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Any Idiot Can Run, It Takes A Special Idiot To Run A Marathon

            Yesterday morning was the first Oakland Marathon in 25 years. I wish I could have run in it. Sadly my muscles are weary. My ankle and knee joints are lubricated by sandpaper, and I’m carrying a 17 lb beer baby, which I shall name Hoegaarden.

The sign says it all

        I have run a marathon and I can tell you it really does take a special idiot to run one. You have to really enjoy running; I mean almost like it’s an addiction. There is a good deal of physical pain and mental anguish when running for 26.2 miles without a half-time break, an intermission, or a long nap—believe me.

       I ran my first marathon 8 years ago in San Francisco (I have run 2 halves since then, and those are a piece of cake comparatively) and stupidly I didn’t train. The most I had ever run was 9 miles. Even as kids in England, my brother and I would run a lot, but we’d never done anything like 26.2 miles, and consequently, when I got to mile 16 in the S.F. Marathon, my legs crapped out and started wobbling like jelly. I had to stop for a second because my body and brain had conspired, and I had forgotten how to put one foot in front of the other. It was a little scary. I regained my sense of balance and then the cramps came, seizing up every fiber of my lower half. From my toes to my hips I was cramping up and in excruciating pain. AND I still had 10 miles to go! What the hell was I going to do? It was unbearable, but I jogged on and every twenty yards or so I would have to either stop to stretch, or just stand there and ride out the surges of pain. It sucked.

         By Mile 20 if an ambulance had pulled up alongside me I would have gingerly climbed in and begged them to drive me to the finish, pick up my medal, and then if I was still alive take me to the hospital and if I wasn’t breathing, then straight to the embalmer.

Beats putting out a fire, wouldn’t you say

          Just after Mile 24 with 2.2 miles to go I was at my lowest. I’d probably lost 15-20 lbs in sweat and was delirious. I had not only met my match, it had made me feel like a speck of dirt upon a speck of dirt. I was dust. But then something happened. I was hobbling along a quiet part of the course down near China Basin, being cheered and encouraged by other runners passing me, when a woman who was likely in her mid-to late-70’s jogged slowly past me.

It was unbelievable.

      I am nothing, I thought, and burst into tears at the sheer spirit this woman had in her old, skinny body. It was a life-changing moment. I had achieved complete and utter nothingness.

     I contemplated tackling her from behind so that she didn’t cross the finish before me. But no, I could never do that. The old woman inspired me. I had to finish the race and do it in a way I could be proud of, and so I began running. I mean really running. My body had one more sprint left in it and by God I was going to cross that finish line like I’d sprinted the whole 26.2 miles. I was a mile away and I could hear loud cheering coming from the Embarcadero. It was intense. The closer I got to the finish line, the louder the crowd’s cheering became. It drew me in and I flew past the old lady and the twenty or so other runners that had passed me earlier offering support. I crossed the line and collapsed in my Mylar cloak on the grassy area to the side. I had done it. I had run a marathon, and had the medal to prove it.

The Bay Area Brit’s Bling

                   And like everyone that ran in yesterday’s Oakland Marathon, and like my old running partner, Step, The Bay Area Brit is a special kind of idiot.

© Copyright Matty Stone 2010

A Daydream Is Like A Low-Budget Independent Movie

     Daydreaming is a wonderful thing because in our conscious state we take our mind where we want to go. You’re at your desk in your office and you see a Safeway bag flutter by the window in the wind. That bag is the star of that moment and you think to yourself That plastic bag is free. Free to do whatever it wants. You daydream the possibilities of such freedom. The plastic bag can pause for a break whenever it wants. It doesn’t have to report to a boss. The bag is its own boss.

      You’re not really thinking about the other roles the plastic bag may have had in its past, say as a moccasin to a homeless man, or the future it may hold: as the overburdened bulging receptacle of lukewarm dog crap scooped from the sidewalk dropped by a 90 pound Doberman Pinscher. You’re just in that moment in the gentle comfort of your daydream-like state.
A daydream might occur while in line at the supermarket. I really like this girl working the checkout. I wonder if she thinks I’m cute, you think to yourself. It’s not a stretch. Your daydreams are like a film you might see on IFC or The Sundance Channel. You know the sort of thing: a slow-paced but charming independent film. In the end it was a good story based in reality with no car chases and nary a building exploding, but it sure was real.

