Monday, December 7, 2009

Le Notti Bianche (1957)

A film by Luchino Visconti from 1957 starring Marcello Mastroianni and Maria Schell based on a short story by Feodor Dostoevsky.

I discovered Fellini about 40 years ago -- I became a self declared 'expert' on Fellini with Juliet of the Spirits having read a book and looked at the wonderful stills in the book. Unfortunately, another 30 years passed before I managed to watch Juliet. Huntington, West Virginia didn't get a lot of Fellini films passing through. Fellini was 'easy.' Visconti took a lot longer for me to appreciate.

My first encounter (and last for many years) with Visconti was with The Leopard. I saw it somewhere around 1965 (it was released in '63, but we're talking West Virginia...) and I saw the US release with 20 minutes hacked from the film. By the closing credits I was the only person still in the theater. I had no idea what I had just seen, but I knew it was wonderful!

Later, the only scene I could remember involved Claudia Cardinale (long pause....) and Alan Delon rambling through the house; at one point tumbling onto a bed in an unused part of the mansion. Now keep in mind that nothing happens: as in everybody's clothing stays more or less intact, but the scene had a wonderful erotic charge. And, oh yes, the dance toward the end of the film -- I remember that as well.... Ah, yes... the scene with Burt Lancaster (a surprising, but perfect lead) dancing with the not quite blushing bride to be and clearly a hundred times the man her fiance would ever be. Amazing....

But I'm here to discuss White Nights -- which is what Le Notti Bianche means in English translation.

First, let me begin by acknowledging the obvious: Visconti had an eye for beautiful women. Maria Schell is as different from Claudia Cardinale as day from night, but oh so lovely!

And Marcello Mastroianni...! What can I say? The man is truly awesome. I first saw him in Le Dolche Vita directed by Fellini -- no, wait... that's not true. The years slip away and I see him as the worn out hero (anti-hero?) of the semi-comic 10th Victim. Of course, only years later did I actually see Le Dolche Vita.... Whatever.... I contend he defined the world weary hero, still trying to find his way in a world where nothing quite works and expressing this for perhaps several generations -- for me at least.

White Nights. The sets. The costumes. The strange dark night world of Visconti's dream. Early on our hero befriends a dog (and I think in many ways this is a pivotal moment) who briefly leads him toward the underworld where shadowed figures loom in backlit passageways. A lovely woman crying on a bridge. Marcello's face wonders, 'will I be lucky tonight?' But it's the romantic moment that seizes him.

Is the beautiful woman he encounters insane? Is she naive? a tease? All of these things?

I fought a temptation after the first 15 minutes or so to turn off the movie: Talk. Cry a bit. Talk. Sniffle. Talk some more. Yawn.... But then... a story emerges. A story so implausible that I still wondered about our heroine's sanity -- but which intrigued me. And I also began to realize that our characters had wandered into a magic world -- think an Italian version of Magic Realism.

Following Visconti into his rabbit hole, and out the other side where our heroine's silly story, hardly to be believed and certainly not to be imagined that it could resolve itself positively -- does!

And Marcello wanders down the street in the dawn past the Esso station. For one happy ending we must have another unhappy one -- the balance of nature -- of art at least.

But then a small hopeful moment as the dog from the opening moments reappears and wagging his tail (tale) approaches our sad hero, who pauses once, twice to pet the little fellow before moving on his way.

It's been a tough night for both of them, but it's dawn of a new day. Hopeful.

5 smilies out of 5

Tin Man

I watched the Tin Man again over the past few nights.

TM is a reworking of the Wizard of Oz and no, it's not as good as the '39 classic, but for the first two episodes it holds together.

Then episode 3 arrives and, well... 'the center does not hold.' as someone wiser than myself once said.

I'm trying to avoid spoilers, so I'll deliberately remain vague -- sort of....

Richard Dreyfuss is listed as a main character, but he gets short shrift and doesn't even appear in Episode 3.

In fact, I suspect they wrote episode 3 after showing Episode 1 and listening to a bunch of 13 year old SyFy fans who were in a wheezing rage wondering what 'that ole geezer' was doing in a Sci Fi flick.

