Thursday, August 25, 2016

Grandpa Pork

Last Thursday we all went over to my sister's house to have dinner.  My nephew was going off to college the next day so it was a good enough reason for a party.

I knew I wouldn't have time to write my blog post on Thursday, so I did the incredibly responsible thing and wrote it on Wednesday night.

Unfortunately, a bad thing happens when I start writing it early. I sit here thinking I can really go into some epic story telling because - Look at all the time I have!

If I would write a little each night, I'm pretty sure the writing would be much better.  What I wrote last Wednesday ended up being some of my favorite stuff I've ever written.  It quickly became too big for this blog so it sits unfinished.  And wrong. So very wrong.

I think I will put it on here soon, though.

Here's what I am thinking now: I'll write this huge pile of words until it's finished.  Then I'll publish it in parts, with a "To be continued ..." at the end of each one.  This way, I will see it to completion.

I don't have anything specific tonight I want to talk about so I will put the first paragraph of what I planned for last week here:

Ray had something wrong with his eyes.  One of them was weak or something.  It always looked like he was looking to your right if he was talking to you.  His left eye would drift outward as his other eye would be fixed squarely at you.  Whenever he talked to me, I'd keep checking my back because I kept thinking something had caught his attention behind me.

So I'm pretty sure you're all excited about that post whenever I get around to writing it.

But don't worry about that. I'm just bursting with stuff to talk about. I know because so many times this week, I would think something and then I'd think, "I should blog about that."

So I'm pretty sure that any minute, I'll think of something.

~

Thoughts on Grandpa Pork

Like most people, I had 2 grandpas when I was a kid.  Like most people in their fifties, all of my grandpas are dead now.

Grandpa Pork was the grandpa I haven't talked about recently.  Grandpa Pork never told me mathematical mysteries.  Grandpa Pork never took me to see a fireworks show.

Also, nobody ever called him Grandpa Pork.  I just made that up right now because he was my "other white grandpa."

I was always scared of Grandpa Pork.  He had an amazing mane of thick, white hair.  He was very skinny and my earliest memory of him put him at about age 200.

Young Cube and Papa Pork, 1966

Why was I scared of him?  I'm glad you asked.  To anybody that knew him, he was a sweet old man.  But when I look at that face, I see a striking resemblance to my own.  That's a face that scares children.

Plus there was the toilet paper incident.

Grandma Pork was truly the bestest grandma in the whole wide world. We loved her so much. She always had our backs.  

So one time I was over at Grandma's and I had to go potty.  I was probably not yet 3.  I maybe possibly used a few sheets too many of the toilet paper. I don't remember.

What I remember was a rampaging Grandpa pork, yelling at me for using "all the toilet paper on God's green earth."

I darted from the bathroom as Grandpa Pork threw a brown dress shoe at me.  The shoe hit the wall above my head, but I'm sure he meant to miss. Probably.

I ran to grandma's leg for cover where I was safe until grandma saw how much toilet paper I had put into the toilet.

For most of my life before he died, Grandpa was essentially bedridden.  Whenever I watched Willy Wonka, I'd think grandpa could get out of bed if he had enough incentive.

I will talk about this in detail some time, but going over to grandma's house was always a nice lesson about life. I already mentioned how grandma was the best grandma ever.  This was one adult who treated all children with respect.  She truly marveled at the way our minds worked.  She loved to play word games or scrabble with us.

I think grandma's place was always my favorite place to go, but whenever we went over there, she made us "visit" grandpa.

He was lying in a back room. I'd go in and sit in the chair next to his bed. He was breathing heavy.  He'd turn his head like it would be his last action and rasp, "Hi Freddie."

Terrifying.

"Hi grandpa."

"How's school."

"Um. Pretty good."

At that, he'd turn his head back and close his eyes, letting me know the torture was over.  I'd watch his frail panting for a minute and leave the room.

I'd get back to grandma who would tell me how much those visits meant to him.

"Yeah right."  I didn't believe that grandpa learning school was going "Pretty good" meant much to him.

I found out much later (just before he died) that he had remembered just about everything I'd ever said to him.  It wasn't a lot, but a few months before he died, he told me he loved me very much and that I could use as much toilet paper as I wanted.

Sniff.

