Thursday, October 28, 2010

Proposition Pot

The people of California are getting ready to decide whether to legalize marijuana.  Proposition 19 would green light the sale and distribution of pot despite the federal ban.  I had a small hand in putting together a great special that we're airing Saturday night called Proposition Pot.

I don't advocate the use of marijuana.  Yes I've smoked it and I inhaled but I haven't touched the stuff in more than 20 years.  But with that said I think it makes sense to at the very least decriminalize its use.  I think the people of California will vote 19 down but as I've already seen since moving here, doing so would really be stupid.

Medical marijuana shops are everywhere.  I've seen pot plants sitting out in the sun on the decks at the apartment complex where I live.  As badly as the state needs revenue streams legalizing and taxing the hell out of pot makes sense to me.  Legalizing it would also help do away with the dangerous, illegal grow houses, that seem to catch fire at least once a week.

One of the sad parts of the half special that Tim Wells, Damien Espinoza, Brandon Atchison and Cristina Mendonsa put together is that we couldn't include a wonderful piece from Suzanne Phan.  Suzanne and her partner Ryan Yamamoto put together a great story while vacationing in Amsterdam.  Because they were off the clock, corporate rules won't allow our station to air the fruits of their labor.  So I thought I should share it here.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tomorrow is A Long Time

I saw the title to this often overlooked Dylan classic and it got me to thinking about my current state of mind.  I've been here in Sacramento for four and a half months.  Now that the hard work of marathon training is behind me all I have to keep me occupied is my job.

Time is all I have, to worry about the mistakes I make, to worry about what I may have overlooked as we head to a very busy election night, to worry about what needs to get done for the November sweeps.  Being in my head all the time is not a healthy thing.  I need to find some positive distractions to keep myself mentally healthy and in check.

I miss my wife.  I miss fighting with my wife.  I miss sitting in our office while she works away on the computer and I play the Dylan and Neil Young songs that I love so much.  I miss our cat Rudy wandering in and joining us because he likes keeping us company. 

I have to wait for her to find a job here in California and it's becoming torture for both of us.  We've been through it before and I pray to God we never have to go through it again.  Below is a nice cover of the Dylan song.  It seems Bob doesn't like sharing his work on You Tube.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


I'm a sucker for a Clint Eastwood movie.  He's directed three classic movies beginning with 1992's "Unforgiven."  "Mystic River" and "Million Dollar Baby" would also fall into that category although for my personal taste "Gran Torino" is better than either of those two movies.

I had not gone to a movie theater since moving to Sacramento in June so despite suggestions that I make "The Social Network" my first cinematic experience here, it didn't fit my schedule so I opted for Clint.

The subject matter is one all of us face, death.  The big question Eastwood tackles is what awaits us after life.  It's a good story but not a great one.  It all seemed rather cliched.  But I ached for the boy who lost his twin brother and felt empathy for the other central figure, a French journalist who barely survives a tsunami and wrestles with her brush with death.

Matt Damon is solid as a reluctant psychic and Eastwood artfully brings the trio together for a predictable and satisfying ending.  But in this day and age it's hard to part with ten dollars to see a movie on the big screen unless it's a visual extravaganza.  Eastwood tries with the tsunami scene but this is a movie best left for the Red Box bin.

Saturday, October 23, 2010


To say things have been busy since the marathon would be an understatement. Thank goodness the race happened when it did because time for training has been hard to come by. I actually had my first run of more than an hour today, three weeks after the disaster that was St. George.

The chaos started with the Czarina's surprise post-race visit to Sacramento when she got an unexpected job interview with the state of California. We're still waiting to hear if she landed the gig. Then the weekend following the race, a producer who was supposed have show duties on Saturday and Sunday was out sick, so I stepped up because I had little better to do, and it would help out our group of producers who have been filling in on weekends for four months now.

Then it was head long into preparations for the upcoming elections and November sweeps plus producing a half hour special on California's water crisis. Add in another Friday night producing stint and a second straight weekend as the on-call manager and well, you get the idea.

This week started with an early trip into work for a manager's meeting. Wednesday also meant an early start to the day for "Burger-fest" as the big bosses decided to dole out free eats and get the station staff up to date on various items. Thursday I went in early again, ostensibly for an election meeting, but it turned into the Roseville fire from hell at the mall. I somehow squeezed in producing two more specials into the evening before getting home at 10 p.m.

I earned a trip to the woodshed when I decided sleeping in Friday morning sounded better another getting up at 9 a.m. in order to put in an appearance at work at 10 a.m. to catch the announcement of our new G.M.  Anita Helt, a former reporter at KTKA in the 1990's will be our new commander-in-chief.  It's ironic because I was the news director at KTKA long after Anita had left.  My boss wasn't buying my excuse for wanting to come in at 2:30 p.m. because I was scheduled to produce the Friday 11 p.m.  I offered my profuse apologies.  I really did feel bad because I thought long and hard about coming in because the email that had gone out made it clear that the "announcement" would be pretty major.

