“The Dark Truth” Release Date Announced

TheDarkTruth3_1700The train left the station back in March and it continues to roll on toward the release of my debut novel, The Dark Truth. Approximately three weeks ago, my publisher (Trifecta Publishing House) informed me that they were going to move my release date up from February 2018 to November of this year. Of course I was thrilled. Earlier this evening, I was given the official release and pre-sale dates.

I am happy and proud to announce that The Dark Truth will be released November 20, 2017, with the pre-sale getting underway October 25 (just in time for one of my favorite days of the year – Halloween)! And the book will be out the week of Thanksgiving, so it’ll make a great Black Friday purchase for you or a loved one.

The Dark Truth will be available in trade paperback and e-book. I’ll have more information in the next few weeks. I hope you enjoy reading the book as much as I enjoyed writing it. Give the gift of vampires this holiday season!

Here is a peek at the text from the back cover:

A Night Out

San Francisco PR pro Elizabeth Rubis reluctantly agrees to a night out on the town. Little does she know that her life will be altered forever as childhood night terrors come to life.

A Face in the Window

Elizabeth’s deepest, darkest fears crawl out of the inky blackness as her lifelong tormentor is revealed during a rare Northern California thunderstorm. A hallucination in the raindrops proves to be an evil, yet familiar entity.

A Baptism in Blood

Fueled by hatred for her tormentor, Elizabeth cuts a bloody swath across the San Francisco Bay Area in a desperate quest for revenge. No one is safe from her rage, not even her friends and family.


B-Boy Running Adventures Continue in 2017: Starting off with a Scorcher

It’s that time of year and I am traveling for work once again. In 2015, I started a tradition of running in every city I visit. Although there are some repeat cities each summer/fall (and winter), there are always new spots on the itinerary. I have only missed two cities, Detroit in 2015 and Denver in 2016, and only because of the flu. I’ll be able to add several new cities this year.

I am no stranger to running in weather, especially heat. I prefer temperatures between 55-65 degrees, but I have run in the mid-90s and the low teens. Running in the summer where I live in California usually means higher temperatures unless I get up very early. And that’s usually a non-starter.

This past weekend, my occupation took me to Phoenix, Arizona, where temperatures are consistently in the triple digits during the day this time of year. The forecast told me that mid-80s were the overnight lows and early morning norm. So, I figured I’d get up early and get three miles in before heat stroke conditions kicked in.

I got up a little later than I wanted to, but I still headed out early enough, 8:00 a.m. PT or so. I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going. My hotel was near Camelback Mountain, which was visible on the other side of the Camelback Mall. I decided to head east on E. Camelback Road and see where it went. Just over a mile in to the run I decided to take a left and break toward the mountains. I headed north on N. 32nd until I edged past the 1.5-mile mark. I know better than try to run more than three miles or so in that kind of heat. I also know better than to try to set any new land speed records. My Nike Run Club app says it was 83 degrees during my run. Lies, all lies!

Cloud cover had shielded me from the harsh rays of the morning sun during the first mile or so. After running into the sunrise on my way out, the angry yellow nuclear reactor at the center of our solar system was at my back.

This happens to be the time of year in Phoenix when it gets a little humid. Thunderstorms are common as well. Although the temperatures in Phoenix are akin to June in my backyard, there’s something different about the heat there. Maybe it’s the proximity to the equator. But I basically ran through a blast furnace during the second half.

I like getting out for these runs so I can explore the local environs. Sometimes, though, I do them just to do them, just to say I did it. This run was a bit of both. My route wasn’t particularly exciting, it looks like an “L” on the map. But there was some scenery.

As I was trotting along, I had a good view of the mountains, there was a man-made pond of some variety, and I crossed a short bridge over a canal. Had I planned a bit better, running along the canal might have been the better option, but it also looked hot and dusty, kind of like my aqueduct runs here in California. On second thought, the canal probably would have been a bad idea.

This was my first run in Arizona. All things considered it wasn’t bad at all. I would have liked to have been a bit more adventurous. But I tend to be cautious when running in a new place unless I can find some established, well-worn running trails near my accommodations. The next travel run will be in Dallas and that will be a new one for me as well.