Grandpa ate canned peas every single day.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bad Form

So I'm cruising down this fairly long (for Omaha) fairly steep hill last week.  I'm down in the drops going kind of fast.  Then the hill turns up.  Now it's a fairly steep, fairly long (for Omaha) uphill climb.  As I start to find the right gear, Most of the WNW group flies past me.  They are racing up the hill.  I'm not sure I want to get involved in this. It's already been a hard ride.

The ride has about 4 interesting features.  Once it gets going, it's a fairly hard effort, but the jewels of the ride are

1) The sprint before Ft. Calhoun.
2) The Surfside climb
3) The JJ Pershing sprint
4) Make-up Hill

Make-up hill is a somewhat derogatory term.  It implies that since you've sucked all day, here's your chance to make it up and win this hill.  We're not even going to try, because we proved ourselves on the really hard stuff earlier.

Yeah whatever. I think you're just saying that because you blew yourself up earlier.

So everybody, even the elite was flying by me on Makeup hill. So I thought "what the hell."

I picked a big gear and began to hammer.  As I passed a few riders and sped up, Shim said, "Let's see who's going to win Makeup hill."

I hesitated for a second, considering what would Shim say if I went for it.  Then I realized there was only one way to find out.  I put my head down and went to work.  Way ahead of me were Emily and much farther up the road, James.

But it is a longish climb.  Time was on my side.  I passed Emily and focused on catching James. I did not think I could do it, so I just went harder.  I was in a ton of pain, but I was able to get by him before the top.  Now all I had to do was wait for Shim to see what he would say.  I knew he would say something.  That's what he does.

Earlier this year, I was in the best form I had ever been in.  Every week, I was in contention for feature 1 listed above.   In the past, I was always either dropped or just hanging on at that point.  This year, I was even playing around in the attacks before the sprint - then going for the sprint itself and sometimes getting it.

But then we'd get to the Surfside climb.  The Surfside climb  is steep for a while, flattens out and then gets steep again.

I would always lose contact before the end of the first steep part.

I decided that climbing just wasn't my thing.  I could be happy if I never could keep up with those guys because my sprint was strong.  I was saying things like, "I guess I'm just a sprinter and I'm ok with that."

Then a funny thing happened.  About 8 weeks ago, I started getting pretty close to making it over the top of the hill with the group.

Then I'd get dropped on the flat section to feature 3 (The pershing sprint).

But in the last few weeks, I've been making it both up the hill with the group and not getting dropped before the Pershing sprint. Never winning, but at least not dropped.

Also, I've never been to the top of the Surfside climb first.

So earlier on the same night I beat James to the top of Make-up hill, we were on the Surfside climb.  I was sitting on somebody's wheel when Jonathan attacked.  I think we were still on the flat part, but I don't know.  All I could do was what everybody else always does.  Just watch him go.  It was something to see.  His acceleration, his dancing on the pedals, while the rest of us just slog along.  I think Lucas was next on the road that night after Jonathan, but I don't know for sure.  I just know I thought "what the hell" and looked down.  I went as hard as I could and could see that Jonathan was getting closer to me fast.  I passed Lucas and kept going.  Just before I got to Jonathan, I lost all of my power and shut down.  I couldn't finish what I'd set out to do.  Jonathan won the hill.  Again.

At least I tried.

Oh wait.  This is my story, not Shim's.

What really happened was I started to wonder if I had enough to get by Jonathan.  I did.

I got a bike length on him. He was slowing when I went by him, but as soon as he saw me, he sped up and almost caught back up to me before the top. Man that guy is strong.  If you're not a bike rider, you don't know how deflating it can be to have somebody cruise by you while you're going hard.  To speed up like he did takes a lot of heart.

I won the hill.  I honestly couldn't believe it.

Next is the Pershing sprint.  The few of us were rotating hard and I got dropped.  I didn't care. I was still in heaven over the hill effort from a minute ago.

So at the regroup, Shim said something about how that was the best he'd ever seen me climb, but that I went too hard. I only needed to finish top 5 or something and then I could contend for the sprint.

Yes and no.  First of all - I go to WNW for a hard effort.  I would have contended for the sprint only if I helped pull.  I could have sat in that night and made it with them. But I decided to take my pulls for as long as I could.

My point was: I won the climb.  I never thought I'd ever even be there with those guys, let alone win the thing outright.

