Thirteen days ago I asked Stanford Professor Emeritus Nancy Huddleston Packer to read Young Mister Wugidgem and to write a review of it. I still can’t believe it, but here’s what she wrote:
“This book is a fantasy, a mystery, and a family saga all rolled into one. At the heart of the book are the charming Wugidgems: father Will, a professional magician, mother Joan, a very rational lawyer, the brave thirteen-year-old James, and the spunky little Sally. When evil forces threaten their family on James’s birthday, all four Wugidgems must awaken their slumbering magical powers to ward it off. In the process, they learnhow the past entangles the present. As the family work together to defeat evil and to escape from the past, their love and respect for each other are strengthened. All four Wugidgems are unusual, entertaining, and attractive. Every reader will have a favorite.”
Nancy is very incisive, and she captured what I am trying to achieve in this story. I am eternally grateful. You should check out her fourth collection of short stories, Old Ladies-Stories. Here is the link:
Last week we raced along the sideline with James and Amos as Grace and Mrs. Russell won the mother and daughter three-legged race by the widest margin in modern memory. We also learned that Grace wants to be James’ girlfriend, upgrading from girl friend. Today we’ll witness the Fourth of July Oak Village fireworks, and we’ll be with James and Dad as they come face to face with evil!
Thank you for clicking in this week for the continuation of Young Mister Wugidgem. We’ve gone back to 1994 which marks the beginning of James Wugidgem’s own magical journey. For those of you who were with me for the previous 5 books in this series, you’ll know Mister Wugidgem is Debby and Michael Clark’s magical mentor.
Last week weraced along with James and his Dad on his 13th birthday as they eked out a victory in the father and son three-legged race. We also met Ben, the class bully. We won’t see him again in this story, but we surely will in the next. Today, we’ll run along the sideline with James and his best friend, Amos, as they cheer on Grace and Mrs. Russell in the mother and daughter three-legged race! Here is the direct link:
In Episode 5 we’ll follow James, Grace, and Amos down to the riverbank across from where the July 4th fireworks will be launched, where they spot a suspicious person in the trees. Then, during the fireworks finale, James and Dad come face to face with evil!
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Welcome to Episode 3 of Young Mister Wugidgem. Last week we saw James Wugidgem rescue Whiskers the Cat with imagined, or possibly real, tiny white beams of light springing out the tips of his fingers and thumbs. Then we learned the fundamentals of three-legged running, both physical and mental, as James and his Dad trained for the July 4th father and son competition. Continue reading YOUNG MISTER WUGIDGEM-EPISODE 3→
Thanks for logging on today! In the first episode, we went back in time to July 4th, 1994, when Debby and Michael Clark’s magician mentor, Mister Wugidgem, turned 13 years old. We caught a glimpse of the strange and weird happenings in James’ life. Today we’ll see the context of those events.
This Great Oak Tree appears on the cover of my new book, Young Mister Wugidgem. We’ll be going back in time to 1994, when Debby and Michael’s mentor, Mister Wugidgem, is thirteen years old. The paperback proof is on the way to me for final approval, and I expect it will be available by the end of August on my web site: www.allanwchapman.com.
In the meantime, I have started podcasting the book, and the Prologue is going out today. Here is the link:
Welcome to today’s post in the continuing saga of Running, Writing, and Traveling for Life. If you are interested in listening to this, please click on this link:
I’ve been running competitively, off and on, ever since Junior High School. I’ve probably had a bit more than my share of successes, some colossal failures, and several injuries, with some muscles and tendons breaking down more than once.
The most recent have been calf cramps in both legs which I have had before. I did rest, but even after a few weeks of rest and then gentle running, I experienced occasional twinges in both calves. But when we left for a Stanford Study/Travel Tour of Italy a few weeks ago, the twinges had not occurred, and I planned to do some running, interspersed with touring.
