Sunday, 26 June 2011

Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Kinky Friedman in concert. Brisbane 25 June 2011.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch is the name of a book by the wild man from Austineo - Kinky friedman. But in Australia there are no ranches, they call them stations. Kinky should call the Australian edition Meanwhile, back at the station...

I got introduced to Kinky Friedman from watching an obscure documentary on him many years ago. I have since read many of his books and managed to track down maybe half his musical output.
Kinky Friedman is an outlaw. He is the bold American. He had a hit called "Sold American", about a fallen country star. Kinky’s star is still shining brightly. It was my first time to see him performing live. There he was telling jokes, grinning, squinting, singing
"Remembering the times/ when coffee with a friend was still a dime..."
I just love that line. That’s the best definition of 'reminiscing' I've heard all evening.

Kinky in concert last evening was the best concert I ever attended. I have been to a few concerts by some international and local acts but Kinky topped them all. The venue was at the Visy theatre in the Powerhouse in Brisbane. This was a very intimate setting which holds 200 people – all sold out. So there he was. Just the man and his guitar in front of a microphone. The way intimate music should be played. Almost like the 60s folkscene that we read about. I was seated in the second row, no more than 5 metres from the performer. It felt like he was performing just for me. I make out that 10% of the 200 people there are new fans.
He opened with a disclaimer: ‘we deserve the right to refuse service’ and then followed with a toast to honour, saying “here’s to honor, get on her, and stay on her”. Classic Kinky.
He had many jokes sprinkled between songs throughout the evening. Some of them are funny, a couple are maybe too crude or rude. One may even be politically incorrect in today’s atmosphere, as he himself seemed to concede. That may be so for PC pedants, but in context, it is quite okay. Well he does not even say “fuck” in front of a c-h-i-l-d.

The setlist from what I can remember (Like Kinky I did have a double before the show):
  • We deserve the right to refuse services to you
  • Autograph
  • They ain’t making jews like Jesus anymore (with an audience sing-along)
  • Ol’ ben lucas (written by an 11yr old Kinky - about mucus)
  • Marilyn and DiMaggio
  • Rapid City, South Dakota
  • Sold American
  • Asshole from El Paso
  • Ballad of Ira Hayes
  • The wild man from borneo
  • Pretty boy Floyd (encore)
Like everyone else, the man is getting on in years. But the humorous mischief and twinkle in him remains. He admits to being a young 66 years old. “I’m too young for medicare,” he says, “but too old for women to care.”
He told anecdotes about his dalliance with politics. He says he spells this as 'polyticks' meaning multiple bloodsucking parasites. He is a generous person. He told about him and Van Dyke Parks (co-tourist) drawing the fine line between music and criticism, and snorting it. He has sharp wit and he’s also eagle-eyed. He spotted an audience member wearing a ‘kinky’ shirt.
He confides that he follows current affairs: Libya and Charlie Sheen. He’s thinking of adding disgraced congressman Wiener to the list.

He also related the story of an old couple now hard of hearing, but still finding ways to communicate in their old age. The old man once asked his wife where the rake was, having to mime the question because she could not hear. The old woman replied in kind. She pointed at herself, grabbed her left breast, her backside and then her crotch. The old man could not work this out so he came to the porch for an explanation. The woman said: “I/ left-tit/ behind/ the bush.”

Jokes are often better heard than read. But it was a magic evening. Funny and entertaining. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He quotes distinguished writers such as Oscar Wilde and Joseph Heller, without pretense like many so-called artists. Friedman is an accomplished writer and novelist, and knows whereof he speaks.
He shared a few more jokes. Like about the Native American Indian's concept of ownership - and casinos. Or about the Texan billionaire telling the Mexican with 12 kids to stop bothering Jesus about his problems; or about the guy Uwe (not Hughie or Huey) who he met in NSW. Uwe comes from Kinky's 2nd favorite people in the world, after everyone else.

