Tuesday, March 28, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

This writing stuff is a curious process. I just got finished doing a paid gig that needed to be pretty much filed Sunday night which is why I’m just now getting to this week’s MSF. It’s funny how these things gestate. I tend to formulate most of my stuff in y head while I’m out running. My buddy at the paper works stuff out on the golf course sometimes. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen a discussion out on the links turn into a column.

Anyway, this piece I wrote last weekend was one of those rare essays that pretty much wrote itself. I sat down Saturday around 1 in the afternoon and had a first draft done by tip-off of the first basketball game. I tweaked it a little Sunday and Monday and that was it.

Oh were it always that easy. Today I dictated an Answer and Counterclaim while doing my day job. I don’t know if I accidentally took some stupid pills before going to work this morning or what but I just couldn’t get the words out.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that stuff that comes flying off of the fingers with ease can’t suck. It can and it does. And it doesn’t mean that the pleading I struggled with so much today won’t be just fine. It will. It’s just a curious process.

How ‘bout them Tigers? - The LSU Tigers made it to the Final Four of both the men and the women’s tournament. This hasn’t happened since 2000 or so when UConn had both it’s teams in the finals. At the risk of causing heart failure amongst my friends in Southeast Louisiana, I am going to take the opportunity to give the devil his due and to give LSU all the credit in the world.

Just imagine. It is hard enough to get to the Final Four. It was especially hard on the men’s side where all of the number one seeds took a powder. Indeed, ESPN reported that out of the 4 million participants in its basketball pool, only 4 people correctly picked the teams that stumbled into the Final Four. The Lady Tigers had a somewhat easier time of it despite getting a scare from Stanford last night. To get both teams in the Final Four is great. To get them both in giving what all these kids went through post-Katrina is nothing short of remarkable.

By now, we have all heard the stories of the incredible acts of kindness and courage displayed by the athletes of LSU. Glenn Davis served as a human IV tree, standing for hours with lines running off of his massive arms until they could find durable medical equipment. The football players moved people around. The female athletes served as nurses, teachers and babysitters. Some of these kids served others all the while not knowing about the fate of their own friends and loved ones. I could go on and on. Better yet go to the archives at SI.com and pull up Rick Reilly’s great piece “LSU To The Rescue.” I defy you to maintain dry eyes.

I don’t know if they are going to pull this off, but I know this: The kids know tough. Basketball ain’t that tough.
And that’s about all I have for now. Maybe it is the stress of saying something nice about LSU.

Writing is a curious process. Better shut this down while I’m still ahead of the game.

Before I write something stupid like “Geaux Tigers!”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Taking Today Off

Hey! I've been busy doing a project that was due today. Now that I've got that out of my hair, I think I will spend the rest of the day watching the NCAA tournament. "My Sunday Feeling" will go up tomorrow or Tuesday.

Many thanks to those who have written.


Sunday, March 19, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

It is a cold and nasty day here in the People’s Republic of Hillcrest.  They are calling for rain for the next 24 hours or so with highs only getting up in the forties.  February and March in Arkansas can produce grim weather like this.  I even remember it snowing once in April.  Anyway, days like today remind me of winter in New Orleans.  It never gets all that cold in Fahrenheit terms but the wind and the humidity cut you clear to the bone.

It’s one of the reasons that they drink so much down there.

I ran in a 5k race yesterday morning.  Later that afternoon I played 9 holes of golf.  It was pretty nippy but at least it was dry.  There will not be any golf or any other outdoor activities today.  Which leaves me with plenty of time to watch basketball and crank this hooey out.

How ‘bout them Hogs? - Ok.  Let’s get this over with.  The Razorbacks should have won that game Friday against the Bucknell Bisons.  After all, as Wally stated repeatedly in today’s column in which excoriates Stan Heath, Bucknell was slower and methodical.  

Bucknell is also a damn good basketball team.  And I figured that if the Razorbacks put forth one of their typically execrable displays of marksmanship from the floor they would have a hard time with a team that takes the air out of the ball.

When it comes right down to it, basketball can be a pretty simple game.  You wouldn’t know that from listening to hoops junkies like Seth Green or Dick Vitale for five minutes but it is.  I figured that if Bucknell kept it close it would come down to free throws.  Stevie Wonder shoots free throws as well as anyone on the Razorbacks.  