Sorry kids, I appreciate your aesthetic, but golly, Richard could have really upped the ante on this flick -- if TPTB would have given him something to work with! The movie hints at a few interesting ideas that simply become lost in the mire.

One important hint is that the Tin Man worked for the Mystic Man (Dreyfus) -- What? Run that past again. When we see the Mystic Man he is a shyster con man who's been fried by the villain with a strange drug. But he must have once had more going on. But we never find out. Instead, Episode 3 takes us after The Seeker, who essentially takes over the Mystic Man's role -- only in the guise of a nonentity who functions as a place holder as we trudge along toward the (predictable) ending.

Now the ending isn't too bad, lots of nice flash and bang and a resolution to a redemption theme set up at the end of Episode 2.

Unfortunately, once we more or less realize what's going on (at the end of epi 2) the story just unwinds in a predictable pattern.

My guess is that the original author had a darker take on the O.Z., one in which Richard D and perhaps some others would have had a place to wiggle. But TPTB decided to fluff things up a bit and likely brought in a few hacks to pound out a new improved 3rd act, dump the best actor of the bunch (Richard D, of course), and splice everything together with a twisty tie and a nod to the gods of the sacred cliche.

Well, enough.

I give it 3 of 5 smilies for 2 great episodes, Richard Dreyfus and a cute heroine.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Whew! NaNo is complete...

December has arrived and for the third year I have completed NaNoWriMo -- this time with 52,876 words. I even managed to arrive at 'the end!'

Back in '07 I completed NaNo and reached an ending. But once I began editing phase (which for me actually begins in January) I realized the beastie really didn't work. So through '08 I added a bit, tossed aside a bit and by November realized I had to do it again! I also discovered that one of my characters had managed to get herself pregnant along the way. Serves me right for letting her run off on her own!

50 K words later and with a successful NaNo '08 under my belt (so to speak) I had my main characters strewn out across the country and generally had no idea what to do next.

And through '09 I tried to settle and finish it, but every time I thought I had a hook in the beast something unexpected would happen.

And so November arrived....

By that time I knew more or less where things headed (or so I believed) and even spent a good bit of the first day or so working on my time line (a thingee that some people might call an outline).

I tossed a section where a character went into the mountains and and managed to get himself caught in a blizzard (never a good thing) and rerouted him north (things are warmer in the north -- think southern hemisphere). I even managed to rescue a character from having to cross a swamp full of undefined nasties! If I had known more about August in the Louisiana bayou, I might have let them go! Could have been fun.

And things moved along as they always do.

Then about three weeks into NaNO '09 my rerouted character decided he had to go somewhere and the dweeb wandered back into the mountains! Another character went off without his protector and a third decided to do something good by conning every body (an idea which seemed about as bad as any I had managed to come up with).

And all this about 6 or 7 days before I had to wrap this thing up!

Well, somehow it all worked out. A few people paid for their foolishness, more didn't and everybody lived happily ever after -- well, OK, not really, but I did manage to pull a few things together and get to a semblence of an ending.

So, what's my point?

Just this, that if you want to do NaNo or some such enterprise (there's a group who plan to write 5,000 line Epic Poems in May:, if you're interested) and your characters just won't cooperate then just write what they happen to do at the time. Describing the weather and what a character happens to see off in the distance can buy a few words as well....

Eventually, your character's will drift around to getting where and doing what they ought. Trust the little creeps, they most likely know what they're about better than you do.

