Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Before 2008 goes, a retrospective...

Let me tell you, I'm no fan of 2008. I lost my job at Allied this year, a job I loved, and had to take a job at the shittiest company in the world. Lovely. And my dad died, too. But I can't be completely disappointed in this year. In fact, I'm happy to have lived it. So, what did I get out of 2008? And what will 2009 hold?

Try this:

In 2008, I didn't quit smoking (that was 2007) but I did celebrate a year as a non-smoker. In 2009, I'm going to keep working on being a healthy person.

In 2008, I took up cycling. Loved it. And I can't wait until the 2009 thaw, if you will, so I can get even more cycling in. My last ride was 65 miles and I totally intend to pass that by.

In 2008, I dropped my weight down below 250. In 2009, I'm going to at least drop it below 240... dammit...

In 2008, I wrote two plays and another novel... or two... I lost count... In 2009, I'm going to write my first dramatic play - that's right, not a comedy - and I'm going to write my first kid's book, and continue to grow as an artist.

In 2008, Vicky was treated for endometriosis, which may be news to some of you. I kept waiting for Vicky to say anything, but seriously, when does she ever write here? In 2009... baby? Maybe!

In 2008, I played lots and lots in WoW. In 2009... um...

In 2008, I rejoined OCPA. In 2009, I think it's time I got something back up on stage, even if it's something I wrote and not my big, fat ass.

In 2008, Vicky and I celebrated our fourth (correction third) anniversary. In 2009, we'll be married for five (correction four) years, something I'm already very happy about. (edits provided by Vicky...Ken apparently can't add)

In 2008, we got a new puppy, Shipoopi. In 2009, we won't, will we Vic? (Anybody want a cat?)

In 2008, as I mentioned, my father died. In 2009, let's not have any more of that death nonesense, okay?

In 2008, Vicky got sliced and diced a dozen ways to Sunday. In 2009, she won't have anything wrong with her... at all... seriously...

In 2008, Sean remarried this sweet lady named Mona. In 2009, he'll stop reminding me that he's having way more sex than me. It's just not natural...

In 2008, I missed Clostio. In 2009, I'll keep missing him... cause he's a prick...

In 2008, I missed Tim and Autumn. In 2009, they'll find their fucking phone and maybe I'll find their fucking phone number... stranger things have happened...

Finally, in 2008, I was a little easier on myself and made myself feel a little less like shit than in the years before. In 2009, I'm going to tell anyone who makes me feel shitty about myself to fuck off... cause they still won't be half as good at it as I am... (but I'm getting better!!!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Resolved… 2009…

I’d like to subtitle this one “The good from my years with Rosa”.

Back when Rosa and I were together, I was a farmer. Granted, I wasn’t much of one, but I grew peppers and tomatoes and berries. I grew tons of tomatoes. I’d eat them right off the vine like fruit.

And when I’ve told Vicky about this, there’s always a moment of recoil. There’s a look in her eye that asks, “Did I take that away from you?” It’s like she forgets that Rosa took that away from me and the death of my farmer self came as part of the price of losing Rosa.

Jump to today. And there I was, sitting back on my sofa, my head filled with head cold cotton and aches and pains. Times like that give you an opportunity to think, and I was thinking about food.

Vicky and I do so many things I am proud of us for: we recycle, we use reusable bags when we shop, she buy organic meats and (sometimes) vegetables. Yes, I am often filled with a sense of our own righteousness. The only problem with that, though, is that it keeps you from doing more. And there’s always more to be done.

Where we are in history, with our climate in crisis, with economic peril, with all of the problems that can be solved with smart decisions about what we eat, this is absolutely the best time to start making better decisions in that regard. After all, the food you get at the store gobbles up fossil fuels in production, shipment, etc. And what better way to help out our family’s economy than through wise food choices?

So, I had a sit-down with myself… and come to some decisions. And it might be a little early for this but what the heck. After all, I quit smoking a few days before New Years and that took. So...

Resolved: In 2009, I’m going to find a local farmer’s market to shop at every other week, at least. This one won’t be too difficult. There are farmers markets all over Orange County. In fact, there may be one in your area as well, if you’re so inclined.

Food from the farmer’s market is usually healthier as a result of being removed from corporate agribusiness. It grown closer, using fewer fossil fuels. And it’s often tastier, since it’s not grown for shipment.

This will be my way of not only helping Vicky and I eat healthier but supporting the local economy and helping the environment.

But there’s something else I can do – and so I will.

