Wednesday, February 27, 2013

jack kerouac & william burroughs, "and the hippos were boiled in their tanks" book review

i finally had a chance to read "and the hippos were boiled in their tanks" this weekend (thanks to a library copy). while the novel was published in 2008, the jack kerouac and william burroughs collaboration on the fictionalized version the murder of david kammerer by lucien carr was written more than 60 years ago - in 1945! the murder itself took place in august, 1944, and both the victim and murder were personal friends of authors.  the back story behind the long delay in publication is described in the afterward written by james grauerholz, burroughs' literary executor.  in brief, because of the authors friendship with lucien carr, they decided not to publish "hippos" during his lifetime. following carr's death in 2005, the novel would finally be published.

despite the self-imposed publication embargo, kerouac and burroughs did seek publishers for the novel in 1945.  notably, simon & schuster took a pass on the work by two, as yet, unknown authors.  kerouac's first novel wouldn't be published until 1949 and burrough's wouldn't see his first works published until the early 1950s,  more significantly, even though "hippos" wasn't published during the lifetime of the principle players, the story itself was often retold.  kerouac included yet another fictionalized version of the murder in his last novel, "vanity of dulouz," published in 1969.  the murder story was recently made into a movie, "kill your darlings," and premiered at the sundance film festival last month.

the outline of the kammerer murder is well known to fans of the beat generation.  carr stabbed kammerer with his boy scout knife in morningside park, tied up his arm and legs with shoelaces, and then dumped - the apparently barely alive body of - david kammerer in the hudson river.  the murder is often credited (blamed?) as the catalyst that fueled the birth of the beats as writers.  while that may overstate the influence (kerouac had already written thousands of words by this point), it resulted in this particular novel (burroughs' first) and a separate, but ultimately abandoned effort at a novel, by allen ginsberg.

in "hippos" kerouac and burroughs write alternate chapters (for the most part) through their alter egos, mike ryko and william dennison, respectively.  they move the primary action from morningside heights down to the village - including the murder itself which now takes place in an abandoned factory instead of the park.  carr employs a hatchet instead of a boy scout knife to inflict the fatal wounds.  and, instead of the hudson river, he tosses kammerer's body off the factory roof and into the overgrown lot adjacent to the building,  the story is told in a straightforward, linear detail; with each author filling in his view of the facts to move the narrative forward.

the days that lead up to the murder are fascinating.  the characters spend seeminly endless hours in bars or apartments drinking, smoking and eating - or walking and commuting between these scenes.  they detail the ongoing efforts of carr and kerouac, as merchant marines, to find employment on a ship that's bound for france (along w/their erstwhile plans to jump ship there and hitch their way to paris). burroughs himself has a day job at a detective agency where he's tasked with serving summons (or spying on couples engaged in adultery).  while the writing may not reach literary heights, it is functional and paints an excellent portrait of world war II era new york city.
the sad part of this remarkably sad story is how, if painted fairly by kerouac and burroughs, shallow and callous a person lucien carr really is at heart.  at best, the entire book evokes an existential sensibility that permeates each character.  not just the remorseless carr/murderer himself, but burroughs and kerouac themselves are utterly indifferent when confronted by the facts of kammerer's death.  this isn't the death of a stranger, but of someone they know well and that they've interacted with repeatedly and intimately (just over the days preceding the murder, in fact).  the sheer detachedness and indifference by all involved, given the circumstance, is chilling.

last, but also worth mentioning, is the dramatically different outcomes that result when wealth and influence are involved.  not only is carr treated with kid gloves because his uncle can afford high priced lawyers, but burroughs, who was held as a material witness, managed to walk free after he posted bail.  kerouac, instead, with no money (and a father unwilling to post his bail) or connections not only languished in jail as a material witness, but ultimately decided to marry edie parker (they let him leave jail to get married at city hall, then brought him right back until the bail was posted) so that her parents would provide the bail money to free him! 