Anyway, I better enjoy these two days off because the following week I'm on the hook again for producing the weekend newscasts plus a live one hour election special.  Don't even get me started about election night.  That will make for a nice ten day in a row stretch of work.  At least I'm getting some miles in now!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big City

I have quite a few guilty music pleasures.  But really, when it comes to Merle Haggard, I really shouldn't feel too guilty.  I've already professed my love of one of Merle's classic's, "Pancho & Lefty", written by the late, great, Townes Van Zandt.

This afternoon as I waited for my Ribeye at the Texas Roadhouse my second favorite Merle tune came over the speakers at the restaurant.  I remember the first time I heard "Big City."  It was at a Merle Haggard concert in the late 1980's concert in Phoenix.  I remember going to the show expecting to be bored to tears for the next two hours.  It turned out to be one of the best concerts I ever attended.  The Desert Rose band opened for Merle and it was an enjoyable 45 minutes of country/rock.

Then Merle came out and blew me away.  His band complete with horns locked down a tight groove.  Then I began to realize just how many Merle tune's I had grown up with as a kid in small town Kansas.  In the mid-60's I used to sneak away from my step-father at his work in Detroit, Kansas.  I would walk across the blacktop that was U.S. 40 into the Midway Cafe.  Jenny Gray ran the beer joint along with her husband Lloyd.  Jenny would keep me entertained with burgers, pinball, and the juke box.  It was loaded with country music and the occasional Beatles tune.  That's where I got familiar with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and of course Merle Haggard.

My mom didn't like me going over to the Midway because of the fact that they served beer.  Farmers would gather there after a hard day in the fields and drink their fill.  Of course there were regulars who would enjoy themselves a little too much.  It was the antithesis of "Cheers."

One night I was there with my step-father who could knock them back with the best of them and witnessed quite a fight.  Weapons included cue sticks and pool balls.  When I excitedly recounted what I had witness to my mother my days of play at the Midway came to an abrupt end.  It wasn't another 25 years before I set foot in this piece of burger and brew heaven.  And by the way, I had an O'Doul's.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Chile - Mining the Disaster of Cable News

A good friend of mine pointed me to a story suggesting I blog about it. KMBC, the #1 rated news operation in Kansas City, the first television station to hand me a paycheck, sent a reporter to Chile to cover the mine disaster. My own initial reaction to it was, publicity stunt. Then I quickly recovered and thought, My God, local television stations used to do this kind of coverage all the time.

The true market leaders in local television news back in the 80's and 90's would never hesitate to send a reporter across the country, or even across the globe, to cover a great story. We used to do it all the time when I produced in Phoenix. We chased hurricanes, plane crashes, earthquakes, you name it. I can remember my current colleague Dale Schornack, heading to cover the unbelievable crash of a DC-10 in Sioux City, Iowa where the remarkable actions of the pilot kept loss of life to a minimum. That was more than 20 years ago.

Even when I worked in tiny Fargo, North Dakota just ten years ago we went to New Mexico, New York City, Washington, DC, Kosovo, Turkey, and other destinations important to our viewers. That was just a decade ago but I know KVLY doesn't travel like that anymore. That simply doesn't happen anymore in local news or more importantly and the point of this blog, cable news. The bean counters have destroyed the business. They've gutted our budgets and made traveling to stories that truly have an impact to our local viewers almost impossible. It's happened to cable news and the networks as well.

The Chile mine disaster shows what cable news used to do on an almost weekly basis. Deliver the power of an emotional story, either tragic or as in this instance, positive. Look back six weeks ago to what happened in San Bruno, California. Five years ago CNN or even FOX would have been on this disaster from the moment it broke bringing viewers wall to wall coverage, even if it meant simply showing the local stations covering the explosion.

If you were watching cable news the night of September 9th, you wouldn't have known the horrific blast in San Bruno until almost 11 p.m. The explosion happened about 9:30 p.m. eastern time. I kept an eye peeled on CNN waiting for them to break in. I was dumbfounded and FNC didn't do squat either.

The Chile mine rescue was tailor made for the networks and cable news. They had plenty of time to plan and to get their people into place. If a major earthquake hits the west coast God knows how long it will take before the rest of the country really gets the kind of coverage we used to see 10, 15, 20 years ago. I remember the Bay Area quake in 1989 and CBS was all over it. They went wall to wall shortly after 8 p.m. eastern. We did our own hour of coverage in Phoenix beginning at 10 p.m. and on the following day we had our own satellite truck in San Francisco with our own anchor and reporter on scene to tell the story. It's sad to say those days are long gone.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Le Noise

It took some time for me to digest the epic collaboration between Neil Young and Daniel Lanois.  I've had a couple of weeks now to listen to this amazing sonic trip that this dynamic duo created.  I won't call it Young's most powerful work yet there are a handful of songs that are among some of his best recordings ever. 