Resolved: In 2009, I’m going to start farming again. That’s right. There’s no reason why I can’t get a few tomato plants going, maybe some peas, too. We don’t have a lot of space but there is some. It’ll make our patio look nicer and provide us with plenty of cheap, healthy foods.

I left a lot of things behind a decade or so ago and some of them were for all the right reasons. But it’s also healthy for me to remember the good that I had and how it can help me here and now.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Who's that man in Uldaman...

If you're not a WoW geek... go over there... in the corner... now hush...

In one of the most recent WoW patches, a new tool was provided to highlight any of those lower level quests you might have missed.

And I missed a lot.

So, here I am with a level 71 Pallidan, tromping the halls of Uldaman and Gnomeregan, picking up those last, stray quests I missed, pumping up my Rep. I mean, after all, the shores of Northrend are teaming with LAG! I figure I'll give it some time before I go there with my slow, wireless connection...

But there's more to it than that.

I just finished the semester and I have a few weeks off. I want to rest. Relax. Go brain dead for a while. After film class, the last thing I want to do is watch a movie! So, I sit and drool for a while in front of my PC. And screw anything that might present a real challenge.

Hell, the nice thing about picking up low level quests is exactly the lack of challenge they present. "Go kill ten little rabbits, ten defenseless little... slow rabbits - Go and whomp on shit that can't hit back." Yeah, that's my idea of a good time after a shitload of work and just before a shitload more - pointlessness.

Gotta love it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

School's out for... winter?...

Well, it is! And I'm a happy man!

My prediction: one A and one B.

My film history class was a lot of fun. Even when it grew tiresome and old, I got to see so many great movies and even crappy movies I really liked. Standouts included: The Bicycle Thiefs (rocked my world), Bliss (wish it was on DVD!!), and Run Lola Run (stupid flick, great soundtrack!). Out instructor was so intense and obsessive, but it was because he was so passionate about film. You could see that and that made it more interesting, for me. I hit solid B's on each test and on the paper, and I think I got a B on the final, which is why I figure I pulled a B out of that class.

Philosophy: Rationalism & Empiricism... wow. Let me tell you about how Spinoza and Hume shook my universe. Oh wait! I can't! It would take too long. But this I can tell you: the more I study, the more I get the sense of philosophy as being this great machine and every class, every new philosopher, every new system, is a piece. Mind you, it's not a perfect machine but it is awe inspiring and I'm beginning to see how the pieces fit. More importantly, I'm finding where I can make repairs to make the machine work. Will I? Of this, I grow less certain every day. Hell, I could write a hundred books like Climbing Maya but they're nothing if nobody reads them. But that's okay, too. I can be a good man without being a great man... with a little work... I pulled A's on both papers and on our mid-term and, after last night's final, I'm sure I got an A in the class.

What's next?

I've got a month with nothing to do!... I wish! No, I've got plenty to do - plenty!

1) Rewrites on one book.
2) Work on another
3) Starting a new, short play about sex and other fuck-ups
4) A children's book.

... whaaaa?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Getting off the bike...

I was afraid this might happen.

Looks like I'm hanging up my bike for the winter. I hate to do it. I was just getting to a point where half a century was like nothing and a century was getting closer to a reality. But the other reality is that it's getting harder and harder to find ideal riding conditions.

Chalk it up to weather. I mean, it's cold and wet - no fun for riding. I'm waiting until nearly noon to get out there and, by that time, it's just too late for me. I know, people in Seattle still ride! People in Chicago still ride! And they have actual weather! Sure, but look at them! Out there in the freezing rain, freezing. They're fucking crazy! Hey, I'm not going to do anything that turns me into a popsicle, you know?

So, that's it for a few months, until February at least. Until then, I'll be hitting the gym. It's either that or start smoking again!

I can't wait for the return of spring and sunshine. I didn't start riding seriously until about June this year. In 2009, I'll start in February or March, and get an additional 3-4 months of riding in.

Until then, try not to call me a wimp.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Good? Bad? I'm the guy with the cheap booze...

I used to be a scotch man. Scotchity scotch scotch. I loved me the scotch. I'd drink it on just about any occasion to show how manly, tough, and totally unwhimpy I was... for all the good that did me.

Then, I discovered wine. I started with Cabs but swiftly moved to Pinot Noirs. I still love me a good Central Coast, preferably Paso Robles, Pinot and you can't beat a Burgundian. It displays sophistication that allows for sensitivity... and makes me drunk...

