The Snoozeletter @ s.9TimeZones.com

 
Third-person omniscient in Stranger Than Fiction, written by Zach Helm. 

PROFESSOR HILBERT (Dustin Hoffman): Did you say, "Little did he know?"
HAROLD CRICK (Will Ferrell): Yes.
HILBERT: Dear God. I've written papers on "Little did he know..." I... I... I used to teach a class based on "Little did he know..." I mean, I once gave an entire seminar on "Little did he know..."

script ~ video
 
COVID-19 safety in the film/video industry. 

Free COVID-19 (Level A) Course [CA]: PracticeSafeSets.co
Free Coronavirus basic awareness on production training [UK]: ScreenSkills.com
Free COVID-19 Compliance Course [US]: www.GeorgiaFilmAcademy.online
COVID-19 Compliance Officer (C19CO/HSS) Course [US]: HealthEducationServices.net/training/covid
Managing COVID-19 Risks Course [UK]: FirstOption.group/course-catalogue/production-safety
COVID-19 Production Protocols [UK]: FirstOption.group/files/Covid_19_Production_Guidance_14_May_v6.2.pdf
COVID-19 Production Manual "Yellow Book" [UK]: FirstOption.group/home/covid19-manual
Task Force White Paper (dga/sag/iatse/etc.) [US]: Local695.com/covid-19-info
Producers Guild COVID Safety Protocols (Aug 31): ProducersGuild.org/page/COVIDprotocols
Also - free COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course from Johns Hopkins U [US]: Coursera.org/learn/covid-19-contact-tracing

UPDATE: Stage 32 article - https://Stage32.com/blog/2422
certificates
 
Screenwriters Network Competition II. 

My Vlad the Impaler feature-length screenplay was just announced as a quarter-finalist (ongoing) in this trimonthly contest.

10Sep2020 UPDATE: Semi-finalist.

semi-finalist
 
Fond Memories Of The Newsroom From Hell, #4: Doctor's Note. 

One morning, I sent an email to my boss:

"I made a doctor's appointment to have an in-office procedure on Thursday afternoon, and he tells me that I won't be in any shape to work that night. I'm not expecting it to be too serious (fingers crossed), but I just wanted you to know that I won't be at work on the Thursday-into-Friday graveyard shift."

My boss didn't express the slightest bit of concern for my health. In fact, he said it was a horrible night for me to take sick time. I replied that I was simply trying to be thoughtful, by giving him some advance notice. He then threatened me, saying I would have to produce a doctor's note, in order to take sick leave.

I told him he was setting a dangerous precedent, by requiring an excuse for one day's worth of sick time. I also told him I was offended, but I rescheduled the doctor's appointment anyway. The next week, I followed the procedure listed in the Employee Manual, and called in sick at the last minute. The newsroom was even more short-handed, and my boss (who is not a graveyard worker) had to stay up all night to cover for me.

My dad taught me that if you treat people courteously, they will usually respond in kind. But he also said that if they shit on you, all bets are off..

#1: An Imaginary Conversation About A Thieving Soda Machine, #2: Powerless, #3: Spellchecker Fun.

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Fond Memories Of The Newsroom From Hell, #3: Spellchecker Fun. 

To: Tech Support, From: Me
Our spellchecker needs to be purged again. It doesn't stop on "solider" and several other misspellings that editors have been incorrectly adding to the dictionary.

From: Tech Support
Soldier - is a marine, navy, army person.
Solider - is a firm and stable shape.

To: Tech Support
That is certainly true, but the checker used to stop on solider, which several of our dyslexic-ish writers use for soldier, and now it doesn't. Upshot: many items will go out on the news wire with the wrong spelling, and our company's reputation will suffer. As far as I know, solider has never been used (correctly) in a news story written by our staff, while soldier seems to be used all the time. But maybe I'm wrong.

#1: An Imaginary Conversation About A Thieving Soda Machine, #2: Powerless.

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ARIZONA! (a pandemic parody). 

A hotspot in more ways than one.As some of you know, or may soon discover, I have a very dark sense of humor. So I wrote a 6-page satirical script that makes fun of the way the health crisis has been handled in my adopted home state. A pandemic parody, if you will. Think SNL sketch. The opening song follows Rodgers & Hammerstein's "OKLAHOMA!"

