24 August 2015


“Playa. Por la noche!? Es no bueno.”, says el hombre on a bicycle after we ask where to find the path to the beach. We just got off the bus from San Jose. In our backpack are the beach essentials in order of importance: beer, tequila, camera, towels. Kicking back on the beach has been priority numero uno since we landed. But now . . . Now we’re not so sure.

“We must have walked past the path,” I tell Sarah, who is trying to glean more details on why the beach at night is such a bad idea.

Es la playa más peligrosa por la noche?” she asks, translating for me (“I asked him if it’s dangerous to go to the beach at night.”)

“Ah,” I say, and decide to chime in. I mean, I’ve watched Univision since I was a kid. I can Spanglish my way around a conversation. I turn to the man, who is now following us in a slightly creepy way and begin to “help”.

“Por que? Como te llamas? Donde esta el mal hombre? Ou est la plage? Me llamo James” Sarah asks me what I’m doing, and I shrug my shoulders. Something in there must have made sense. In fact, I’m pretty sure I threw in some French. Call it the whack-a-mole approach to speaking a foreign language.

El hombre gives me a look that is usually reserved for watching drunk people:  A sort of sad, but sympathetic glare. He thinks for a minute, and then gently tugs at my backpack as though to show me what could happen. “Ver? Ver?”, he says, his extremely white teeth catching glints off my headlamp as I return the gaze he gave me a moment ago. So, I’m thinking, if I go to the beach at night, very weak people will try to undress me?

“Oh, people will try to rob us.” Sarah says, and my eyes light up with sudden comprehension.

“Bandidos!” I exclaim.

I’m not sure if it was the word itself or the fervor with which I shouted it, but something made our friend erupt with laughter. Meanwhile, we’re still walking back down the dark road to our room. He had asked us a few times where we were staying, but we pretend to forget the name. Up until this moment, we were very sure we were about to get mugged. Two gringos walking down a dark road in a foreign country with backpacks asking for directions to the beach. Good thinking. How about I just wear a shirt that says “ATM. Free Cash”.

But something about the mood changes after he starts laughing. He keeps repeating the word, “bandidos! Ci, ci!” and chuckles more each time he says it. By now, he’s got us giggling, and Sarah shoots me a “let’s make a break for it” look, at which point his phone rings, and he stops in the road. Sarah and I duck into the nearest establishment (AKA, the strangest Italian restaurant you’ve ever seen--more on that later). When we look back down the road, it’s empty.

“Bandido?” Sarah asks. “Where’d you come up with that?”

“Univision.” I answer.

06 July 2012


"I asked one of the tribal elders when I was born, and he said, 'in the summertime.'" --Crocodile Dundee

And this is what it feels like: as though winter, or any whiff of a cool breeze, is little more than a memory or a wish. And still, I'm sure Australians would laugh at me for complaining about the heat. It's only 90 degrees at night, after all.

I'm sitting on my little green couch, sipping a cold Budweiser from a case that was meant for Sarah's birthday picnic this coming Saturday. I don't usually drink Budweiser, but when I do, it's because I'm too lazy to walk down to the liquor store and buy real beer. I'm on my fourth, for the record, and Ken Burns' "America" plays on TV while I type.

The heat plus the run of forest fires in Colorado has made running a bigger challenge than it usually is. With all the smoke from the burning, the news media is warning people that the air quality is abismal, stopping just short of telling us all to stop breathing. Yesterday, the 4th, the air was so bad we lost sight of the mountains. I had friends tell me it was like being back in Los Angeles. Still, I grab my water bottle, and drive into the hills to find a trail that isn't on fire.

Running, by nature, is a solitary sport. Even when out with a group, a runner soon retreats into his or her thoughts. That, or we slip in the ear buds and start trotting away to whatever Lady Gaga mix we've prepared for the morning. Yet every once-in-awhile, I'll get a text or an email, or some note of encouragement that makes me feel like I'm running not alone, but with all my friends and family.