That's all well and good. But, lately, things have been changing in the region of my alcohol palate. I thought I'd run this by you - my new list of things I'm liking to drink:

1) White wine - hold the Chard! I love me a nice white, from a Sauvignon Blanc to a Riesling, but keep those Chardonnays far away. My tummy no likey. A nice white wine is refreshing, yes, but it's also something you can drink pretty damned fast and get a nice buzz on... okay, maybe that's not all of it. Sadly, I think my wine pallet is just taking a vacation and heading to the white wine region, like it or not.

2) Baileys... and that's it. Yep. I'm loving me some Bailey's Irish Cream. On the rocks? Sure. Out of the bottle? No problemo! Vicky and I bought a bottle and I'd finished it before she had a chance to ask, "How do you like the...?"

3) Parrot Bay Coconut Rum. You can't get much closer to Satan's Sweet Sweet Booze than Parrot Bay. Why? Because it's candy booze! I swear! You can drink it with soda, with kool-aide, with a fucking straw if you want. No kidding. If you just want a quick, evening, "I hate my fucking job" buzz, you can't get one any easier.

So, what does this say about me? Have I gone from being a pretentious drinker to just a living room drunk? Or was I always just a living room drunk... who once had taste, at least.

I don't know.

But I'm sure as hell going to think about it... over a bottle of Baileys...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finals Finally Finalizing...


Hate 'em.

Just saying.

And I always reach this point just before finals, which commence in two days by the way, where I mentally throw up my hands and shout "If it be your will, oh Lord, take this cup away from my lips!"... mentally...

Because you just get sick of studying. There's no way all of this knowledge will fit. It's exhausting and there's WoW to be played... I mean...

After this semester, I'll have seven courses remaining. Lucky seven.

If I take two courses each semester, I'll still have four semesters to go... two years...


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ken... Ken... K... e... n...

I'm writing this because I figure there's gotta be somebody else out there in my shoes... which is not to say my shoes are tight... well, they are but that's my broken pinkie toe, I... nevermind!

The thing is, I've been feeling very fragmented lately. I feel more like a beehive than a person, a collection of conflicting interests and agendas and needs, and I can't seem to make my way back to just one Ken, one guy. You know?

I'll give you an example. With finals coming, my day is split into my morning work hours, philosophy final prep at lunch, afternoon work hours, film class final prep in the evening... and then there's the book I'd like to work on if I had the time, OCPA now that I've rejoined that, submissions I'd like to get out, Vicky has a cold, there's WoW to play, I need to straighten the garage, I'd like to open a bottle of wine and relax, I need to go to the gym more, I'd like to take a ride on my bike, the PS3 is neglected, I haven't done Wii Fit in a while (which is Vicky's fault because she still hasn't told me where we keep the batteries for the balance board but she's sick and I need to take care of her and make sure she's okay and...)... um... where was I?

Fortunately, the semester will soon be over. I'll have only seven courses to go before... then if I take two more in the Spring, that brings me down to five... which will be three if i can manage two more in the fall... and, hopefully, I can do a show in the summer - I'd like to act again, act again, I was an actor once, act again, I rejoined OCPA gotta work on getting one of my new shows up on stage it would be nice to see that, see that, but I also have submissions and school and Vicky's sick and then there's Christmas, Christmas, did I mention Christmas, we have cards to send out and shopping to do and ornaments to hang, which wasn't such a problem when we had Bobmas - of course, that wasn't so much a Vicky thing, in fact she'll probably ask me in that incredulous tone, "Bobmas? Seriously?" and I'll have to explain what that's all about and how I used to make compilation CDs and foist them off onto people as gifts back when I was a poor bachelor and an actor once, an actor once...

Stress. I think it's stress.

I should open a bottle of wine and relax... right after I finish my finals... then I'll only have seven courses to go...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Wind and fame (well kinda...)

Since I'm home recovering from my surgery and a head cold, I decided to take the dogs to a local dog park on this windy day and well here I am with our puppy Shipoopi (the black & white puppy) on our local news website

The day I was laid off...

This story does not have a happy ending.

Let's start with how much I hate my job. I'm working for a company so horribly mismanaged it's beyond funny - but beyond that, the culture is one where nobody takes responsibility but everyone casts blame. The loser in this game is someone who is responsible... because he doesn't engage in the game. That's me.

Last Friday, my employer laid off about 15-20% of its US workforce. I was out that day, taking care of Vicky. On Sunday, when things returned a bit more to normal for us and we decided to do some shopping, Vicky checked out bank balance and... found out that my check hadn't been deposited. After a little digging, I learned of the layoffs and Vicky said, "You know, they don't direct deposit your check when they lay you off... They cut you a live check." My position - in fact, my whole team of three employees - is responsible for walking papers to people. I'm not kidding. I take paperwork from one group of people and walk it to another group of people. Basically, it's the least necessary position at the company. If anyone was going to be laid off... well, you get the picture.