ARIZONA! Governor Doofus and Health Director Keeeryst try to get a handle on the coronavirus ravaging their state. Hilarity ensues. Includes gunplay and a show-stopping (or maybe show-starting?) musical number. Contains mind-boggling pull-quotes from the actual press conferences.

click link to open PDF script in new browser window

Tweeting my little heart out ~ Contributing to the Kos
 
Please forgive me, Margaret Atwood. 

Margaret Atwood (The Handmaid's Tale) once wrote: "Sex may go nicely with many things, but vomit isn't one of them."

Unfortunately, I took this as a personal challenge.

The quote became my writing prompt one morning, and when the day was done, the Tangier ferry scene in Côte d'Azur was purged from my system.

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Screenwriters Network Competition. 

My Côte d'Azur feature-length screenplay was recently announced as an official selection in this trimonthly contest...

LATER: CdA is now one of 28 semi-finalists!
semi-finalist

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Free COVID-19 Contact Tracing Course. 

>>Johns Hopkins launches online course to train army of contact tracers to slow spread of COVID-19:

https://hub.jhu.edu/2020/05/11/free-contact-tracing-course-johns-hopkins

"The free six-hour course is open to anyone, but taking and passing it will be a requirement for thousands of contact tracers being hired by the state of New York to fight the pandemic."

>>Enroll - this course includes a certificate and the fee is waived:

https://www.coursera.org/learn/covid-19-contact-tracing

"The COVID-19 crisis has created an unprecedented need for contact tracing across the country, requiring thousands of people to learn key skills quickly. The job qualifications for contact tracing positions differ throughout the country and the world, with some new positions open to individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent."

>>Coronavirus contact tracing: My new skill (BBC):

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52772436

"A contact tracer does the detective work of calling up people known to be infected with a disease and working out where they have been in recent days and who they might have met."

>>FYI: the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center maintains this COVID-19 Map:

https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html

UPDATE: I got certified with a test score of 96.51% (85% to pass):
http://coursera.org/verify/F3ZQSQN7H7TB
But the BBC guy only scored 95%. Nyah. ;-)
 
Notarization During a Pandemic. 

My lovely wife needed to get a document notarized recently. So we put on our masks and drove over to the local UPS store. The sign on the door said no more than four people were allowed inside at one time. We carefully looked through the glass and saw that no other customers were in the store, before entering and requesting a notarization from the manager, who was also wearing a mask. He pulled out his official journal book, asked for Anikó's ID, copied down all of the pertinent info, and showed her where to sign. But before stamping the document with his official seal, he asked her to pull down her mask for a few inches, so he could compare her face with the ID photo. We all had a good chuckle over that.
#ViralHumor
 
Stick 'em up. 

During my daily walks around the man-made lakes here in our 55+ community, I don't take a mask. Very few people do. We either pass each other while hugging the outside edge of the concrete walkways, or one person makes a wide detour through the grassy area on either side. But today, a woman was approaching me from about 50 yards away, and I saw her take out a surgical face mask and put it on. So I figured I should respect her concerns, by putting the pocket of my hoodie jacket over my face. When she started giggling, I did too. I could only imagine how stupid I looked. So I stuck a finger in the other pocket, pointed it at her, and said, "Your money or your toilet paper." We both nearly fell on the ground, laughing.
#ViralHumor
 
Kevinito. 

KevIn the 1990s, I worked side-by-side with an amazing guy named Kevin Densmore. He was a hoot. We also had quite a bit of interaction outside of work, like dinners and a Mahlathini/Mahotella concert, where we danced in the aisles. Later, he introduced me to the BBS (an early chatroom) that he liked, just before he was diagnosed with HIV. That's when he embarked on a meth binge and dropped out of sight. Our boss said she would have to fire him, unless he called in sick, so I got on the phone and pleaded with him. No dice. I lost track of him for awhile. When we re-connected, I introduced him to my new wife. Anikó really liked Kevin, which surprised me, because she had never met a gay man in Hungary.

