Saturday, June 18, 2011

That's Entertainment

After being basically freaked out by the World Beyond and sent off to bed "early" (which meant hiding behind the hall door and listening to the B&W Zenith portable TV until you fell asleep on the floor), Saturday mornings came without fail. And that meant...cartoons. And there were some REALLY lame ones, and we knew it, but we had to watch them anyway. The Bugs Bunny and Road Runner HOUR hadn't been invented yet.

This was like the TV in Grandma's room where I watched the Beatles when they were on Ed Sullivan.
(After she died in that room, no one really wanted to go in there.)

How lame, you ask? Well prime-time animation was so lame, that it almost wasn't even animation. There was Clutch Cargo (with his pals Spinner and Paddlefoot). Creepy use of real people's mouths to do dialogue, that kind of looked like they had on lipstick and just ate a candy bar. Thanks to Wikipedia I learned the voices of Spinner and Paddlefoot were done by Margaret Kerry, who provided the look and movements of Disney's Tinkerbell. Huh. Shown in color below, a TV experience we didn't have until I was in the 5th grade, and even then my Dad bogarted it to watch news. What a waste.

There was Fireball XL5. Creepy puppet science fiction. 2 years ago I discovered my still-intact FXL5 lunchbox when cleaning out my boyhood home. Of course I now have it hermetically sealed for posterity, waiting for my fortune to come in. Serious inquiries only, please.

Even in B&W, you just couldn't buy into the cheezy flying motorcycle thing with sparklers.

Then things would wind down with Wonderama! - which basically sucked so bad it MADE you go outside and play. So my early career as art critic had a target-rich environment.

Another particularly lame weekday show was Tobor! the Eightman! Similar to AstroBoy or Speed Racer in effect, it actually was the dawn of anime which I have yet to embrace some 40 years later.

Tobor was of course robot spelled backwards and the plotline later spawned RoboCop. I bring this series up because of a recent revelation. After reading the obituaries (which one tends to do more of the older one gets) I turned to my horoscope (Scorpio - 8th sign of the zodiac). I was informed that my number is 8, and when laying down, it is infinity.

Up to this time I had not realized I had been wandering aimlessly through life without a number. The ensuing serenity remains with me still.

And in closing, I will also touch upon Ultraman. We watched a lot of rubber-suit monster movies in our day, but Ultraman routinely dispatched them on a weekly basis. The link provides thorough details of the Ultraman saga, including personal stats such as top speeds, jump ceiling, and physical strength. I was surprised to learn he could press at least 100,000 tons. 
That's a lot. Without a spotter. 

So why did we watch? Was it the opiate of the masses? Was it a capitalist conspiracy to foster a persistent vegetative state, capable of only becoming alert for commercials? No. It was entertainment without effort. And when Wonderama! would come on or if my Mom could stand it no more we were forced to go outside and cure our boredom. We would go down to the creek, catch frogs or bugs, climb trees, ride bikes or get into some other mischief. There was effort involved, and that was real entertainment. Funny it seemed like punishment at the time.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Ride of the Century

This morning Your Humble Narrator embarked on his first Century (100 mile) bike ride for the Tour de Cure. With great trepidation and a restless sleep, I put feet on the floor at 3 AM to grab a cup of Joe and read a few pages of my latest undertaking, Conrad's Lord Jim. Training was poor and anxiety high as my longest weekend warrior ride has been 55 miles, with few rides in-between.

Medal is for fundraising, NOT performance.

But the weather was fine - 65 degrees F and overcast, rising to 82 by ride's end. I was able to finish in just over 7 hours including rest stops (more on that below). Thanks to coaching from my friend Nate, I was able to survive using hydration (~120 oz of Gatorade), low resistance-high RPM spinning, lots of Gu Energy Gel and a few Clif bars.

The first 25 miles out of Reston were tame, following my home course, the W&OD trail to Purcellville. There I was informed by a fellow rider that they had switched the course from last year, making the harder, 25 mile excursion north the first leg. I too was grateful as my legs were still fairly fresh.

In this section I exceeded 43 MPH on a downhill, a full 13 MPH faster than my highest speed to date. You REALLY hope you don't hit a pothole at that speed. 4 of my team-mates riding pack helped me hold pace, but they were generally moving a bit faster so at some point I elected to back off, having almost clipped a team-mate's back tire on a climb and having to brake hard and regain my momentum. OUCH. There were a few short, tough climbs but I kept thinking "this is the hard section". I spotted a vulture sitting on the ridge of a barn and hoped he didn't notice me.

Back in Purcellville, I thought I had enough water having calculated the Southern section would be an easy 8 mile out-and-back. "Skip the rest stop and rock on" I said. BIG MISTAKE. This section was RURAL and signs became few. More than once I was looking for other riders to make sure I wasn't lost. And then - there was THE CHICKEN.

I am now able to answer the age-old question. The chicken crossed the road to nearly get himself run over and kill a cyclist at the same time. I'm talking rural, and it was a lonely road. No water, cramping up. Effing chickens. I felt the vulture circling overhead.

But it wasn't a simple out-and-back. I kept going, and going and going. And finally - 22 miles later - an oasis. The Lions Club was so hospitable. Filled my bottles. Food. A misting spray as I went out. I was renewed. But here I was told the course loop had been switched from last year, that the hard part was ahead in a 6 mile stretch of Milltown Road. Super. I thought "It's only 6 miles. then back to Mother's Milk, the old W&OD". And then.

This isn't the actual hill, but after the one I hit, even downhill started looking like this. I tried to attack, but there was no response. I HAD TO GET OFF AND WALK. OK, it was only 50 yards or so, but the shields of dignity took a serious hit. Stop. Drink. Advil. And there were 2 more like it that involved walking. As they said in The Ten Commandments (booming narrative voice) "until at last, at the ends of human exertion, the metal was ready for the hand of the maker".

Let's just say it was hard to enjoy Hamilton, VA. Or Waterford for that matter, which was actually a very quaint historic town. Except for the hills. Seriously, one appeared almost vertical and extended as far as the eye could see. Thankfully, the course went around that one.

Returning to the trail, I was home free. Strength returned and my pace quickened. The final 23 was a walk in the park, and I discovered "Espresso Love" flavor gel, with TWICE THE CAFFEINE. New favorite. So thanks to all of my generous donors who helped me raise almost $1,300 towards a cure for diabetes, and muster the courage for my first century ride. And thanks to the volunteers, who really did a great job managing the event.

Better luck next time, bitch.