Funny, I was just looking at an old blog post about my goals for 2017. I wrote that I would blog more. Whups. I still have five months. Time to get cracking. I did finish my first novel, so accomplishing those goals wasn’t exactly a pipe dream.

Major Announcement About The Dark Truth

TheDarkTruth3_1700As many of you who follow me on social media may already know, I recently got a pleasant surprise regarding my debut novel, The Dark Truth. Last Friday, I received a message from my publisher, Trifecta Publishing House. They said they just had a meeting, and since they were ahead of schedule, they wanted to move the release date of my debut novel, The Dark Truth, up three months. They asked if I was open to this. My initial thought was, “you don’t have to ask me twice.”

By Sunday night, I received an e-mail from Trifecta telling me that my author page on their web site had been updated with the “back cover blurb” for the book and my new release date!

So, The Dark Truth – a dark, gritty, bloody, neo-Gothic vampire tale set in modern-day San Francisco – is now set to be released in NOVEMBER instead of February. The pre-sale and official release dates have yet to be finalized. Let’s just say the dates should make sense with regard to a certain holiday that resonates with the genre, and the start of the Christmas shopping season. Give the gift of vampires this holiday season!

A member of the publishing house said that moving up the date was all my doing. I’m not sure how, I just met deadlines. After 25 years in journalism, I’m bit of a stickler for them.

I mentioned the “back cover blurb.” This is the promotional information about the story that appears on the back cover of the trade paperback. I’m happy to present it below:

A Night Out

San Francisco PR pro Elizabeth Rubis reluctantly agrees to a night out on the town. Little does she know that her life will be altered forever as childhood night terrors come to life.

A Face in the Window

Elizabeth’s deepest, darkest fears crawl out of the inky blackness as her lifelong tormentor is revealed during a rare Northern California thunderstorm. A hallucination in the raindrops proves to be an evil, yet familiar entity.

A Baptism in Blood

Fueled by hatred for her tormentor, Elizabeth cuts a bloody swath across the San Francisco Bay Area in a desperate quest for revenge. No one is safe from her rage, not even her friends and family.

Please visit my author bio page on Trifecta’s web site, and browse their site. They have numerous titles in several different genres in print right now, and even more through their Vintage Hill Press imprint. There’s still time to get in some summer reading. Don’t forget to visit my author web site and like my author page on Facebook.

There are a few steps left to go in the publishing process. The manuscript now goes to a proofreading stage, and then to a formatter. Then it’ll be off to beta readers and reviewers. I’ll get my print ready cover with cover quote and a proof copy. Once it’s all approved and finalized it will be put on the market in a pre-sale, and then finally released in trade paperback and e-book.

I am beyond excited and I can’t thank Trifecta Publishing House enough for their support and for taking a chance on me. So, look for the pre-sale in late October and the actual release in November. As soon as I have the exact dates, I’ll be sure to let everyone know. I hope you pick up a copy of The Dark Truth, and if you do, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


The Dark Truth Cover Revealed

It is with great pleasure and pride that I reveal the cover for my debut novel, “The Dark Truth,” which is a dark, gritty, bloody, neo-Gothic vampire tale set in modern-day San Francisco. The book, which took me 13 months to write, will be available for pre-order in January and released in February via Trifecta Publishing.  It will be released in trade paperback and e-book.

Follow me on Twitter, @GetTheKnaak (#TheDarkTruth) and like my author page on Facebook to make sure you get the latest info on the book.


The Death of the American Picnic

My cousins Dave and Dave, my cousin Bonnie’s husband Tom and your humble narrator at my last family reunion five years ago.

I don’t know when it died. I have a pretty good idea how though. The American picnic appears to be dead. At least the ones that I remember are dead. Am I too nostalgic? Have times changed that much? Or am I just pining for days gone by that I’ll never get back?

Most deaths are traumatic, sudden. This has been slow, glacial.