Kevin slowly pulled his life back together. He got a butch job driving big rigs and bought a house in Indianapolis. Then, in late 2016, he met the love of his life and they lived happily ever after... for a few years, at least. Kevin took up some interesting hobbies, like bodybuilding and knitting. He was a talented knitter, but I think he spent time at the gym in an attempt to convince himself that he was powerful, invincible. However, he worked very hard and sculpted an impressive body, especially for a sexagenarian. [I'm sure Kevin would enjoy being described with that word; he turned 63 last July.] ;-)

Then, on March 27th, he was hospitalized with COVID-19. On March 30th, he was moved to the ICU and placed on a ventilator. As if that wasn't enough, he later had a major stroke which paralyzed his left side and then developed a massive blood clot in his right leg. The docs put him in a chemically-induced coma and say he will likely end up in a nursing home, if he survives the virus. Please send a good thought in his direction.

--Picture [click to enlarge] taken on January 18, 2020. Kevin said it was his first professional photo session.

UPDATE: July 20, 1956 - April 8, 2020. We deeply mourn his passing. Kevin was a shooting star who burned out much too soon. Obituary 1, 2.
 
CdA pitch. 

During my 20s, I spent a year selling t-shirts in southern France with a Danish business partner. The venture wasn't successful at all, and we still laughingly refer to that period as "The Year Of Failing Miserably." But it was a lot of fun, and it convinced us that we could accomplish great things in life. Well, medium-great, anyway. I filled several notebooks with our daily adventures, and later threatened for decades to dramatize our year abroad. After a few of my other screenplays placed well in international competitions (quarters, semis and finals), I figured it was time to dig out the notebooks.

So I fictionalized our experiences in Côte d'Azur, then converted the screenplay into an eBook. That proof-of-concept adaptation has appeared on Amazon's Performing Arts Best Sellers list since it was first published, in July 2019, with reviews averaging 5 out of 5 stars.

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Gallows (or Guillotine) Humor. 

I work in the Census department that runs guillotines (chopping staples off the Census booklets) and high-speed scanners. Last week, an announcement was made: "staff meeting near the guillotines."

...and now I know how Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette felt.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guillotine#Reign_of_Terror
 
Leap Day. 

Earth's orbital period around the sun is 365.256 days, and every 4 years we accumulate 23 hours, 15 minutes, and 4 seconds of extra time. Legend has it that St. Brigid struck a deal with St. Patrick to allow women to propose to men, every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in the same way that leap day balances the calendar. (This was obviously before Women's Lib.) Tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman's proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves - the woman can then wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring.

Leap Year (2010 movie): "When Anna's (Amy Adams) four-year anniversary to her boyfriend passes without an engagement ring, she decides to take matters into her own hands. Inspired by an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to men on Leap Day, Anna follows Jeremy (Adam Scott) to Dublin to propose to him. But after landing on the wrong side of Ireland, she must enlist the help of the handsome and carefree local Declan (Matthew Goode) to get her across the country. Along the way, they discover that the road to love can take you to very unexpected places."
We own this DVD, and love to watch it periodically - the story, the acting and the Irish scenery are all deliciously charming.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUwju8fo9tQ
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0038N9X3Q
https://www.netflixmovies.com/leap-year-2010
 
iSex optioned. 

A producer in Zagreb recently optioned the Hrvatski rights to my three-page script iSex.
ALL the non-Croatian-language rights are still available.
Including English. ;-)

Log line: "Blind dating in the iPhone X and XXX age - who says a cell phone can't double as a sex toy?"
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iScxxx
Script PDF: http://9TimeZones.com/s/isex.pdf
 
Undigested. 

The mailing list that serves our 55+ community is a Yahoo group. Anikó and I rely on Yahoo to accumulate the individual posts sent to that group into Digests of 15 emails each. Otherwise, our Inboxes would overflow. These cranky seniors are a yappy bunch.

Yesterday afternoon, the idiot Yahoo software abruptly changed everybody's Digest subscriptions to Individual Emails. My lovely wife noticed it after a few emails, and blamed me for screwing up her Inbox. So I was highly motivated to find a solution. Fast. That's when I discovered a few extra emails in MY OWN Inbox, and decided to write a posting about the problem (along with the easy fix) before all h*ll broke loose.

