Christmas in June

More new stuff!

Rebel Trucker: Cajun Blood MoneyRebel Trucker: Cajun Blood Money (PC)

Rebel Trucker is, according to the GameSpot review, a “… huge mess of a game that is riddled with grievous bugs, badly designed in every measurable capacity, and completely lacking in any conceivable dimension of fun.” GameSpot rates it a 1.8: abysmal. I picked it up for $6.98 from Half Price Books because I have an unexplainable compulsion to drive big rigs in video games. I should probably be ashamed of myself.

Iron MonkeyIron Monkey (Siunin Wong Fei-hung tsi titmalau) (DVD/1993)

Iron Monkey is a very fun movie with a Robin Hood hero and some excellent wire-fu. The action is a cross between The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. This is the U.S. version (presented by Quentin Tarantino), which is rumored to be superior to the original release in some respects, yet inferior in others. I was surprised to find it at Half Price Books for the low, low price of $4.98. Worth every penny.

Star Wars: Rebel StormStar Wars Miniatures: Rebel Storm starter set

This one was a gift from co-worker Chuck (AKA gator). It’s an assortment of miniature Star Wars figures and rules for engaging them in skirmishes. The set also includes maps and blank grids, and the figures can be used with the Star Wars roleplaying game. This last will likely come in handy when my Star Wars role-playing group starts getting together this summer. Thanks, Chuck!

Shark Academy 5: Police Frenzy

I watched a couple of movies last night while Laura was at her church council meeting. It was a long meeting. She didn’t get home until 11:00.

First up, the SciFi original, Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, starring Jeffrey (Re-Animator) Combs, William (Career Opportunities) Forsythe and Hunter (The Bold and the Beautiful) Tylo. It was no Alien Apocalypse (for which I am thankful), but that’s about the nicest thing I can say about it.

William Forsythe has been in a lot of movies — heck, he was in the epic gangster flick, Once Upon a Time in America — but he’s not exactly leading man material. He doesn’t have the physique for action, nor the personality for romance. He’s a pretty good tough guy, gruff goon type, but I certainly don’t buy him as the head of I.T. for a major pharmaceutical company. Sorry. (Side note: Mister Forsythe’s headshot on IMDb is very flattering. Makes him look like a young, badass Robert Duvall.)

The real star of Hammerhead (apart from the shark-human hybrid, I suppose) is Jeffrey Combs, anyway. He plays a mad scientist. He always plays a mad scientist. Combs’ Dr. King has found a way to cure cancer using shark stem cells (controversial!), but with horrific results: the patient becomes more shark than human. The bad doctor is searching for a way to bring back the patient’s humanity, as well as create viable offspring that will be the next step in human evolution. This involves stripping fairly attractive women down to their underthings and tossing them in a greenhouse with the manshark. Oh, did I mention that Dr. King’s hybrid is amphibious? That’s right, manshark is also a landshark, at home in the water but able to run through the jungle to kill pretty girls and machine gun-wielding goons.

The death toll is pretty high, as the manshark has quite the appetite. He even eats a couple of swimmers during Dr. King’s luau on the beach. Where these swimmers came from and why no one seems to notice that they’re missing is anyone’s guess. Numerous blood-soaked chunky bits and a couple of exploding helicopters later, Dr. King unsuccessfully attempts to get the manshark to mate with Hunter Tylo, gets his arm bitten off by his own abominable creation, and is shot in the back by William Forsythe. This is pretty standard for Jeffrey Combs.

Hammerhead is typical fare for the SciFi Channel. If it crawls, swims, slithers or flies and is remotely creepy, SciFi has mutated it and sicced it on the populace. Giant snakes and lizards, swarms of bees and other insects, spiders, and even the chupacabra have been featured in recent SciFi productions. Just tune in on any Saturday afternoon and you’ll see what I mean. If it weren’t for the Stargate series (coming soon: Stargate Miami) and Battlestar Galactica, there wouldn’t actually be any science-fiction on the SciFi Channel.

Ah, but I’m high atop my soapbox again. Best climb down and get back on track. Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy is certainly not a good movie, but it was at least mildly entertaining. The manshark looked nifty in his tank (where he was computer-generated), but not very nifty in the choppy, frenetic glimpses of him roaming about on land. Even worse were the ridiculous close-ups of his eye as he watched his hapless prey stumble through the jungle. The victims characters ranged from generic (the millionaire’s pretty, vapid girlfriend and the mad scientist’s hunched over, servile assistant) to unbelieveable (I’m telling you, there’s no way Forsythe’s character is in I.T.) and the story was predictable, with just the right number of inconsistencies to keep it amusing.

