECHES!!!

It was a huge relief to finally reach the turnaround and head back, but there were still some hills to shuffle up and down, and I spent what felt like an obscene amount of time desperately trying to catch my breath. Once I got back to the main road, I knew it was all downhill from there, and in a good way. It’s nice to see “downhill from here” has a couple different meanings and is more than just something adults tell kids when they turn 18.

Pablove 2019 Week Eight 1

The coaches were still around when I returned, and this of course meant they could finally pack their things up and go home. I told Coach Joaquin how the maintenance runs I was doing didn’t seem to be enough, and he encouraged me to get in 30 minutes of exercise each day whether it be running or something else. He also made me see that I did good today and pointed out I did complete all 10 miles. I came, I ran and I finished, and this is something I should be proud of. So what if I came in last? I went through all 10 miles with a sheer determination to make it across the finish line.

Coach Joaquin assured me next week’s course will be completely flat and be only six miles. Still, I need to kick up the workouts during the week. I am now past the point of no return.

Click here to see the Pablove runners in action on this 10-mile run.

The end of the year is rapidly approaching, and I encourage you to make one of your last tax-deductible donations to The Pablove Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. It’s an amazing organization I encourage you all to support, and I still have a way to go with my fundraising. Click here to learn more.

Running Up That Griffith Park Hill For Pablove

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I made it back to Los Angeles the day before, but I still had to make some money as bills will never pay themselves like they should, so I didn’t get as much sleep as I should have for this Saturday’s run. Nevertheless, I managed to wake up before 6 a.m. before the alarm on my cellphone went off. However, I did get a bit distracted by the late Jonathan Demme’s “Married to the Mob” which was playing on television, and it remains one of my favorite movies of his. Michelle Pfeiffer was sheer perfection, Dean Stockwell played one of the few likable mob bosses in cinematic history, and Mercedes Ruehl stole every scene she was in.

Anyway, I arrived at Griffith Park in Burbank just as my fellow Pablove runners were beginning their warm-up exercises. These exercises seem simple in design, but they usually serve as a reminder of how my core muscles need to be strengthened more than I bother to realize. It’s all about the cores people, trust me.

This run had us full marathoners going 8 miles, and it took us up and down the backside of Griffith Park. This of course meant we had to run up that never ending hill which never ceases to punish those who ascend it. It doesn’t matter how good of a runner you are. Going up the backside always sucks the wind out of you. We were encouraged to shuffle up it, but even shuffling had me winded to where my walk breaks lasted longer than my time running.

When I came up to the one-mile sign, I wanted to curse it. This sign never comes soon enough on a run, and when I finally reach it, it looks like it is there just to laugh and sneer at me. There are runs where I feel like I have just completed 3 miles, and the one-mile sign shows up as if to say, “psych!” Damn you, one-mile sign! DAMN YOU!!!

Pablove 2019 Week Five

But then, upon closer observation, I realized the sign didn’t have the number one on it, but instead an up arrow. The arrow served as a reminder of the direction we needed to run in, as if it were not already obvious. Naturally, I felt like a schmuck for not noticing this at first glance. We all make mistakes and we are never perfect, and it could have been worse; I could have gone in the wrong direction. All the same, DAMN YOU ONE-MILE SIGN!!!

After finally reaching the top, I kept my speed in check as I descended down the other side. For a moment, I wondered if I was running in the wrong direction as Griffith Park became a little too silent for my taste. The drums of Robin Russell really would have been welcome at this point, but I guess he had a gig elsewhere.

Thankfully, Coach Lourdes was there to assure me I was going the right way. And yes, I did pass my fellow runners as they made their way back to where we started. As I made my way back, Lourdes became a bit concerned as I was coughing quite a bit. She asked if I was sick, and I replied I was not but that my allergies were having their way with me to where I wonder why I keep forgetting to invest in the Kleenex company. Maybe the air was dry or dusty. Lord knows the air quality in Los Angeles is never great, and those devastating wildfires have certainly made it even worse.