And this is why I had Bucknell over the Hogs in one of my brackets.  Simple.

Stay in school Ronnie! - While we’re on the subject of the Razorbacks, there is much speculation as to whether junior guard Ronnie Brewer will jump to the NBA after this season.  Not there’s any reason he should listen to me, but my advice is that he would be better off completing his eligibility.

Guards are a dime a dozen in the NBA.  Whoever has been telling Brewer that he is a lottery pick has been smoking crack.  The kid has a jump shot that is as ugly and unsound as any I have ever seen.  He’s great at jumping passing lanes but I really haven’t seen him give much of an effort at locking an opposing player down on defense.  He’s not much of a defensive rebounder and he tends to disappear sometimes.

Like yesterday.

I’m not one to get on college kids.  Ronnie Brewer is a great college player.  More importantly, by all accounts he is a great kid.  Odds are, he will be an NBA player.  But he would profit more with another year of college to refine his skills than from riding the pine with an NBA team.  

Stay in school, Ronnie.  You ain’t ready.

Tick,Tick,Tick- The rumors morphed into reality yesterday and Uber Head Case Terrell Owens was signed by the Dallas Cowboys of all people.  When I first started hearing this being bandied about earlier in the week, I wondered if maybe Jerry Jones might have been given a little too much anesthesia before his face lift.  

To say Terrell Owens is a cancer is to libel cancer.  When he was with the 49ers, he insinuated that quarterback Jeff Garcia was gay.  The Eagles basically fired him a couple of games into last season because of his constant bitching about money and Donovan McNabb.  As someone once said, “T.O loves him some T.O.”  Randy Moss and Keyshawn Johnson are merely disagreeable by comparison.

But the more I thought about it, the more it made a sense on a certain level.  The Cowboys have pretty much stunk the last 10 seasons, having won just one playoff game during that period of time.  Owens, for all of the baggage he packs, is at worst the 3rd or 4th best receiver in the league.  The Cowboys, lousy as they are, have kick –started their offense with the acquisition of Owens.

The men that run NFL clubs are a notoriously cold-blooded lot.  This latest transaction is just more proof of that.  They will tolerate anything just short of overt criminal behavior out of their star players off the field as long as they produce on it.  Both Bill Parcells and Jerry Jones have past relevant work experience with high maintenance superstars.

When Parcells was with the Giants, Lawrence Taylor once showed up late for a team meeting wearing handcuffs courtesy of a spin with a dominatrix the night before.  He also had to constantly muzzle the ever dyspeptic Keyshawn Johnson when he coached the Jets, although it is too Keyshawn’s credit there were are no stories linking him to hookers and drugs.  

Jerry Jones once had such solid citizens as Michael Irvin, Nate Newton, Erik Williams and Charles Haley on the payroll.  Only an outsized ego such as Jimmy Johnson could have kept this bunch of sociopaths on the same page long enough to win a couple of Super Bowls.  Speaking of the High Haired One, what does Jimmy Johnson think about taking on Terrell Owens?  

“With Terrell, he’s going to be disruptive,” Johnson told Randy Galloway of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.  “He’s going to be yelling at Drew [Bledsoe, the Cowboy’s quarterback, who will undoubtedly need to acquire a set of earplugs before the season is over], he’s going to divide your locker room.  It may be sooner, it may be later, but it will be a negative for your team.”

There you have it.  I give it a year.  Tops.

After that, brace yourself for the “ka-boom!” sound you will hear just southwest of here.

A massive screw-up-  If you have been following the trial of 9-11 henchman Zacarias Moussaoui , you will have heard that a large monkey wrench was thrown into the proceedings when it was discovered that a trial attorney for the Transportation Safety Administration (an undoubtedly soon-to-be dismissed woman named Carla Martin)had disclosed transcripts of trial testimony  (along with opening statements of counsel) to witnesses from the FAA who were going to testify.  

First of all, some background.  In almost every trial concerning any matter of consequence, counsel for both sides invokes what is simply referred to as “The Rule.”  The Rule, which is codified in the Federal Rules of Evidence (although for the life of me I can’t remember where) has it’s origins with the great judges of the Old Testament.  Simply stated, the Rule requires that all fact witnesses be excluded from the courtroom until after they have offered their testimony.  This is so that their testimony will not be influenced, or tainted, by the testimony of prior witnesses in the proceeding.   Not only are witnesses forbidden to discuss the testimony with those who have yet to take the stand, the attorneys themselves may not discuss such matters to their own witnesses if they have been excluded.