But it broke loose anyway. I counted at least 28 emails whining about the Digest problem, in the three hours before I posted again. The group's Admin also posted about the problem, at about the same time. He reiterated the easy solution, and said he could no longer fix things for any subscriber. The idiot Yahoo software had destroyed his Admin tools.

Since then, several more whining emails have been posted, along with several attempts to educate everybody about the pleasures of DIY.

Babysitting and handholding are no fun. Especially for THESE feisty old computer illiterates. It could be a long day, today. ;-)
 
Read the screenplay nominees in the 2020 Oscars®. 

Download the ones you find interesting - these links will expire soon!

>>Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 9, 2020.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Irishman by Steven Zaillian:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-1358126d-c5ef-4e68-9904-513193c65a66.pdf

Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/jojo-rabbit-final-script.pdf

Joker by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver:
https://d2bu9v0mnky9ur.cloudfront.net/academy2019/screenplay/joker/joker_new_final.pdf

Little Women by Greta Gerwig:
https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/little-women-by-greta-gerwig.pdf

The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-24b8252f-5e53-4548-ae1a-c3a45c513260.pdf

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Knives Out by Rian Johnson:
https://lionsgate.brightspotcdn.com/fb/14/23cd58a147afbb5c758ecb3dff0a/knivesout-final.pdf

Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-8ff89aa9-3b55-437e-82c5-b9d593f8f58c.pdf

1917 by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns:
https://universalpicturesawards.com/1917/screenplay/1917.pdf

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (transcript):
https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

Parasite by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/parasite-script.pdf

LATER: I recently pitched a couple of blog postings to Taylor C. Baker, Director of Content & Branding at Stage 32, and the first one goes live tomorrow - here's a preview:
https://www.stage32.com/blog/Read-the-2020-Oscar-Nominated-Screenplays

STILL LATER: here's my second blog posting at Stage 32:
https://www.stage32.com/blog/Read-the-2020-Writers-Guild-Awards-Nominated-Screenplays
 
Read the screenplay nominees in the 2020 Golden Globes + WGA Awards + BAFTAs. 

Download the ones you find interesting - these links will expire soon!

>>Golden Globes awards ceremony was held on Sunday, January 5, 2020.

WINNER - Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (transcript):
https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

The Irishman by Steven Zaillian:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-1358126d-c5ef-4e68-9904-513193c65a66.pdf

Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-8ff89aa9-3b55-437e-82c5-b9d593f8f58c.pdf

Parasite by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/parasite-script.pdf

The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-24b8252f-5e53-4548-ae1a-c3a45c513260.pdf

>>Writers Guild of America awards ceremony will be held on Saturday, February 1, 2020.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

1917 by Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns:
https://universalpicturesawards.com/1917/screenplay/1917.pdf

Booksmart by Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman:
https://d5tlfha2av0cx.cloudfront.net/annapurna/2019/screenplay/booksmart/booksmart.pdf

Knives Out by Rian Johnson:
https://lionsgate.brightspotcdn.com/fb/14/23cd58a147afbb5c758ecb3dff0a/knivesout-final.pdf

Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-8ff89aa9-3b55-437e-82c5-b9d593f8f58c.pdf

Parasite by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/parasite-script.pdf

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood by Micah Fitzerman-Blue & Noah Harpster:
https://www.sonypictures-awards.com/static/files/ABDITN_FINALDRAFT.pdf

The Irishman by Steven Zaillian:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-1358126d-c5ef-4e68-9904-513193c65a66.pdf

Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/jojo-rabbit-final-script.pdf

Joker by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver:
https://d2bu9v0mnky9ur.cloudfront.net/academy2019/screenplay/joker/joker_new_final.pdf

Little Women by Greta Gerwig:
https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/little-women-by-greta-gerwig.pdf

>>British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 2, 2020.

