My weekend — Miles, Monsters, Lulz, and Legends, or: “Here I am with eight more lives…”

A quick weekend recap of what was a pretty goshdarn swell time!

1. FRIDAY I’M IN LOVE (with not having to wake up early on Saturday)

I decided to do my “Long Run” on Friday night — June 21, 2013. Summer solstice. Longest day of the year. I must have been out of my mind. Surprisingly, it was rather enjoyable and nowhere near as disgustingly hot and humid as one might come to expect from South FL in the early summer evening. Lately I’ve been rather dissatisfied with my running performances, which is to say, I’ve been doing a TON of treadmill running at the gym, and it just sucks donkey doots. How did I ever do treadmill running ONLY for 8 months? Bored like a hamster on a freakin’ wheel, minus the cuteness factor but with occasional buxom Asian chicks in tight spandex all around. Comme ci comme ça… Here I am getting sidetracked again. OK, so after deciding to try a new route through Sunrise/Plantation, I drove to my gym (the LA Fitness off Sunrise and 136th), parked, and took off east down Sunrise to Nob Hill, south on that to Cleary, west to Hiatus, north back up to Sunrise and then finishing up back at the gym (with a lap around the parking lot to make it an even 8 miles).

A visual of my sojourn. THRILLING!

A visual of my sojourn. THRILLING!

It was a fairly nice run. Plenty of wide, even sidewalks, shade, and — as the situation required it — places to stop. My IBS has unfortunately been flaring up lately. I’m lucky that I have, comparatively speaking, very mild IBS that usually never forces me to make sudden and immediate sprints to the rest room. The last two weeks have been exceptions to that rule. I had to stop three times during my long run: at a gas station on Sunrise, at the Winn-Dixie on Nob Hill, and at the Pollo Tropical on Sunrise again. Ugh. I’m seeing Dr. Railey next Friday, hopefully this is just a passing phase but better safe than sorry.

Otherwise, the entire experience was rather enjoyable, with agreeable weather and a safe, pleasant route. I’ll definitely be hitting it again throughout the summer. I’ve decided to make my base runs at 8-10 miles, while alternating longer runs every other weekend. I’ll probably continue the Friday Night/Long Run schedule for now. I like getting it out of the way early so I feel like I’ve “earned my weekend” and can go out freely afterward. And Boots gets her Friday nights back with me, at least until the FIT season starts up again in August.

2. S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y… NIGHT! (and pretty much the majority of the afternoon as well)

Around noon on Saturday, Boots and I leaped into the Family Truckster and headed up to City Place in West Palm Beach for a full fun day of entertainment. Our first stop was the Muvico, where we sat down for a screening of Monsters University. Just to provide some background on this: I have never, ever missed a Pixar film in theaters. Ever. I became a drooling fanboy from the moment I first sat down to watch Toy Story in December 1995. It wasn’t just the technology or them being the first-to-market with feature length computer animation; it was the story, characters, dialogue, and overall heart that won me over. The state-of-the-art CG animation was just icing on the cake, as far as I was concerned.

I usually make this face when I'm watching a Pixar flick...

I usually make this face when I’m watching a Pixar flick…

Since then there have been 14 Pixar movies of varying quality from the absolutely triumphant(The Incredibles) to the disappointingly mundane (Cars 2), but the original Monsters, Inc. was always a favorite, mostly because of the brilliant voice characterizations by John Goodman and Billy Crystal. The sequel… or prequel, as it is… is a worthy follow-up. Plenty of humor, gags, characterization, even a bit of heart thrown in there, but yeah, this was mostly played for the yuks. While I wouldn’t put Monsters University up there with the best of what Pixar has to offer, it succeeds at entertaining with a return to a familiar universe with beloved characters. I’d rank it with an enthusiastic 7 out of 10.

Well then… as the movie ended, it was about 4PM. After doing some browsing around City Place, we settled down for an early dinner at Brewzzi, your prototypical micro-brewery restaurant thingy. Think large brewing tanks behind glass panels, oversized booths, hostesses no more than 3 minutes past the age of 22 in tight black mini-dresses composed of approximately 4 molecules worth of material, pseudo-Brazillian techno-jazz wannabe on the sound system, etc. I had a chicken-sundried tomato-penne pasta dish that tasted freshly defrosted and microwaved, but the City Fest lager was quite tasty with plenty of malty body, and the hummus plate appetizer was welcome (if the hummus hadn’t been too recently pulled out of the fridge). Worth it if you’re in a hurry, but don’t expect much.

This is my Brewzzi face. Or something. I might be slightly buzzing :)

This is my Brewzzi face. Or something. I might be slightly buzzing 🙂

Finally the highlight of our evening was at The Improv, where we finally got to see our headliner: Artie Lange! Like many I became a fan through The Howard Stern Show, and there’s not a SECOND that goes by when I listen now and don’t feel the brutality of his absence there. (I do enjoy his new radio show, which is released daily via podcast) Anyway, Boots and I got there around 6:30, ordered a bucket of Blue Moons, sat through the opener who’s name eludes me (he was pretty enjoyable, but his penchant for firing through his punchlines at a spitfire pace became grating in no time at all), and sure enough around 7:45 or so Artie hit the stage. The last few years have definitely taken its toll on the man. He looked a little weathered, a little tired, definitely heavier and balder, but his timing, delivery, improvisational zingers and ability to work a crowd are still pitch perfect. Definitely not politically correct humor by ANY means, and God bless him for that. It was a fun time; I only wish he had some kind of meet-n-greet available. I wanted to thank him personally for his “Vince Lombardi finds out one of his players has been screwing Liberace” routine; I haven’t laughed that hard in weeks.