And just keep writing....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


November 1 approaches and with it another month of NaNoWriMo -- National Novel Writing Month. In fact this month begins the 11th year of this (free) enterprise.
I played in ’07 and ’08 and plan to join again this year.
Each year dedicate folks from all over the ‘verse (to steal a phrase from Joss Whedon) write 50,000 words in 30 days. That works out to 1667 words each day. And in the process the goal is to write a story, complete with a beginning, a middle and an end. Many begin, many depart early, but somehow many complete their stories.
Or at least manage to pump out 50K words!
The end result always lacks something, but that’s fine. It’s a first draft!
Most NaNoWriMo folk are pure amateurs (just doing this ‘for the love of the game’), but a few pros crop up every year. They seem to use NaNoWriMo as a tool for cranking out the ‘next one.’
And no one expects to produce perfections. In fact one of the consistent and repeated suggestions to Newbies is to shut off the delete button.
If the word you just used seems wrong… well, just go on, fix it later. When counting words, every word counts.
Most of us remember those assignments in school, the ‘write a 500 word essay on widgets’ kind where we used a lot of padding to get it done. Well, NaNoWriMo allows that sort of thing. We thrive on this!
In fact, this year I intend to finish last year’s story (which, hmm, actually expanded on the first years story…) and then begin another story. And that’s just peachy keen.The only ‘rule’ being: begin at 12:00:01AM on Noverber 1 and finish at 11:59:59PM on November 30.
So, anyway, what I’m saying is that you still have time to link onto and join in this year. Don’t worry that you don’t have a worked out story-line. If you’ve the urge I suspect you’ve had a bunch of characters running around in your mind for a while (mine go back as far as 1975!), so just let ‘em loose and jot down what they do for the next 50K words or so.
You can always edit things back into shape in December….

Thoughts on A Sentimental Journey to France and Italy by Laurence Sterne, 1768

“-- They order, said I, this matter better in France --”
And so it begins, this tale of the Reverend Mr. Yorick which purports to be a travelogue of a journey through France and Italy. And indeed what a journey -- although we never discover the identity of ‘this matter’ that sent him on his way. No matter...
For Sterne had no time for the mere sights and sounds of Paris. When he describes Yorick’s visit to the Paris Opera he concerns himself with the old man sharing the box with him. He notices the dwarf standing to one side, his view of the proceedings blocked by the taller people around him. He remineses over a future-past adventure with a Marquesina at Martini’s concert in Milan (which in a linear time frame happened after the Opera [and every other event in the book!]).
-- And how does the silly man think that such a thing might be of interest to anyone, but especially a traveler?
Well, I certainly don’t pretend to understand the mind of L. Sterne nor his alter-ego, Yorick, but…. Perhaps another small quote from the book might help to enlighten us.
“I think I can see the precise and distinguishing marks of national characters more in these nonsensical minutiae, than in the most important matters of state….”
And there you have it….
-- Hmm… what exactly do you think we have?
Why, don’t you see? He regards the little stuff as the important stuff -- the fluff that defines us, that indicates who we are, how we think, how we feel -- that which makes us the same and that which differentiates us one from the other.
-- Oh…?
Yes, remember that in 1768 France and England had a truce, but I do believe they technically still remained enemies. And here we have Yorick (and before him Tristram Shandy, but that’s for another day) zipping off to France looking for… well, I’m really not sure what, but I surely hope he found it.
He certainly found the ladies, hmm, interesting.
There is…
-- Wait. You just shifted gears. Is this some smutty 18th Century tract?
Certainly not! I am amazed. Well, hmm, I suppose he does become a bit, ah, ambiguous at times. And the scene where he holds the milliner’s hand while counting her pulse did push the raciness just a bit… but he certainly never becomes vulgar, or, as you say, smutty!