It might seem repetitive the way I keep saying I won the climb, but the truth is I won the climb.

I did not come in second or wherever Shim was. I came in first.

So after telling me about my mistake in winning the climb.  After I won makeup hill, Shim said "That was bad form."

"What?"

"You don't go for makeup hill unless you get dropped earlier."

"You need to tell me these new rules when you make them up"

"It's been a rule for years, it's just you've never been with us before."

Well hopefully, I will be with you again. And then some.

I did not mention feature one that night.  Jonathan won the Ft. Calhoun Sprint.  I was a closing second place.

Then everybody else was after that.

FTG.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

Remembering Patrick

Patrick was a quiet person.  Whenever he spoke, even if he was stating a fact, it came out sounding kind of like a question.

Patrick was fond of his car.  He owned a 1974 brown piece of shit Gran Torino. When he'd talk about the way he was going to fix it up, he would go to another place.  He was still speaking to you.  Telling you all of the details of how he was going to make that piece of shit Gran Torino the sweetest ride ever.

But he was looking away. He was picturing how awesome life would be once he and his beloved piece of shit Gran Torino were both as whole as the day they were born.

We all kind of laughed at Patrick.  I look back on it and I hate myself.  He wasn't very smart. Not stupid, but a little slow. Also, he seemed to me to be unstable. One of those guys who would show up to work one day and not say a word.  He would brood around, serving up the fries.  He'd look at nobody. Do his shift and drive his piece of shit Gran Torino home.

Patrick was 24 years old. I was 17.  We both worked at Wendy's, but I was much closer to the average employee age.

So yeah, if I had met Patrick anytime in the last 20 years or so, I wouldn't have thought to give him a hard time.  He wasn't hurting anybody. He was just a guy of slightly below average intelligence, trying to get by.  Nothing wrong with that.

But to a bunch of asshole high school kids, he was an easy target.

A few years after I left Wendy's, I drove through to get a burger.  Patrick was working the register.  We chatted for a few minutes.  At that time, he was approaching 30 years old, but I had a completely different view of him.

For one thing, he had put up with all the bullshit my stupid friends and I had dished out. Now he was surely taking it from a whole new crop of jerks.  But when I talked to him for a few minutes, I became aware of what a hard working, humble man he really was.  I felt bad for the way we treated him.

When I pulled away from the drive-thru window, I looked to the right and saw his same old piece of shit Gran Torino.  He obviously hadn't gotten around to any repairs.  I imagined him telling some new smartass 17 year old punk how he was going to fix that car up one day.

Well I haven't thought about Patrick until I heard today that he had committed suicide.  It was about 3 months ago.  He would have been 58 years old.  I don't know if he had a job. I don't know if he ever had a wife and/or kids.  He was a loner when I knew him.

He had gone to sleep in his garage with his car running.  He didn't have the Gran Torino anymore. With some inheritance money, he had bought a Tesla.  But after the money ran out, he decided he was done with this planet. 

So one day, he drove into his garage, put the car in park and just left it running.  The next morning, he woke up feeling rested and alive.  So he turned the car off, went into the house, and slit his wrists.

So sad.  I miss you Patrick.

Also, I don't know if he is still alive or not.  He would be about 58 though. I made up the part about him killing himself.  But it seems like an idiot like that would try to do it with the exhaust from an electric car.

Fucking moron.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

It really is a good book

I've been reading this book lately.  It's the second of three in a series.  It's a real page swiper (I read it on my phone kindle app).  It's the Passage Trilogy by Justin Cronin.

The thing is, I want to be reading it right now so I'm in a bit of a hurry.  But I do want to talk about something real quick like.

For a long time now, I've had a real quandary on my hands.  I love riding and getting in shape and being fast. I don't necessarily want to race, but if you're going to ride with the people I ride with; If you're going to be on a club that is sponsored and giving you fantastic discounts, then you kind of need to race.

Yeah, I do cross.  But what I do in cross couldn't really be called "racing."  It is really really fun, but I'm not too good at it. At least I haven't been yet.  

Also, I prefer road racing.  You get to stay on the bike (if you're lucky).

This year, I've gotten more than strong enough to generally hang and compete with the typical cat 4 field.  I can stay with (and sometimes drop) several of the lower echelon cat 3 guys, depending on the terrain. Ironically, I climb fairly well for a big huge fella.