            Okay, so yeah, daydreams are kind of boring. Let’s put it this way: I’ve never rested my chin on my palm in a moment of quiet solitude and gazed out of a window at a beautiful spring morning and daydreamed of being in a plane crash. Nor have I daydreamed about being shot at, stabbed, or fallen from a great height only to wake up from said daydream in a startled manner. Oh sure, seconds later I’ll be comforted by an Austrian nurse whose eyebrows are made of explosive camembert cheese, but these moments are reserved for my real dreams when I’m asleep and anything (and I mean anything) can happen.
Night-time dreams are like high-budget action movies. Seriously, people, Armageddon is coming and I need to be at my best to save all you motherfuckers. This is a dream and I had better bring my A-game or you are all in big trouble. Seriously, who the hell is gonna save your sorry asses in my dream when those aliens begin dropping from the sky and start pollinating our planet with pod-people? You? You, daydreaming slacker. I don’t think so.
Now please excuse me, for The Bay Area Brit has a big weekend to prepare for. Emperor Hirohito, Edith Piaff, Johnny Weismuller and his dancing crocodiles, the remaining living performers from the original Cirque Du Soleil, Eskimo zombies, Lady Gaga, a Bolivian fruit bat, the element fire, Mexican werewolves, Ursula Andress, Godzilla’s deaf aunt, King Henry VIII, and a rubber fire hydrant are all scheduled to appear in my dreams.
Nighty-night!

Funny Cartoons

The Cheshire Cat Goes To Vegas

         The Bay Area Brit here. I just woke up inside a hotel suite at the MGM Grand wearing my trousers as a turban and my hands cuffed together inside an open microwave holding a small box of dog biscuits. I’m not sure what went on last night, but as I understand, whatever happened here is staying here, which frankly I am happy about because it smells like Don Rickles beef jerky farts in this room. I peeled off the Sunday Comics section from my waist. It had been converted into a makeshift grass skirt. I wriggled free from the cuffs and reached inside my mouth; one of my back teeth was loose.
I remember going to a special Las Vegas screening of the new “Alice In Wonderland” film.

          I was supposed to be on a flight back to the Bay Area to write my Monday blog, but I wasn’t ready for travel yet. I switched on the televison as I showered and heard what sounded like the ESPN Boxing Night theme music playing.

            “Good morning fight fans and welcome to Las Vegas. This sleepy desert town has awoken after the weekend with a case of morning breath strong enough to knock the suck out of a vacuum cleaner. Vegas prepares to host one of the strangest heavyweight fights in decades. This collosal clash of the kitty cats is brought to you by:
Friskies–what got into that cat? Friskies.

          The challenger is a spry, agile feline from across the pond weighing in at 11 lbs and 7 ounces in the pink and purple stripes. We head to the ring for the introductions.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, in the red corner: all the way from England, your challenger for this bout, THE CHESSHIIIIIIIRRE CAAAAAT!!!!’
His opponent today in this fast-and-furry feline fisticuffs is a genuine southpaw, all the way from your Sunday Funnies grass skirt, with a record of 22-1 from Muncie, Indiana. He weighed in at 16 lbs 9 ounces.
‘Ladies and gentlemen in the blue corner: You know him; you love him, the current world champion, wearing all orange with black stripes. He’s the atomic tabby with one-two punches of sarcasm and disdain… GAAAAAAAAARRRRFIIIELD!!!!’

Folks, it’s been a while since I’ve seen a champion look so unconditioned before a fight. Bookmakers had him at 7/4 favorite but that was before the weigh-in, and before the fight was rescheduled to a Monday morning. And as you know, Garfield is allergic to Mondays.
Garfield’s pre-fight diet of lasagna and apathy may not bode well. Let’s just hope those quips and sarcastic jibes still come in thick and fast from the champion, and he doesn’t lose his breath too quickly, or we could be looking at a British World Champion, that is if he can remember what happened in his Vegas suite last night.

          The Cheshire Cat is warming up with a few quick shimmies, jabs, and paw gestures.
This Brit can talk the talk but let’s see what happens in this battle of wits. Remember this fight is for the whole kit and kaboodle with the winner taking home, not only the diamond collar, but an estimated prize worth two million bags of premium kibble. No doubt about The Cheshire Cat’s potential; look at the confident grin he’s aiming at the champ in this pre-fight psyche-out. Talk about a toothpaste sponsorship deal waiting to happen. The ref calls the contestants to the middle of the ring.
‘Okay, cats, I want a good clean fight, no scratching, no hissing, no handcuffs, and definitely lots of hitting below the belt.’

Ding! Ding! And there’s the bell!

I hopped out of the shower disbelieving my ears and eyes.