Later, while cooking a bit of a late dinner, I happened across Police Academy 5: Assignment: Miami Beach. I… don’t know why I watched it. I plead temporary insanity.

In terms of number of sequels, Police Academy franchise sits somewhere between Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (5 sequels) and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (8 sequels).

The most recent, Mission to Moscow, was released in 1994. According to IMDb, we haven’t seen the last of Bubba Smith and Michael Winslow. There’s a new Police Academy movie in the works, slated for release next year. This as-yet untitled movie will be the seventh sequel in the series, and is apparently being directed by Hugh Wilson, who directed the original Police Academy but none of its sequels. No word as to whether Commandant Lassard (George Gaynes), who has been in every installment to date, will be returning. As Mister Gaynes is currently 88 years old, I’d say the chances are fairly slim. (A very, very interesting side note for every Suomi poika and tyttö who might be reading this: George Gaynes was born in Helsinki, Finland.)

More than anything about the Police Academy series, I remember Leslie Easterbrook’s enormous breasts the theme song. In high school band, I eschewed scales as my warmup, opting instead to bring my trombone to temperature with the Police Academy theme. I couldn’t quote lines from the movies or remember much of the “plots,” but I could certainly play the opening bars of that theme song on the trombone.

So, maybe it was the theme song that snared me. Yeah, that’s it.

Movie Review: Batman Begins (2005)

Batman Begins (DVD)Batman Begins (2005)

Starring Christian Bale, Liam Neeson, Katie Holmes, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Cillian Murphy, Tom Wilkinson , Linus Roache, Ken Watanabe and Roy Batty.

Directed by Christopher Nolan.

In 1997, Joel Schumacher pounded the last nail into the coffin of the Batman franchise. When compared with Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman, Schumacher’s Batman & Robin is an outright travesty; the grisly demise of a series that had been on a steady decline since its first sequel in 1992.

What went wrong? Well, Jack Nicholson’s scene-stealing turn as the Joker set the tone for the series. The villains became more important than the caped crusader himself. The villains were cast, it seemed, solely based on how they were performing at the box office. Danny Devito and Michelle Pfeiffer (Penguin and Catwoman) in Batman Returns were followed by Tommy Lee Jones and Jim Carrey as Two-Face and The Riddler, respectively. The portrayal of Two-Face was dreadful, but the final insult was Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mister Freeze in Batman & Robin, a performance that was more campy than anything offered by the 1966 version of the dynamic duo or their cadre of villains in Batman: The Movie.

Also, each installment expanded on the quirky visual style of Batman until the costumes, sets and vehicles looked patently outlandish. The batsuit worn by Michael Keaton in 1989 was revolutionary, marking a departure from the image of superheroes as grown men running around in tights. Unfortunately, by the time George Clooney donned the cape and cowl in 1997, the costume had become something worse than tights. Batman and Robin (Chris O’Donnell) had rubber nipples on their body-armored chests. The batsuit — and the entire Batman franchise — had become a joke.

Now, eight years later, the Batman franchise has been resurrected with Batman Begins. The Burton/Schumacher Batman is nowhere to be found here. The batsuit has been completely retailored and the Batmobile traded in for something with a little more urban commando chic. From top to bottom, Batman has gotten a much needed makeover.

(Minor spoilers follow…)
In terms of coffee, the 1960’s Batman is a skim milk vanilla latté with a shot of raspberry syrup. Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s first outing in 1989 is a light roast with half-and-half and two sugars. Batman Returns is the same cup of coffee with a little more half-and-half and three sugars. By the time Val Kilmer dons the utility belt, the franchise has switched to decaf.

Batman Begins is dark roast served black. No cream. No sugar.

For the first time, Batman is truly the Dark Knight found in the comic books and graphic novels. Director Christopher Nolan lets Batman (Christian Bale) be dark, and does so without apology or counterpoint. The villains aren’t madcap clowns in colorful costumes, they’re as dark and disturbed as the hero himself. Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy), for example, is a doctor who dons a burlap mask when he conducts experiments with hallucinogenic drugs on his patients. A guy like that, to paraphrase Bruce Wayne, has issues.