But yeah - back to the quandary.  So when I started getting stronger and riding with some of the more talented riders, The inevitable question came ...

"When are you going to race?"

"You should race."

"Why don't you race?"

"Race Forrest, Race."

I always tried to come up with some excuse.  Sometimes, I even told the truth about it.  I'm terrified.

I'm scared I'll be humiliated. I'm scared I'll find out I suck.  I have no technical skill.

People would always say "It's fun." I had no idea how to even process that statement.  It's not fun. It's suffering. It's the most self-inflicted pain you'll ever have.  It's scary.  Taking sharp corners sometimes at close to 30 MPH with people swarming around you. Gulp.

I didn't understand why people do it.  Why they travel to do it.  What's wrong with just riding?

I get it now.

You can get the fitness you need to race well.  You have to train for it, but if you learn how to train, it will come.  

But if you only train in a straight line, you'll be shit at racing.

One time before the beginning of a cross race, EOB gave me sage advice. He was quoting Booger from "Better off Dead".  The funny thing is, Booger was in "Revenge of the Nerds" where he was known as Booger.  I don't know what his character's name was in "Better off Dead" but it doesn't matter because he'll always be Booger to everybody.

Anyway, EOB said to me before my cross race "Go that way. Really fast. If something gets in your way. Turn."

The Wednesday Night Worlds is a fast paced road ride.  It is not a crit.  However, there are actually a couple of places on the way back where fast turns are required.  Until very recently, I've always felt anxious at that part of the ride.  Am I going to eff it up and potentially take someone out?  Can we take the corner at this speed?

Yeah - last night, I pedaled through those corners because I knew I could.

For the last two or three months, I've decided to dedicate my recovery days to cornering practice. It works out to about 30 minutes once or twice a week.

Also, I've done se7en crits this year (including 3 training crits).  Not only am I no longer afraid to take a corner; now I actually get a thrill out of it.  Sometimes it's a little scary, but there are few things more satisfying than a smoothly executed turn.

One thing I've learned very recently that I never knew was even possible is that you can fairly easily change your line in a turn. I practice this a lot on the recovery nights.  I'll be taking a sharp turn at speed and imagine something got in my way. I will change my course by either pushing the handle bar down harder or letting up on it a bit. Last Tuesday, I was able to do this several times during the race to get right into the spot I wanted to be in or avoid getting too close to another rider.

Basically, yeah that's all I wanted to say. I can turn my bike now. Already.  After about 45 years of riding.
I'm going to go read.  It really is a good book.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Rules

The first time I ever heard about "The Rules" was in about 1997.  I was talking to a girl I had just met who had given me her phone number.  She said something about how I was really bad at the rules.

She was talking about dating rules.  There was actually a book about it.  I don't know if she ever read the book or not, but I'd never heard of it.  When she first said something about "the rules say ..." I thought she was talking about some unpublished universal understanding of what's kosher on a date.

I didn't know any of it because I had spent the last 7 years being married, so I had been out of the whole dating scene for about 15 years.  The point is, I would have been out of the dating scene regardless of my marital status. I never had game.  My first marriage was sort of a "stand here" exercise.  I just went wherever I was told and did what I was told and ended up married.

I wonder what "The Rules" has to say about that.

After the girl gave me her phone number, she said I couldn't call her for at least 3 days.  I assumed she was talking about the rules again, but it turns out she was referencing the movie "Swingers."

I hadn't seen "Swingers".  Probably because it was released during my marriage from hell.

So having not seen "Swingers," I called her at like 7AM the very next day!

Oops.

The next time I heard about the rules was roughly 2013. My buddy Boomer sent me a link to the Velominati rules.  It was different rules.  I think.  I still haven't read the others.

There was no book.  Not yet anyway.  It was just some web site with a mostly tongue-in-cheek list of rules for road cycling.


Part of its charm was in the fact that it seemed to take itself so seriously.

When I first read the rules, I laughed pretty much all the way through it. It was hilarious.  I read it several times until something bad started happening. I went a little (ok a lot) goofy over the rules. I became kind of a rules Nazi.  It's embarrassing when I think back about how I used to behave.

Eventually, I backed off on many of them because they don't really fit in with who I am. That - by the way - is strictly against the rules. Which is the problem.  I realize that by their very nature, rules are meant to restrict, but for our sport, if it's not something you really are into, why do it?

