November 26, 2008


My friend Chris is an extremely good swimmer. Which is why everything seemed a little bit surreal last April.

My friend Chris and I did Ironman Arizona in April. It was his first. I'm a decent swimmer, I finish my Ironman swims in a bit over an hour but Chris, he's nearly 10 minutes faster than me. Definitely a sub-one hour guy. Which made it all the more interesting that I came out of the water before he did in April.

Then we realized he may never come out of the water at all. That's when "interesting" turned to frightening.

My friend Chris used to be a water polo player. He doesn't get phased when there's a lot of kicking and hitting and jostling for position. That's pretty much just another day in the water for him. Chris is also an avid scuba diver. He feels comfortable moving around in the open water and seems to have a deep appreciation for the immensity and power of the ocean. Chris also swims with a masters program every week. He swims in the fast lane - he's one of those guys.

Nobody expected Chris to get vertigo on the Ironman swim. Nobody expected him to lose the ability to tell which way was up and which way down. Nobody expected that he would push himself deeper into the water as he struggled to get a breath of air. Nobody expected him to get scared - to think he was going to die.

Nobody expected it. Fortunately, the life guards were prepared for it.

They pulled him out of the water. Literally, grabbed the back of his wetsuit and pulled him out. He couldn't lift his own face out of the water, fortunately they did it for him. He threw up. They told him his day was over, but they were empty words. He already knew it was done. Your first Ironman is done before it begins. It could bring a grown man to tears.

Ironman is a 140.6 mile journey. In April, my friend Chris barely made it 1 mile. He was brought to the medical tent and threw up. He was sent back to his hotel and threw up. He lay in his hotel bed all day, sick, dizzy, nauseous, vomitting. Racing your first Ironman is a celebration of all the months of hard training. My friend Chris wasn't celebrating. He was hanging his head in a plastic garbage can as he lay in a dark, dreary hotel room in utter misery. It was his first Ironman and he wasn't even there to experience it.

He was embarrassed. I can understand that. He felt like he let everybody down. I can understand that too. The next morning he got out of bed and signed up for Ironman Arizona again.

That's the type of guy my friend Chris is.

He left Arizona with no medals, with no finishers t-shirt, with no feeling of pride. He went through weeks of medical testing. X-Rays, MRIs, CAT scans. They found nothing. His dizzyness subsided. He was still weary in the water, but that didn't stop Chris. He kept swimming and the confidence came back. He biked harder, ran more. He bounced back. He amazed me. Cat said it best. Chris is the courageous one who taught me a couple of things about picking up the pieces and not letting circumstances rob you of the journey.

My friend Chris' journey began again this past week at Ironman Arizona. Same place, same course, new day. He didn't want us to come and watch him. He didn't want to let us down. But it would take a village to stop us. That's what inspiration does, it drives you forward, it doesn't leave you sitting at home wondering if you should get up and go.

People knew about his abbreviated journey in April. They knew his trepidation with the water. So when he emerged from the swim in 59 minutes, an entire triathlon community breathed a mutual sigh of relief and shed a communal tear of joy. The smile on my friend Chris' face as he ran to the change tent was all we needed. I did it! he screamed as he ran by.

He powered through the bike course with awe-inspiring grace and he conquered the run with seeming ease. Everytime he passed us he was smiling. Even when he was hurting, he was smiling. And when he came down the finish chute, when he was screaming and laughing, when he heard his name booming from the loudspeakers, when the crowd was hollering in joy, the frightening hearbreak of April faded away.

And as he stood there on the finishers side of a long Ironman day, he looked at his wife with the wide eyes of happiness and the glow of a million candles. I did it, he said with an ear-reaching smile. I did it.

My friend Chris is an Ironman.

November 17, 2008

The Smell of Cats

Here's what I learned today. You know how humans have five different types of taste? Wait a minute, you didn't know that? Oh, good Lord. Now we've got to go even further back. Ok, let's do this one quickly. Human taste occurs on the tongue. There are five - and only five - basic types of human taste: Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter and Umami (which is basically savory, or meaty).

Everything you eat is simply a combination of those five tastes. Get it? Good. Now let's move on to smell, because this is the part that I learned today.

In the same way that humans have different types of tastes, we also have different receptors for smell. But whereas there are five types of tastes, there are 1000 genes for smell. Yes, one thousand. And it's not like there is any crossover; every single one of those 1,000 olfactory receptors are triggered by a separate and unique odor. That means we can sense, literally, millions upon millions of different smells. It's almost baffling, ain't it.

Keep in mind, we're just talking about humans. Apparently cats have a sense of smell that is fourteen times better than us mere homonids. Which may explain my girlfriend.