In the Moussaoui case, the judge went one step further.  She specifically ordered that witnesses not be given transcripts of the trial or be told about the arguments of counsel.  So, the question out on the golf course yesterday and amongst lawyers everywhere was:  “What in God’s name was she thinking?”

This is lawyering 101.  You do not violate the Rule.  This is how bad Carla Martin screwed up.  Even I wouldn’t have done what she apparently did.  Even I know better than that.

However, I ran across a blog the other day that provides a plausible explanation for her conduct.  Apparently, Martin is involved in a massive torts case involving a class of people comprised of folks injured or killed on 9-11.  The TSA is being sued along with a couple of airlines.  A big issue in that case involves what TSA and the airline industry could have done to prevent this atrocity.  As I understand it, a big issue in the penalty phase of the Moussaoui case is what he could have done to prevent it.  The supposition is that she wasn’t so much coaching the FAA witnesses for the criminal case as she was trying to insure that they didn’t make any inconsistent statements that might come back to haunt them in the civil case.  Go to http://talkleft.com/new_archives/014298.html for the entire article.

One of the scarier aspects of practicing law is that you sometimes fail to see the “big picture” when you are locked in on complicated matters.  It seems like the bigger the case, the more you seem to view things from the wrong end of the telescope.

Still, Ms. Martin is not some kid fresh out of school.  She is an extremely experienced litigator.  You would think that a bell would have gone off in her head before she handed those witnesses the transcripts.  

The good news is that Zacarias Moussaoui is going nowhere.  He pleaded guilty.  He will die in prison.  The bad news for Carla Martin is that she has big problems with a pissed off Federal Judge and she may have problems with her license before it is all said and done.

We should all remember to look through the proper end of the telescope.  And we should always keep an ear cocked for that bell in the back of our head. The one that ought to go off anytime we are about to throw our careers out the window.

Speaking of windows, the windows on my little house are almost frosted this chilly morning.  And yet I can see my flowers on the deck after wiping away the condensation.  Spring is coming. Really it is.  

Really it is.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Best We Can Do

I ran into Jack in the grocery store last night. He and his wife Sandra are both lawyers here in town. The grocery store is where I typically run into Jack. Jack is a happy-go-lucky sort of guy and he always seemed quite content to be there unlike most guys. Happy-go-lucky or not. Sandra once explained it to me.

“Jack loves to go to the store. He gets to shoot the bull with folks. He likes looking for the best prices. Me? I hate shopping for groceries but Jack can spend an hour in there. I don’t get it but I am not gonna complain.”

I have to go to the grocery store for the same reason that I do my own laundry and take out the garbage. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. But this is why I always see Jack in the store. I’m there by necessity. He’s there for therapy.

However last night was different from the million other times I had run into him while we were pushing carts at the same time. He seemed distant and preoccupied instead of his old loosey-goosey self. But then again, so would you if you had just found out that your spouse had a terminal illness.

Back around Christmas they found out that Sandra has a rare form of cancer in her esophagus. I am made to understand that it is basically untreatable although I also understand that they are trying any of a number of experimental treatments to try to slow the damn thing down. The hell of it is, apart from the fix she finds herself in that is, is that neither one of them are smokers.

So much for preventative medicine, huh?

God almighty. I can’t imagine. You get married, you have a kid, you get her packed off to college, you buy a smaller home down by river in a nice neighborhood and you figure that in 5 years or so, you get to quit practicing law and maybe by then there will be grandchildren. Maybe you’ll take up golf. Maybe she’ll teach. Maybe she’ll take up golf. Maybe you’ll teach. Maybe you won’t do nothin’. All that hard work and all that planning will have paid off by then.

Now this. God almighty. I can’t imagine what is running through the poor man’s head.

It’s times like these that I don’t understand God. These are perfectly nice people. Pillars of the community, the two of them. Each of us know plenty of no-good, useless sons of bitches and we also know that they will live forever. I understand that we are not promised tomorrow and I understand that bad things happen to good people. But some things are just hard to reconcile with the thought of a kind and benevolent God whose eye is on the sparrow and all of that. However, neither God nor a sparrow were present in the Kroger store that day.