I’m not talking about family reunions, which I am sure take place on the regular. Heck, I helped organize one a few short summers ago. I’m talking about holiday weekend and spontaneous treks to the park – state parks and county parks. You know the ones I am talking about. You load up the car with dishes to pass. Everyone has their assigned bring-alongs – aluminum foil, buns, potato chips, potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, deviled eggs, charcoal, lighter fluid, beverages, condiments. There was sports equipment and games to bring too. Ball gloves, baseballs and softballs and bats, frisbees and lawn darts.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy tells a great story about the dangers of lawn darts.

In my family, like it was/is for many I’m sure, Memorial Day was the kickoff to summer. My parents and I packed up the car and piled in it. We drove to the agreed upon park and met up with my father’s sister, her husband and my first cousins. I wish memory served but I think my Uncle Freddy would show up way early, by himself, then complain for 30 minutes that everyone else was late.

Somebody would scrape the community Hibachi and then cover it with tin foil. The kids would get some game going and we would play and roughhouse until the food was ready. Tablecloths were draped over the wooden picnic tables and held down by rocks to keep the spring breeze from turning the table covering into an erstwhile kite.

We’d sit and eat. Someone always got into something they shouldn’t – a mud puddle, a creek, a beehive (yes David, I’m talking about you). We’d go swimming in the pond or the lake – whichever that particular park featured.

Some of these late spring gatherings were large affairs, especially as we got older and folks got married and had kids. Memorial Day was just the kickoff, we’d get together for the 4th of July, and have a combo birthday picnic since many of my cousins were summer babies. We may have even had Labor Day picnics too, the memory fails on that.

But my parents were fond of intimate picnics as well. We’d fill up a carry-along jug with Kool-Aid, water or juice, pack sandwiches and chips, and get in the car and drive to a random state or county park. We’d hike or walk and find a shady spot to sit and eat. We’d bring the ball gloves or the frisbee or a Korean throw and catch game with a plastic ball and wicker rackets. We would do this on several weekend occasions during my summer vacations from school.

My parents continued this tradition after I graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Navy. They’d pile the dog into the car, pick up a bucket of chicken and drive to a park and spend the day under a tree while playing fetch with their yellow lab, Princess.

If I visited during spring or summer, there was always a picnic to go to. My activities may have changed – beer replaced pop, I smoked, I hung out with the adults – but it didn’t take much to drag me into a game of frisbee or softball or touch football.

I have opined on more than one occasion that I don’t see many people outside anymore, especially kids. We’ve become a society of shut-ins with our WiFi, cable TV, broadband Internet, binge-watching, gaming consoles, etc. This spring it seems more people are out, which has to be a good thing. I doubt it will last as temperatures in my Northern California town are starting to rise. Where I live, many of us have backyards, some have pools. I’m sure we can’t all possibly spend these beautiful, warm spring/summer days indoors, especially now that school is out for the summer for countless school districts, with many more to come in the coming days and weeks.

On a recent podcast, I discussed that we parents of a certain age don’t introduce our children to certain types of music, most notably jazz, like our parents did. I think this is true of picnics too. CBS Sunday Morning aired a piece this morning about how little vacation time we take, and the various reasons why. Have our occupations commanded so much of our attention and contributed to fatigue and miasma that we prefer to spend our weekends in our abodes? I am fortunate enough to have a pool. I have a relaxing body of water in my backyard. I suppose that’s my excuse.

I recently took my son to a park to play basketball. We have a hoop out front, but I tire of yelling “car” every three minutes so I like to go to a park with a court so we can play uninterrupted or without the fear of vehicular manslaughter. There was a man at the park and he was setting up for something big. He had the pavilion all to himself and he looked like he was getting ready for one of my old childhood family-style picnics. But he was there all by himself…for a long time. He had the tablecloths out, charcoal and the Hibachi going. I felt bad for him until folks started to arrive. But even then, some attendees showed up, dropped off their dish to pass, then left. We didn’t stay long enough to see how this all played out so I hope those folks came back. It still didn’t seem like they knew how to picnic. Everyone just kind of milled around. But who am I to criticize these people for how they get together?

Maybe I was a little jealous or envious that this family was going to have a day like I used to have with my family. I have hundreds of second cousins, most in New York, but numerous others up and down the eastern seaboard. So, I’d have to travel some, and it would take some organizing. Hence the family reunion a few years ago, it was our first full family reunion in 20 years and 100 people showed.