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

The Irishman by Steven Zaillian:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-1358126d-c5ef-4e68-9904-513193c65a66.pdf

Jojo Rabbit by Taika Waititi:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/jojo-rabbit-final-script.pdf

Joker by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver:
https://d2bu9v0mnky9ur.cloudfront.net/academy2019/screenplay/joker/joker_new_final.pdf

Little Women by Greta Gerwig:
https://pmcvariety.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/little-women-by-greta-gerwig.pdf

The Two Popes by Anthony McCarten:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-24b8252f-5e53-4548-ae1a-c3a45c513260.pdf

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Booksmart by Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman:
https://d5tlfha2av0cx.cloudfront.net/annapurna/2019/screenplay/booksmart/booksmart.pdf

Knives Out by Rian Johnson:
https://lionsgate.brightspotcdn.com/fb/14/23cd58a147afbb5c758ecb3dff0a/knivesout-final.pdf

Marriage Story by Noah Baumbach:
https://netflixguilds.com/media/screenings/script/film_scripts-8ff89aa9-3b55-437e-82c5-b9d593f8f58c.pdf

Once Upon a Time in... Hollywood by Quentin Tarantino (transcript):
https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/movie_script.php?movie=once-upon-a-time-in-hollywood

Parasite by Bong Joon Ho and Han Jin Won:
https://pmcdeadline2.files.wordpress.com/2020/01/parasite-script.pdf
 
Math Problem. 

I applied for four jobs at the 2020 Census Data Capture Regional Center - Day Shift Clerk, Night Shift Clerk, Day Shift Supervisor and Night Shift Supervisor. (The Census people tell everybody to apply for all the positions that seem interesting. "On the Census Team, every one counts.") I received three job offers - everything except Day Shift Supervisor. The Clerk job pays $34,320/yr ($16.50/hr) and the Supervisor job pays $39,128/yr ($18.81/hr), but the Supervisor doesn't make any overtime. The Clerk is paid a 10% night differential for any hours worked between 6pm and 6am, bringing the hourly rate up to $18.15. The Day Shift job starts on February 3rd, while the Night Shift job starts two weeks later and probably ends two weeks earlier, sometime in early May. The Day Shift commute is significantly more stressful than the Night Shift commute, and the Supervisor job is likely to be more stressful than the Clerk job.

Question: How can you be in two places at once, when you're not anywhere at all?
 
Census.

After working as a Data Capture guy at the U.S. Census in 2010, it looks like I'll be doing the same thing at the 2020 Census.

This position is not to be confused with the SNL Census Taker or the backwoods Census Taker (audio clip from this comedy album).

And no, we don't run around with butterfly nets, attempting to capture data.

That would be silly.
 
Christmas Q&A. 

Q: What kind of motorcycle does Santa ride?
A: A Holly-Davidson.

Q: Why was the snowman shopping in the carrot section?
A: He was picking his nose.

Q: What did Adam say, on December 24th?
A: It’s Christmas, Eve.

Gift Suggestion:
Ran out of shopping time this year. Everybody else on my list gets this Chia pet:
Chia Crotch - Though a nifty idea; this product seemed to sell well only in Europe. At the time it came out, it seemed that crotch hair had given way to the latest shaved or groomed look. And even though they came out with a modified Chia “Landing Strip” Crotch it seemed that there was just no interest in maintaining yet another bush...

Christmas Meditation:
Forget the past - you cannot change it.
Forget the future - you cannot predict it.
Forget the present - I didn't get you one.

Happy Holidays
With Love,
The Solo Family


See also: White Christmas: Berlin/McPhatter/Held and Rudolph's Revenge and Drive hammered, get nailed and Holiday Rum Cake and Christmas tree angel and A Festivus for the rest of us and Letter To Santa: The Ransom Note and An AZ Xmas and Christmas split and A Twisted Carol and Decorating the tree and Inexcusable liberties with the milkmaids and 12 days=$116,273 and 7,000 Macedonians in full battle array and A man walks into a bar on Christmas Eve... and Studio 60 Christmas Show and Alice's Restaurant.
 
Decorating the tree. 

I obviously screwed up, while decorating the Christmas tree:

tree
 
26 mi, 385 yd = 42.195 km. 

cert 789x593During 1976-1977, I was working as a bartender at Boston's Faneuil Hall and living in a crappy one-room cellar apartment on the unfashionable backside of Beacon Hill. The room came equipped with hot-and-cold running cockroaches and no windows, but it was all I could afford, back in those days. Plus, I was saving money to open a teeshirt business on the Côte d'Azur. But that's another story.