As many of you know, my girlfriends name is Cat. As you may also remember, Cat has a cat. His name is Fraidy. He's a fraidy cat. He's also a cute little pistol, but maybe not the brightest crayon on the porch. I'm not sure if he's hard of hearing or just did too much blow as a kitty, but when you call his name he lifts up his head and looks the other way. Fortunately, his intelligence has nothing to do with my girlfriend.

What does have to do with my girlfriend is their amazing sense of smell. And I really think it's all because her name is Cat.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that just because you have an animal name all of the sudden you resemble the animal. If you suddenly started calling me Fido, I don't think I'd begin to take a crap on the neighbors lawn. But you know how pets sometimes start to resemble their owners? Well, I think things are going all Freaky Friday on us here at the home front.

Fraidy and Catherine have become surprisingly similar in so many ways. First of all, they both lick their lips the same way after they finish eating and I'm still not sure who started it and who's just copying. They both also show those big, round innocent looking eyes after secretly snacking on something yummy (and not sharing it with me). They both jump in fear at any randomly loud sound and they both sit and look blankly into space in the same exact manner. As if none of that is enough, they both have also developed a bafflingly intense sense of smell.

Both of these Cats can smell a microscopic piece of anchovy fillet from five miles away, with a blindfold on and one nostril tied behind their backs.

Its uncanny.

Were you with somebody who was smoking today? Cat (the human one) might ask me randomly one day.

No, I'd probably reply. But yesterday I was in a building where somebody had once smoked a cigarette and now my shirt is in a gym bag in the trunk of my car five blocks away.

I knew I smelled something, she'd say and turn back to whatever she was typing on Facebook.

Because of this smelling trait, I am somewhat convinced that Catherine has, in fact, become a cat. And this is starting to make my life a little bit difficult. Or, at the very least, a little paranoid. Take today for instance.

We just finished dinner and I was in the final touches of cleaning up. Catherine was in the other room on the couch when she yelled over, "do you smell something funky?"

Let's keep in mind that my sense of smell is practically non-existent. If there were a giggling gaggle of funky having a party on my upper lip, I probably wouldn't even smell it. Naturally, my answer was "No, honey, I don't smell anything funky."

At least that was the answer I said out loud. What happened in my brain is something entirely different. As soon as she said "Do you smell something funky?" I started thinking about how my car went into the shop today for some annoyingly ridiculous reason, forcing me to work from home. And when I work from home I put my computer on the dining room table and set myself down, just a few short steps from the refrigerator. Lord knows, I don't want to have to walk too far when the dreadful desires of emotional eating begin to rear their ugly head.

So I remembered how at some point this afternoon I became hungry (again) and decided to eat some food which got me pretty thirsty so I decided to open a can of root beer, which tasted so good that I didn't even have time to walk out of the kitchen before I was chugging it straight from the can. All the while I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going because I was enjoying that can of root beer so much, but had I actually paid attention I would've noticed a certain Fraidy cat sitting in front of me wondering if my trip to the kitchen meant he would get some kibbles, and had I actually paid attention I would've been able to avoid walking into said cat and maybe, just maybe, I would've been able to stop myself from jerking forward and sending the remaining root beer in the can sailing through the air and splattering all over the carpet.

The new carpet. The one that Catherine just got installed 2 months ago.

I'm not sure if the words "oh shit" that came out of my mouth actually preceeded or followed the thought in my brain that said "you're in deep deep trouble, bucko." But I suppose it really didn't matter.

I grabbed a paper towel and tried to clean the root beer off the carpet but that didn't seem to do anything more than leave a bunch of shredded paper towel on the carpet. So I looked under the sink because that's where people keep cleaning products, right? Lysol, dishwashing soap, tile cleaner... a-HA! Simple Green! Isn't that the stuff that cleans everything?

I looked at the label, "Simple Green cleans everything" it said. Perfecto! I figured root beer on a carpet can be included under the "everything" label. So I read the instructions some more and saw that I had to put some Simple Green in a basin and dilute it with water. A basin? Where the fuck am I supposed to find a basin? So I did what any normal American male would do, I grabbed a cereal bowl, put some water in it, sprayed a little Simple Green and cleaned up the carpet. Voila, it was done.

Thats about the time that I looked at the bowl - the cereal bowl - and suddenly could smell the amonia. Amonia. In a cereal bowl. I'm no scientist, but I'm guessing that you don't really want amonia in your cereal. Remember that voice in my head that said "you're in deep trouble, bucko"? Well it suddenly got a lot louder.