For example, John (little bro) recently sent me a running-related present. It was so unexpected that I let it sit on my lounge table for three days before learning who it was from. Every day, I looked down at the deodorant-shaped object with trepidation. Was it one of those promotions from a website I signed up with? Was it something I ordered when I was drunk? Was it poison? (this last question I took seriously). But not until I found John on Facebook chat one morning did I find out the truth.

"Did you get the running lube I sent you?" He asked.

Of course I did. Thanks, little brother.

28 June 2012

2012 Colfax Marathon, pt 2

The day before the race was cold and miserable, with rain and wind and just about everything else you don't want to run in. But by 4 am on race day (when I woke up), however, it was clear skies and warmer temperatures. It was shaping up to be a beautiful day.

My original race goal was to finish under 4 hours. I've been chasing that time ever since my first marathon back in 2000 when I finished at 4:08. Subsequent marathons have not been so kind, often seeing me finish well after 5 hours. But those past races, I thought, were run with little training. This time I was well prepared.

As I lined up with the other runners at my speed, I sipped the last drops out of my bottle. "If I can hydrate early," I thought, "then maybe I won't lose everything half way through." The gun went off, and I tossed my empty bottle of Hot Squirrel into the trash bin as I trotted over the starting line.

Mile 2 saw me at 21 minutes, which is about where I wanted to be: 10.5 minute miles; taking it slow and warming up. I stopped at the port-o-let to relieve myself. "Excellent--kidneys are working and I'm processing my water." It was as valid concern. If I couldn't pee it meant my body wasn't doing anything with the liquids. Actually, this was pretty much my only concern.

Between mile 2 and mile 10 I was cranking out sub 9-minute miles and feeling fantastic. Sarah met me at the 10-mile mark to take my warm-weather clothing and give me a huge emotional boost. (Thanks, Sarah!)

The next 7 miles were all uphill, and I was feeling the ache by mile 18, when the course finally changed to a long descent. I stopped again, thankfully, at a bathroom, for a much-needed break. Then it was downhill all along Colfax, into the football stadium, and back along Cherry Creek heading towards downtown Denver. And I was thirsty the entire way.

I felt desperate for fluids, and at each aid station (placed 2 miles apart), I guzzled down cups of water and sports drink. Each mile got a bit slower: 9:30 pace . . . 10:15 pace . . . and when I met the volunteers at mile 22 it happened. I bonked. I was out. I couldn't keep running. Hell, I could barely move forward. I felt like I was wearing shoes filled with sand, and my vision wobbled. The horizon before me seemed to sway as though I were on a boat. There were 4 miles left. I had run for 3 hours and 40 minutes. If I could run a 10 minute-mile to the end, I'd meet my goal.

Those last four miles would take over an hour.

As I walked, hobbled, stopped, collapsed, and walked along the now-sunny streets of Denver, I had two thoughts repeat in my head: keep moving forward, and don't puke! I would do both, but the latter only until I crossed the finish line at 4 hours and 45 minutes. Sarah met me there and helped me from one shady tree to the next where I exuberantly expelled the contents of my stomach. Just like my training runs, my body seemed to have stopped processing liquids, instead deciding it was a good idea to just keep them in my belly--you know, for later.

But that didn't stop me from drinking my victory beer. No matter that I got to see that victory beer again very soon after.

09 June 2012

2012 Colfax Marathon, pt 1

Training for the Colfax Marathon had been going well. I had increased my distance regularly in the weeks leading up to it, even knocking out a 20 mile run the week before. The only thing bugging me was how, on my longer runs, my stomach would revolt. Violently.

Now, before I get into the messy details, let me remind you that this marathon is serving as little more than a training run for my first ultra marathon, the Silver Rush 50 Mile Trail Run. (good god--even typing it makes me nervous) My thought is that if I can just keep upping my distance, mile by mile, I'll be able to jog along at a slow pace and before you know it, have 50 miles under my belt. Well, my body thinks otherwise.