"Peaceful Valley Boulevard" is probably my favorite because of the haunting sound of the guitar and the weaves in with Neil's voice. I also love "The Hitchhiker" and "Love and War." You can go to and watch the entire album on Neil's channel which is offered as both a visual and audio delight. Also well worth the watch is Daniel Lanois's explanation of how the album came together and what he brought to the project that makes it one of Young's most unique works.

Finally, I want to say the aforementioned three songs are just as powerful live. Neil's touring days are far from over and if you get the chance to see him take it. It's a musical ride that few other artists can even attempt to offer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fear and Loathing in St. George, then Vegas

Maybe that's what I needed for this trip was Carlos, Hunter, and an unlimited supply of illegal drugs and alcohol.  All I had was the Czarina and she's been on my case to blog about this trip because she took plenty of pictures.  She was chomping at the bit to drive the course on Friday.  We stayed at the Super 8 which was only a five block walk to the buses that lined up early in the morning for the start of the race.

So we boogied all the way to the starting line.  It's changed a lot from the first time I ran the race in 1989.  They used to dump you off in the middle of the darkness of the desert with a handful of barrels with fires burning for those who couldn't stand the night chill.  Now there are flood lights everywhere and even a corral for the top runners to wait for the start.  In fact, most of the first mile is pretty well lit because the race starts a good 15 minutes before the dawn of light.  Of course in 1989 there were only about two thousand runners, now the entry list tops seven thousand.
They've even put up flags along the starting corridor for every runner representing each state or nation at the race.  From what I could gather the only state not represented at St. George was Vermont.  It's a first class race put on by a great community.

Seven miles into the race you encounter this.  Veyo, an extinct volcano, offers a pretty stiff climb that lasts for about three-quarters of a mile.  From Veyo the course continues a steady climb for about a mile and a half.  It's a real grind after the gentle downhills of the first seven miles.  If you can survive until the halfway point the real fun begins.
Just about at the 14 mile mark the bottom simply falls out.  Just looking at this picture you get no sense of how downhill it truly is but take this into account.  In 1989 I was running 6:35 pace up until this point when I put down a 5:38 mile over this section.  Even in 2010 I went from a 9:30 mile to an 8:05 as you enter stunning Snow Canyon.

Snow Canyon is a delight to see as you go from mile 15 to mile 17.  It's a nice distraction as you begin to suffer from the toil of running 26.2 miles.  Even the Czarina, who usually doesn't notice a thing during her races, admitted to admiring the beauty of this gorgeous spot in Utah.

The Czarina wanted me to share with you the secret of her St. George success.  It was her strategic placing of a wet sponge in her cap the helped ward off the unusually warm conditions that the runners had to endure.  She bought a sponge for me but I declined to use one.  We all know how I ran.  Enough said.

The best part of our adventure was Las Vegas.  We stayed at the Trump Tower.  The room was luxurious at a very reasonable price.  The only thing missing from the property is a casino, which is probably a good thing for the Czarina and myself given our luck at the slots and blackjack.

The Czarina loves checking out all the goodies in a room.  This phony piece of coral caught her eye and then she found what was written on the bottom.  Also in this picture is her other favorite from our stay at Trump.  No, it's not the robe on the hanger, but the television built into the mirror.  She loved that thing.  She's especially fond any hand or body lotion that the hotels put out.  She's gathered quite a collection over the year.

It's not the best picture but certainly the highlight of the entire trip.  Craig and Irene Davidson took the time to catch up to us at Caesar's Palace for a quick visit.  Craig was the whole reason for going to St. George in the first place as he ran his 200th marathon.  I miss talking to Craig on a regular basis.  The 16 mile trips on Saturday around Mummy Mountain were always a great way to spend a couple of hours conversing about the week's events with Craig.  He's promising to run marathon number 300 in another 14 years or so.  I'll try and be there, but this time I think I'll just watch.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crash and Burn

As my old sports director Frank Boal used to say, sometimes you eat the bear, sometimes the bear eats you.  That pretty much describes my St. George experience.  Just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

About the only thing that went right was the trip into Las Vegas and the drive to St. George.  Even that was something of a mind blowing experience seeing the growth in blips on the map like Mesquite and the huge growth in St. George itself.  Heck, they even went and built a convention center which now hosts the runner's expo.

I last went to St. George to run the 1997 edition because my friend Craig Davidson was running his 100th marathon.  I ran just a hair over 3:07 that year very short on training but took advantage of the downhills that start after mid-race.