“Jack,” I said, as I extended my hand. “How are you?”

“ Ummm..ok. Hanging in there, I guess,” he said, looking down at the floor.

We are about the same height. I put my left hand on his arm. I hunker down a little to see his face. I run my hand up and down his arm.

“Dammit, Jack,” I said as I am shaking my head. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to say.”

Oh hell. At this point there were tears in my eyes. Shit. Good news: At least I knew I could lay it off on allergies if I had to in order to save face.

He looks up.

“I know. It’s hard. It’s hard on everybody.”

“Is there anything I can do? Anything at all?”

He puts his free hand on my arm. He puts it there in order to comfort ME.

He looks me in the eye.

“Think positive. You can do that for us. Just be positive.”

“You bet. I can do that.”

Women are better at this sort of thing than men are. Women hug at times of grief and pain. They talk. They show up with flowers and food. They call you weeks later to see how you are getting by.

Men shake hands and stare at the floor.

An example: a couple of years ago my neighbor Art down the street lost his stepson. Kid got drunk and wrapped a car around a tree. I heard about this a week or so after the fact. Art was walking the dogs past the house one day not long after I had learned of this tragedy.

“Art,” I said, extending my hand, just like I did with Jack a few years later.” I understand that you got some bad news the other day. I’m so terribly sorry.”

“Yes,” Art replied. “This has been a difficult time.”

We stood and looked at the ground.

Jack and I are both lawyers. Art is a retired State Department Diplomat or something. Really. He’s got security clearances out the wazoo. To paraphrase the late novelist Seth Morgan, all of us are trained to talk more shit than a Chinese radio.

Why I couldn’t I have said, “I’m sorry that your stepson died.” Why couldn’t he have said, “Yeah, it was just awful about that boy.”

Here’s why. Men can’t talk about pain. We shake hands. We prop each other up. We pay for stuff. We try to be there for others. We are the world’s greatest people with other people’s problems. We are practical and useful. But that’s about the outer perimeter of what we are good for.

Instead, we shake hands at the store. We paw the ground with our feet in the front yard.

I wished Jack luck. I told him to tell Sandra that I was thinking about her. He said he would. I told him to call me if he needed me. He said he would.

He went down one aisle and I went down the other.

Just like always. We’re guys.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

We had some bumpy weather around here last week. Thursday morning I awoke around 5 a.m. to the sound of the wind howling around my house. In fact, what woke me up was the dreaded “freight train” sound that folks around here have come to equate to tornadoes. Still, I didn’t hear any of the warning sirens so I went back to sleep. When I went out to get the paper an hour or so later, I noticed that some of the slats from the gate had blown off and the latch was severely bent, undoubtedly due to the torque imparted upon it by the high wind.

Great. Something else to repair.

That was not the last of it though. The second round of storms blew in around 10 or so. There was some minor damage out west of here over by the Racquet Club and the power went out in parts of the People’s Republic of Hillcrest. But nothing major. Folks east of here did not fare so well. There was considerable property damage a couple of counties over. One elderly man died.

This line of storms still had a considerable punch even hours later. A friend in Oxford said that he and his family were forced to take refuge in the basement until it passed over. So it goes in the Mid-South this time of year.

Naturally, my buddy Don has picked tornado season to come through Arkansas next week en route to North Carolina. This is despite the fact that he will have a 25% chance of being rendered airborne at any particular time during his stay here. I'm here because I live here. I don't go visit Chicago in January or Phoenix in August. Oh well. Love goes where it's sent.

You may remember that Don is moving to Carolina on account of his becoming reunited with a woman from college who lives out there. Quit his job, took the North Carolina bar exam, sold his house and is wending his way east to live out his days. As an aside, he now holds licenses to practice law in four-count ‘em- four states. He’s his own nationwide law firm. Which is how he may have to pitch himself to an otherwise unsuspecting populace in Durham if he doesn’t get off his dead ass and find a job soon. Anyway, he called me Friday afternoon.

“I just had the strangest feeling.” he broadcast from sunny California.

“Yeah?” I asked, semi-dreading to hear the response.

“I just left my house for the last time. I’m really leaving.”