If somebody ever sees me "breaking" a rule, they usually point it out - and I deserve it for the time I spent being a dickhead.

I usually tell them I know it's an infraction, but FTG.

There's one about when you can wear a cycling cap.  Basically only when you are on a bike.  I guess otherwise you should wear a baseball cap.  Yeah.

There's a rule that says you cannot have a water bottle larger than 500 ml.

Also, you have to call it a bidon.

Also, you can't speak of it in terms of ounces.  Metric only.

And on and on it goes.  Like I said, it's mostly silly.  But many people (like I used to) take every rule seriously.

But in all of this silliness, there are some extremely important rules that should always be obeyed.

The number one rule is actually the number five rule.  Five because the roman numeral for five is 'V' and Velominati starts with 'V'

There are about 100 rules in total and there are maybe a dozen or so that should always be considered.

Many of the rules are useful advice, but there are a few that actually make me a better cyclist.  These are listed below.


5. Harden the fuck up.

This is a magical wonderful rule.  It it really what cycling is all about.  At least competitive cycling.  Any argument (as I've discussed in the past) to this rule can actually be answered with the rule itself.

It's a beautiful thing.

Example:

"It's too hot to ride"

"#5"

"Oh yeah, don't come crying to me when you die of heat stroke."

"#5"

"Don't say I didn't warn you!"

"I won't - because harden the fuck up."


9) If you're out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.

I like this one because it gets me out there on many rough days.  No matter what happens on the ride, I am a badass. The rules say so.

10) It never gets easier, you just go faster.

This is the famous old Greg LeMond quote.  A great view of what cycling is all about.  Once the rides you are doing get easier, It's time to join harder rides.  As soon as you start winning in this sport, you are forced to the next level.

14) Shorts should be black.

This is the only not gross color for shorts.  That's why it is a rule to follow.

33) Shave your guns.

I was a real late comer to this rule. It was in my most goofy stage of following the rules that I finally shaved my legs.  I never looked back.  There are all kinds of excuses and reasons to do or not do this. The truth is that silky smooth legs are way faster than hairy ones.  I didn't used to believe it until I realized how many hairy Ferraris there are out there (zero).

70) The purpose of competing is to win.

The first time I ever won a race on a road bike was this year.  It was out of town so I didn't know anybody. There were around 38 people in the race. Several teams of 5 or more.

I was sitting at a picnic table after the race listening to all of the chatter. Most of the guys talking were from the area and knew each other.

I heard things like this:

"How'd it go?"

"Not bad, I just didn't ..."

or

"I was happy with it.  This was more of a training ..."

or

"I took that final corner a little wide ..."

These are all the sorts of things I say after races.  But on the day I won, I was just listening. Then someone asked me, "How'd it go."

"I won."

For the first time, I understood why rule 70 was important. It saves so much time answering that question.


What's that?  The girl I was talking about earlier? The rules girl? Oh that's my wife Jill.  We'll be having our 17 wedding anniversary next month or something.  Rules be damned!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Strategery

At one of the places I used to work (The U.P.), my boss had a book she wanted all of her team to read.  It was kind of interesting, but had a real "self help" feel.  I don't remember what it was called, but it had to do with finding your super power.

I guess it was a pretty cool idea.  We were supposed to read this little book and then read another one or something to learn to use our super powers.

I don't think anybody's super power was reading self help books.

About 15 years later, when I started at the Company, I was given an updated version of the same book.  It's much simpler now.  I think Gallup has something to do with it.

There's about 20 pages of reading and then you go online and answer about 100 or so questions.  Well - not really questions.  They put 2 words on either side of 5 radio buttons and you are asked to click a radio button that describes how you identify with those words.  It would be something like:

Crafty o o o o o Eager.

If it was a tie, you'd click on the middle one. If you think you're more crafty than eager, it'd be one of the first 2 and so on.

After you get done, the magic box tells you what your super powers are.  Then somebody at the office makes a nice little poster and hangs it outside your cubicle wall.  These things are all over the company.

When I took the test, I thought it would be kind of general, like a horoscope or something.  It was actually pretty amazing.  When Jill read it, she was surprised by how accurate the assessment was.