I have been thinking a lot about getting one of those Navage nose irrigation devices as I feel it will flush out all of my allergies to where my trash cans won’t be filled to the brim with used facial tissues. The only problem is the device costs $90 dollars, and this is a tiny bit more than I want to spend. Any suggestions? Would this be worth increasing my credit card debt for?

Navage Nasal Care

I made it back to where we started in one piece, and I was thrilled to see some of my fellow runners were still hanging around when I arrived. Typically, they are pretty quick to get in their cars and speed off, but I guess including the Hall & Oates song “Wait for Me” in one of my previous articles was enough to guilt trip a few Pablove runners into seeing me cross the finish line.

Regardless of my occasional cough, I came out of this run feeling good to where I felt the need to reward myself with a Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich at McDonald’s. As much as I should be avoiding fast food restaurants at my age, the breakfast meals at McDonald’s remain infinitely delicious after all these years. Even my dad loves their breakfast sandwiches, and he hates McDonald’s.

BREAKFAST

To be honest, this training season for the LA Marathon is going better than I expected. Hopefully I am not getting overconfident here, but I came into this season thinking I was not entirely ready to start training. I was hoping to start training more extensively before the Pablove runners met up for their first run, but balancing out running with making a living is always challenging as the latter wins out more often than not. But this time I want to burn the fat off my belly more than ever before. Here’s hoping I will once again look as svelte as I did back in high school. Anything is possible. Anything.

Once again, I implore you to make a tax-deductible donation to The Pablove Foundation which I am running this LA Marathon in support of. They are dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer, and while millions of dollars are spent by our government each year on cancer research, only a tiny portion of it goes towards pediatric cancer research. This disease will not cure itself, so please lend a helping hand.

Click here to find out how you can make a donation.

 

Ralph Garman Continues to Walk the Showbiz Beat with ‘The Ralph Report’

Ralph Garman photo

I first became aware of Ralph Garman when he and Kevin Smith hosted a screening of “Red State” at New Beverly Cinema. In the movie, Garman plays Caleb, husband to Sara (Oscar-winner Melissa Leo) who is a shameless member of Five Points Trinity Church, an infinitely homophobic religious sect which puts the WBC to utter shame. While Ralph has no dialogue, he left quite the impression on audiences as film acting requires you to do more with your face than with dialogue.

Caleb Red State

But following the screening, which also served as my introduction to “Hollywood Babble-On,” a podcast I am a die-hard fan of, Ralph demonstrated to the audience a talent he has long since been gifted with, doing voices. Whether he spoke as Al Pacino, Christopher Walken or Sylvester Stallone (“GREEDY AND LAZY!!!”), it was clear he had more than eight voices in his repertoire.

Hollywood Babble On logo

Ralph Garman is an actor and radio personality who has appeared in such movies as “Sharktopus,” “Lavalantula,” “Ted” and “Yoga Hosers” to name a few. On television, he has lent his vocal talents to countless episodes of “Family Guy” and appeared on “The Joe Schmo Show.” But to many, he is best known for his time on “The Kevin & Bean Show,” a Los Angeles morning radio show on KROQ-FM. For almost two decades, he entertained audiences with his impressions and sketches which included him going nuts as Christian Bale and voicing the late Jerry Lewis so well to where he actually ended up talking with Jacques Chirac, the one-time President of France. This, of course, led to a lawsuit, but anyway.

On November 30, 2017, Ralph told audiences he was leaving “The Kevin & Bean Show” after 18 years and was very emotional about departing from a job he was at for a very long time. His exodus was the result of downsizing put forth by KROQ’s new management. To see him get laid off was painful as anyone who has gone through the same thing can understand the shock and sadness of seeing their regular routine upended for the sake of increased profits. It’s like your manager is telling you, “We would love for you to stay. We just don’t want to pay you and we figured you would have a problem with that.”