If you're lost, really you should go and see Kinky.
He may not be in the league of the great satirical comics Richard Pryor, Lenny Bruce or Mel Brooks, but he's made a niche for himself. I like a certain kind of outlaw. In music, Kinky Friedman is my kind of outlaw. Like Robin Hood, or Pretty Boy Floyd - the kind of outlaw that he sings about in paean to Woody Guthrie. The guitar-that-kills-fascists man still screams in Kinky’s veins. Indeed, an outlaw who you’ll never see drive a family from their home. The honest type who live outside the law.
If I was a Texan, I’d vote for him all the time, over many of those hypocrites in poly-ticks. Kinky tells it like it is. Behind his songs is couched the grim reality that wetbacks are paid only 20 cents an hour (or today's equivalent). For this he gets criticised for political incorrectness. That Mississippi hall-of-famer Van Dyke Parks is right. Kinky should be canonised. The first Saint from Texas.
Kinky also read from his book “Heroes of a Texas Childhood”. He told a touching tale about his father - how he inspired him to speak out for the underdog. Do keep preaching to the infidels, Kinky.
And Kinky. You may not have made it like Gram Parsons or Barth Grooks, but there’s still some of us who follow quality music (and books). I make out that 10% of the 200 people there are new fans. Kinky, rest assured, there will be people yelling: “what about albinos?” at least for the rest of your life.
If Kinky runs again for Governor of Texas, I fear he’ll lose again, because as he says - he’s got Willie Nelson’s endorsement.
Am sure he’ll win hands down here in Queensland. Look out Anna. And Campbell.
As the lights went back on at the end of the show, I noticed that the audience comprised of goodlooking men and women. Just like the Kinkster.
And Kinky said it himself: "a genius audience makes for a  genius performance."
Couldn't agree more.

I might go and see him again. In 25 years time. They ain't making Jews like Kinky anymore. Hey Kinkster, can you make it sooner? And are you gonna light that cigar or what?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Queensland Half Marathon 2011

The Queensland Half Marathon is held each year at the Doomben Racecourse (est. 1933). The 2011 race was held on the 5th of June with all the runners experiencing an exciting 'grandstand' finish in front of the stands overlooking the racing tracks of Brisbane's oldest racecourse. The events included the Half Marathon (21.1 km), the Doomben 10,000 (10 km), 5km fun run and the Doomben Cup (2.5 km walk).

After the race. A faded and jaded half-marathoner.
The recommended training regime is to run three times a week and to run 90% of the target race time prior. Furthermore, the training should be built up over a period of up to 12 weeks. Well in the previous week I ran 13.3km in the 2011 Australian Mountain Running Championships, jogged about 6km with the Bunyaville trailrunners on Wednesday, and another 2km on my own on Friday. That’s a total distance of 21.3 km logged for the week, to complete my training for my first official half-marathon. I also ran the 'cliff2cliff' in March, an attempt at a fun run – a training run. But that was about 10 weeks ago, so all the training boxes are ticked.

I was hoping to better my time in the cliff2cliff of 2:19, which I did. I took a massive 10% off that time to finish in 2:06. These times would look world-class in a marathon.

The race started at 0700h with two wheelchair athletes at the front.

From the back I could spot the balloons of the pace runners, but could not find one for 2:10.

So I positioned myself behind the 2:00 group.

How does one describe a half-marathon? Or two hours and six minutes (2:06) of it? It was an ordeal that I kept hoping would end. But I was in the middle of nowhere racing in the streets. I thought that the longer I keep going, the nearer I will get to the finish line in the grandstand of Doomben racecourse, and nearer to the refuge of my car parked close by. We traced out the first half of the route, taking in an overpass which was okay going down from its crest, but a bit of a struggle going up.

I managed to keep the 2:00 group in sight, but as we looped around for the second lap, I slowly dropped off to wage a lonesome battle against myself. I nearly quit a couple of times but the sight of a couple of octogenarians proudly racing on shamed me somewhat. So i struggled on. After the race I did some sole searching and discovered a cut and bleeding toe, and some blisters on my feet, but at the time all I could feel was the constant jarring on the heels.
At the finish, I felt immense relief.

I looked around the grandstand and experienced a sense of achievement. I have been to Doomben racecourse before. And I don’t mean the 2010 Doomben 10000.

In recent years, I did some work for the Brisbane Turf Club for the design and subsequent renovation of the Doomben racecourse. During part of that period, I used to work with this fellow who punted a bit on horse races, but always came out losing money. I shared a secret with him about making money every time I came here to Doomben races. He was keen to know my secret, so I advised him that I only went to Doomben - to work.  That’s a surefire way of always making money at the racecourse :). I have never lost yet at the Doomben races, well until last year, and this year.
After the race, I checked in my chip, grabbed a bottle of water, a medal and a towel – souvenirs from the race, and then gingerly made my way out.