             I watched in amazement while dripping precious desert water on the carpet. I called the hotel lobby to see if the fight was being held nearby, so that I might rush there and catch some of the spectacle.
“Nearby?” the desk clerk said. “Yeah, you could say that.”
“Well where then?” I asked, becoming impatient.
“It’s inside your television you stupid, British twit.”
“Well I know that…but…” I suddenly stopped talking and realized what was going on. I was in a Wonderland and I was The Cheshire Cat taking on “Garfield.”

             Garfield: the multi-billion dollar humor factory that establishes the benchmarks for cartoon and merchandising success. I felt like a fool. How could I, The Cheshire Cat win? For one thing Garfield had home litterbox advantage. I watched the end of the fight knowing the outcome full well.

                   “Well, fight fans, the bout is over and now we send it over to ringside with the results from the judges.”

I switched off the television, packed my suitcase, and headed to the airport realizing that if I planned on conquering this country, I’d better write that Monday morning blog.

© Matty Stone, Jim Davis, and Lewis Carroll 2010

Over The Hump Cartoon Day

  Since you’re all apparently nursing some sort of strange hangover, be it from too much green beer, Jameson’s, corned beef, or just from merriment, I thought I’d go easy on your eyes again today. Here are some cartoons to assist your recovery. As they say, laughter is the best medicine. Although frankly, if I had something serious wrong with me and that Patch Adams doctor came at me with a clown nose and a cold stethoscope, I’d clock him so hard he’d be sent back in time to medical school or clown college or wherever one goes for such qualifications.

Everything’s Gone Green

       If you’ve got March 17th marked on your calendar with a green shamrock you might be drunk by Noon. I’m not implying there is anything wrong with being drunk by Noon on a Monday. I mean if you’re Irish, I’m sure you have every right to reinforce the negative stereotype of your people.

         St. Patrick’s Day was originally created as a Catholic holiday, and March 17th lands in the middle of Lent. To American Catholics who are self-sacrificing during those 40 days, St. Patrick’s Day is a “spring break-like timeout.” It’s last call and you’ve got 10 minutes to get wasted before Lent resumes.

        The Irish are loved in the U.S., and Americans tend to over-romanticize and exaggerate the roots of their Irish heritage in an effort to connect with something old and stable. The traditional American celebration of the St. Patrick’s Day is to drink a lot, eat boiled cabbage and corned beef, and pinch friends, family, and co-workers if they’re not wearing green.

      I don’t like wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day, or any other day in truth, and have been on the receiving end of a pinch or two in my life here in the Bay Area. Please don’t pinch me. I get angry when you pinch me…and in the words of David Banner, “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

       Like many Brits, I barely tolerate Saint Patrick’s Day, and I know I might be inviting those annoying Riverdance folk to do their dance-kick-stepping on my balls, but I’m irritated by the amateurishness which accompanies the day.

      It isn’t anything to do with not letting Irish people have their fun; it is more to do with how Americans are SOLD what it means to be Irish. It’s the simplification and dumbing down of Saint Patrick’s Day that gets me. Stereotypical imagery of leprechauns and shamrocks accompany Guinness posters and fiddle music, as Americans swill domestic beer with green dye in it.

     It’s just all so twee and just reeks of condescension. It’s too “Darby O’Gill And The Little People” and not enough Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw.

      Maybe I should lighten up. Perhaps I should try and embrace all the “lah-te-tah-te-tah” of the day. Laugh with it, as opposed to be irritated by it—yeah, why not?

       So to my Irish friends, my Irish-American friends, and “others” who claim to have a sliver of Irish in them, which allows them to wear a “Kiss Me I’m Irish” hat while saying things like: “Well, I was born in America, but my family is originally from County Cork.” I say to you: “Have fun tonight, and if per chance you find yourself in a brief moment of solitude staring at a portrait of James Joyce (inevitably hanging on the wall of the Irish pub you are packed into) in the middle of the drunkenness and the loud jig music, ask yourself this, don’t you think leprechauns would be a hell of a lot cooler if they looked like this?”

Drunken leprechaun seen here marauding through San Francisco at Noon.

© Copyright Matty Stone 2010

Run-DMC Versus The Bay Area Brit

           I know you’re not going to believe me but I have some serious personality flaws. I know, I know. I’m sorry. One flaw that leaps to mind is the urge I have to try to and impress people who couldn’t give a damn about me. It’s a form of insecurity I suppose, and I’m sure many of you who know me will testify that I have in some way wriggled and writhed to either get your attention or tried to get you to just like me. I would love to blame it on an ego that was born from living in America, but if I did I’d be lying to you.

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Run DMC: Don’t let their confident demeanor fool you