Alas, that was not to be! This turned out to be a “cross-training” trip. I had failed to catch this fine print in the tour brochure: “You must be capable of extensive walking-two to four miles-in historic centers, in museums and on city tours, as well as extended periods of standing on excursions. Participants will encounter uneven terrain, including some dirt and cobblestoned paths, and must be able to walk at least 20 minutes up and down hills in the Tuscan towns and at Gargonza. At the Palio, participants must be able to sit outside for several hours on metal bleacher seats with limited legroom.” I really should have paid attention to this last bit about the Palio, but more about that later.
On the first full day of the tour we took the train from Santa Margherita in Liguria to the coastal town of Camogli, part of the Italian Riviera. We toured the town, had lunch overlooking the beach, and then took the ferry to the Benedictine Abbey of Santa Fruttuoso. I had planned to participate in the 3 hour walk, up and down the mountains that separated Santa Fruttuoso and Portofino, the most famous town on the Italian Riviera. I took one look up at the steep inclines, my jet lag exhaustion kicked in, and I decided to save myself for the famous Cinque Terre hike the following day. I joined the majority, who took the ferry from Santa Fruttuoso to Portofino. I was glad at the time I had chosen that option, because the one hour tour of hilly Portofino pretty much wiped me out. We saw lots of yachts, and while Portofino was pleasant, I wouldn’t call it trending!
We then took the ferry back to Santa Margherita, and it sure was a long, uphill walk from the pier to our hotel, the Continental.
That brings me to the next day. It began with a near debacle of us getting on the semi-express to Monterosso by mistake (it was late), rather than the local, which we had tickets for. The conductor removed most of us at the next stop, but some did not get the message and remained on board, including one of our guides who was looking for those still on the train. We ultimately did get on the local, and were joined further down the line by the rest of our group. One of our group said conductors do this regularly to collect extra money for their own pockets, but I only know he said it would cost an extra 11.50 euros to stay on the semi-express. You can decide whether or not the allegation is true.
During the brief tour of Monterosso, my right calf began to twinge. I looked up at the steep climb up out of the town; the trail appeared to go straight up, not switched back and forth, the way the path was cut, rising out of Santa Fruttuoso the day before. I was on the verge of bailing out of this hike as well.
Then, a tiny miracle happened. The pain in my calf vanished. I felt a surge of energy. It was game on.
It wasn’t easy. We did climb straight up for about the first twenty minutes, but then the trail swung to the left, along a ridge which had a lesser incline, leading further inland. We began encountering lemon trees and grape vines, planted into the terraced mountainside. We stopped and our guide, Marco, gave us a short history of the rise and fall of the lemon industry over the last 800 years, which was replaced eventually by the current wine industry.
We moved on, and then mounted a series of very steep steps, until we ultimately reached the peak of the highest mountain. From there on the bias was down, but there certainly were more steep ups as well. Along the way, we stopped at the “cat feeding” station. As you can tell from the picture, this cat may have been past saving!
After 3 hours, we spied the village of Vernazza far below and the panorama made for a breathtaking photo. We saw the ferry that was loading the rest of our group for the trip to Portofino, but it took us 20 minutes to get down the mountain to the dock, so we missed it.
Fortunately, Sylvia, another one of our guides, was hiking with us, and she arranged for a private boat to take us on to Manarola, where we met up with the rest of the group. We had an extremely challenging hike around the uphill town, then further up to meet our bus. We first came to the car parking area (no buses there!), further up a path alongside the very narrow road (a bus couldn’t make it), and then finally up to a wider road where the bus was waiting. I was plenty glad they had bottles of water on the bus!
The next day we took the bus from Liguria to Tuscany, where my wife and I had been a few times before. We stayed in Gargonza, just outside Arezzo, for the next few days, and the highlight during that time was the Palio horserace in Siena. There are several Palio celebrations all around Italy, but nothing is quite like this 800 year old grudge match. This is a 3 lap race, run on a trucked-in dirt track laid around the center of Il Campo, and there are no rules!!!