Maybe the picnic of old has evolved into the backyard get-together. Maybe we did the parks because we didn’t have the room to have a large picnic gathering that included enough games and activities to keep the kiddies occupied. We entertained more last summer than we have the nearly nine years we’ve lived here. The S’mores wench was active, and I do enjoy the swim-up S’mores bar.

This is not to say that people don’t hop into a car and head to a nearby beach, we’ve certainly done that on a few occasions. But it seems like those excursions include eating at a local restaurant in the beach community. Maybe it’s California. Maybe natives of the left coast don’t picnic, maybe they never did. Maybe folks in the northeast or the Midwest or in the deep south still do it.

I threw a poll up for two hours on Twitter today and got no responses. I also flat out asked the question in a Tweet and got no answers. I asked the question on Faceboook, and although I didn’t get that many replies, it sure seems to me that the American picnic is dead. When it died seems to vary depending on who you ask. For some it was fairly recent, for others it died a long time ago.

Do I miss picnics? Do I mourn them? Those are not easy questions to answer, especially given my penchant for nostalgia. I have fond memories of my family picnics. I have some photos of a few memorable ones. Maybe that’s what I miss about them, the people. Most of the then-adults we’d picnic with are deceased, aunts, uncles…my parents.

It seems like the tradition died with them.

Following in Some Giant Footsteps

My cloth-bound copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a gift from my dear departed mother, is one of my most prized possessions.

I think we are all influenced by literature in some way. From the moment we are introduced to it, we either gravitate toward it or run from it, screaming. I belong to the group of people who did the former, although I was never much of a fan of the required reading in high school. However, there were some classics that helped mold the reader and writer I became.

Along with the Alcott, Salinger, Shakespeare, Orwell, et al, tomes that we were part of the curriculum in my junior and senior high schools, I developed the need to seek out stories that appealed to me. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley held particular interest when I was young. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was one of the first novels I ever read for “fun.” John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men stuck with me. I developed an affinity for horror fiction, Gothic horror in particular in the process. I also enjoyed weird tales and science fiction.

I couldn’t have been more than nine or 10 years old the first time I read Dracula, and then shortly thereafter Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. How apropos that title is, because it helped ignite a lifelong love of books. I read Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. I read Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, and I consumed H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft’s greatest creation – Cthulhu

I owe quite a bit to Lovecraft. His stories of the weird, his tales of descents into madness, his Cthulhu Mythos – and the movies these stories inspired – helped forge a lifelong bond with my best friend. They also taught me that good horror fiction pulls back the veil just enough to give you a glimpse and that a full view is too much for the human mind to handle. Lovecraft also inspired countless writers (including yours truly) including Stephen King. And you can’t tell me that Clive Barker wasn’t influenced as well.

One of the greatest things I ever read in horror fiction was King’s Night Shift. To this day I consider it the best collections of short stories I have ever seen. I also have a book of short stories called Prime Evil – a collection of terror written by several authors. King’s The Night Flier leads off Prime Evil. This book is the only volume I have ever found that contains The Night Flier.

Years ago I also became aware of the Beat Generation, the Beatniks. Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and that crowd of hepcats. Funny thing is, I didn’t read anything by them, and I was just enthralled by who and what they were. Kerouac oozed cool to me. His reputation as the progenitor of quintessential second half of 20th century American literature exceeded anything I had endeavored to read. But On the Road was always on my “to read” list.

Me and On the Road
Reading On the Road on the road a few years ago.

I finally got around to reading On the Road a couple of years ago. It affected me. Not many things affect me in this way. I’m sure I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to say or write that. I found that Kerouac’s narrative style was eerily similar to my blog style. This was further confirmed as I started to read The Unknown Kerouac, which was translated from the original French just last fall. I found Kerouac’s journals and essays to be very similar to my blogging style. I am no Kerouac. His descriptions of the world around him are pure poetry. I am a blunt instrument compared to the King of the Beats. But I can turn out 1,000 words in a blog at the drop of a hat.