Oooooh. Been there. I remember doing the final walkthrough in the house I grew up in before turning it over to the purchasers. I was struck by the emptiness and the utter silence. You wouldn’t know that six people and various dogs and cats had lived there once. I guess I wasn’t prepared for the emotional impact upon stumbling into the realization that everything had changed and that this particular chapter of my life was indeed over.

Everyone was really gone over at Mother's. Don is really leaving his house. Transitions can be hard.

“I don’t know. I can’t describe it,” he said. “I liked California. I raised my daughters in California. It seems like last week. You know, I bought that house because Barbara liked it so much.”

“I know,” I said. “That has to be weird.”

“I ran across some things that brought back some painful memories. I…”

“You are breaking up.”

“Sorry. This is a hard location.”

“Listen, you can’t be too hard on yourself. Besides, that’s my job.”

He laughed. Thank God.

Then he said, " I'm hard on myself because so many people are so easily self-forgiving. I try to face up to my mistakes and learn from them."

"Ummmm....okay," I said.


"Well, enough of this,” he finally said through the static. “I need to check with my banker before pulling out. Unless the escrow agent was a complete thief, a possibility I do not discount out of hand, I should be a reasonably wealthy man again. I’ll call you from the road as I head on that way.”

I understood. A man can’t be too careful about his money.

Besides, he was breaking up.

Give My Regards to Hitler-Former Yugoslavian strongman (a euphemism for thug) Slobodan Milosevic died in his prison cell last night of natural causes. He certainly got off lighter than the thousands of non-Serbs who were brutally slaughtered during his government’s campaign of “ethnic cleansing.” I don’t believe in capital punishment and I don’t much believe in hell. But if anybody deserved a firing squad it was Milosevic. And if there is any divine justice, he is now being fricasseed on the lowest Bunsen burner in Perdition. This is one son-of-a-bitch about whom you will never hear uttered the phrase “He shall be missed.”

Stop the Presses!- This week’s Sports Illustrated devotes a considerable amount of space that it could otherwise more profitably devote to Heidi Klum wearing just paint to a story entitled “The Truth” about Barry Bonds and steroids. This is news? Anybody with eyes in their head could see what was going on out there in Major League Baseball and not just with Bonds. During the late nineties, guys who otherwise resembled humans in previous years were arriving at spring training looking like Lou Ferrigno.

Jose Canseco, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire, Jason Giambi and Bonds were sending baseballs out of the park at a rate hitherto unknown in the history of the game. Canseco and Giambi eventually owned up to it. Or Giambi, borrowing a page from Our Bill, at least owned up to having committed “mistakes in his personal life.”

Bonds, a prick from way back, not only refuses to admit that he has made any mistakes; he imperiously refuses to acknowledge the issue in any fashion whatsoever. This will become increasingly difficult to do if indeed the feds get interested in whether he perjured himself during the BALCO investigation or whether he committed tax evasion when he gave his chick on the side (the chick on the side at that particular time, that is) a bunch of cash from selling his autograph at card shows instead of reporting it to the IRS.

Me? I could give a rip about the whole fiasco. As long as the dingers were being racked up, the fans kept buying the tickets. As long as there was meat in the seats, MLB made the business decision that it was in its economic best interest to turn a blind eye to the obvious fact that felonies were being committed in locker rooms across the nation. You won’t find that in any of the corporate minutes but that’s essentially the long and the short of it.

We’re talking about baseball here. And because we are talking about baseball there’s hypocrisy aplenty to pass around for everybody. As unsavory a character as he is there is no sense in laying it all off on Barry Bonds. He was just a symptom, albeit an exceptionally odious one, of a larger problem. I’m just glad that his father, who was one hell of a player in his own right, is not alive to see this day.

Shut up. Play ball.

Question-Have you ever noticed that really bad sportswriters refer to themselves as “scribes?” Wally Hall-who amply fits that bill-described himself as a “trusty scribe” in yesterday's column. I propose that in keeping with the penitential season of Lent that Wally refer to himself as a "Pharisee" instead of a scribe for the remainder of the 40 day period.

Okay. So it wasn’t all that funny. But let’s see you try to wring some yucks out of the liturgical calendar.

Good Boy-There can be no more solemn act of love than when a person decides to end the suffering of a beloved pet. J’s Golden Retriever Sam was a great friend, a good and loyal companion. He was also 15 which made him a veritable Methuselah among Goldens. For 15 years he stood by her side as she worked in the kitchen. For 15 years he slept at the foot of her bed. He accompanied her when she moved to Little Rock and for a time was practically the only soul she knew here.