Even after I had read the warning to prepare for discomfort during the Palio, I did not expect 5 hours of regular waves of pain. We were all packed into the stadium seats with our knees pressed against the backs of those in front of us and someone else’s knees digging into our backs. We could stand, and we did frequently, but when the Contradas’ (Neighborhoods) parades began, with all their pomp and circumstance, we did so more sparingly because we blocked the view of those next to us and behind us.
The worst part was waiting for the race to actually start. All 10 horses had to be in the right starting positions before the restraining rope would be dropped, starting the race. Believe it or not, this took over 1 hour to accomplish. Various jockeys are paid huge sums to obstruct or facilitate the start of foe or friendly Contradas. This was mainly accomplished by a jockey not guiding his horse into the correct starting position. Countless times we heard the starter say, “Go out! Go out!” and the horses would leave the starting area and circle around. Then they would be called again, according to their drawn starting position. And countless times, the crowd would emit its disapproving whistles, typical in Europe. And it was getting darker and darker as twilight began to close around us!
Suddenly, the number 10 horse bolted into his slot, the starter dropped the rope, and the race was on! In a matter of a few seconds the horses were in the straightaway right in front of us, and in several more seconds they flashed by and went into the next turn.
Then, incredibly, the jockey riding for the Valdimontone (Ram) Contrada reached across to the Nicchio (Shell) jockey to his right and yanked him off his horse! A roar of horror rose up in the crowd, and my mind was stunned by what I had just witnessed. I thought, “How could this even happen….” Then I remembered that there were no rules. And I realized how easy it was to unseat the jockey, because they were all riding bareback, with no saddles or stirrups to aid them. The others rushed on, including the jockey-less horse. The second and third turns in the track were literally 90 degrees, and some of the horses actually careened off the far wall on those turns. The pace was extremely fast and the three lap race was over before we were even over the shock of seeing one jockey unhorse another.
Suddenly a man who was sitting behind us charged down the steep steps, dashed out onto the dirt track and up to the jockey who did the unhorsing. He and a couple of others helped him off his horse and spirited him away through a tunnel to safety. Immediately thereafter a swarm of men from the unhorsed Contrada charged onto the track from our right and the Contrada whose jockey did the unhorsing spilled out onto the track from our left, with the abandoned horse trapped between them. Fists flew and security forces quickly drove a wedge between the two Contradas.
The next twenty minutes were super-tense. A groom kept the horse moving back and forth between the opposing forces who continued to scream at each other, while some tried to breach the security line to get at their enemy. Nobody actually got through, but the security line appeared to be weakening. Finally the Carabinieri National Police forced their way in, with full riot gear. Gradually they pushed each Contrada further and further back from the other, giving more room to the horse and the groom. Eventually they reached a space where they could leave the track for the safety of the stables. We then made our way down the steep steps of the stands, out onto the track, and through the closest exit, thus ending our long summer afternoon of discomfort. I’m glad we had this incredible experience, but I don’t believe I’ll do it again! This must be an example of what people mean when they say, “It’s a once in a lifetime experience!”
The balance of the tour lacked the excitement and tension of the Palio, but certainly worth visits. We toured the Etruscan Hill Town of Cortona which predates the arrival of the Romans. The Etruscan Museum is comprehensive and demonstrates the power of women in their culture. Much of their sculptures, ceramics and other art were copied by the Romans.
Their tombs were reminiscent of the Egyptians, filled with possessions from this life for use in the next one. On the day before we left Italy we did visit an actual Etruscan Burial Ground in Cerveteri, about 50 miles north of the Rome Airport. It was an incredibly peaceful spot and several of the tombs were filled with hunting tools, beds, tables, chairs, pots and several other useful items. It was well worth the stop.