Well, OK, there is the rather odd ending….
-- Ending?
Yes, the book ends with a wonderful story (probably the first ‘traveling salesman’ story ever written -- although the protagonist isn’t a salesman….).
It seems the horse pulling Yorick’s vehicle threw first one then two (!) shoes, thus forcing the poor fellow to spend the night in a small rustic inn.
An inn which had only one guest room.
Not long after Yorick had made himself comfortable, a lady and her maid (called, in the French mode: the Fille de Chambre) arrived and circumstances being what they were all three unlucky travelers found themselves forced to spend the night in one room.
-- Goodness!
Well, to make matters worse, the beds were so small that only one person could possibly sleep in each -- and there were only two in the room, with a third stuck in a drafty corner (and which Yorick being a bit frail in his lungs did not dare use). Worse yet these beds were positioned side by side in a small alcove, the room being so situated that however they might ponder the situation, no alternative arrangement could work!
-- This does seem difficult!
Yes. But by solemn negotiation they managed to establish a set of rules. Mr. Yorick would take one of the beds and the lady the other. The maid would confine herself the the cupboard. A curtain would separate the lady and Yorick. And Mr. Yorick would spend the night wearing his silk breeches.
-- A worthy solution!
Indeed. One final rule stipulated that Yorick would refrain from speaking during the night.
-- Oh…?
Yes. These rules established, it only remained for the three to discover a way in which they might without embarrassment change from day wear to night wear. This being a delicate matter in the present situation, Sterne decided to -- but here perhaps it’s best if he describes it himself:
“-- there was but one way of doing it, and that I leave to the reader to devise; protesting as I do it, that if it is not the most delicate in nature, ‘tis the fault of his own imagination -- “
This problem overcome, the trio retire to their various appointed places.
Only for reasons which he never quite comprehends, Yorick cannot sleep!
-- How dreadful!
And in his restlessness and after some hours he cries out…. And the lady declares him forfeit on their agreement! It seems that she too remained sleepless, but had managed to keep her silence.
-- Hmm….
You might just say so!
Yorick begs her pardon, but she finds no comfort in his words. He humbly apologizes, but she remains adamant of his guilt.
And as he pleads his case he extends his hand --
Now, perhaps you have forgotten the lady’s Fille de Chambre, resting in her cold and damp cupboard….
-- Never in life!
Excellent. Well, this good servant no sooner heard the ruckus but she decided to take herself to her mistress’ aid and groping in the dark made her slow and cautious way.
She found the bed and bent to assure herself that it was indeed the correct one. Assuring herself of this fact and bending over keeping her hand along the edge of the bed she moved herself in a line between Yorick and the lady and facing the lady with her back to Yorick whilst bending over --
-- Yes?
Well, perhaps I should let Sterne present how the tragedy unfolded:
“So that when I stretch’d out my hand, I caught hold of the Fille de Chambre’s”
And here ends the tale.
-- What!
Ah yes, and for many a year it remained so…. Various editions handled the, ah, the difficulty by placing..., well let me show you:
“… I caught hold of the Fille de Chambre’s --”
-- And your point is…?
Oh, my dear, compare the two endings. One ends with the dashes and one with no punctuation whatsoever.
-- And this is supposed to mean something?
Most assuredly.
At the end of this volume the following words appeared: “end of vol.”
Note that it does not say ‘THE end,” but simply ‘end.’
-- But, wait. Are you suggesting we combine the word ‘end’ with the unpunctuated last sentence?
Moi? Certainly not! I must argue that if you did such a thing you might find it hinting at a kind of accidental vulgarity, but assuredly suggesting that we might have found the further adventures of our Yorick most intriguing!
But alas, this could never happen. Laurence Sterne passed beyond this mortal coil 18 March 1768, less than a month after the publication o A Sentimental Journey.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oops, Not the Last...