In the fall, I prepared for the 1976 NYC Marathon by working out at the Charles River Esplanade. It was a lovely run through the grassy park, looking across the river at Harvard, MIT and Cambridge, while watching the sailboats and rowing shells. After a reasonably-decent finish in October's New York race (3:28:01 for my first marathon, click images to enlarge), I continued working out, to prepare for the Boston Marathon in April.

medal 504x504When the snow arrived, it became harder to run on the paths of the Esplanade, so after the Charles froze over, I continued training on the ice of the river. It was also a special experience, in its own way, but the flat course couldn't really prepare me for what was to come.

Boston Marathon, 18 April 1977: My quadriceps still remember Heartbreak Hill, 42 years later. The five miles of the Newton Hills came at the 16-mile mark, just as I was hitting the wall. The results were not pretty. I finished, but just barely (4:XX:XX).

Two years after I ran Boston, I watched my cousin Dave run it. He posted a much better time, but we had one experience in common. On the day following the race, I noticed that he paused at the top of a three-step stairway. Heartbreak Hill had done a tune on his quads too, so he slowly turned around, and walked BACKWARDS down the three steps.

I laughed like a hyena, and he nearly punched me. ;-)

poster 611x727Back to the NYC Marathon, 24 October 1976: (Poster Boy - "Over 2,000 Runners Crossing The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge") The first New York City Marathon, in 1970, had 55 finishers who completed several loops inside Central Park.

In 1976, to celebrate the U.S. bicentennial, the marathon moved outside the park for the first time, to run through the city's five boroughs: Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and Manhattan.

2090 of us started on the upper deck at the Staten Island end of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. It was the world's longest suspension bridge span at that time, measuring 4,260 feet.

News choppers were hovering everywhere. A few of them took some interesting photos, like this one. If you click the poster to see a larger version, you'll notice another helicopter in the upper right corner. It's hard to imagine just how steep that hill into Brooklyn really is, until you run those 4,260 feet (1.3 km) on the roadway itself.

It was my first marathon, so I kept to the left edge of the pack, about halfway back from the leaders. I was wearing a yellowish teeshirt and maroon shorts, and there's only one guy with that color combo on the railing in that poster. So I stuck a red arrow on the glass, as a reminder.

So sue me.

Bill Rogers won in 2:10:10. I finished about 80 minutes later.

Below, left: me in Brooklyn, 1976, just before I lost the will to live.
Below right: me & Jørgen Stærmose at the WTC, 1980. See "The Day The Planes Stopped Flying."

brooklyn 371x396 sparky 648x881

NYC Postscript, 28 October 1978: I was living at the West Side YMCA in New York City when the 1978 marathon rolled around. It was just after my year of failing miserably at a teeshirts-to-the-tourists venture in southern France, and just before my six months of failing miserably at driving a taxicab on the mean streets of Manhattan. I wanted to get a different perspective on the dramatic marathon start at the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, so I hopped a bus for Staten Island on the morning of the race. The bus got nearly halfway across the bridge on the lower deck before the inevitable traffic jam, but I somehow talked the driver into letting me out onto the roadway. I still can't believe he agreed to do it. Do you remember that heart-stopping scene in Saturday Night Fever, when John Travolta and his friends climbed into the superstructure of the bridge? That was my route to the top deck. When I finally vaulted over the guardrail onto the roadway, both sides were clear... so I jogged up to the top of the hill at the middle of the bridge and looked down at the runners, waiting for the starting gun. They would be running on the north roadway, so as long as I stayed on the south side, I wouldn't be in anyone's way. Motorcycle cops were driving back and forth on the racer's side, and I assumed they would soon kick me off the bridge, but apparently their orders were only to keep the north side clear. The sun was shining brightly, the view was amazing, and the sea breeze coming in off the ocean made my heart soar. When the elite runners came charging up the hill, I ran with them for a short distance, on the other side of the double guardrail. They were fast. Way too fast for me. But the jog downhill into Brooklyn was a blast, and I still have these incredible memories, more than four decades later.