Since Batman Begins is an origin story, there’s a good deal of build up to the final reveal. Thankfully, Nolan doesn’t let the story of how and why Bruce Wayne becomes the Batman get boring (for an example of the wrong way to do this, see Ang Lee’s Hulk). In fact, Bruce Wayne’s training under the tutelage of Ducard (Liam Neeson) and Ra’s Al Ghul’s (Ken Watanabe) Order of the Shadow not only keeps the story interesting, it provides an excellent crescendo to the Dark Knight’s debut in Gotham.

Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham intending to finish the work his father began: healing a corrupt Gotham. Unfortunately, in the twenty years since Thomas and Martha Wayne were gunned down in an alley, Gotham has been steadily spiralling into chaos. Organized crime is rampant and corruption has all but taken over the justice system. Only a few people, such as Sergeant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and Assistant D.A. Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes), still struggle against the crimelords and corrupt judges who are driving Gotham ever deeper into ruin.

No man can repair the damage done to Gotham, but Bruce Wayne is determined to become more than a man. Batman Begins tells the tale of how Bruce Wayne uses every resource at his disposal to become a legend. Drawing on a childhood accident that left him with a paralyzing fear of bats, Bruce becomes what he fears in order to strike fear into the hearts of the criminals who are destroying the foundation of Gotham. It is this exploration of darkness, fear and anxiety that keeps the movie interesting at the beginning and propels it through to the end. Bruce Wayne faces his fear, becomes his fear, and ultimately proves that the compassion some consider to be his greatest weakness is, in fact, a strength in and of itself.

Christian Bale brings a good mix of humanity and cold, steely determination to the roles of Bruce Wayne and the Batman. Wayne is, however, a little too quick to discard the playboy millionaire façade when confronted by his childhood friend, the earnest Rachel Dawes. This might be a sign that Bruce hasn’t yet fully embraced his dual roles, but more likely it’s a bit of sloppy writing that lays the foundation for the one remnant of the old Batman franchise that Nolan and company didn’t do away with: Batman revealing his secret identity to the girl. This was probably the single biggest disappointment in Batman Begins. Bruce needs to save face with his old friend, so he lets her in on the secret. It didn’t have to be this way, and would have created an interesting dynamic for future installments if Rachel had gone on believing that Bruce was the shallow millionaire playboy.

Rachel herself isn’t a very engaging character. Whether that’s a testament of Katie Holmes’ acting ability or just some more sloppy writing, I’m not sure. Whatever the case, when Rachel was in danger, I wasn’t concerned about her wellbeing because I liked the character, but rather because she was clearly so important to Bruce Wayne.

The rest of the supporting characters aren’t so bland. Morgan Freeman provides many of the movie’s more humorous moments as Lucius Fox, a former board member of Wayne Enterprises now whiling away his time in the basement, looking after the company’s now-defunct weapons manufacturing section. He occasionally exchanges barbs with Earle (Rutger Hauer), the trustee of the Wayne fortune and head of Wayne Enterprises. Earle’s role is relatively minor, but I wouldn’t count him out of future installments.

There’s also Alfred Pennyworth, the Waynes’ loyal and ever-present butler, played by Michael Caine. Alfred is an intrinsic character in the Batman history, and Caine does an excellent job of portraying just how deeply he cares for the Wayne family, even when the family consists of only Bruce.

And then there’s the Batmobile, the design of which can be described in three words: urban commando chic. Unlike previous incarnations, the new Batmobile looks formidable. It’s part Humvee, part Knight Industries Two Thousand and all bad ass. In terms of stylistic choice, no single aspect of this movie had as much make-or-break potential as the Batmobile. I was somewhat nervous about how radically different it looks from anything Batman has previously driven, but quite pleased with how it worked on screen. Batman isn’t about subtlety, and the Batmobile doesn’t appear to have a subtle bolt in its chassis. Yet, when stealth is the order of the day, this behemoth of a vehicle can sneak with the best of them. The only sticking point is the somewhat silly means by which the driver shifts positions when accessing the Batmobile’s onboard weapons systems.

The Batmobile is a perfect representation of just how much Christopher Nolan has distanced Batman Begins from the Burton/Schumacher films, and it worked surprisingly well. I was also surprised by how much I enjoyed the Hans Zimmer/James Newton Howard soundtrack. Despite the lack of a distinctive Batman theme (such as the one Danny Elfman created for the 1989 Batman), the orchestral score worked very well. Also, there are no pop themes for this movie. No Prince or R. Kelly or Jewel tunes that would undermine the tone, and that’s a good thing.