Another very interesting stop was the medieval town of Lucca. It is the birthplace of composer Giacomo Puccini. There are several good restaurants, including Ristorante Puccini nearby. The food is good and moderately priced, but they accept cash only. We also dined at the excellent Buca di Sant’Antonio which is premium priced, but worth it. It’s a wonderful walking town, but take your map; it’s easy to get lost in the oval-walled town. The wall is a good landmark, but it is, after all, round. It all looks pretty much alike, particularly at night.
The final tour stop that lingers in my memory is the gargantuan scale of the marble quarries at Carrara. This is where Michelangelo found the huge slab of marble with which he sculptured his famous David into a figure way larger than life. I can pull this mine into my consciousness readily. A few pictures will do a far better job with this image than my mere words can do. These remain captured memories in my mind’s eye.
I would like to share the good news with you, here at the end. The rest and the “cross training” walking while we were in Italy, plus slow running when I returned home, have resulted in recovery from the calf injuries! I am back up to my normal training regimen of running 3 days a week and walking and other cross training 2 days!!
Please let me know if you would like to know anything more about this monumental trip. You can send a note to me in the Leave A Reply Box below.
Thanks for traveling with me in this vicarious way.
Welcome to the latest post of Running, Writing, and Traveling for Life. I am also continuing to include another Episode of Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom. If you would like to listen to this Running Post, please click on this link:
Since I have injured myself last month, I have been exercising no more than just walking, that is until the end of last week. On Friday I ran so slowly that I could have walked faster! Just kidding. But I did walk 60% of the time, however, especially going uphill. During the 40% of the time that I did run, I felt a few twinges at the bottom of my Gastrocnemius Calf muscle and the top of my Soleus Calf Muscle, which connects to the Achilles tendon. Whenever I did feel a twinge, I stopped running, and walked for a while. At the end of the 3 mile run I felt very good. It was great to be back running again!
On the following day I only walked, and then repeated the 3 mile easy run the next day, Sunday. That time I walked about 55% of the time and ran easily for 45%. On Monday I only walked again. But I did another easy 3 miler on Tuesday, and that time I ran 60% of the time and walked 40%. On Wednesday I played 9 holes of golf and was pain free. On Thursday, I went to the track, warmed up well and then did some “speed play”; i.e. 8 alternating medium speed 100 meter strides, with 100 meter fast walks between. I did not feel any twinges in either my right Soleus or Gastrocnemius Calf muscles. Surprisingly I felt an occasional twinge in my left Soleus Calf muscle during the last few 100 stride repeats, which had not been bothering me at all! I rested one day, and then did an easy 4 ¼ mile run. This time I was totally pain-free!
I had remained injury free for over a year, focusing on long, slow runs and plenty of rest and cross-training (i.e. walking, stretching, push-ups, crunches, and golf) between the runs. It was only recently that I added more than 10% to my long runs every 2 weeks, and I was running 2 days in a row, without resting or cross-training between them. And the worst thing was when I did feel that first pain in my Soleus Calf Muscle last month, I did not stop! I kept running up that hill at my tempo pace! Just plain pig-headed…..
This brings me to my writing. I have published and podcasted a Thriller and 5 Children’s Fantasies. I have been including podcast links to the first 9 episodes of Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom, the last Fantasy, in the posts over the last few months. Today I am including Episode 10 of Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom. Here is the link:
Thanks for joining me today. In case you were missed or were unable to download the spiritual, meditative, haunting flute atop Warrior Rock in Sedona, Arizona, I have converted it to a YouTube format. Here is the link:
Also, if you are interested in listening to this post, please go to this link:
Once again, I have not responded to pain during a workout and have paid the price of injury. My training had been going well after having been sick last month, and I was nearing the end of my tempo run over a hilly course. I felt a twinge of pain below my right calf at the beginning of the last big hill, but I kept going. The pain persisted as I climbed the hill, but I wanted to make it to the top, so I kept on pushing, although at a slower pace. But this wasn’t the worst thing – I kept going on the flat, thinking the pain would subside. It didn’t, but I kept going, wanting to complete the tempo time. I walked the normal jog/walk 1 mile warm down, but the damage was done. My leg was sore for the next 3 days.