The Czarina and I made a mid-afternoon drive Friday over the course at her insistence.  It gave her a good feeling to see the terrain, especially the beautiful Snow Canyon section of the course which the runners traverse after 14 miles.

The first bit of bad news came from the forecast.  The temperature at the start was forecast to be about 60 degrees.  That's a good 15 degrees warmer than the norm which would mean some warm conditions for the race.  We got up at 3:30 a.m., enjoyed a little breakfast, before walking to the buses that would carry us up to the start at 56-hundred feet.  We arrived at the starting line at 5:15 a.m. giving us a nice 90 minute wait for the start.  The Czarina and I huddled together sitting on the edge of the roadway waiting for the 6:45 a.m. start.  I never did see Craig at the start, he made a late arrival showing up just 30 minutes before the start.

I positioned myself in between the 3:30 and 3:40 groups.  The Czarina headed further back to the 4:15 group.  When the horn sounded we walked along, finally getting into a slow motion gate about 100 yards in front of the actual starting line.  It took only a couple of minutes to get there.

I took my time, running well within myself over the next seven miles, which feature gentle rolling hills, but moving steadily downhill all the while.  I felt great at seven miles which I hit at just a hair over 58 minutes, but then came the biggest climb of the course, more than half a mile of seven percent grade to mile 8.  I didn't push but suffered nevertheless.  By the time I made it to the top I was gassed.  That was expected and I hoped to be able to relax and recover over the next hilly three miles of the course.

As I moved forward I started to realize that I was in trouble.  Even before 13 miles my quads were starting to bother me.  I stopped at 13 to relieve myself and to take a stone out of my right shoe.  I hit the halfway mark at 1:55:10.  I was way behind scheduled but I told myself to push the downhills and get some time back.  The course begins to drop at this point and I got rolling again, but by 16 miles my quads were trashed.  I knew I was in serious trouble.  I knew that if I kept trying to push I wouldn't finish.  The heat was beginning to take hold as well so I went into preservation mode.

I began walking through the water stops that came every two miles, making sure I had plenty of fluid.  I shuffled along between 9:30 and 10:00 pace.  It was amazing to see the carnage.  I've never run a race this far back in the pack.  It was a challenge just to make it through the debris.  Runners were stopped everywhere stretching, one writhing in agony by the side of the road while another runner knelt down and a motorcycle cop called for an ambulance.  I trudged onward hoping against hope that I might see Craig and hoping against hope that the Czarina didn't catch me.

At 22 miles I saw a woman being held up by two men struggling down the road.  She had messed her running shorts, excrement running down the back of her leg.  I looked away and moved over as far as I could because I knew the sight would make me sick.  I knew the only goal that remained was to make it to the finish under four hours.  I did, with several ticks to spare, my chip time recorded my effort at 3:56:47, my slowest marathon ever by more than 40 minutes.

Craig finished more than 3 minutes in front of me.  We hugged each other when I came out of the runners paddock.  It was great to see him and his wife Irene.  I decided to trudge up the hill back to the hotel for a quick shower rather than wait for the Czarina.  She had threatened to run five hours and I had no desire to wait another 45 minutes to see her come stumbling across the finish line.  The Weather Channel showed the temperature at 88 degrees when I got back to the room.

Little did I know that she was having a good day, following along closely with the 4:15 group. She took advantage of the downhills and finished in 4:14:34, a time good enough to qualify for the Boston Marathon.  Her training in the sweltering conditions of Southwest Florida paid off for her in the hot, yet dry desert climate of Southwest Utah.  As she pointed out to me she beat me by more than six minutes based on age grading the marathon.  I don't think I'll ever hear the end of it from this BQ.  She says it stands for Boston Qualifier.  I told her it means B***h Queen!

The heat was a factor but I think I failed in two areas when it came to preparing for this race.  I really needed to put in at least three 21 milers leading up to the run.  A bunch of 16 mile runs simply won't cut it at my age.  I also needed to do some hill specific training. 

Two of my running compatriots who I trust gave me, I told you so lectures after the race.  Chris told me he never thought I could come close to running 3:30 based on my training.  He figured I would be lucky to break 4 hours.  Coach Mike was a little more generous saying he expected something in the 3:45 range.  He was surprised I even bothered to finish given the heat and the problems I experienced with my quads. 

This marked my 20th marathon.  It was number 200 for my buddy Craig.  I've only DNF'd one marathon in my life.  That was my second one in 1976 at the Kansas Relays.  I had made it to the halfway point in 1:31 and was about to turn around and face a fierce headwind back to Memorial Stadium.  I decided my time would be better spent riding back to the stadium in my mom's car to watch Frank Shorter run the 5000.  That's probably the best running decision I've ever made.  That having been said, I have no regrets about St. George.  I was in shape to run under 3:45, of that I have no doubt.  But as I've heard said more than a few times, shit happens.