I followed up On the Road with The Dharma Bums. What I have found with Kerouac is that when he is moving, when he is “on the road” so to speak, he is brilliant and I love him. When he is stationary, when he is trying to figure it all out, he bores the hell out of me.

But his prolific period, when he was stoned out of his mind on Benzedrine – he wrote On the Road in three weeks and The Dharma Bums in two – is the stuff of legend. Ginsberg said he was worthless while he was taking it, but Kerouac…Jack spewed prose while whacked out on speed. I’m powered by coffee and Scotch.

I recently learned of a Beatnik/Lovecraft connection and my mind was blown. Apparently Burroughs attended a lecture or class taught by a huge fan of Lovecraft’s named Robert Barlow. After several failed attempts at becoming a writer, he became an anthropologist and taught in Mexico. Burroughs, on the run from an alleged drug charge, attended Barlow’s lectures on Mayan culture. The Naked Lunch apparently emanated from this time. A brilliant article from The New Yorker discusses this more articulately than I ever could.

I’ve always envied the wildly successful authors. King, Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown, Danielle Steel, just to name a few. Koontz has long been my favorite. I own 26 of his works of fiction.

IBM_SelectricWhen I started consuming works of horror and thriller fiction, I had the mind to write a novel. During my time aboard the USS Saratoga during the first Gulf War, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I wrote letters home in prose. I used an IBM Selectric electric typewriter. Hell, I told short stories rather than write letters. After writing for our cruise book and deployment newsletter, shipmates asked, “what the hell are you doing here?”

It wasn’t until 2011 that I had an idea for a book. I shared the beginnings of something written in the third person with a cousin, who is also an aspiring writer. His feedback stung. It was clear that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to novel writing. “Head hopping,” “show, don’t tell,” all these terms and techniques were foreign to me. I put it away. A year ago January I dragged it out. I took my cousin’s suggestions, I rewrote it from the first person perspective and it took off. Thirteen months later I had a finished product. I told the story I wanted to tell. Within a month I was under contract with a publisher.

I have written a dark, bloody, exciting vampire tale set in modern-day San Francisco. It’s called The Dark Truth and it is due out in trade paperback and e-book in February.

I have often joked that I had to live past the age of 47. Lovecraft died at 47. Kerouac died at 47. I am 47. I’ll be 48 in a few months. Lovecraft and Kerouac produced a tremendous amount of published work by the time they died. My sports writing is one thing. I’ve written articles that number well over 1,000 that live on the Internet. But, fiction? Well. I’m just getting started. But in nine short months I will join my literary heroes as a “published author.”

And I am just now starting to pull back that veil.

Facebook Writing Prompt

A few months ago, an old military pal, Paula, posted one of these Facebook things and encouraged her online community to do it with her. Now, I don’t know how many folks have participated in this particular viral thing. However, when I looked at it, I thought of it more as a writing prompt. None of these things, to me, can be answered yes or no. So, I thought I would give it a whirl with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Tattoos………………….no. I am not opposed; I just haven’t gotten one yet. I did see a male motorcycle rider today with a tramp stamp. I firmly believe that if you are going to get one, spend some money and make sure you find a capable artist.

Piercings……………….no. I did have my ear pierced once a long time ago, it lasted four days before I took the stud out and let the hole close up.

Children………………..yes, two, one at home, one who lives with his mom in Florida.

Surgeries………………..yes, technically three, unless you want to count oral surgeries. Knee, butt and back. Don’t ask about the middle one. There’s a blog entry for that somewhere in the archive.

Broken Bones ……….yes, fractured my elbow once, fell off my bike when I was 11 I think. Pretty sure I broke my pinky during a flag football practice/scrimmage in Iceland but I never got it looked at.

Shot a gun………………I am ex-military so, yeah.

Quit a job………………..Quit, fired, what’s your point?

Flown on a plane…….more times than I can count, although the first time wasn’t until I was 18 and I was on my way to boot camp just outside of Chicago.

Gone zip lining………..no, but there are some batshit crazy guys in Wales who have one I’d like to try.

Given CPR……………….no, almost had to. We lost 21 sailors in a ferry accident off the coast of Haifa, Israel, 1990, and I was standing by on the hangar deck.