Immediately, I was afraid. Terrified. In this economy, the last thing you want to be is out of work. And I'd only been at the company for six months. It had only taken a few days to learn what a hell-hole it was, to be told that there were no raises, no promotions, no bonuses, no incentives... that everyone did only what they needed to do to keep their job and, when they didn't do that, blamed the other guy. But I couldn't lose my job! I needed the money! I didn't quite panic, but I did get close. I worried quite a bit...

... and then, Monday morning, I realized: Wait. I hate my job! I'll get unemployment benefits and find another - or I'll do consulting work, or contract jobs. I'll find something better, something meaningful and fulfilling and worthwhile!

Then, I found out I hadn't been laid off. I still had my crappy ass job.

God dammit.

Monday, December 01, 2008

You ride 65 miles and what do you get? Sore...

I called Vicky from a park about seven miles away from home. My hands were so sore, I could barely make a fist. I was almost out of water. My whole body hurt. "You want me to come pick you up?" she asked. But I declined. After all, I was nearly back and it had been a very long day.

It started at 7:30am. Friday morning had started pretty cold, so I decided to leave a little later than normal. A couple days of rain had left everything nice and wet and I figured there'd be some mud along the way, but I could handle it. I packed up some beef jerky, a power bar, a double helping of energy beans (my Jelly Bellies!), and two bottles of water because I knew I was in for a long, long ride, and headed out.

Up Lincoln and over to Katella and I was back in my old neighborhood before very long. Traffic was moderately light so that didn't bother me. What bothered me was the sight of the hills coming up. I'd told Vicky all about the ride - we'd even driven it to see what I had to look forward to - and it was these big hills that had me worried. And rightly so, I was riding into the backside of Orange County and knew I could expect one hill after another. I'd need all the stamina I could dredge up.

So, how sad was it that I pooped out on the first one? My speed dropped from 10 to 8 to 6 and, before I knew it, I was dying out. The thought occurred to me that I still had quite a distance to travel; what would I do if I couldn't ride? Exactly what I did do. I got off my bike and walked it. Up the hill we went. Once my breathing was back under control and I wasn't feeling like I was about to have a heart attack, I got back up on the bike. I might not be in the best shape, but I wasn't going to let that stop me.

When I reached the top, down by Santiago Canyon College, at Chapman and Jamboree, I decided to take my first break. I needed it, too. Just travelling this far - only about 10 miles - and I was already winded. The idea had started simple: If I was ever going to ride a century, I'd have to include some hills. This ride would give me a crash course, hopefully without too much crashing, in hills, and I was going to stick it out no matter what.

Back up, I headed south-east on Chapman and it turned into Santiago Canyon Road. This was it. The cycling equivalent of the Monster. If I could do this... I was crazy. But beside that, if I could do it, I could certainly make a century on flat ground. The thing is, Santiago Canyon starts out by going up. It keeps going up, too. Long after my poor little legs had given up and I was walking, it kept going up. This is when other cyclists started passing me, too. There are dozens of them out there! Each one was very courteous, too. "You okay?" they'd ask. "Need anything?" But all I heard was, "Loser!" and "Wimp!" Oh well. I just got back on my bike and kept going... and walked... and got back on my bike again. As I said, it starts out with a huge hill. But then, you're going down. Down down down - I hit 28 miles an hour and was certain I'd also hit a bump, followed by a tree and a boulder and a ditch. But then, it curves and the ride really begins.

It's basically one hill right after another and here's what no one tells you. One hill is a conquest. You take it and you think, "Yeah, I'm tough." But this ride, with one hill followed by another and then another, basically just breaks you down and turns you into lump of pudding... if you didn't start out as one. Because you finish the first hill and think, "Boy, I'm glad that's over!" And then, you have to take the second - and you're not ready - and if that doesn't kill you, the third one will, and then the fourth, and the fifth. But I kept riding. I wasn't giving up - especially with all these other cyclists passing me! Anyway, the scenery was wonderful and the air was cool. It was beautiful, if deadly.

I knew I'd have problems on the final hill, which is mockingly just as big as the first, but was shocked by the speed in which my legs gave up. I had just started when my legs said, "Oh no. No way. We're not falling for this again!" And then, I was off my bike, walking. Halfway up, a guy rode by on his bike, slowed down a little, looked back at me, and asked, "You okay, buddy?" I took my bike and swung it at his head, tearing off his face is a greasy, bloody mess... by which I mean, I said, "Yeah, just fine." Okay, I thought, so I'm a wuss. Inspired by my lameness, I got back up and finished the rest of the hill... barely...