I emptied the bowl into the sink and started scrubbing with all my might, hoping to dear jesus and all his cousins that I could clean the amonia from the bowl and get rid of the smell before my Cat sends me to the doghouse. You see, we saw this show on the Biography channel last night about how this woman killed her two husbands and claimed it was a mistake. I surely don't want Catherine to be thinking I'm doing her in by trying to poison her Post Toasties with Simple Green.

I must keep scrubbing, I told myself. Finally, after five minutes, my fingers were wrinkly and I figured we were all safe. I put the bowl in the drying rack and proceeded on with my day.

And all was going nice and fine until that point after dinner when I heard her say "Do you smell something funky?"

The car, the root beer, the Simple Green - it all went through my head. I'm not trying to kill you!, I wanted to scream. I wanted to confess - to tell all. I didn't mean to do it! I didn't mean to spill root beer on the carpet! I used Simple Green! I was only trying to help. It was just Simple Green!

...and these are the thoughts that run through your brain when you live with the smell of cats.

November 14, 2008

Our Liberal Left Wing Date

I haven't been exercising much lately. Let's not kid ourselves, I haven't been exercising at all. Though you think that doesn't affect you, you're wrong. Because now that I don't have any enthralling sports related anecdotes, I'm going to talk about other things. Like the politics of humanity. In fact, let's talk about some of the items on the agenda in the most recent election out here in California. There are three things in particular I want to discuss.

First, the national vote: there was a black man that was running for President of the United States. Lots of Californians voted for him. He won. You probably heard about that one already.

Secondly, Proposition 2: There was a vote to require that chickens, veal and other assorted "dinner animals" live in cage free environments, at least part of the time. I suppose the thought here is that they should get some good healthy exercise before we chop off their heads and vacuum seal them in styrofoam. California residents, ever the animal loving tree huggers, voted that one in too.

Thirdly, Proposition 8: Gays were allowed to get married in California. Proposition 8 was presented to repeal that. That one went through as well - no marrying for the Gays.

So here's what it all comes down to... Californians appreciation level, broken down by type, goes something like this:

1. Blacks
2. Chickens
3. Gays

Needless to say, if you look at the residents of California, it's pretty safe to say that the blacks and the chickens are pretty ecstatic, but the gays, not so much. There have been a lot of rallies and protests and the sort out here, hoping that with enough noise maybe the state government will figure out a way to get their homophobic heads out of their heterosexual asses.

Last week Catherine and I decided to go to one of these rallies. Mostly because we think it's absurd that, in todays day and age, people who love each other aren't allowed to be married.

We met up with three friends (two of whom are homosexual and had adopted a child a few years back and seem to have a better relationship than most heterosexuals I know), and went over to where the protest was starting.

Word of warning: parking is very difficult at protests. If you're thinking of going to one, get there early.

I'm not going to bore you with the details of this particular protest. Suffice to say, if you've ever been to a protest before, you know how boring they already are. Basically what you do is stand around and wonder what you should do. Periodically this will get broken up with such group chants as:

Bullhorn carrier: What do we want?

Crowd: Freedom!

Bullhorn: When do we want it?

Crowd: Now!

And that repeats about a hundred times before everybody has had enough and goes back to their previous conversation about where they should go for dinner or how much of a douchebag Eddie is on Top Design. After awhile, you just start people watching and hoping something catches your fancy. One thing I've learned, the protesting gays sure are witty. These are the top 3 signs I saw at the rally:

Chickens - 1
Gays - 0

- - - -

We need you now, Oprah!

- - - -

Cage-free gays.

- - - -

So after standing around for about an hour, feeling like we really wanted to do more but not really knowing what that should be, the crowd started marching west. That seemed to be our cue, so we started marching east. Enough rallying for us. All that passive protesting made us hungry.

We looked around for places to eat and decided to choose the Vegetarian Vegan Restaurant, which is an odd choice for us since we really like to eat things that had parents. Then again, we're already having a liberal left wing evening, we might as well go full turkey. Or, rather, full tofu.

The meal, as it turned out, was amazing. More importantly, Catherine and I had fun and felt like we were actually standing up for something right. Yes, we weren't the ones behind the bullhorn, we weren't leading the crowd in the march, we weren't running around with witty signs, but we showed up - and that's half the battle.

November 07, 2008

The Four Pillars of Hatred

If there’s one thing we learned from the most recent election, it’s that black people are more highly regarded than gays. This is somewhat of a relief, because as I toil through the night trying to prioritize the amount of racism, sexism, homophobia and religious persecution I disgorge onto the world, I want to make sure my disparaging remarks remain in line with the “industry norm.”