Been to Canada…………….yes, love Canada. Toronto, Winnipeg, Niagara Falls, been to a lot of places in Canada, including Canadian Tire.

Ridden in an ambulance…..no, almost. Was checked out in the back of one when I wrecked a car when I was in high school.

Been to Europe………………..yes, London, England; four places in Turkey.

Stamps in Passport(s) ……..yes, in addition to England, Mexico.

Been to Washington D.C….yes, stationed there for three years. Went as part of a class trip in grade school as well.


Colorado…………………yes, it’s growing on me.

Mexico……………………………yes, last year for the first time. Best tacos ever.

Las Vegas………………………..yes, if you count a layover at McCarran Airport. They have slot machines in the freaking airport. Of course they do.

Sang karaoke………………..no. Nobody needs to hear me sing. Although I am a professional in the car singer, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Had (a) pet(s)…………………yes, currently? Three cats, a dog, four turtles, Lord knows how many Koi fish, and several vagrant lizards and spiders.

Been downhill skiing……….yes, once, disastrous experience, still think I owe the ski resort money for a binding.

Ability to read music ………no, took piano lessons in grammar school, didn’t even get to Chopsticks. I am not a musical people.

Rode a motorcycle…………..no, I like at least 3,000 pounds of car around me when I go careening down the highway at 75 miles per hour.

Rode a horse…………………….yes, unassisted no…rode a camel once too.

Stayed in hospital…………….kinda, just not overnight.

Donated blood………………..no, my blood stays in my body there Drac.

Driven a stick shift……………Yes, learned on my dad’s 1979 Ford Mustang, four on the floor and four cylinders. It wouldn’t go faster than 82 m.p.h. Believe me, I tried.

Ride in Police Car ………..Military Police count?

Grandkids……………………no, although several people have accused me.

Driven a Boat ……………..yes! My wife didn’t think I could, but I showed her. “Just because you were in the Navy doesn’t mean they let you drive the boat.” Yeah well, I drove a damn speedboat, so there. I came into the slip a little hot, but, whatever. Everyone survived.

Eaten Escargot ……………no, never have, never will. Bleah.

Seen a UFO………………..um…

Been on a Cruise………..yes, if you count the USS Saratoga. Other than that, no. And you’ll never get me on a cruise ship either.

Run out of Gas…………..yes, in my own damn garage no less. Shut up, it’s not funny.

Eat Sushi……………………yes, but where I come from we call it “bait.”

Seen a Ghost……………..seen? No. Experienced? That’s a blog for a different day, but yes, three times.

A Second Life for a Window Into Mine

This was my father’s Petri 7 35mm camera.

Ten years ago this week, my father John Henry Knaak, Jr., suffered a fatal heart attack. It was 11 months after my mother, Yung Hi Knaak, suffered a catastrophic stroke and died days later. I still say dad died of a broken heart. I inherited my parents’ belongings. Every knickknack, every piece of furniture, every book, every bill (including electric bills dating back to 1984), every stitch of clothing, everything became mine, everything including a Petri 35mm SLR camera kit.

I grew up in Rochester, New York, which is considered the birthplace of photography, as we know it. My high school graduation ceremony was held at the George Eastman Theater, so named for the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

When I was growing up, you had to be judicious about the photos you took. Cameras, film (if you don’t know what film cameras were, go ask a grown up), processing and printing cost money. Cameras certainly weren’t cheap and film could be expensive depending on quality and type. You had to be selective with your picture taking – you only had 24 or 36 shots per roll of film. Oftentimes we took our film to a place called Fotomat – drive-through islands located in the parking lots of numerous strip malls across the country. Many of these are now drive-thru espresso stands.

A photo of a Fotomat booth from my hometown newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle.

Petri 35mm cameras came along in the 1950s and my father purchased his at a PX in the 1960s while he was in the United States Army. This would be the camera that documented my father’s tour in Korea, his courtship of my mother, and much of my childhood.

The camera itself was sleek and elegant, especially for the time. It was heavy, substantial in your hand. You knew you had a well-made piece of equipment in your hand when you picked it up and felt the heft.