After that we were pretty tired. We were thinking about heading to the Hard Rock but decided to call it a night. Man am I old or what? But at least I got an ice cream sandwich on the way home, so all was not lost…

3. SUNDAY MORNING, PRAISE THE DAWNING (and the Gatorade and Tylenol)

Sunday brought another road trip down to Coral Gables, as Books and Books was presenting an appearance by amazeballs author Neil Gaiman. I wasn’t even aware he was coming until my dear friend (and amazing author) Jackie Kessler posted a picture from his appearance in New York (she blogged about it here). Out of curiosity I checked the website, and sure enough, he was coming down here two days later! I had already bought his latest work The Ocean At The End Of The Lane for my Kindle, but I had no hesitation in purchasing it again in hardcover as a prerequisite for attending the event. None at all. This was something entirely exciting.

Not to get too long-winded about it, but Gaiman has been a favorite writer for decades now. I discovered Sandman in college right before the Season of Mists storyline had begun, and I was instantly and immediately hooked. Novels like Good Omens, Neverwhere, and American Gods became sort of my lifeblood for a long time. One of my favorite memories was reading Neverwhere in London in the summer of 1997, thrilled with discovering locations in the “real” world that came to life in splendid ways in the novel. “Mind the gap”, indeed. Gaiman represented that breed of writer who becomes an instant and immediate favorite almost immediately upon first reading.

I wanted to keep the fanboy gushing to a minimum there. How’d I do?

Anyway, Boots dropped me off at Temple Judea around 12:45PM. The event was scheduled to begin at 2PM. I thought I was getting there early. HAH! Here was the line I found:



It was a hot day and it took about 40 minutes to get inside, pick up my book, wristband, and ticket, and make my way to a seat. I was attending the event alone so I was able to get a good single seat in the middle of the synagogue. I struck up a conversation with a fan next to me, who had brought his Sandman #1 (bagged and boarded) to be autographed, and with another fan next to me, an Asian girl who asked me to take pictures of her with three small stuffed animals (?). All good in the hood.

After 2PM, Mitch Kaplan (Books and Books founder) took to the mic, welcomed everybody, and then introduced popular author and local Brad Meltzer. Meltzer came out and gave a five-minute, energetically and hilariously pitch-perfect introduction, and finally welcomed Neil to the stage. And there he was, dressed in black, hair bushy and askew, an amalgamation of Mr. Spock, Dr. Who, Roger Waters, Tim Burton, and Richard Gere. It might be the fanboy adoration talking, but Neil wasn’t just larger than life, he seemed to exist in several parallel dimensions at once and was quietly and knowingly smirking at all of them.

Reading from his novel. Not the clearest of pictures, I admit.

Neil reading from his novel. Not the clearest of pictures, I admit.

Neil spoke for a bit about traveling, writing, Florida in general, and then read a chapter from The Ocean At The End Of The Lane (which he revealed to be semi-biographical and a means of revelation to his wife Amanda Palmer). After the reading came the Q&A portion, moderated by Brad Meltzer. The questions were written on index cards before the Q&A, which was nice. I’m not a fan of the “open mic” form of Q&A, so this was most welcome. The questions ranged from the mundane (“What side of the bed do you sleep on?”) to the more fascinating (“What book/author shaped you the most?” — answer was C.S. Lewis’s Narnia saga when he was 6, and Harlan Ellison’s “Count the Clock That Tells the Time” later on). Neil has a quick wit and an easygoing style, which made listening to him speak all the more enjoyable.

I didn’t stick around for the the signing. I’ll be honest with you: it would have been at least 4 hours or so before I’d be eligible, and I get restless pretty quickly. I was able to exchange my book for an autographed copy that was signed before the event started. Plus I had things I wanted to get to that afternoon as well. I was OK with that. As much as I would have liked to, I didn’t need to really “meet” Neil. I’d have a few seconds to spit out some nervous platitudes, have someone snap a non-posed picture, and then be pushed on my merry way. I would have loved to tell him about the times we used to chat on Compuserve WAY back in 1993, how I emailed him a note the day that “Death: The High Cost Of Living #1” was released, congratulating him on a great issue and how the way he wrote Death reminded me of someone close to me at the time, and he graciously emailed me back, thanking me and discussing the character. Total 22 year old Cloud Nine fanboy moment. Or how Harlan Ellison’s Stalking The Nightmare changed me immediately and forever fro the better when I was 14. But there’d be no time for all that, so I endeavored to continue admiring him from afar. After catching up with a grade school friend I hadn’t seen in literally three decades (who was alerted to the event thanks to MY Facebook post, talk about paying it forward!), Boots picked me up outside. We hit Starbucks from a refreshing concoction and made our way back home to Sunrise.

And that was that. A fun weekend, to be sure, and certainly a fulfilling one. This upcoming weekend won’t be quite as diverse or enjoyable (we have a Go-Live Sunday night), so I’m thankful for the fun times when I get them. Nothing more to add, I guess. Here’s the video:

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