After interviewing with other radio stations for the possibility of employment, Garman came to realize he no longer wanted to work in an environment where he was told what he could and could not do. So, at the beginning of 2018, he debuted “The Ralph Report,” a weekly podcast which can be found on the membership platform website, Patreon. This has proven to be the perfect place for him to continue his work as he has developed a faithful following of listeners which he lovingly refers to as the “Garmy,” and it is a podcast I very much look forward to listening to Monday through Friday.

The Ralph Report Twitter logo

Wisely, Garman has tailored “The Ralph Report” to have different kinds of segments each day to keep things fresh and to not let it fall into a stagnant rhythm. He continues to “walk the showbiz beat” as he has said for years, looking at the latest news in Hollywood, listing the birthdays of celebrities, and checking out which movies did big business at the box office over the weekend. He also continues to have great fun at the expense of the reality show “The Bachelor” and its various incarnations along with his wife, Kari Watson. Hearing them riff on the latest “Bachelor” episode makes me want to watch it myself, and this is even though I typically live to avoid reality shows in general.

Like any good show, “The Ralph Report” continues to evolve to include new segments such as “Holiday or Holi-nay” in which he looks at each day’s national holidays to determine which one deserves to be celebrated over all the others. It’s constantly astonishing to see just how many holidays can be fit into a single day to where I wonder if there’s any day of the year which does not have one. It also reminds me of a classic episode of “The Simpsons” in which the following dialogue was spoken:

    Mayor Quimby: “Henceforth, this date shall forever be known as Flaming Moe’s Day!”

    Advisor: “Uh, sir, this is already Veterans’ Day.”

    Mayor Quimby: “It can be two things!”

Yes, it can.

Eddie Pence eating a peach

In recent months, Garman has also brought on stand-up comedian Eddie Pence to be his vice host, and the two play off each other very well. You also have to give Pence points for bravery as loyal members of the Garmy continue to pester him about the foods he should like but does not, facts he often gets wrong (“EDDIE!!! Is Wrong”), and those who continue leaving voicemails which start off with “DAMN YOU, EDDIE PENCE!” I think he deserves more respect than people often give him, and this is even though I am annoyed with him describing the sci-fi cult classic “Tron” as, in his words, “boring.” Hey, Eddie, no movie which stars Jeff Bridges, “The Dude” for crying out loud, can ever be considered boring. And yes, that includes “R.I.P.D.”

If I have to choose one segment from “The Ralph Report” I have come to like above all others, it is “Sex U.” Ralph originally did this segment on “The Kevin & Bean Show” until KROQ and the FCC forced the program to drop it. At first, I thought it would be poking fun at sex in general or at the sexually inexperienced, but it has proven to be a very thoughtful segment which deals with sexuality issues in an intelligent way. One episode in particular dealt with adult virgins who still find themselves celibate for varying reasons. This is actually a bigger issue than many even bother to realize. How do I know this? I’m not answering that.

But what’s especially appealing about “The Ralph Report” is that it is hosted by a man who remains a very down-to-earth individual. He moved from Philadelphia to Los Angeles with the intention of becoming a serious actor, and while things for him may not have worked out the way he expected, I think he has ended up exactly where he needs to be. Ralph has a loving wife and daughter, his love of the “Batman” television show from the 1960’s has proven to be infectious, and he strikes me as a celebrity you can have an easy conversation with. Also, he has taken the large step of creating a business for himself through Patreon, and it has proven to be a success which has nowhere to go but up.

Please keep up the great work, Ralph! I look forward to seeing how “The Ralph Report” will evolve from week to week. Kudos to you as well, Eddie, for being an effective vice-host. Just remember Eddie, I love “Tron” and I mean it. Bye.

Click here to visit “The Ralph Report” website and learn more about the podcast and how to subscribe.