I goofed. It seems that I took up pencil again in 2007 to write this ode (or whatever) to Raoul Wallenberg (if you don't know who he is, shame on you -- leave this site at once and go look him up!). It seems that I also wrote a rather bitter American Ballad in no less than 7 parts, but I'm not willing to stick that anywhere until I read it a few dozen more times to see if it's acceptable for human consumption....

If you are interested you might see if you can find my references to Wim Wenders (well, OK, that's a gimme), Mel Brooks (should be pretty easy), Thomas Pynchon (a little tricky) and Raoul's (official) profession -- although, actually, his only profession that really mattered was HERO.…

1932, Prescient Homage to Raoul Wallenberg

In Berlin, Hitler rules in the warming Spring

Jews and Gypsies walk verdant parks

Smell the trees not yet blossoming, but soon

(Perhaps not Gypsies... and, Jews, well.... be discrete!)

In a decade... or so... they’ll be dead, roasted

or, shot, or, occasionally, hanged

or, more often, poisoned, then roasted

Efficient folk, the murderers will keep good records

Names, numbers, details of scars, shoe sizes and styles of glasses

In Berlin, Wim Wenders hasn’t been born, but...

There's’ a raffish fellow, a Swede, visiting El Norte

(What precisely did Raoul Wallenberg study in America

The waft and woof of a building... Yes

The smell of the World’s Fair... Yes)

Perhaps he met a dark-eyed Jewess who immunized him

Against incipient bland hatred

Whilst listening to tinkling starry music

An aristocrat with pale eyes, blond hair - Aryan pure

In a decade .... or so.... will stand with Nazis

And say, here there be Swedes while

waving a pale hand toward the cattle cars

packed with Jews, Gypsies, Fags and Retards

(off to the Schlachthof... hinky dinky doo)

While chums, equally pale, wispy, Aryan pure, Swedes

Wandering along the tracks writing names on pure blank sheets

Creating, as they walked, new, pure, dark complected non-Aryan Swedes

Making the cattle cars wait, here there be Swedes

Until finally, “Yes, yes. Take them. Go. We have schedules...”

How many will he save, this ne'er-do-well

Blond Aryan lad now playing in the spring sun?

One hundred thousand?

Until - one last train to catch and delay -

He is now to be, to have been, caught in the Zone

(evolving to Soviet Germany)

And will disappear....

Blame Stalin - might as well - blame me or Wim

We weren’t born yet... so blame us... blame the wind

Blowing from the East or South... warming ‘things’ in that

Spring Summer (to be) in the Zone where - poof, pop

So many. This one at least. Hero. Disappeared.

Jim FitzPatrick

2 March 2007

rev. May 2007

Monday, August 3, 2009

The First and The Last (so far)

Not so much the first poem I ever wrote, but the first I ever considered keeping….


At the edge of my garden

Is a fluorescent matrix

And I lie angling the sun to see it,

this pattern of geometric progression,

a regression ever back onto itself.

Inside. Outside. A living mobius strip

reflecting a form of the universe.

Complete. Timeless. Tangled in its own purpose;

Which was this: to be broken,

just now, by the fly’s struggle.

-- 1983

I took up the pen (pencil, actually…) again in 2001 (after 9-11) and for the next two years produced 1 or 2 poems a month (Marshall University’s Joan Adkins would be proud, if, perhaps a bit critical, of the result…), culminating in the one below. Curiously enough, most of the 21st century poems are largely biographical or autobiographical in nature. This last one drifts from that pattern a bit, I believe…. I hope….

Silua si

Silua si, the fairy host, gambols alongside

Drawing potency, sniffling silent

Along this dark edged pathway, strewn with

Pale shadowed night bloom -- wavering lustily

Amid a negligible breeze, wafting spectacular

Nose perks - as unto a pleasant reminiscence

‘What if,’ I wonder-think, ‘the Gaelic predisposition

For emotional substrate proved to be true!’

Fantazy! Projected upon ancient innocence

‘It seems, sir!, that you propose…’

Propositional parenthetical pretentious Proportionate

‘… Propose an unnatural supremacy of --

Non -- I say, NON! - intellectual superiority’

So I leaned -- just a bit, adjusting for a draft --

And tapped him briskly - knuckle to nose

Noisy wheezing muffed gasping non-sobs

Bleeding a bit, staining (upon drying)

A bit of snotrag to a chocolatey, red-brown

A heightening of color --

Redolent of something

Fragrance upon the breeze, brisk downwind

A feeling! --

Not the wrist -- karmically sprained by its violent exertions

Upon the now stanched nose uptilted and bracketed

With two chunks of cloth-wrapped rectangular ices

Silua si -- a troupe of children, so they seemed

Shigging noiseless through the twilight

Yes, a misty haziness shadowed

These, my cousins in time

‘Where from does Ossian come?’

I hear them singing -- voices raucous yet beautiful

One, stepping nearer,

Points my way, smiling --

A wagged finger

‘No, sirrah - not yet for thee’

Then there happens -- a drifting unmoving

Till only One remains -

Red-haired -- swelling in size

Blue veined -- emerging from the dimness

Long tapered fingers -- a smell of jasmine

Vaguely feminine -- floating emergent

Then when one last pretension remains

What passes before me as within me

All mine recognized, claimed, cherished

-- 26 September to 7 November 2003

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bodyfat, a bit of memory

Some 40 years ago, when I graduated from High School, I weighed less than 120 pounds. In the decades since then, I have grown up to as much as 160 pounds on a small boned body towering perhaps 5 ‘ 6”. I now float around 155 pounds. But that’s still a 25 pound increase. And it most certainly isn’t muscle that has grown!

I, as have many others, attempted over the years (and now decades) to slow or even stop this ‘creep.’ I may even have learned a few things that approximate reality. I don’t guarantee that what I say here is reality, just that it approaches reality -- a distinctly different thing.