He had a famously sweet disposition that got him many pats on the head from folks as they walked past the yard. I didn’t know until last October that one of those “head-patters” was my cousin Michael who used to visit Sam as he walked to class at the med school down the street. Michael, who like Sam also has a famously sweet disposition, knew Sam for three years or so. I only knew him for about nine months.

By the time I got to know him he was starting to run down. His hip bothered him and it was a chore for him to get up and down the stairs. He was pretty deaf and his eyesight was none too keen either. Still, despite his infirmity, he remained a sweet and loving dog who liked nothing more than to lay his massive head on your lap as you watched TV.

The last time I saw Sam was last Thursday. By then he was not sleeping well and had become restless during the night. His walking was getting more hesitant and J had taken to carrying him up and down the stairs to the back yard. When I showed up last Thursday, they were on the porch. As I came down the walk, good old Sam, infirm as he was, slowly lumbered himself up on all fours and wagged his tail. Oscar Wilde once described such a gesture as a “little lowly silent act of Love.”

I don’t think about Heaven all that much. At least not as much as I ought to. But sometimes I wonder what it must be like. I like to think that I will get to meet my Grandfather Bowen. It comforts me to think that I will be reunited with friends and family that have gone before me. And I guess I will get to see famous people. I doubt that I will see Slobodan Milosovic and if I run into Bobby Bonds I won’t bother him with the news of what a self-indulgent asshole his son turned out to be. Besides, somebody else will have broke it to him by the time I get there.

And I hope to see dogs. What good is a heaven without dogs along with their “little lowly silent acts of Love?” I hope to see Brandy, my Grandmother’s cocker spaniel. I hope to see Duchess, our English Setter along with Belle, Mother’s beloved Border Collie, who was buried with her Frisbee out on property the family owns in Cleburne County.

I hope to see Sam and I hope that he can run and play again. And I will say to him what J used to always say:

“Good boy, Sammy. Good doggie.”

Transitions are hard. One friend is heading across the country in search of a great "perhaps." Another friend is confronted with it everytime she enters her now silent house.

Love goes where it's sent. Whether it's to North Carolina or to the veterinarian. Love goes where it's sent.

Monday, March 06, 2006

My Sunday Feeling

I was too busy doing my civic duty last weekend to get this post done by Sunday. I was a musician in a former life and last Saturday I auditioned young singers for the choir at a summer honors program. I’ve done this for about 15 years now. I don’t know why they keep asking me back as I am more of a golfer than a singer nowadays and I’m not much of a golfer at that. But it’s like anything else in the last year: If someone thinks enough of me to want me to be there and it is not illegal or requires me to do math, I will probably acquiesce.

Sunday, I was on the finish line crew for the 2006 running of the Little Rock Marathon. I have more to say about that later on. But suffice it to say, after being on my feet from 6:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m., the last thing I felt like doing was pecking on this laptop. And so, I drank a Dixie beer and read the Sunday paper until four when I had to go to a meeting over at the church.

I’m not complaining. I like to be busy. It keeps my mind occupied which, in turn, keeps me out of trouble. And I like to feel useful. But, being a gentleman of a certain age, I can no longer do everything all of the time. And so, here we are, a day late and a dollar short. But we are here.

Run for Fun- As I mentioned earlier, yesterday was the 4th running of the Little Rock Marathon. When they first started cooking this up five or six years ago, I never thought the idea would get much traction. After all, the weather around here in the spring ain’t exactly stable. I mean, two weeks ago we had an ice storm. It is not unheard of there to be snow in March. Or a tornado.

Also, Little Rock is pretty hilly for a marathon. The incline up Markham up into Hillcrest is a good 40 degrees. Back down the other side of the hill is a good 50 degrees and regardless of what you might think, going downhill is harder on you than going up. Finally, the race ends with another 45 degree trip uphill for a couple of miles to bring you back into Downtown. So it’s not an easy trek.

But you know what? The first event was a rousing success and it has done nothing but get bigger and bigger. Looking back on it, I can see why folks would come from all over to run. What I kept hearing from the out-of-towners that I spoke to was “how pretty” our hometown is. And let’s face it, when you are running 26.1 miles you have got a lot of time to look at stuff. The Yankees can get away from the bitter cold. The folks in the Midwest and Texas can see some hills and the mountain folks can see some Delta.