My father used the camera to shoot slides. Yes, we regaled whoever would sit still long enough with the dreaded slide show. We had a projector and a somewhat portable screen. I still have the slides and their carousels. He also took snapshots with print film. My mother didn’t take many photos. You could always tell when she did. You were lucky if you actually were in the photo. As I’ve mentioned before, this is probably why I don’t have many photos of my dad, he was the one behind the camera.

Dad was a bit of a shutterbug. He enjoyed taking family snapshots, landscapes and exterior architecture on family vacations, family pets, zoo animals, antique cars and fire engines at various shows and exhibits. However, he was a bit lackadaisical when it came to getting the film developed. Hell, there might still be an undeveloped roll or two lying around here somewhere. I’m not sure if it was a money issue or a procrastination issue. As I kid I enjoyed taking pictures. I used a Kodak “disc” camera for a while. It was state-of-the-art at the time. The film was contained in a wheel, not unlike a View Master slide picture wheel. You still had to have it developed like regular film. We had a Polaroid camera too, which was the closest thing we had to instant photography.

This Petri camera my father bought halfway around the world was a constant companion on numerous excursions. We drove everywhere for family vacations. I didn’t get on an airplane until I was 18. From the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to Boston Harbor, and Niagara Falls and Toronto in between, dad chronicled it all with his Petri 7. He treated that camera with care and reverence. There was more than just a hint of melancholy when the image quality started to deteriorate.

Eventually, the Petri 7 gave way to higher-end point and shoot cameras. I had a couple of Canon 35mm SLRs, and I shot with a Canon F-1 when I was in the Navy, but none of them garnered the respect that Petri was given.

The Petri 7 on display in my cousin’s home. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salatino.

Over the past decade I have had trouble getting rid of some of my parents’ stuff. Household goods and clothes were easier than some other items. Dad’s music collection, my parents’ DVD collection, select pieces of dad’s die-cast metal 1/43rd scale model car collection, his model trains, will all probably stay. Knickknacks are gone for the most part, with a few exceptions. I still have a few pieces of furniture that I refuse to part with.

During a clean out of my home office last year, I came across the Petri 7 35mm camera. I was fairly certain it couldn’t be fixed. Besides, we live in a digital world now. We carry a camera built into our phones everywhere we go. Photography is no longer a luxury, it has become an important way we express ourselves in our everyday lives. The only excuse for not taking a picture now is running out of memory. It’s fitting that an Instagram post triggered the words you’re reading right now.

A closer view of the Petri 7 in my cousin’s home. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salatino.

When I came across the brown leather case containing the Petri and its accessories, I felt so many emotions – nostalgia, loss, longing, and gratitude all passed through me. And like a very few other things I inherited, I couldn’t bring myself to just toss the camera away. I couldn’t fathom trying to sell it on eBay either.

A bolt of inspiration struck me.

My cousin Melissa, a descendant of my grandfather’s brother Carl, was getting ready for her wedding. I have often remarked that Melissa was born in the wrong decade. Her appreciation of vintage clothing, hairstyles, cars, décor and such is nothing short of remarkable. I thought if anyone could appreciate this camera, it would be Melissa. As an early wedding gift, I shipped the camera to her. It now sits prominently and proudly displayed in the home she shares with her husband Tom.

Melissa posted a photo from inside her home on Instagram today and the Petri 35mm is clearly visible. As I’ve thought about my father this week and how 10 years have already passed since his death, it was a bit of serendipity to see this photo on social media today.

I’m glad this piece of my history, this window on my life, will now bear witness to a new life my cousin and her husband are building together. I think my father would be happy that I found a loving home for one of his most cherished possessions.

Struggling with Fitness Motivation

Yours truly after a 4-mile run last weekend.

Since January 2013, I have only truly struggled with the motivation to exercise and eat healthier a few times. Usually the onset of disillusionment has accompanied an injury or setback of some kind, never the lack of results. Conventional wisdom and everything I read says to keep at it and the results will come. I’m not so sure anymore.