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Cognitive Dissonance and a Short-Hair Wig. 

[I've found that it helps if you hum "Alice's Restaurant" while reading this.]

Merit Scholar - click to enlarge 560x434I was the first in my family to go to college, so winning a National Merit Scholarship was a pretty big deal. I would have gotten a full ride, if my father's lower-middle-class income had been just a few dollars less. But nooooooo. According to the hardship tables, we qualified for only a pittance - $100 a year.

However, my parents were dazzled by the fact that their firstborn could be a Merit Scholar. So they bit the bullet, took out a second mortgage, and covered my out-of-state tuition.

That lasted for a few months, until they heard that I had participated in some demonstrations against the Vietnam war.

They thought the war was peachy. And I could never figure out why they wanted their boy to come home in a body bag.

Come to think of it, that may be the root of several familial problems since then.

draft lottery - click to enlarge 423x416So that's when the money dried up. I took on a couple of jobs, after classes. But they weren't enough. Things were getting desperate. My draft card said 1-A, and my lottery number turned out to be 33.

That year (1971), Uncle Sam was hell-bent on drafting every male teenager with a number under 125. None of us could quite wrap our brains around the surreal image on TV of some fat, decrepit old guy, reaching into a large glass container to pull out a blue plastic capsule containing a potential death sentence.

I knew a few vets, and I saw what the war had done to them. It wasn't pretty. Some of them came home with missing parts. Body parts. Mind parts. Some of my friends never came home at all.

So I seriously considered emigrating to Canada. I also studied the qualifications for becoming a Conscientious Objector. I even thought about going to jail.

ROTC uniform click to enlarge 747x506Then I got a really stupid idea.

I could get a draft deferment *and* a full scholarship... if I joined the Air Force Reserve Officers' Training Corps. The only Air Force officers in harm's way were jet pilots, and my eyesight was too crappy to qualify for jet school. So I bit the bullet and suffered through six weeks of basic training during the summer. After returning to campus, I struggled through twice-a-week ROTC classes.

Have you ever heard of cognitive dissonance?

I got pretty weird.

draft card - click to enlarge 720x549Even for me.

I grew my hair down to my shoulders and bought a short-hair wig for ROTC classes. I wrote anti-war articles for the college newspaper. I was tear-gassed in public demonstrations.

But I dutifully showed up at the ROTC classes. Twice a week. I knew they were the only things between me and a body bag. Life went on that way for several years.

medal - click to enlarge 402x953At some point, my ROTC instructor attended a weekend track meet in which I was competing. I didn't know he was there. When I won a silver medal in the mile, my shoulder-length hair was flowing freely in the wind.

A few days later, just before my next ROTC class, the instructor confronted me in the hallway. He was a Captain. He was also a dickhead, but I would have hated him anyway. We argued military history and tactics during every class, and I was usually able to point out the flaws in his reasoning. He was a sore loser.

As I stood at attention in the hallway, the Captain looked at my head very carefully. He walked all the way around me, smirking.

"You know, I saw someone who looked a lot like you at a track meet this past weekend. Do you have a twin?"

So the jig was up. "I cannot tell a lie. That was me, sir."

"Did you get a haircut since then?"

"No, sir."

I could tell that he wanted to rip the short-hair wig right off my head. But he also knew that I was wound up pretty d*mn tight. He was also aware of the fact that I was ready--and perhaps even a little eager--to break his jaw. So he bit the bullet, and submitted paperwork instead.

The Air Force had no rules about wigs, but the Captain submitted paperwork anyway. I got a copy, a few days later. He wanted ROTC to discharge me "for the good of the service."

discharge - click to enlarge 592x447However, the military had paid for most of my schooling. And I had signed a contract, giving them certain rights. For example, if I failed to qualify for my ROTC commission, they had the option of drafting me for four years of slavery as a non-officer grunt.

But during my years of cognitive dissonance, the world had moved on, as it always does: Nixon had started his crime spree, and the war was winding down.

In short, the Air Force didn't really need another troublemaker. So when I graduated, they gave me this nice parting gift instead.

And I spent the next few years trying to get back to normal.

Whatever that is.

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