So, let’s just begin.

First, let me consider what life consisted of back in the day -- keeping in mind that everything from the past is either recovered archival information (Journals, photos and the like -- the detritus of life) or remembered -- and just how trustworthy do we really consider our memories?

But I digress….

I ate what mother put in front of me. Breakfast consisted of hot or cold cereal with a good dollop of whole milk or perhaps a couple of eggs with toast and a bit of butter. Lunch remains a bit vague in memory., most likely soup and sandwich with a soda and perhaps a cookie. Supper always had meat, usually beef, potatoes and some vegetable of color (usually cooked to utter limpness). We also had some sweet dessert to top the meal, ice cream, pie, or perhaps simply a bit of jello (sugared processed animal hooves).

Snacks were limited, a cookie after school and maybe a middle of the evening bit of the old some thing.

So I consumed a steady diet of high fat, moderate to high calorie food.

Given this diet how did I manage to stay skinny?


I have come to believe that weight control consists of several factors. Part of this matrix is what I eat compared to how I exercise. Another element seems to cluster around BMR -- Basal Metabolism Rate.

The ideas behind BMR suggests that since muscle burns energy faster than fat, I am probably better with a lot of muscle and only a little fat (well, duh!). In fact, it appears that thin, muscular people (= high muscle to fat ratio) can eat more than people with more body fat (with a lower muscle to fat ratio), even when they are the same weight. This disturbing fact suggests that it’s possible to be a fat skinny person! It also means that eating less only helps a little for a person who is already overweight. Ugh.


Sherman, set the Way Back machine to Huntington High School, c. 1965.


I loathed gym class. And the ultimate awful gym activity consisted of running back and forth on that shiny wooden floor in that large smelly room with abysmal acoustics while one person managed to run while bouncing a round ball. Occasionally this runner-bouncer would stop, twist from side to side and then hurl the ball at some other unfortunate young man running up and down this wooden courted area.

Once some person threw the ball at me. Surely, this had happened before, but I cannot remember ever catching it and when, this time, I did catch it, I had no idea what to do with it.

What I did do was instantly stop running and freeze. I had learned (through osmosis, I’m certain, since no one had ever bothered to instruct me) that among the strange and arcane rules for this activity was one that demanded the possessor of the ball not move unless bouncing the ball, lest he occasion a violation given the odd name of double dribbling. And since I had no idea how to walk while bouncing the ball (much less run) I preferred the safe course of doing nothing.

So I stood holding the ball and looking, I suspect, much the way a ‘possum looks in the headlights of an oncoming car and feeling about the same…. I vaguely heard voices calling to shoot the ball, but having no gun or other projectile weapon at hand, I merely threw the ball to the nearest person, who turned out a member of the opposing team….

No one ever deliberately threw the ball at me again -- to my utter and lasting relief.

But I digress….

I discovered that, in it’s glorious and profound wisdom, the PTB (the Powers That Be) had decided that a student who participated in an organized school sporting activity would NOT have to take a gym class.

One of the only pleasures I ever had in Gym class consisted of running around the gym or even around the block, probably because the enormous agony of such activity exhausted even my athletic betters (everybody), thus reducing the energy they had to harass persons of less than athletic demeanor (me, among others -- you know who you are!). And so I began to associate running with pleasure (or at least the absence of pain, which, sayeth Epicurus, is pretty much the same thing)….

…. And so the next autumn I attempted to join the Cross Country team. But, alas, running requires endurance and training, of which I had little. And so I found myself unceremoniously tossed from the team (oh, and also I lacked the winner’s spirit, which I seem never to have found, but that’s another story).

In this regard, I was lucky, because one of my friends (how did we become friends? I have no memory….), Mickey Thabit -- 2nd generation Lebanese-American from Kafar and genuine good guy -- being equipped by nature for speed and agility rather than slogging endurance, also found himself off the team.

We now had the choice to either go back to gym class (!) or find a way to run through the fall and winter in preparation for the spring track season.

With this in mind we visited Coach McCoy -- Raymond McCoy, may he ever be blessed! -- who simply said OK when we asked permission to leave school an hour early, walk over to the school used by disabled kids (and which in the not too distant past had served as the -- segregated -- school for children of color) and then run for an hour or so.