It felt better on the 4th day, so I played 9 holes of golf, walking, without any pain. I rested 2 more days, and on the 7th day, I decided to go for an easy walk/run. I walked for the first mile, and then started to run slowly up a long, steep hill. I felt a twinge of pain right below my right calf and slowed to a walk. The pain eased and the hill flattened into a shelf which I walked as well. Then the next section of the hill ascended even more sharply, and about halfway up this final part of the climb, the pain returned, so I walked the rest of it. I jogged on the next section which was flat, and I was relatively pain free. The rest of the run was downhill, but I walked most of it.
I made a fruit and protein smoothie right away and then elevated my legs. I felt better about an hour later, so I decided to do my normal post-workout stretching. I was fine doing the hamstring and quad high kicks, forward and back on both legs, and also with the bent-knee stretches on my left leg, but after a few bent-knee stretches on my right leg, I felt a severe cramp in my right calf, totally unexpected, because this was above where the pain has manifested itself. I iced the calf area, with my leg elevated, 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off for 2 hours and 20 minutes. The pain did abate, but I had to hobble around for the rest of the day and evening.
I went to sleep early and slept late, trying to give my body and the protein I had eaten a chance to repair the damaged tissue.
This morning the pain was about 90 percent gone, but I continued the 20 minute on, 20 minute off icing. I also focused on eating protein. With any luck I will be able to resume walking by the end of the week and start jogging on the flat (no hills!) the following week. When I do that, if I experience any pain at all, I will stop immediately and walk back home, or call for a ride back, if necessary. I need more time to heal as I age. Maybe I will learn, one of these days.
Please stay tuned for the next exciting Episode of Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom! Click on the bar below:
A couple of years ago my brother, a cousin, and our spouses took day trip to Sedona, Arizona. We had lunch at The Enchantment Resort in Boynton Canyon, and then toured the complex. The food and service were okay, but the grounds, villas and surrounding mountains were spectacular. We knew Sedona was a special place and vowed to return one day for a longer visit.
The opportunity arose this month for my wife and me. We had swapped a time-share week for one at Sedona Summit Resort. It is a large complex, with several two story buildings which house the units. Our 1 bedroom suite was spacious and included a decent-sized kitchen and living room. The only real drawback was we could hear the footsteps from the unit above us when the occupants walked around. If you go, request a second floor accommodation.
We had heard that Sedona was a spiritual area, and I noticed in the literature we received when we checked in that there was a talk about vortexes encasing several summits in the Sedona Area. We attended the presentation, liked what we heard, and decided to hike up to a few of them. The presenter was Barbara Korte who is an accomplished Spiritual Practitioner. I have experienced some Shamanistic and Lifespring Meditations and have come to believe “Non-Ordinary” Reality can be real. Some of Barbara’s experiences really stress my rational mind, but my intuitive self believes extreme experiences are possible. For more information, visit:
Over the next couple of days we climbed trails to various heights, up Cathedral Rock, Wilson Mountain, and Warrior Rock in Boynton Canyon. I felt serene and very “present” during these adventures in the rugged, beautiful, and rocky environs, and perhaps sensed a “spiritual electricity” in some instances. I felt the force more strongly as we approached the base of Cathedral Rock, manifested in my vision; the two spires in the center seemed to radiate against the sky in a surreal fashion. I had not stopped and adopted my meditative state; it just happened as we were walking along. Later, we ran into a lady who explained that the “force” was the result of lightning hitting sandstone and fusing it into silicates, which become positively charged. What tends to happen when lightning strikes ground, is it fuses dirt and clays into the silicates, one of which is quartz. Perhaps this does logically explain why people feel an energy in Sedona, but it seems like “Non-Ordinary” Reality to me.