while the post-murder details aren't played out in the novel, they are worth considering.  especially the sentence of two years in the elmira reformatory that carr received in exchange for his guilty plea.  not the just length sentence - which was lenient in and of itself - is interesting, but the fact that he had to serve any of the time at all because it was implied that part of the plea deal could have avoided jail time entirely.  carr's lawyer suggested that he wanted his client to serve some time to reflect on the crime he committed!  how dostoevskian :D

Saturday, February 23, 2013

2013 stratford sweetheart run 4 miler: race photos and results

the sweetheart run was postponed two weeks from its original date because of a small blizzard that swept across new england.  with the snow forecast for this weekend, it almost seemed like another postponement was in the air.  luckily not only did the snow hold off, so did the rain!  aside from some humidity, it was actually great racing weather!

unfortunately for me, i wasn't 100% for this one.  i spent thursday recovering from a nasty bout w/food poisoning.  even so, i was determined to line up and have a good race. while i didn't hit my target of a sub-30 this time around, i was more than pleased with my 30:47, 7:42 pace.

that time, combined w/emmy's, was enough for us to win our 100-110 age group! we actually ran 30 seconds better than our combined time at the race last year :D

here are the race results from hi-tek racing.

a few more photos posted on facebook.

Friday, February 22, 2013

guest post: eliot's livestrong marathon race report

eliot's combined family and running when he went down to austin, texas, last weekend for the livestrong marathon. and, as any good road trip must include a nod to the local food scene, he also reports on the local carbo-loading opportunities :D

EAT & RUN - A Gathering of Relatives
The LIVESTRONG Full/Half Marathons & Paramount 5K - Austin, Texas
February 17, 2013
Eight of us met in Austin in February to EAT & RUN.  First, I’ll give a shout out to our hosts; my sister Faith and her husband Dan.  Second, here’s a shout out to the runners: my wife Jen, my siblings Daniel & Faith, and my cousins Denise, Cari, George & Don.  What can I say?  I think my cousin Denise pretty much summed it up best on Facebook with her few words about the weekend, “reuniting, reminiscing, childhood memories, food trucks, candy crush, 1st runs, camaraderie, support, medal envy, rolling hills, casseroles, Rudy’s, fine wines, new memories, aching legs, LOVE.”

EAT - For those of you who have never visited Austin, this is a must do.  Being the State Capitol and the home of the Longhorns, Austin is a young and vibrant city with a cozy town-like feel.  There is something for everyone … whether it is finer dining on 2nd Street vs. the food trucks OR the hustle & bustle of 6th Street vs. the serene setting of the Town Lake.  To steal a phrase from my cousin George, “Austin is the food truck mecca.”  So, on this trip, we focused on outdoor eating at the local food trucks (Gourdough’s Donuts, Mellizoz Tacos, Dock & Roll, and Chi’Lantro) and on local beers from Austin Beerworks.  We celebrated Cari’s birthday while pasta-loading on Saturday night at La Taverna.  And, our post-race dinner highlights included two specialty casseroles from the Casserole Queens of Austin, tasty take-out Texas BBQ from Rudy’s and selected fine wines from my brother-in-law’s large stocks.

RUN - There is something for everyone on race day too.  All full, half and 5K runners use the expo, share the same start (5K start is after the full & half marathoners) and cross the same finish line.  It is a rarity that every runner can share in the same excitement of the start and finish on the same race day.

This is a race report so here is my shortest version.  My race plan was pretty simple: Bank a minute or two in the first half, hold pace (+/-) for the second half; BUT, cut back for any reason whatsoever to save myself for the DC full in March.  Austin is in ‘Hill Country’ so I expected and planned for the hills.  Rollers and net down the first 3 miles, significant up from 3 to 6, significant down from 6 to 9, long net up and rollers from 9 to 20, net down and rollers for last 6 with a bump near the finish.  What I didn’t plan for was a very necessary porta-pot break at mile 3 (which cost me a minute) and the blisters that formed on both feet bottoms at mile 12 (at the place where my big toes join my feet).  [I need to figure this out before DC … laces too loose, wrong shoe/sock combo, etc.]  But, I pushed ahead and hit the half in 1:44:11, almost at plan.  It was also my plan to give back 10 to 20 seconds per mile for the next 6 or 7 miles and then to make up whatever time I could in the last stretch of downs and rollers to the finish.  At about mile 17, the 3:30 pace group caught me earlier than expected and that had an impact on my state of mind.  Although they were 7 seconds under pace (I heard), this was not to be the day for my PR with 3 more uphill miles, followed by 6 more miles to the finish, 2 distracting blisters, full sun, rising temps, and DC next month.  Decision made to make this a training run so I didn’t attack ups or downs to save my feet, walked water stops, stopped to eat, and hit the porta-pot again.  I neared the finish to the cheers of my family and by reflex gave them the “Hook ’em Horns” sign.  I am in Austin, you know.  With that energy, I sprinted to my finish of 3:48:14. 