After all, what would humanity be without these four pillars of hatred. Ever since man learned to speak, we’ve learned to hate. Since we invented fire, we’ve been able to burn people at the stake. And we’ve managed to nurture and grow our hatred since then.

Some might think that, what with terrorism and infidels and guns and bullets and the Internet, we’ve streamlined the whole hatred industry. But you’re wrong. You see, back in the old days, hatred was simple. It was easy. Now it’s just completely fragmented and it is practically impossible for any given person to figure out if they should hate the Jews more than the blacks, or the gays more than the Christians, or women more than the Mexicans. It’s just too damn confusing. We need a hate cheat sheet or something.

Before things like the Internet, it took a village to create a good solid hating presence. You all had to make plans and agree on strategy. Everybody knew the goals, everybody knew who was supposed to be stoned. These days, people just start a blog and all of the sudden they think they’ve built a community of hate. You’ve got a racist here, a sexist there. There’s no continuity. It seems people have been lulled into a sense of persecution complacency and it’s killing the hatred industry.

It’s a huge misconception of all the people out there building websites or posting blogs that they’re the kings of hatred just because they’re talking about Jew this or gay that or blacks and bitches and ho’s and blah blah blah. They think that people will follow them just because they know how to type and all of the sudden everybody will adhere to their beliefs, as if they even knew which form of hatred is supposed to be the most important in today’s society. It’s all horse-pocky. To make a real hateful presence, you to have the power of the masses. And, trust me, getting the power of the masses these days ain’t as easy as it used to be.

Press isn’t enough. The last really good publicity campaign for hatred was with Jesus Christ. I mean, seriously, who the heck was that PR person? I want to hire them. All it took was one crucifixion of one guy and suddenly religious persecution evolved into the most important pillar of hatred for a good couple of centuries. Now THAT’S a good PR campaign.

Then again, Jesus has nothing on the Aztecs. When talking about persecution, we can’t forget about the Aztecs. They were like the Bill Gates of hatred. They were killing women, gays and members of other races long before persecution was even en vogue. They defined what hatred really is. They set the bar of hate so high, that in the 600 years following them not a single entity has even come close.

Today’s haters should revere the Aztecs. I mean, come on folks, they went on a spree where they killed over 84,000 people in 4 days! FOUR DAYS! I know what you’re thinking, “84,000 people, that’s it?”

Well pay attention, would you. They didn’t do their killing last week. It was all done 600 years ago. That means it was old skool. No gas chambers, no electric shock, no kool aid, guns or cyanide, no biological or chemical weaponry - just good ole fashioned sticks and stones. You try killing 84,000 people in four days with a bunch of stones and let’s see how long it takes for your arms to get tired. For goodness sakes, the Aztecs are the veritable poster children for discrimination. You think Hitler made a mark on this world? P-tewie.. Hitler only wishes he could’ve been a better hater.

Don’t get me wrong here, Hitler is definitely in the top 10 of the Who’s Who of Hatred. He did quite a number on the religious persecution front, but one can’t help but question whether it was more influential than what the early Americans did to promote racism. That whole slavery trade thing really made a mark. If you’re really going to make a point about hatred, what better way than to import goods from another country just so you can hate them. That’s a real commitment to hate. Hitler was just cleaning house, Americans on the other hand, were cleaning somebody else’s house.

There’s been a lot of fallout from that whole slavery shtick. Racism has flourished in the United States. And though we’ve seemed to make steps to batter down that single pillar of hatred, all you’ve got to do is look at our prison population, median incomes, and white collar employee profiles to figure out that racism ain’t going nowhere. It’s one thing that America can be proud of, we sure know how to build and perpetuate a racist society.

As far as religious persecution, other countries do a much better job than the US. And sexism? When it comes to degrading women, the US has a lot to learn before we can be considered the top of the hatred heap. But with racism, we definitely excel.

I never really knew where we stood with gays in terms of the global hatred spectrum, though I had a pretty good idea that we didn’t have nearly as much hate for the gays as some other countries. You know, like the countries that kill gays right there on the spot. I haven’t read the bill of rights lately, but I’m pretty sure that killing gays right on the spot is still somewhat frowned upon here in the US.

So, anyway, as I tried to figure out what the order of preference for hatred was in today’s US society, here’s what I came up with:

1. Racism
2. Homophobia
3a. Sexism (tie)
3b. Religious persecution (tie)

That was on November 4th.

Then I woke up on November 5th and realized I got it all wrong. First of all, I’m not sure if you heard the news yet, but a black man has been voted in as the President of the United States. A black man!!