For those more familiar with the Adam West and Michael Keaton versions of the caped crusader, Batman Begins may seem overly dark and excessively edgy. For those of us who have read the graphic novels and comic books featuring Batman over the past twenty years, this new film version is exactly what we’ve been waiting for. It has its weak points (every movie does), but they are far outweighed by the power of the Dark Knight’s true debut.

Not cool.

The furnace and air conditioner in our house are now twenty years old. This is equivalent to ninety-seven in human years. They’re old and—like many a ninety-seven–year old—some of the internal plumbing doesn’t work right anymore. When the heat turned hot last week, we quickly discovered that the air conditioner simply wasn’t working. Laura called “the guy” who has done some work on our furnace and he made an appointment for Friday.

Unfortunately, the Friday appointment was canceled due to thunderstorms, so “the guy” came by Monday afternoon. When I got home from work, the front door was closed. A good sign.

Sure enough, I was met with a wave of cool, refreshing air when I walked into the house. Excellent. “The guy” had refilled the coolant, but he advised Laura that the compressor wasn’t going to be able to cope with 90-degree days. Additionally, he said, the filters we use are too thick and don’t allow the fan to effectively move the cool (or hot, I suppose) air. We should use cheaper filters. Cost to fix the A/C on Monday: about $120.

Not bad.

“The guy” also suggested that the entire heating and cooling system be replaced (which we expected he would) and provided a rough estimate of the cost of doing so. I was expecting the number of zeroes on the end, but the non-zero number at the beginning was a bit higher than I anticipated.

Time to rob a liquor store.

Yesterday, Laura noticed that the A/C was leaking water (at least, we hope it was water) all over the floor in the laundry room. ((Edit: I’m told that the coolant is most likely gaseous and the A/C probably doesn’t use water in the system. It’s probably just condensation. If it is condensation (and I certainly wouldn’t discount that possibility), there’s an awful lot of it and it’s dripping from above the furnace, which doesn’t seem like it’d be a good thing.

More Edit: I’ve been schooled on the manner in which air conditioning works. The compressor outside compresses air and pumps it inside through a small pipe. Inside, the air is expanded in a coil, causing the cooling effect. Warm, moist air is passed over the coil and condensation forms on the metal. This moisture drips into a collection pan of some sort and drains through a pipe. The current theory is that the drain pipe is clogged, causing the drain pan to overflow. This may actually be something I can fix myself, and now I want to go home and do so.)) This seemed awfully familiar, because … hey, wasn’t that the reason we stopped using the A/C last summer? Yeah, it was. The source of the leak, which is right above the furnace, doesn’t looks like it’s going to be particularly easy to get at. In fact, it looks like it’s going to be kind of expensive to get at.

I’ll get the ski mask and the shotgun.

For the time being, the A/C is off. I can’t fault “the guy” for the leak. How was he to know? He fixed what appeared to be the immediate problem, which is exactly what we asked him to do. Whether we have “the guy” back in to fix the leak or suffer through the heat until we can pony up the dough to replace the whole kit and kaboodle is going to depend on just how uncomfortable we get, I would imagine.

Might as well grab a bottle of Jim Beam while I’m there.

Hearing the Dark Tower

Dark Tower V: Wolves of the CallaThe Dark Tower V – Wolves of the Calla
Stephen King
Read by George Guidall
ISBN: 0743533526

I own multiple versions of the first four installments of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, including Books I – III in softcover, Book IV in hardcover, Books I – III on CD, and Book IV on (gasp!) cassette. I’ve been slowly acquiring this series on CD over the past year, usually finding each installment for about $20 at Half Price Books.
Continue reading Hearing the Dark Tower

We love the stuff!

Recently added to my DVD collection:

Daredevil: Director’s CutDaredevil: The Director’s Cut

I wasn’t aware that there was a director’s cut of Daredevil until I saw it in the used bin at GameStop. Though it certainly doesn’t measure up to some other recent superhero movies (Spider-Man, X-Men), I’m comfortable saying that Daredevil is still leaps and bounds better than some of the stuff we’ve seen in the darker past (Captain America), not to mention the horrid television version of the Man Without Fear that some of us remember from The Trial of the Incredible Hulk, which featured Rex Smith (who’s he?) as Matt Murdock/Daredevil and John “Sallah” Rhys-Davies as The Kingpin.