The race winds its way across the Arkansas River and back. Then you get to run past a Presidential Library. After that, you pass by Little Rock Central High which has got to be the only public school in the country which has been consecrated as a National Park. Pretty soon you are up in my neighborhood where both sides of Kavenaugh are lined with people cheering you on. The Baptists even shut down church and have a band playing on the front steps. Which you have to admit is very un-Baptist-like.

How cool is that?

The last leg of the journey takes you down into the Riverdale area where you run alongside the Arkansas River where there are beautiful corporate offices and lovely homes with boats docked alongside. Then it is back uphill past the corporate headquarters of Dillard’s until you crest the hill and find yourself heading for the Finish Line in front of the State Capitol.

Little Rock is pretty to look at. The people that live here, for the most part, are nice and they support the race. And you can stay in a nice hotel here without it costing you a fortune. So no wonder people came from all fifty states and a few foreign countries to run this race.

The weather for this year’s race was just about perfect with a high in the fifties under cloudy skies. The first three male finishers were from Kenya. I watched the winner as he chased the police escort into the finish line area. I couldn’t help but think of how pretty he made running look. His posture was ramrod straight. He had what coaches refer to as “happy feet” in that he seemed to just barely be making contact with the ground as he began his kick just to make sure that he wouldn’t be caught. His face was completely impassive. That is, his face was impassive until he saw a man waving a Kenyan flag which he joyously grabbed from him and ran waving it until he crossed the finish line.

The female winner ran in what appeared to be a speedo which I thought was an interesting fashion statement. Maybe she’s a triathlete who is more comfortable running while thusly attired. Maybe she’s just strange. Anyway, she was a tiny, birdlike woman with all of the womanly curves of your average nine year old boy. She made the Kenyans seem fleshy by comparison which is not the easiest thing in the world to do if you think about it.

While I helped folks get across the line and into the chute, I was struck by all of the different names on the bibs. There were Indian names, African names, Oriental and Hispanic names in addition to the usual names that you find in common among white folks and black folks here in the South. I wondered how many were visitors and how many of them were my neighbors. You never know in this day and time.

As I was leaving, an older racer came up and shook my hand. “Thanks for volunteering. You folks do a great job. My wife and I love this race and we just love Little Rock.”

As I walked to my car I couldn’t help but think” “Helluva Day in one helluva little town.”

And it was.

“Heidi Klum Wearing Just Paint”- The preceding sentence graced the top of the 2006 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue which came in a couple of weeks ago. Now nobody much believes me when I tell them this, but I really don’t have much use for the swimsuit issue. It’s not that I don’t like looking at women in scant attire. Indeed, most of the trouble I have experienced in an otherwise charmed existence may fairly be attributed to this weakness of mine. Indeed, I yield to no man in my appreciation of women in swimsuits and similar near nothings. Unless it happens to be a chick wearing a speedo in a roadrace.

But I digress.

It’s not that I am offended by such material. It’s just that I don’t buy Sports Illustrated to look at women unless they are shooting a basketball or hitting a forehand. Having said that, I never cease to be amused by the bluenose types that always write Letters to the Editor after each Swimsuit Issue in which they express outrage at the introduction of “pornography into my home” or some such.

Hello? It comes out every year. It has for 20-something years. It never ceases to amaze me the number of letter writers that express surprise by this every year. Besides, exceedingly far more offensive material can be accessed with just a click of a mouse. I mean, grow up.

SI generally describes its annual foray into cheesecake as “the exaltation of the female form” or some such bullshit.

Look. SI can’t have it both ways. Either you sell the sizzle or you sell the steak. Running “Heidi Klum Wearing Just Paint” above the masthead is not much different from running “Heidi Klum Shows Her Tits” which ain’t exactly exalting the female form. Not to mention the fact that it’s also beneath the dignity of a magazine that pretends to serious journalism.

Enough of this. A friend is coming by for a drink.

Hmmmmmm. Afterwards I may take another look at the Swimsuit Issue.

I think I missed the Heidi Klum spread.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

My Sunday Feeling-Marathon Excuse

MSF will not happen tomorrow. Helping w/the LR Marathon.

Real life intrudes upon occasion.

Will be back soon.