Thoughts, Ideas and Stories

Archive for October 2011

The Great Westchase 5K

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I knew 6:00am was going to come around early so I set the alarm and went to bed at 10 the night before. I debated the merits of carb-loading before I slept but it was only a 5K for goodness sakes. I applauded Michael Scott’s effort during his 5K but felt the result did not justify the attempt so I settled for some chicken for dinner and lots of water.

I awoke about 3:30 to the sound of rain; crap, it’s going to be a wet run. I debated skipping the run altogether but I had already paid and my coach had specifically added this race as part of my training. As I lay in bed it dawned on me that the rain was actually the sprinkler system from my condo complex. I breathed a sigh of relief and went back to sleep for a while.

The alarm went off and I was up once again. This time it really was drizzling but not enough to ruin my anticipation. I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast and got myself ready to go. I had picked up the official race T-shirt the night before but since it was raining and the shirt was very thin, I put a sleeveless shirt on first. I grabbed a protein bar and a bottle of water and drove to the race site.

After a few inquiries, myself and a couple of other lost souls found the check-in table and I attached my timing chip to my running shoes. Now all that was left was to wait….and wait….and wait. As the crowd built, I jogged a few blocks to warm up and burn off some nervous energy. I chatted with some of the other runners, trying to gauge where I should start in the crowd to avoid getting blocked in by slower runners. I shouldn’t have worried because unless I was starting up front there was no way to avoid the bottleneck that was about to begin. With so many runners starting off in just two streets, there was just no way to prevent it.

The first mile was probably a little slow due to the cattle call start. I didn’t see the marker so I have no idea what my split was. I got passed by a few people along the way but I wasn’t concerned with that, I just wanted to make it to the end! I grabbed water at the halfway mark, spilled most of it as I tried to run and drink and finally just tossed the cup to the side.

I checked my time at the second mile marker; it read 17:20. That was a little slower than I wanted so I attacked the approaching hill, lengthening my strides and pumping my arms. I sailed through the downhill run, passing most of the people who passed me during the first mile or so. I knew the end was up ahead somewhere but since I didn’t have my glasses on all I could hope was that traffic light I saw was the turn for home!

Thankfully it was but I was quickly losing steam. I rounded the corner with about 300 yards to go. I saw the three-mile marker, phew! I corrected my form and stepped up the pace to all I had left. I didn’t want to finish breathing like a freight train but I didn’t want to leave anything out on the course either. I could hear a few cheers from the crowd which is always appreciated and hit the line at 26:40. Not bad for an old sprinter and a full two minutes per mile faster than the Mother’s Day 5K I ran this year!

If I keep this up, I’ll be running sub-four minute miles in no time!

Males 45 – 49 years

GrpPlace Time  Name       Age  City      OAPlace   Pace    Time

16               26:54    David Ufer      47      Oldsmar          239            8:41         26:40

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Written by David A. Ufer

October 31, 2011 at 10:16 am

Posted in Sports

The Magic Kingdom as a Road Map for Life

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Having spent a lot of time wandering around Walt Disney World and even more time wandering around life, I have come to the conclusion that Walt Disney was not only an entertainment wizard but also a genius at unintended metaphors. Take the Magic Kingdom for instance – each “land” was clearly designed with a stage of life in mind.

Main Street, U.S.A – this is where it all begins. We enter life and spend our time in our hometown. We have our family, friends and the local shops and restaurants. It’s all we need for the first years of our lives. But then we get older and bolder. We need more. We need….

Adventureland – it’s all one big adventure at this point; everything is new and exciting. Every day brings new situations. We meet new friends in school, start dating and driving, spread our wings and begin to take control of our lives and plan for our futures. This leads us into….

Frontierland – marriage, purchasing a house, raising children; these are all our new frontiers. We can ask for and get all the advice we would ever want and need but we are the homesteaders who have to live it ourselves. We either make it or we don’t but whatever the case, it’s our responsibility.

Liberty Square – Freedom! The kids have moved out, the mortgage is paid off and it’s our time again! Although at times our empty home reminds us of a haunted house with all our memories, we are still happy and eager for what our future holds, which takes us to….

Fantasyland – our homes are once again filled with joy and laughter of little voices as our grandchildren come to visit. We join in their games and enter their worlds without a care or a worry because we are once again children ourselves, living our lives through them gladly and without fuss.

Tomorrowland – and now we come to the world that never was but rather how we wanted it to be. We reminisce about our lives, remembering the good times and thankfully forgetting the sad and trying times. It is here that we prepare ourselves for whatever comes next which is inevitably….

The Exit – after the fireworks and pageantry are over, we make our way through the turnstiles and back to where we came and where we will go.

So there you have it, no matter who we are or what we do, like song says, it’s a small world after all.

Written by David A. Ufer

October 24, 2011 at 9:21 am

Up Before the Dawn

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Temporary insomnia has its benefits.

The world is pleasantly silent in the wee hours of the morning, save for the humming of tires from the roadways which near my community. When all is quiet in the world, it’s interesting that one can hear such sounds as if they are coming from the next room.

There is a very strange sound I hear on occasion. I can only compare it to the sound a hippopotamus makes. And the best way I can describe that is very similar to a Jabba the Hutt laugh. Click below to listen:

As the cooler weather arrives, I am looking forward to the return of the coyotes that make their home in the cable cut behind my complex. I’ve seen a few of them on occasion but I hear the whole pack when the moon is full. Their mournful howl sounds so sad but I can’t help but smile when I hear them sing in harmony with a passing emergency vehicle blasting its siren at full wail.