How gloriously insane was it that Coach McCoy trusted two 17 year olds to do what they said they would do? Hah. Thank you! Thank you!

Well, it never even occurred to me not to go running every day. And so, every day, we walked the half mile or so to the school, changed into our running gear and ran. First, we ran around the building and that pretty much wore me out. Mickey, being a truly nice guy, was willing those first few days -- OK, those first few weeks -- to trudge along at my sluggard’s pace while I acted as a drag to his progress.

But by the time the weather had become cold enough to necessitate sweat pants and shirts, we found ourselves able to run-jog over to Ritter Park. I won’t go into how the park has changed over the decades, but suffice that the place had then an open primitive opulence about it.

Then sometime before Christmas break the PTB finally noticed that 2 boys left the campus every day an hour before classes ended and that no one seemed to know where they went nor why.

The Assistant Principal called me in for a chat.

“You leave the building at 2:30 every day?”

“Yes.” Imagine me stuttering this out. The AP terrified me!

“And what do you do?”

“Oh, we run.”

“You run?”


“Hmm. And did anyone give you permission to do this?”

“Oh, sure. Coach…” And about this time I had one of my wonderful blank spaces, where I cannot remember someone’s name.

“…. Ah…. Coach…. The track coach…. He said we could. And…”

“Do you mean Coach McCoy or….”

“Yea, Coach McCoy. He….”

And that was that. Somewhere in the labyrinth of the high school, they must have found Coach McCoy and he, sainted man, must have green lighted us, although, as I suggested, I have no idea why.

By winter, when we would sometimes wrap a towel around our necks to keep the icy draft out of our sweat shirts, Mickey and I would run all over the place and on occasion run the incline up from Ritter Park along twisty 8th Street Hill Road (I don’t have a map right now, so I may have misnamed this) where the rich folk (and Mickey, whose family had money, but you’d never know it…) lived. We would scramble up hill sides in the rain and later, in the sleet and snow, we looped around back roads with abrupt dead ends where we would turn around amid trash and the random condom or two.

Finally, spring arrived and I had never been in finer physical condition. My body fat must have been below 10% and I weighed under 120 -- not that I ever weighed myself.

Only I did not realize then the extent of my social needs.

Running in theory is an individual sport. However, I had never actually just ran as an individual. I really enjoyed the talk and camaraderie of the trail. Once track season began, Mickey transformed back into a hurtler of some ability (he managed to earn a ‘letter’ for his running talents) while I found myself relegated to running around the track pretty much by myself. As a distance runner I should have fitted in with the other guys who ran a mile or more, but they had all arrived from the autumn Cross Country team from which I had been tossed. So I just ran around and around pretty much all by myself, although I would sometimes start with (or, to be more accurate, beside) the others. And then watch as they looped around the track at blistering speeds. I had terrific endurance, but not much in the way of speed.

I still enjoyed my running, but I missed the chit-chat. So sometimes as the days grew hot I would wander over to where the hurtlers and pole vaulters lurked. But after a while Coach McCoy would himself just wander over to tell me to run a few more miles before we quit for the day.

It never occurred to me that he had a plan for me. A decade or so later, my brain finally caught up. I realized that he knew that with only a year of base fitness building (the best runners had been at this since Junior High!) I needed a lot more time to ‘toughen’ up into a decent runner. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand. Coach McCoy pretty much spelled it out for me, but I didn’t get it. Well you tried, Coach, you tried. Thanks for the effort. I haven’t forgotten you tried….

I had two moments which were glorious. Two times when I achieved beyond what I imagined I might do, but those stories must wait.

There’s a point of this story. Even with no athletic ability I managed to develop a skinny, yet low fat and thus ‘muscular’ body. My muscle to fat ratio must have been ridiculous -- more or less the same as a world class body builder (only stuck onto a 115 pound body!).

So I ate a typical early ‘60s diet, but matched this with a lean body with a high muscle to fat ratio… and stayed skinny.


Time passes…..


Interim (as time continues to pass): I just looked over the Huntington HS 1965 yearbook and I note two things of no particular importance.