Everyone finished in fine form and special congratulations go to my brother Daniel for finishing his first half marathon and to my cousin Don for finishing his first race at any distance (5K).  By the way, Don took 2nd in his age group. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2013 boston buildup 20k: race photos and results

the rescheduled boston buildup 20k was held in fairfield this morning. it was cold, but that alone wasn't really a factor.  the wind, on the other hand, was unrelenting.  after we took a sharp right out of the high school driveway we confronted a headwind that just wouldn't stop - literally - for the first few miles.  even when it abated, it didn't last long.  my takeaway from the race was a sense of running into a headwind every step of the way - and that's saying something on an out and back course!

even so, i had a pretty good race.  my 1:42:28, 8:15 pace, was a lot slower than the 1:34:01 i ran last year.  it was even well off my 1:40 target.  but, given my low mileage i've run over the last month, i was more than happy to run the course without have to walk the hills (or any portion of the course, for that matter)!

here are the race results from clubct.


i posted more photos on facebook.

Friday, February 15, 2013

just registered for the 2013 brooklyn half :D

i'm in!  i signed up for the brooklyn half marathon just after registration opened at noon this afternoon.  the is one of my all time favorite races (at any distance).  the 2013 edition will be my 9th brooklyn half (my 10th if i didn't miss it last year).

i like this race even more now that the half begins in prospect park and finishes at coney island.  when i first ran this race in 2001 it began on the boardwalk and finished with the hills of propect park.  in this direction we get the hills out of the way at the start :D

the only downside is what seems like the ever increasing price tag.  beware sticker shock with the $55 registration ($75 for non-members)... ouch!

as always, if you're at this one - say hello!

update: nyrr just posted that the brooklyn half sold out in just 6 hours.  remarkable!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

blizzard reshuffles weekend race schedule :O

the blizzard that swept across most of new england on friday,into saturday, swept away the pair of road races on the calendar for this weekend: the stratford sweetheart run and the boston buildup 20k.  on thursday, the sweetheart run was actually pushed back until sunday morning - somewhat optimistically as it turned out.  on friday morning, the buildup was rescheduled for the following sunday (2/17). 

when all the snow finally stopped saturday morning, we had 20+ inches in town!  it was much worse in connecticut, with the governor shutting down the roads that morning!  ironically, w/no traffic on the roads it would have been a great time to have a race - if anyone could actually reach the start line.  that morning, the rescheduled sweetheart run was again postponed - this time for two weeks, until saturday 2/23.

the new date for the buildup conflicts w/the hmrrc albany winter marathon.  that's a tough choice, but since i had planned to register race day, i'll probably skip the trip to albany and head over to fairfield for the 20k;  as for the sweetheart run, it conflicts w/the colchester half marathon.  that's a much tougher dilemma because i really enjoy the half itself and the post-race food afterwards.  right now the sweetheart run has the slight edge (and, maybe the lake waramaug polar bear run the following day).

decisions, decisions!  and here i thought that punxsutawney phil forecast an early spring was just around the corner :O

Sunday, February 3, 2013

2013 gridiron classic 4 miler: race photos and results

in some ways it was tougher to get up and into the city for the gridiron 4 miler this morning than it was for the manhattan half last weekend.  it was 17 degrees when i left home and worked its way up to a toasty (if not humid) 25 degrees at the start (versus a windy 20 degrees at the half).  but, it was only 4 miles and race number three for my 2013 nine plus one.