 

One Last Pablove Run, and One Last Hill

Ben Kenber finishing 23 miles in Feb 2017

It’s been an interesting time for us Pablove Foundation runners. Having conquered 23 miles throughout the treacherous streets of Burbank, Glendale and parts of North Hollywood we haven’t gone through previously, we now had to ease up on our weekly mileage as recovery runs became a much-needed necessity. As the Los Angeles Marathon is now only a few days away, the last thing we needed, or wanted, to do was overdo anything. But with this run being our last for the training season, the coaches still had us running up the dreaded hill in the back of Griffith Park.

We were supposed to run 10 miles last week, but the threat of a major rainstorm forced the coaches to cancel it as they didn’t want to risk us getting sick before the big day. As a result, we had to run those 10 miles on our own. But when it came to this week’s run of eight miles, the threat of a major rainstorm in California was still in the air to where it was reported that it was actually snowing in Sacramento, something which rarely, if ever, happens Still, we needed to get one last run in before traveling 26.2 miles from Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica, and had to be both easy and challenging.

The coaches begged us to wear clothing which would keep us dry as heaven forbid we would develop pneumonia or some sinus infection which would make breathing more of chore than it should ever be. So instead of wearing my black Nike jacket like I always do, I wore this red poncho I still possess which in addition to keeping me dry also keeps me feeling very warm to where I become a beacon for humidity. I left my cell phone and iPod in my car as getting either of them wet was out of the question. Plus, we were running only eight miles, and that distance is a walk in the park for us marathon veterans.

Coach James was suffering from a nasty chest cold which he said had him coughing non-stop the night before. Still, he was usual enthusiastic and smiling self as he congratulated us for completing another marathon training season. The course he had in store for us kept us inside Griffith Park as we would be doing a loop around the park and up the dreaded hill one last time. Of course, my interpretation of these directions got a little confused, but more on that later.

We all went to the starting line and Coach James said, “Okay I want all my 14 and 15-minute runners to start first.” I repeated these instructions to everyone to make sure they heard him and, yes, it was my way of briefly deflecting the fact of me being the runner he was talking about. Coach James instructed us to run at a conversational pace and at the same pace we should be expecting to run on race day. I got off to an easy start and kept it up throughout. I was especially surprised at how well I was doing as fitting maintenance runs into my busy work schedule this past week proved to be more challenging than usual. Hey, I got bills to pay!

I kept waiting for the rain to come hammering down on me, and it was already pretty misty. While those clouds didn’t look like they were impatiently waiting to burst all over Los Angeles, the weather in Southern California has been especially bi-polar this past month. More often than not, the days are unseasonably warm, but recently the temperature has been surprisingly frigid, and these cold temperatures are coming to us just as we are about to see the beginning of spring. The weather gods must be having a great time messing with our heads as we are not sure what to expect from one day to the next. Here’s hoping this means the day of the marathon is cooler than it has been in the past few years. Running in the heat is overrated among other things.

I reached the turnaround point which was just pass the pony rides and made my way back. While running through Griffith Park, I came across dozens upon dozens of other runners whom I could only assume were training for the LA Marathon as well. Why did I assume so? Well, a number of them were wearing LA Marathon t-shirts from previous years, and why else would they be running on a rainy Saturday morning, let alone at such an ungodly hour? Many smiled as I passed by them, and some even said “great job” to which I returned the compliment. This proved to be a nice preview of what you can expect on marathon day as the city of Los Angeles comes together in a way it usually doesn’t as complete strangers cheer you on to the finish line.

You can rest assured I was equipped with all the energy gels and electrolyte tablets I could ever need for this run. I also have to acknowledge just how much Pedialyte has been for me this past training season, let alone after a night of heavy drinking. If you are ever lacking for electrolytes, be sure to have a bottle of it handy. It comes in different flavors, and it is a lifesaver if you are dealing with dehydration and diarrhea at the same time. It also has far less sugar than your average bottle of Gatorade.