First, the picture of the coach for the Track Team which we see beside the bio of Coach McCoy is a picture of Coach Miller, the football coach. The only pic of Coach McCoy is one where he is seen beside a young man practicing his sprint starts -- and that picture fails even to mention Coach McCoy by name. It’s been 44 years since then… and this is the first time I ever noticed this error. My apologies to Coach McCoy for my extended state of obliviousness!

Second, there is no evidence in the yearbook that I ever had anything to do with the Track team. I never received a ‘letter,’ so I’m not in the group picture and…. Oh wait. In the back there is a listing of all our names and beneath a list of whatever honors and/ or activities we took part in and there I find the magic word: ‘track’ -- ah, sweet, my tale is vindicated!


The clock back ticks into the 21st century and I now weigh around 155. I’m not obviously obese, but I’m certainly visibly plump!

What has happened?

Irrelevant. Something happened, but it’s not important what.

And do I care though that this ‘something’ has happened? And if I do care what am I going to do about it?

I care because I don’t feel as good at 155 as I did at 135 or even 145. There appears to be a weight -- or actually most likely a muscle to fat balance point -- at which I (and probably you, but that’s not up to me!) feel best. And 155 just ain’t it.

Back up a few years to when my friend Noreen needed to gain a bit of weight (yea, I know, but you have to meet her to understand….). She began to write down everything she ate. She kept this up for a few months and I, for some silly reason, decided to ‘support’ her efforts by doing the same thing. Not to gain weight, but to (hopefully) loose weight.

I lost about 10 pounds. And, really, all I did was eat with more awareness. Of course, at the time I actually counted the calories and found myself consuming about 1800 calories a day, while Noreen managed around 3600 per day. She gained a bit, I lost a bit. The universe remained in balance….

She still eats about 2 breakfasts, a good lunch, an afternoon piece of chocolate (‘just 1 small piece, a tinsy, tiny piece.’ he said, suddenly channeling Monty Python), a hearty supper and fruit or juice in the evening (and just manages to maintain her weight…. Go figure.).

I, on the other hand…. Well, I didn't keep the weight off -- let it go, let it go….

So now I’ve begun writing down everything I eat. Calories? I have no idea.

But since I started doing this again, I have managed to completely avoid sugar ‘stuff’ -- no candy, no ice cream, no sugar in the occasional cup of (decaf) coffee -- although I do add a bit (just a tiny bit!) of honey (which I’m told we metabolize in a different way than sugar). Of course, some days, I do still have a glass of (red) wine....

So here’s the real deal: I’m trying to become aware of what I eat...

… And increase my exercise. I’ve done Tai Chi since 1983 (studying with Lau Mok for about 16 years) -- but not every day…. I walk and, now that I’m back living in a village with real sidewalks (finally!) I can do this every day -- but I don’t…. I ride my bicycle -- but not everyday….

Well, you get the drift. I get exercise, but not enough. But perhaps there is a way to do this and make it fun.

Martha King, nee Wild (Susan Wild’s cousin and a graduate of HHS 1966) has a project to ‘walk around the world’ -- she’s about 3500 miles into this -- which, as she reports, puts her “somewhere in the Atlantic now”.

Now Martha WK reports that her goal is 25,000 miles which indicates she is walking the equator (and thus not cheating). Now by my trusty calculator I concluded she’s walked an average of 1.47929 miles every day for the past 2367 days -- and at that average it will take her…, let me get the calculator…. OK, 14,533 days before she completes the trip. And that’s just a bit under 40 years…. But the nifty thing is that even if she sprints the last 10,000 miles or so and finishes in, say, 35 years, she still has the North to South Pole jaunt to enjoy.

Now, I don’t know if Martha does this, but one could put a big world map on the wall and pick a start point on the map -- I find that Quito, the capital of Ecuador, is on the Equator, so that might be a good start. Then every week or so a person could mark how far they had traveled on the map.

Just get a good map that will not fall apart over the next 30 or 40 years that it may take to walk all around.


So, perhaps the key is just to eat well, but not too much; avoid the sugars; walk a lot (by which I mean: walk, bike, swim, do Tai Chi or whatever); and keep smiling….


Hmm…. Does this mean Epicurus had it right all along?