Feeling sore, I queued up for a massage.
A small expo of sporting products was being held as part of the race event and I checked out the range of running gear on offer. My old shoes look tired and re-tyred so I purchased a pair of brand new runners. Then I joined the crowd at the presentations to applaud the winners.

It was inspirational to see kids and the young septuagenarians and older, receiving their medals.

Umberto Greco won the 5km 80+ age group. He's my people's choice for runner of the year. I think he's related to the writer Umberto Italiano er Eco.

I believe that's R Hogan celebrating his 75th by winning the 10km 70-75 age group in 48 minutes.
That’s a faster pace than any distance I ever ran, including the first 400m of the UP Ikot, my first ever (aborted) run nearly 30 years ago.
The winner of the half-marathon is K Bisamo from PNG. He was 'only' twice as fast as me.

That old pair of shoes and accompanying bib, finished near the back of the race.

Click here for the official 2011 race results.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Australian Mountain Running Championships 2011

Bellbird Grove, Camp Mountain Queensland 29 May 2011
I got back from the gasfields last week for a well-deserved break. I must say I earned it. At the remote gasfields I barely did any running and was a bit out of shape. So on the weekend (last weekend in May) I thought I might go bushwalking to give the old legs a bit of exercise.

There is this beautiful part of the Brisbane Forest Park going up to Mt Nebo from The Gap. We drove up the steeply winding road Mt Nebo road a few times in ages past, for sight-seeing and picnics and whatnot. Boombana has rainforest walking tracks, and there are truly stunning views from Jolly’s Lookout.

View of Brisbane from Camp Mountain.
I glimpsed parts of the green untouched forests from flights to and from the western downs, and I thought it’s about time I visited Brisbane forest park again.

Bird's eye view of Bellbird Grove to Camp Mountain, at bottom.
On Saturday I was lazing about reading some novel I don’t even remember the title, when the radio mentioned something about some mountain running off Mt Nebo road. I heard that this was being held the next day Sunday and that onlookers are welcome to cheer the runners along. This clinchéd it for me to visit those parks near Camp Mountain again.

Camp Mountain

Bellbird Grove
On a glorious sunny Sunday morning I turned up in Bellbird Grove with my digital camera hoping to snap off some pictures of runners I might know. All of the participants are elite mountain runners from around Australia. Many are local Queenslanders but there are a good number from the other states and ACT. None of them were familiar to me, but these are the crème de la creme of mountain running in Australia. Up for grabs are spots in the upcoming 2011 World Mountain Running Championships in Tirana, Albania and the Commonwealth Mountain Running Championships in Wales, Great Britain, both in September.

I mingled with the runners at the registration tables. I asked an official if there was a time limit in the race. He looked at me as if I was from Antarctica, “Mate look around you, it’s a perfect Queensland day. Runners can take as long as they want.” On impulse I asked “Can I join then?” And that’s how I entered this race – a last minute entrant.

I thought of representing the western downs region of Queensland, but maybe they won’t take too kindly to a turtle flying their flag. I also considered representing the Philippines, but that would be presumptuous without official sanction. So I just put down Polichay from Brisbane, Queensland. Hopefully they won’t banish me to Antarctica if I don’t finish.

The junior and senior men go for glory.
To cut this tale short, I came last. No crowing there. I did finish well outside the time limit of 1hour 40minutes, so I did not even get my name on the results.
It was close though. I only missed out on the Top 3 by a mere 0.9 of an hour!

Some of the winners.
At the presentations we heard that we created a new participation record for this event. It looks like I set (or help set) new records every time I race - whether for the slowest finisher, or just making up the numbers.

Below results are from Australian Mountain Running Association, with links to photos.

2011 AMRC results
I finished 100th out of a total 100 participants overall. In the men's open 13.2km, I was 50th out of 50.

But my results look good in my age group 45-49. I finished in the top 10 in 10th. Never mind that the ten other guys in the 50-80 age group all finished ahead of me.

I wasn’t too despondent. My aim was to finish which I did. I was actually quite satisfied with my race time. Maybe next time (if there’s a next time) if I actually ‘run’ uphill instead of crawl uphill, my time might be ‘publishable.’

Open Men's 13.3km results continued...
 A Springsteen tune came to mind as I drove home:

We don’t run for the money got shoe strings attached
We run `em up and then we run `em down...
I went for another spin - to Camp Mountain agin...