It only seems to happen when I run more than 12 miles at a time. I'll feel good--great, even--the first 8 miles. I'm taking in food and water and Gatorade (which I will now refer to as Hot Squirrel) all the while. But then the dizziness begins, and by the time I stop I'm weak and feeling nauseous. At this point I know what's coming. There's no stopping it. A little tickle begins at the back of my throat, and soon after everything I've consumed during the run comes out. Everything. That's the surprising part. It's like my body didn't even DO anything with all the water and Hot Squirrel I was downing. For the next three to four hours I spend my time moaning and trying to rehydrate, all the while my body is staging a mutiny.

So it was with the marathon.

05 October 2009

32nd Birthday Activities

I've decided to try updating Coffee Flitters more regularly, and with more mundane activities since they probably mean more to you than they do to me. What I mean is, I get a kick out of reading about your daily routine. Whether it be where you decided to go for brunch, to your new veggie garden, to the funny thing your wee one got up to. Such tiny moments that you may not think are worth noting mean the world to me, so I figured maybe the street went both ways: maybe those things that I don't take the time to note are things that might make you all giggle.

Anyway, it's my birthday, so I'm going to go for a bike ride around the sea wall with Ami. I'll post another update with some pictures if I get around to it.

16 June 2009

Oregon Trail, Interlude ::Pics Thus Far

This is turning into a bit of an epic, eh? Here's it's been nearly a month since we got back from Oregon, and I'm only getting to the first night! Ha! What a crazy thing, Love is.

So instead of more tales of 'whoa,' I thought I'd post some of the photos we took of the trip up to where I've posted. Which is to say, Day One.

Click here to view our photos (so far) on Picasa.

11 June 2009

Oregon Trail, Pt. 3, Astoria and Beyond

For those of you who grew up in the 80s, you can probably guess by the photo where this is going. From the moment Ami and I drove into Astoria, I was haunted by nostalgia: I had seen this place before--or at least parts of it--although I had never been to Oregon, let alone Astoria. It wasn't until we had driven our van a few kilometers out of town, at a look-out point, that it all fell into place.

Astoria was where The Goonies was filmed.

If I had known how to back-flip, I would have done one. The Goonies! Of course! And for the next hour my long term memory high-jacked my short term and took it for a joy ride down memory lane. I quoted scenes and replayed actions sequences like I had just viewed the 'ol flick. We dubbed them "The Goonies Rocks." Partly because we didn't (yet) know what they were called, and partly because it was just plain fun.

The rest of the trip was kinda boring after that.

No, I'm kidding. This little hallelujah was a mere blip on the radar compared to the rest.

That night we camped an a spit called Nehalem Bay, and it made me miss New Zealand. Here's why. When Americans go camping--and I'm generalizing here, but it's my blog, and I can bloody well do what I want--they tend to bring their homes with them. To the modern Yankee vagabond, the idea of pitching a tent is repulsive. And why would you want to when you can hitch up a mobile apartment to your Ford F350? I remember when I was younger and my family would go camping around the lakes in Kansas: these people were there then, too. While we were hauling arm loads of driftwood and kindling from the rocky beaches of Fall River Lake, there were a half-dozen "campers" lighting their gas grills and watching TV. It made us laugh then, but I think it took Ami by surprise. We couldn't walk 10 meters without her muttering, "Jesus Christ," or, "Holy God Almighty," or "Oh holy Jesus Fu"--well, you get the point. It was a religious experience.

Since the campground at Nehalem Bay catered to RVs and trailers, the ground was mostly paved. Yet a short walk around the toilets and we were standing amongst dunes pocketed with marram grass and white sand, peering around dramatic cliffs toward the Pacific. Equipped with 40oz of Pabst Blue Ribbon ($2 each from the corner store!), we whiled away the evening singing country songs and snapping photos. For a moment, I forgot I was ever anyplace else.