As I approached the finish line at Griffith Park, I felt the same level of confidence I experienced a few weeks ago when I arrived where we started at what felt like lightning speed. When I am only a few minutes behind the runner who finishes before me, it always feels like an enormous accomplishment. I’m always the last Pablove runner to finish, and it’s always nice to know I haven’t finished an hour and a half later than everyone else.

Coach James did not see me making it to the end, but this is because he expected me to arrive on the other side of Zoo Drive. This is when I realized why I finished with such an astonishing level of confidence: I forgot to run up the hill. How did this happen? Didn’t I hear him say we were going up that hill like he told everyone else? How could I have forgotten about this? Perhaps I was expecting a sign which said “turn left here.” Or maybe I thought he didn’t mean… Upon realizing I forgot to run up the back of Griffith Park, I really started to beat myself up. What a stupid mistake I made! Coach James, however, was still all smiles and told me not to worry about it. Besides, he said, he had tortured us more than enough this past season, and me being a hardened marathon veteran more than spelled out for him how ready I was for the big day. I got in my car and drove off, feeling someone reassured.

But as I filled up my gas tank for $3.19 a gallon at Costco (the fact this is the best bargain for gas right now is depressing), I found myself lost in thought as the demons in my head would not stop beating me up over forgetting the hill. These demons also started taking the form of people from my past who left my ego in tatters during my time at high school, college, jobs, etc. This made my shame at not running up that hill all the more distressing, and I started to believe I would be reminded of this on many, many, many occasions. It was at that point I got back in my car and made the decision to go back to Griffith Park and run up that hill. It may have started to rain a little harder, but I had to do this for me and to shut up those voices in my head.

This time I brought my soundtrack iPod with me as some tunes were required this time out. Keeping in mind how we needed to run at conversation pace, I started off with a few tracks from the soundtrack to “The Color of Money,” a Martin Scorsese film. Don Henley’s “Who Owns This Place” had a nice rhythm to it, and Eric Clapton’s “It’s in The Way That You Use It” kept me from going too fast. And then came the hill, and I suddenly realized why I finished today’s run with such confidence: I didn’t run up the hill.

If there was one thing I wanted to improve this time out it was to go up the hill without running out of breath too soon. Once I begin my ascent, I am immediately ready to give up and walk. I relied on Peter Gabriel’s “The Heat,” the instrumental version of his song “The Rhythm of the Heat,” to get me up there faster than usual. But as soon as the song was finished, I had to admit to myself I was running way too fast. As a result, I took a longer than usual walk break in order to catch my breath. Ultimately, I feel like I have come a long way from when I started this season as I got up to the top a lot quicker than I usually do. And knowing there will be a few hills to conquer during the LA Marathon, it’s good to know I am improving.

I made it back to Griffith Park in one piece and reveled in my success to where. I even found myself smiling. Looking back, running up the hill felt a lot longer than the run itself. You can sure bet my legs were achy breaky (thank goodness my heart wasn’t), and while I wanted to celebrate with a big breakfast burrito, I instead drove back to my apartment and crashed in bed.

It’s hard to believe we have come to the end of another marathon training season. I always expect the last run to come with a strong feeling of finality, but it never feels like an ending. Even though I know we won’t be meeting up at Griffith Park next Saturday, it still seems I am going to be there. This training has been a significant part of my life these past few months and being without it always feels strange. Or maybe this is just a subtle way of someone telling me, “What makes you think you are going to stop training after the marathon?”

So here we go. Onward to another Los Angeles Marathon. Best of luck to us all, and here’s hoping and praying the weather will be much, much kinder to us than it has been in the last few years. As much as I may need a suntan, I don’t want the sun to shine too brightly on us.

LA Marathon 2018

Scott Boliver tree 2014

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: With the funds raised on my personal page and various Facebook fundraisers, I raised a total of $1,011 this season for The Pablove Foundation. As a group, we Pablove runners raised over $48,000. There is still time to make a tax-deductible donation if you would like. Doing this marathon for Pablove has been an honor, and I am proud to continue the fight against pediatric cancer.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND MAKE A DONATION.