And then, it was time to go DOWN! Faster faster faster - and then I was going up again... damn. One more hill. I remembered telling Vicky about how my momentum was bound to carry me back up the next, and final (really) hill, even as I pedaled angrily to get over it. But then, I was going down again - 27mph - 29mph - 33mph - 35mph... I began to think I should probably slow down. There's a light down at the bottom, I recalled. Not a nice way to die. It also didn't help that my brain was playing a slide show of every possible accident I might have along the way. Believe me, 35 on a bicycle is FAST!

I stopped just after Cook's Corner, at the beginning of Aliso Creek Trail. This, I figured, would take me through all the coastal cities in a nice, scenic manner. I'd avoid all of the traffic and hit PCH down in Laguna. But I was shocked to find that, after all that riding, I'd only hit 20 miles.

Aliso Creek Trail is absolutely lovely - STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM IT! IT'S MINE!

(cough) Oh, excuse me.

The rain had left some muddy patches but it was, overall, in good repair and very pretty. The nicest thing about it, though, was that the first half of it runs at a slight angle, just enough so you can move along at a nice speed - I was doing 15mph - without hardly every pedaling. Very much appreciated after Santiago Canyon! But then, due to mud and confusion and my own idiocy... I lost it. I lost the trail. I ended up on a street, Paseo De Valencia, wondering where it went and where I should go. Thankfully, I had my phone on me, so I called Vicky and asked her to check a map. Oh thank heaven for online maps! She gave me great instructions... which I promptly ignored, because I thought I saw the trail, after all! Sure enough, there it was! It had briefly taken to the streets, something I had not expected, but then, I was in a park and riding through a wildlife preserve and moving toward the coast. It was all very lovely - if long. I was getting tired. I figured I'd take a long rest at PCH, eat lunch, and then ride up to the Santa Ana River Trail for the last leg home. But then, six miles short of the coast, I got some news that changed everything.

A couple of guys were helping their kids get ready for a ride, getting them in their helmets. One of them had tried riding to the coast himself and told me about what lay in the last two miles: a private golf course. The trail ends and private property begins, private property the owner of the course won't let anyone pass through. In other words, CHANGE IN PLANS! I thanked the guy, after all he'd saved me six miles, and contemplated what to do next. My first thought was: Call Vicky! After all, she'd come with the car and we could do lunch and... no, I wasn't going to do that. I couldn't call her whenever there was a problem. I had to get back on my own! But how? Since the trail was all I knew, I decided to head back up. I remembered seeing a map at a park so I figured I would ride back to it and use that to find my way.

So, back I rode, dejected, tired, far from home, and with no earthly idea where I was - it was fun! Then, as I reached the park, I noticed that the street it was on was Moulton Parkway. I had lunch at the park and confirmed with Vicky that Moulton turns into Irvine Center Drive, which then turns into Edinger Avenue, which crosses the Santa Ana River. I had my way home! But it wouldn't be easy. I was hoping to avoid traffic and here I was getting back into it. For the longest time, I didn't recognize a thing. I just kept riding, sucking down car exhaust. But then, landmarks grew more familiar: I passed Allied, the 5 freeway, the Irvine Spectrum, the old Reserve base, the 55 freeway, and as I entered Tustin and Santa Ana, I began to think of ways of wussing out. Basically, I needed a break and started thinking of ways to take one - but I was also getting closer to home and the nearness created its own kind of gravity, pulling me faster and faster on my way. The end result was extreme disappointment every time I passed a place where I could rest and building excitement at the prospect of getting home.

Seeing the Santa Ana River was like doing the impossible. Really? I'd come all this way? And I still had a long way to go!

So, when I reached the park where Vicky's last ride had taken her, seven miles from home, I finally decided to give myself a break. My hands were so sore, I could barely grip the handlebars and my crotch, quite frankly, was not my friend. I pulled out the last of my snacks and drank the last of my water and called Vicky and told her how far away and how near I was. When she asked if I'd like her to pick me up, I thought, "Not after going this far."

The last seven miles were a little slice of hell. The trail had become covered in tourists - not cyclists - who didn't know the rules of the road, who seemed to delight in slowing me down. I moved between them, silently and intently, a man on a mission, and reached Lincoln around 2:30pm. Seven hours. I thought of Spalding Gray's words: I've never done anything for seven hours in my life, except sleep. Seven hours of hills and thrills and bad directions, all of them mine. But if one thing was clear, after 65 miles and unknown elevation gain, I knew I could do a century.