That means racism isn’t the number one pillar of hatred in the US anymore. It might even be number four. I was shocked. I thought I’d never see the day. I had chills of excitement. I couldn’t drag myself away from the TV or the Internet. I wanted more information. I realized that we are in the midst of history. History is happening right this very second. Dramatic, life-altering, enthralling history that can only be defined with the two words that drove Obama’s campaign: Hope and Change.

We hope that racism will disappear, and this may help with that change.

I was in awe, cycling through hope and swimming through a sea of change, when all of the sudden I came across some other news. The residents of Arizona, Florida and California all decisively agreed to ban the rights for gays to get married.


OK, Arizona I can understand. That’s John McCain country and I wouldn’t exactly call him a gay-lover. Though he was supported by Dick Cheney who has a gay daughter. Then again, good ole Dick probably doesn’t love his daughter anyway. I’ll give you Arizona.

Florida I can almost understand, but not really. Few things say “gay” more than Miami Beach and possibly Palm Beach. But Florida has already stood out in elections as the dysfunctional child – so they probably had no clue what they were talking about when they voted to limit gays rights to marriage.

But California?! If there’s a gay state in the entire US of A, it’s California. San Francisco is like the gay capital of the world. Palm Springs is the gay Florida. Los Angeles? There would be no entertainment business without the gays. There are few states as liberal as California. It’s amazing the state color isn’t a rainbow. Tell me, how in God’s name could California vote AGAINST giving gays the right to get married?!

Would somebody tell me what we’re scared of?

In fact, how could any person in their right mind vote against allowing two people who love each other to confirm that love for the rest of their lives in the most treasured and timely tradition of marriage. There are so many heterosexuals out there beating their wives, abusing their children and giving humanity a bad name – but we can’t let two people who love each other get married?

We shouldn’t stop gays from getting married, we should stop heterosexual assholes from getting married! Somebody show me where to vote for THAT bill!

I’m flabbergasted. I just don’t get it. On the same day we have elevated one people to levels many thought we would never see in our lifetime, we have used our heels to ground another people into the gutter.

But I guess the American people have spoken. And, according to the most recent election, blacks are now allowed to be part of society but as for gays, well, maybe next year.

November 01, 2008

Hope: A Letter

Dear senator President Obama,

I’m scared.

I grew up during the Cold War and was in fear during those times as well. But that was different. Back then, I was scared our leaders would be so stupid as to bite off their nose to spite their face or, rather, that they would annihilate the world to spite a different economic ideology. I breathed a sigh of relief when the Cold War ended, knowing that there may very well be a tomorrow when, for so many years, our tomorrows were being held hostage.

I want to breathe that sigh of relief now, but when I try to exhale it seems that every today brings more devastating news than yesterday. With the economy collapsing, a senseless war continuing, unprecedented deficits and financial fears, a lack of intelligent leadership and a foreign policy that resembles the kindergarten bully who simply doesn’t realize that nobody likes him anymore, we are in a state of panic and turmoil. I have no reaction but to gasp in fear.

And then along comes you.

In the past year you have brought hope to a nation that has been desperate to grasp on to a new reality. You have inspired those whose will has lain dormant. You have motivated millions to listen, to care, to act. In a time that breeds isolation you have united. In an era of darkness, you have shed a glimmer of light. You are hope.

And that is why I am scared.

For hope is a fleeting feeling. Like the cool, comfort of sand in your cradling hands, it soon sifts away if not given substance and form. I fear that our hope, that hope which is built on the infrastructure of our dreams and the framework of your promises, will collapse in a shambles if not supported quickly and effectively.

To prolong hope, one requires change and progress. For decades, we have been made promises by Washington. Great promises, inspiring promises – but promises that have, nonetheless, fallen flat and unfulfilled. We have become numb to the political rhetoric that defines a presidential campaign, knowing full well that the words are empty, that no change will come. We are angered by the bipartisan game of chess, where winning has become more important than improvement and advancement. We are disillusioned with Washington.

I am investing my future in you. In hope. In hope that my life will continue to get better. In hope that you will continue to inspire. In hope that you will create change. In hope that you will be the President that will not let us down; that you will not have us sitting around our dinner tables years hence reminiscing about the time when we once had hope.

I believe, Senator Obama. I believe in the power of the American people and I believe in you. I believe we can change. I believe we are headed down a new road where prosperity, stability, sincerity and worldliness once again define our being. I believe that hope can transform to progress. But I’m scared it won’t.

Getting elected is not the finish line, it is the starting gun.

Please, don’t let us down.

Your hope-filled supporter,

athlete, entrepreneur, human