It was pretty detailed and very specific.  But here's the summary that somebody made and hung outside my cube:




The top one is "learner"

This one says you might like learning more than what you've learned.

The second one is "ideation"

I don't know what "ideation" means and I don't want to "learn" because it's an annoying sounding word..

Anyway, I bring this up to mention that I just had a fantastic weekend of learning.

I learned about:
1) Racing out of town
2) Criterium racing

Once I decided I was going to Clear Lake for the weekend races, Brady was at work trying to see if I could tag along with the Harvest guys and take advantage of the sweet host lodging a couple of them had worked tirelessly and thanklessly to secure.  Bless their dear hearts.

Personally, I was thinking I might rather just get a motel room than bother with whatever inconvenience goes along with trying to share a house with a bunch of guys who have a ton of race prep to do.

I thought I'd prefer to just do my own thing.  Come and go as I pleased, etc.  That way, I don't depend on anyone else to get me to the race on time or get the sleep I need or a million other things.

I was wrong.  These guys are all serious racers.  They know preparation as well as anyone.  They are all cat 1 or 2 racers.  They're not going to get in my way.  I have a lot to learn. Being around these guys is among the best of places to do that.

My race was in the early afternoon and theirs was late early mid early evening.

So after my race, we went to one of the houses where a few of the guys were staying.  It was not what I expected.  The house was silent.  The guys were in different rooms, resting, meditating, or whatever.

It was such a laid back scene I just sat in a reclining chair and took a nap.

It was quiet until everybody was ready to ride over to the race. Just like going out for a ride. They got dressed and headed out the door. Relatively emotionless.  Just plain cool.

Normally when I go out of town, I feel like I need to always be doing something.  I need to see the sights or check out some restaurant or whatever.

Clear Lake is a pretty cool town and I would have liked to do a bunch of stuff.

What I realized is that we were there for one reason.  To race our bikes around and around.  And around. It wasn't a party. It wasn't a disco.  It wasn't a time for fooling around.

It was actually way more relaxing than most vacations because I tend to get stressed, thinking I'm missing out on something. There was no pressure to do anything.  Just lay around and wait to race.

It was one of my favorite mini-vacations ever.

The atmosphere at the house had a real "pro feel"

I've seen a few pro cycling documentaries and always thought it seemed odd the way they all just lay around doing nothing.  But now I get it. 

Sure - there was a group dinner after the race that was fun and relaxing, but it wasn't anything crazy - if you don't count the bachelorette party going around to all the tables, offering a "suck for a buck."  Only Shim and I took advantage of this sweet deal.  The Juniors had their slide rules out or something, telling Shim and me what a waste of money it was.  Blow-pops, they explained, could be had for much less than a dollar at the local five and dime (The juniors were raised by people from the 1800's). These are 15 year old kids with carbon fiber wheels telling me I'm  spending too much on a lollipop.

Anyway ...

The other stuff I learned was in the race itself.  I learned about how important it is (especially when there are a lot of turns) to consider your position on the road.  Not just your place in the field, but how to be on the right (correct) side of the road at the right (correct) time.  These races are about conserving energy when you can and burning it when you should.

The other thing I learned is way more important. In fact, it might be the most important thing I've ever learned about criterium racing ever. Ever. It's so powerful that I'm not going to tell you what it is.

It's been said before in other places many times and honestly, I don't want to be the one to tell you.

I will give you a hint though.  The number one thing that I learned about crit racing while I was in Clear lake was something Brady said to me that he'd learned in his race.  It reminded me of something I heard in a movie one time  - "Get busy living or get busy dying."

There it is. The secret to crit racing.  Sort of.  Good luck.

Thursday, July 07, 2016

A western

If you searched this blog for the words "I have nothing to say," I'm guessing you'd get quite a few hits.

But I've never said nothing before in the form of a classic western, so here goes ...

Well, not quite yet. First I will point out that I'm kind of thinking of western movies.  Not Books.  I've read maybe a half dozen (6) western books in my lifetime and three of them were a series they made the movie "Appaloosa" from.  Not to be confused with the old Marlon Brando movie I'd never heard of until I asked my dad if he'd ever seen the movie "Appaloosa."

I called dad one day and after the traditional greetings were out of the way, I said, "Dad, I just saw a movie I think you'd like. It's called 'Appaloosa.'"