As the dawn breaks, the early birds take wing. Usually the seagulls are the first to announce their presence, squawking their way across the sky toward their watery destinations.

Next the squirrels awake and scamper to and fro searching for nuts or seeds for breakfast; their tails twitching with excitement. The gray squirrels are the most fun to watch as they chase each other with perfect balance across the stockade fences and around the oak tree trunks; chattering in a language only they understand.

Morning rolls into afternoon and then into evening. The early evening hours bring out nature’s battle tank, the armadillo. They waddle with their noses close to the ground in search of insects and grubs. Also on the hunt for insects are the Florida Evening Bats. Not a very original name but appropriate nonetheless. These night creatures appear at dusk to eat their fill as they zip and dart in the evening air.

This cycle repeats over and over, every day and yet I never tire of it.

Written by David A. Ufer

October 17, 2011 at 8:09 am

Posted in Nature

Asbury Park, NJ

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Since I’m suffering a bit of writer’s block this week, I thought I would take the opportunity to post one of the writing assignments from a previous writing course. I was quite proud of the imagery this short story evinced. I hope y’all enjoy it as much as I do.

ASBURY PARK, NJ

Finally, we made it! With all the traffic on the Parkway, I thought we’d never get here! It seems like everyone is heading to the shore today. Who can blame them? It’s a perfect day.

Walking down to the water, my feet sink into the sun-warmed sand, grabbing them like hot, scratchy socks and leaving gritty remnants between my toes.  A light breeze from the ocean flutters the blanket as we unfold it and lay it on the sand.

I unpack the beach bag and pull out a radio and some sunscreen. Music and news come from radios all up and down the beach as I apply the sunscreen. The sweet coconut fragrance surrounds me as the cool lotion disappears into my skin.

An icy chill rushes through my sun-baked body as the ocean waves crash into us and the outgoing tide pulls us to and fro.  A gulp of salty seawater quickly reminds me to keep my mouth closed as we swim towards shore.

After a refreshing shower and a change of clothes, we hit the Boardwalk and our senses are assaulted by a cacophony of sounds from the arcades and carnival barkers and the excited screams of the people on the thrill rides.

The roller coaster is alive with a pulsating rainbow of neon lights chasing the ride vehicle as it climbs, twists and streaks its way around the track. Children are laughing with glee as they mount their favorite painted pony and gallop ’round and ’round on the carousel, its red and white striped awning spinning into a blur.

The sweet, fruity aroma of cotton candy grabs us by the nose and pulls us over to the concession stand. Pastel colored crystals pour  into the machine and silky, web-like strands are spun on a paper cone. As the sugary lightness hits my tongue, it immediately dissolves into a puddle of blueberry sweetness.

The ride home is quiet except for the hum of the tires on the highway as everyone reflects on the sun-filled, fun-filled day.

© Copyright 2003 by David A. Ufer

Written by David A. Ufer

October 10, 2011 at 9:01 am

Posted in Stories

My Top Five Movies

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Remember when movies were original? Before all the remakes, reboots and retreads took over? I miss the Hollywood that wasn’t afraid to take a chance on an original script and not use the same actors time after time.

With that in mind, here are my five favorite movies today*

5 – Heist (2001)

Gene Hackman, Delroy Lindo, Ricky Jay, Danny DeVito, Samuel Rockwell and Rebecca Pidgeon star in this amusing tale of thievery, deception and some of the coolest language every written for a film. After DeVito stiffs Gene Hackman and crew on a job, the double and triple-crosses take the movie to places both expected and unexpected. There are plenty of other movies of this genre, “Ocean’s Eleven” comes to mind, but this one is “cuter than a pail of kittens”.

4 – Rocky V (1990)

You can’t appreciate this installment of Stallone’s rags to riches to rags boxing saga without knowing where it all began; but in my opinion, this film is one of the best of the six. Retired but still looking to stay in the game, Rocky Balboa meets a young protégé who is hungry for success and fame. As the relationship with the young boxer grows, his relationship with his own son suffers. Interference from a slick, fast talking boxing promoter leads to the ultimate showdown between the teacher and student with a tremendous street fight free-for-all.

3 – The Four Seasons (1981)

A yearlong following of three wealthy couples who vacation together during the Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Along the way, we are treated to the neurosis, depression and general hilarity of the group of friends and their families as they deal with marriage, divorce, aging and a newcomer to the group. Alan Alda is at his self-righteous best along with Carol Burnett, Rita Moreno, Jack Weston, Len Cariou and Bess Armstrong.

2 – It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

An incredible who’s who of comedians at the top of their game makes this comedy adventure a family classic! Jimmy Durante’s last words before his death send Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, Buddy Hackett, Mickey Rooney, Ethel Merman and Jonathan Winters, in one of his most hysterical roles, on the hunt for a treasure buried under a big “W”. Cameos by Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges round out the incredible comedic talent in this laugh out loud farce.

1 – Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Paul Newman and Robert Redford star in the Western comedy to end all Western comedies. As the leader of the Hole in the Wall Gang, Butch Cassidy teams up with the Sundance Kid to rob banks and trains throughout the Southwest. When the law starts closing in, Butch and Sundance take their talents to Bolivia for more action and one final showdown with the authorities. The filming locations of California, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico add a beautiful realism to this tale which as stated, for the most part, is true.

* The author reserves the right to change or amend his favorite movies at any time, anywhere and for any reason.

Written by David A. Ufer

October 3, 2011 at 7:28 am

Posted in Lists