The ShadowThe Shadow

The Shadow and The Phantom (starring Billy Zane) top my list of underappreciated superhero movies. Next to his turn as Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October, this is my favorite Alec Baldwin performance to date. Baldwin’s voice is excellent and the special effects that transform Lamont Cranston into The Shadow are top-notch. Throw in folks like John Lone, Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Curry, Peter Boyle, Ian McKellan (yes, that Ian McKellan) and you’ve got a fantastic, fun popcorn movie.

Tetris and Star Wars: Clone WarsI also picked up a used copy of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars/Tetris Worlds disc that used to be included in the Xbox system bundle. GameStop was selling this for $8.99 used, but their sticker price on a used copy of the standalone version of The Clone Wars is $12.99. Go figure.

In other news, Bob is turning into a damn cycling nut. Not only did he ride our route again Sunday, but he alleges to have ridden six miles this morning, too. And me? I planned to go out for a while yesterday evening but wimped out. I need to see if I can fix the head and tail lights that Laura bought me. They no workee, and I don’t want to cycle after dark (when it’s no longer 90+ degrees) without ’em.

This is the way we roll…

Bob and I hit the concrete trail once again Saturday morning. We fared a bit better on our second outing, increasing our round trip to 10.3 miles.

At one point, we stopped by the side of the trail for some water (yes, I remembered my bottle this time) and were passed by an elderly fellow who was out for a late morning walk. We passed him quickly after resuming our ride and cruised over a nice bit of the trail that was mostly level with a bit of a downhill grade. Bob pulled away from me and managed to get a good bit ahead. When I caught up, he hadn’t quite managed to dismount fast enough to look as though he’d been patiently waiting on the bench at the side of the trail.

I guzzled down much of my water and lamented about the heat, humidity and my general out-of-shapeness. “Oh, shit,” Bob said after a few minutes. “We’ve gotta go.”

The old man was rounding the corner, and for two strapping young cyclists such as ourselves to be twice overtaken by a walking senior citizen would simply not do. So off like a flash we went, and didn’t see the old man again until we were well into our return journey.

Our total ride time was just over an hour, according to my Schwinn SC-8 bicycle computer, but we were gone for closer to two hours. The computer doesn’t keep track of rest stops.

Bob, I’m told, cycled the route again today. Curses! Now I suppose I’ll need to find a nice 10-mile circuit starting from the house so that I don’t fall behind.

Blasts from the past.

I just stumbled across a list of books I was reading in June of 2003:

  • A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • Perfume by Patrick Suskind
  • Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian
  • Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson

I have finished only Perfume (very good book). Sad.

To be fair, I’ve read a few books that aren’t on the list since June 2003, too. In the interest of full disclosure, however, I will admit that I could probably add at least another half-dozen books to the “started but not finished” list.

In other news, the bill acceptor on the vending machine that dispenses Starbucks® Vanilla Frappuccino® is on the fritz. My encounter with the vending machines downstairs just now seemed like a bad rerun of a show I didn’t want to see in the first place. In fact, it was also in June of 2003 that I had a similar problem…

[cue wavy flashback lines and “deedle-deedle-dee” sound]
Continue reading Blasts from the past.

Movie Snippets: Dirty War, Ray, The Life Aquatic

Hey, I watched a couple of movies recently.

Dirty War
TiVo recorded this off the HBO a few nights ago, and I thought I’d give it a look. The story revolves around a firefighter, an anti-terrorist team, the Prime Minister of not-so-Jolly Olde Englande, and muslim terrorists who manage to detonate a dirty bomb in downtown London. As you might well imagine, hilarity most certainly does not ensue.

Dirty War is kind of a middle-of-the-road movie. Not dismal, but not great, either. The premise doesn’t seem terribly far-fetched and the outcome is rather grim. Even so, there’s a bit of a “happy ending” tacked on with respect to the firefighter.

Ray
I wasn’t all that thrilled with the idea of watching Ray, but I’m glad I did. The movie itself wasn’t a masterpiece of cinema, but Jamie Foxx was absolutely incredible as the late Ray Charles. Time and again I forgot that I was watching Jamie Foxx, and that may be the biggest compliment one can pay an actor who is portraying a real-life person.

Laura wanted to watch the extended version of the movie, but the added scenes are inserted in such a way as to completely ruin the flow of the film, so we watched the theatrical version instead.