However, when we climbed the base of Warrior Rock and reached the beginning of the pinnacle, we did stop, and sit, and meditate for a while. Then along came a friendly person whom you might call a Spiritualist. He welcomed the two of us, and then gave each of us a hand-carved red rock, in the form of a heart. Then he climbed the last 50 feet to the pinnacle and began playing his flute. What emanated from that flute was hauntingly beautiful and we continued our meditations. My wife and I did capture some of this magic on our iPhones. Please listen to these now; perhaps you can burn them onto your own DVD, if you are inspired by them:
This was the absolute highlight of our spiritual search in Sedona.
After a while, we descended, and then headed back to the parking area. All the way back we could hear the melodic flute.
We then drove the short distance to the Enchantment Resort. We had made a lunch reservation and, unlike our experience 2 years ago, we were seated right away, and we thoroughly enjoyed a garden-fresh chicken salad and a hearty beef-burger with French fries, both of which we split.
In fact, we enjoyed our entire experience in Boynton Canyon so much that we decided we will stay at The Enchantment Resort when we visit Sedona again. If you are interested in further details, please open this link in another window:
I had been fighting the flu, complete with aches and runny nose, and the altitude ranges from 4,000 feet to 6,500 feet at Sedona, so I limited my exercise to the hiking. I felt mostly healed when we returned home so I did a tempo workout, rested one day, and then did a long run the next. The runny nose returned with a vengeance, so I began allergy medication, which I believe is beginning to work. The nasal flood has slowed to a drip. I’m hoping to begin running again this weekend.
Now please go to the link below for the next exciting Episode of Mr. Wugidgem and the Faces of Freedom:
For three months now, I have incorporated a long run in my weekly training. In the past I would include easy runs, but they were not generally long. My focus was on short, fast workouts to increase my speed. More often than not, I would incur an injury sometime during the year, probably because I wasn’t allowing my body to fully repair muscle tissues broken down during the speed sessions.
I believe the long, medium and slow (including walking) runs over these past three months have boosted my fundamental muscle strength to the point where I can change my intervals distance from a minimum distance of 400 meters and higher to 300, 200, and even 100 meter repeats. I will pay particular attention to being sufficiently recovered over the next day, or more likely the next two days, before doing the next running workout.
This week I did pay attention to getting sufficient rest between my runs. On Sunday I went for my long run, with plenty of walking breaks. On Monday I walked for 33 minutes, going 1.6miles. On Tuesday I did a Tempo run. On Wednesday I played 9 holes of golf. Thursday I did 200 meter speed intervals. Friday I walked for 35 minutes, covering 1.55 miles. Finally, on Saturday I walked for 31 minutes, up a steep hill and back down, 1.5 miles.
The highlight of the week was Thursday. After the golf on Wednesday I was quite tired and my lower back was stiff. I’ve been playing golf weekly with some stiffness and fatigue afterward, but this was more than normal. I had more than a little misgiving about transitioning to faster speed intervals the following day.
I felt better in the morning, although I did not feel fully rested. But I did finally convince myself to go to the track, warm-up, and then decide if I felt up to it. I started with my slow walking and jogging 1 mile warm-up, followed by 7 minutes of stretching, and then two wind sprints. I felt pretty well, so I decided to start with four repeat 200s, and then see how I felt after those.
The workout went very well. I felt relaxed from the very first repeat, with my core relaxed, good leg turnover, high-pump arm action, and full toes push-off. I did the first four repeats at my 800 meter race goal pace, and then decided to do at least two more repeats, and perhaps two more after those. I continued to feel good, so I completed four more. I had done 8 x 200s twice earlier this year, but this workout was the fastest and my maximum heart rate was 21 beats per minute slower than during one of them and 15 beats slower than the other.
As I have mentioned before, this year I am focused on having one long and slow run each week, building slowly and resting sufficiently between running workouts to minimize the risk of injury, all too common in my past.
I would say now, “So far, so good.”
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