my only goal, besides crossing the finish line, was to run under 30 minutes.  i didn't think that was too much of a stretch.  but with a crowded first mile of just under 7:40, it suddenly didn't seem as reachable as i expected. then. with pair of 7:18s for miles two and three, i managed to finish in 29:52, just under an overall 7:30 pace :D

under the circumstances i was more than happy with that result.  i'm also happy to have 3 points versus the 1 had last year at this time.  i signed up for the gridiron last year, but had to skip the race to drive my daughter to brewster for field hockey that morning.  even had i run it in 2012, it would only have been my second point.  i probably won't get in another nyrr race until april - but another 4 miler is on deck for next weekend.

here are the race results from nyrr.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

groundhog day 2013

it was difficult to believe punxsutawney phil's prognostication that we'd have an early spring this year when he didn't see his shadow -  when i crawled out of bed to a real feel temperature of nine degrees this morning!  nor was his forecast any easier to believe when it was bolstered by erstwhile nyc colleague staten island chuck's similar pronouncement.

but, heading out to long island for some prognosticating reality, malverne mel came out of his hut this morning and saw his shadow. and, as one smart groundhog, he immediately retreated to his hut and bundled up for another six weeks of winter!  even though mel is in the minority this time around, i think he got it right - unfortunately for us :(

and, since it is groundhog day... celebrate by watching bill murry in "groundhog day" - as if we haven't already seen it dozens of time :O

february 2013 race schedule

my february races kick off tomorrow with the gridiron 4 miler in central park.  it seems like i was there to run just yesterday, having done the manhattan half last sunday.  while it was a bit cold for the 2 loops of the park (20 degrees) last weekend, there may be a sprinkling of snow on the course tomorrow morning ;o

next weekend is a pair of favorites:  the sweetheart 4 miler and the third boston build-up race (20k) in fairfield.  as we've done many times in the past, emmy will be my partner for the tough 4 mile course in stratford - affectionately known as the sweetheart run.  the next day will be a tough 20k in fairfield.  i believe this is the 3rd year in fairfield (from its formerly southport home) for the relocated boston build-up 20k.  amazingly, this course may be easier than starting and finishing in southport!

the third week of february will be a return to the suny albany campus for the hmrrc winter marathon.  the weather for this race has never been nice - the best conditions have been just plain frigid temperatures (and no snow or precipitation).  but runners have such short memories - and i find myself going back again... and again :D

the last weekend is still up in the air.  i'd like to say the colchester half for sure. but i may do the polar bear run, 7.6 miles, the following day instead. that's one i haven't done in years. or maybe both :O

here's how it looks so far:

2/3 - gridiron 4 miler
2/9 - stratford sweetheart run
2/10 - boston build-up 20k
2/17 - hmrrc winter marathon
2/23 - colchester half marathon


2/24 - polar bear run

as always, if you're at any of them - say hello!

Friday, February 1, 2013

edward i. koch: r.i.p.

edward i. koch, the iconic mayor of new york city from 1978-1989 died from congestive heart disease this morning - he was 88 years old.  i became a big fan of mayor koch during my days as a student at pace university from 1980-84, which is directly across from city hall.  mayor koch was in every respect a larger than life personality - and did a tremendous job to  bring nyc back from the brink of bankruptcy in the late 1970s and into a significant growth cycle during the 1980s.  he was an outspoken, often polarizing character.  you either liked him or hated him, there was rarely a middle ground.

on the running front, koch almost single-handedly forced fred lebow to open the nyc marathon to handicapped participants.  lebow was originally against wheel-chair participants.  but he eventually (from a combination of litigation and political pressure) brought them into the race.  koch was also instrumental in getting lebow (the nyrr) to contribute some funds to subsidize the city's costs associated with staging the marathon.

koch was a pretty busy private citizen after he left the mayor's office.  he practiced law, had a radio show, wrote op-ed columns, books (both fiction and non-fiction), appeared in movies (as himself) and, over the last few years, wrote movie reviews!  he was constantly in motion - and, it seemed, always smiling.

rest in peace mayor koch!