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Wes Anderson has directed some quirky movies. He likes Bill Murray and the Wilson brothers (see Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums). I like quirky movies, Bill Murray and the Wilson brothers. Even so, The Life Aquatic kind of caught me off guard. It’s definitely quirky and definitely stars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson. I just wasn’t sure what to make of it.

Here’s the thing: the more I think about The Life Aquatic, the more I enjoy it. The movie is funnier to me now that it was when I was actually watching it, and that’s just plain weird. I need to watch this movie again.

I want to ride my bicycle…

Laura and I both bought cheap bicycles when we were living in Mayfield Heights. I don’t remember if we got ’em from Sears, Wal-Mart or Target, but it was one of those. Total bill for both bikes: roughly $200.

A hundred bucks doesn’t buy you a titanium alloy frame or fancy suspension or Shimano shifters. Actually, Laura’s bike does have Shimano shifters, which I’m told is a good thing. Still, the bike got me to and from work quite a few times, and it was good enough to ride the towpath from Valley View to Peninsula on a fairly regular basis throughout the summer.

The Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath was once used by mules and horses to tow coal barges from Akron to Cleveland. It has been converted to an excellent riding and running trail, and the trip from Valley View to Peninsula and back is somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five miles. In a brilliant marketing move, someone decided to put a bike shop right next to the trail in Peninsula with the express purpose of parting me and my money on every single trip I made. I bought a fender, a toolkit, a rearview mirror, a bell (yes, a bell) and some other accessories over the span of several trips to Peninsula. In the first summer I had my hundred-dollar bicycle, I spent approximately two and a half times its original value on accessories (such as aluminum pedals and an electronic speedometer) and necessities (a helmet).

Unfortunately, I haven’t ridden my bike much in the intervening years. I could probably generate a laundry list of excuses, but it all boils down to laziness and lack of motivation. The bike has spent the last few summers hanging upside-down from the ceiling in the garage. I took it out to the towpath once last summer (or perhaps it was the summer before), but that’s been about it in four years or so. I keep saying that I should start riding again and the bike still hangs in the garage.

Well, the tires are on the ground now.

Bob and I went out for our first ride late Saturday morning. Rather than driving to Valley View (which is about 30 minutes or so from my house), we opted to start at Bob’s house and ride the nearby Metropark trails. Well, that was the plan. We did make it to the Metropark trail, but the amount of distance we covered on the trail was somewhat less than inspiring.

At the heart of the matter is this: the change in elevation between Akron and Cleveland is slightly less than 400 feet, and there are 44 locks along the way. Coal barges were raised approximately 9 feet while passing through each lock. This makes for a fairly level towpath. Oh, there are a few dips and rises along the way, but nothing especially daunting.

The distance from Bob’s house to the Metroparks trail is approximately two miles. Straight up. Approximate change in elevation: thirty-six bajillion feet.

I used to think that this part of Ohio (and most of Ohio, for that matter) was relatively flat. I was unaware that Bedford Heights is actually smack in the middle of the Adirondacks. When ticking off potential risks for the Saturday morning ride, I had not included high-altitude pulmonary edema among them, else I might have put a few vials of Diamox in my toolkit.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit. The truth is that it’s a little hilly between Bob’s house and the bike path, and the path itself is very similar terrain. For real cyclists (who we were deathly afraid of being spotted by), the grade isn’t terribly difficult. One such cyclist was somehow managing to go faster up a hill than we were going in the opposite direction. I suspect that it wasn’t his first time out this year.

Bob might well have been happy to press onward when—at a measly 3.1 miles from his house—I requested that we head back. Really, though, I’m hoping that his demeanor was a clever facade, and that he was as desperate as I to return to an air-conditioned house and a gallon or so of ice water. (Did I mention that I didn’t have my water bottle with me? Oh, yeah. I didn’t have my water bottle with me.)

The ride back proved to be considerably easier than I anticipated, be it due to improved shifting efficiency or a net decrease in altitude. Whatever the case, my overall condition at the conclusion of our journey was considerably less pathetic than it was at the midpoint. I was somewhat dismayed to find that I was no more “ripped” after our ride than I had been before it. The six-pack abs and defined pecs I was expecting were conspicuously absent.

Yes, it was an inauspicious start, but it was a start. There was talk of doing it again next Saturday morning, though I suspect that our total distance traveled will be slightly less. Towing a portable defibrillator isn’t going to make climbing those hills any easier.