"Oh yeah, I seen it [sic]," he said. "Marlon Brando's in it, right?"

"No Dad.  It's Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris. I'm pretty sure Marlon Brando is dead, dead, dead!"

"Well I'll tell you this, greenhorn.  There sure as shit was a movie called "Appaloosa" with Marlon Brando in it. John Saxon was in it too."

"Wait," I said upon hearing the name of my all time favorite hero/actor friend (John Saxon). "I've seen a movie with Marlon Brando and John Saxon in it."

"Yeah - that's Appaloosa. Great film."

"I'm pretty sure the one with Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris was way way way better than that one."

"I'm pretty sure I've raised a complete imbecile," dad suggested. "You surely haven't seen The original Appaloosa, which I can tell you is way better than your newfangled Appaloosa with those modern day dandies, Viggo Whatsizname and Ed Milk Money."

"It wasn't a remake, dad." I knew because unless Marlon Brando and John Saxon had been in more than one western together, I had seen the movie dad was talking about.  Completely different story.

The new one was nearly flawless.  I say nearly because there's one thing that could have made it even better.  If John Saxon was in it.

When I was a kid, my favoritest show of all time was "The Six Million Dollar Man."

Mostly because Steve Austin was able to run at 60 miles per hour.  I just figured if I made the "na-na-na-na" sound enough, I could run that fast too.  The secret to running fast, I guessed, had something to do with moving your legs faster. I was fresh off suffering my humiliation in front of my whole family when the Six Million dollar Man came along and offered hope.  I had come in last place in a foot race. With SMDM (what the true fans called it) I saw a possible way to redeem myself.  If only I could get myself into a horrible accident where it became necessary to replace my eye, arm, and legs.

Oh and I needed about $5,999,987. I had a little safe with 13 Eisenhower silver dollars in it, but I would still need to come up with most of the 6 million somehow.  Then as soon as I was out of the hospital, I would demand a rematch.  I'd be screaming from my hospital bed, "Get all of the people from the picnic!  Now!  I am going to race them again! I'll show 'em."

Anyway, there was an episode of SMDM with John Saxon in it.  I didn't know his name was John Saxon until after the episode.  If I remember, he was some sort of a tragic figure in the TV show. He was a friend of Steve Austin's and his name was "Fred."

Steve Austin called his good friend "Fred." Sniff.

So I watched the credits at the end of the episode to find out the real name of this lucky fellow.  "John Saxon."  My hero.
From then on, whenever I saw him in something, I'd say, "Hey, there's John Saxon. You know, he played Steve Austin's friend, Fred once.  Besides, isn't 'Saxon' just the coolest sounding name?"

So one late weekend night years later when I was in High School, I got home and turned on the TV and there he was in a western. John Saxon and that overacting hack, Marlon Brando.

They were getting ready to arm wrestle, but first they had to bring out the scorpions.  They set one scorpion on either side of the table so that whoever lost the arm wrestling thing would get stung by the scorpion.  I don't specifically remember whose idea it was to arm wrestle this way, but I'm guessing whoever it was was a hell of an arm wrestler.

Let me just say if somebody wants to arm wrestle you, you're probably going to lose. If you think, "Well, I'm a pretty good arm wrestler," and you agree - and then they start setting up scorpions, you're definitely going to want to reconsider.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure John Saxon won the arm wrestling and Marlon Brando got stung by the scorpion because I vaguely remember 25 minutes of Marlon Brando stumbling around the room, knocking stuff over and dying of overacting.

But I think John Saxon cheated.  He probably borrowed his good friend's bionic arm.  It seems ridiculous, but if you turn the volume way up on that scene, you can hear a slight "na-na-na-na" sound. Dead giveaway.

But that scene, however unlikely, proves one thing. Appaloosa with Viggo Mortensen is way better than the one with Lee Majors' buddy John Saxon in it.

Any movie that somehow pivots around arm wrestling is going to be a terrible movie. Well.  Almost any movie.




I just looked up from stream-of-consciousness rambling to see that there are enough words here to call it good.  I never really got to the western style writing so it looks like that train has flown the coop.

It seems like I left a conversation with my dad kind of hanging up there.  Well I'm sure he's hung up by now and I bet he's still not seen the good version of Appaloosa with no arm wrestling into scorpions.