I have been known to read too much when it comes to research. I have written of information overload in previous entries. Most of the time I can’t make heads or tails of the information I consume. I read Runner’s World and Men’s Fitness. I spend time on numerous web sites from Men’s Health to bodybuilding.com. You would think after four years of better nutrition and consistent exercise, I would be seeing better results. You would think after four years I would understand my body. You would be wrong.

I have been a proponent of what I believe to be a simple truth. The body doesn’t need as many calories to subsist as we think it does. That being said, my calorie ceiling, no matter how much I exercise, seems to be pretty low. I have a FitBit Charge HR. I know how much I sleep, I know my heart rate, I know approximately how many calories I burn each day. Either I am lying to myself about how many calories I take in each day (I am horribly inconsistent with MyFitnessPal and logging my food), or my metabolism is much slower than I care to admit.

Actually, what’s crazy is the calorie burn estimates from each app you use. The Nike Run Club app says yesterday’s run burned 572 cal., while Smashrun says 761 cal. FitBit says 690. According to FitBit, I burned 3,106 cal. yesterday. I know I didn’t eat that much, but I guarantee you if I got on the scale this morning, it would have showed an uptick in weight. If that was the case, and knowing that you have to burn more than you take in to lose weight, you’d think I’d have this licked.

To recap – I once weighed 236 pounds. I lost 60 to get to 176. I put four back on and stayed at 180 for several months. I was quite happy at 180 pounds. Then I hurt my back. Even after surgery to repair a herniated disc, I stayed at 180 for some time. This was summer 2015. By January 2017 I have put about 20 pounds back on. November and December 2016 were bad for me. I backed off my running, I exercised three to four days a week instead of five to six, and I ate more holiday comfort food than I should have. Over the summer, I ate more backyard cookout food and drank more beer than I should have. From July on I took on a new hobby – podcasting – to go with blogging and working on my first novel.

Since the first of the year, a bout with the flu not withstanding, I have been back on my game. I have been running more often, especially of late, and I am back to five to six workouts per week. Trusting the process has been my mantra from the beginning and I don’t know what that process is anymore. I have forgotten how to do this. I don’t even know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to eat, how much of it to eat. I don’t know what workouts to do. I don’t know what not to do either.

I belong to a Facebook group affiliated with Jim Stoppani, an exercise scientist who has his own line of supplements. The group, known as the JYM Army, consists of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes and walks off life. Many post transformation photos. Instead of being inspired to achieve, I am jealous. I’m envious. And worst of all, I’m disgusted with myself. I know what I want. I know what I want to look like; I know how I want to feel. And I just don’t know how to do it.

The past few weeks have been frustrating. I have seen a little movement on the scale in the right direction, which is undone quickly. I am in a constant battle with needing to manage my life and wanting to live it. I used to get frustrated when my weight loss efforts stalled. But I never really considered giving up. My eyes were always on the prize. As I drove toward it I always thought the definition would come, the body fat would slough off. I figured I would build the body I always wanted while I did this.

But I think the past two weeks have seen my first real cracks, my first real thoughts of wanting to quit. I see people who have lost weight and gained it back and never go back to diet and exercise. I guess either life got in the way or they just said, “screw it.” I don’t want to be that person. Yet, despite my best efforts, I gained 20 pounds. And I’m debating being that person.

I lift and I lift and nothing seems to change. My belly fat is back in abundance and my muscles never seem to grow or define. I get a little stronger and I’m probably stronger that I ever have been, but that’s not good enough. My battle with the poster on the wall seems to be unwinnable.

Same route, two years apart, and I’ve lost six minutes total run time, and a minute and a half off my pace.

I’m 47 years old. The one thing I have figured out about this 1969 rambling wreck is that backing off is the kiss of death. If I don’t maintain the five to six days a week of weightlifting and 10-15 miles a week of running, my fitness level goes right down the drain. The worst part about that is getting back to where I was, which gets harder as I get older. It wasn’t that long ago when I was able to consistently run 10-minute miles on three- to five-mile runs. I never could maintain than on a six-miler. I’m trudging along at 11-minute miles now. Sure I can turn in a sub 10-minute mile, but I can’t maintain that pace. Carrying 20 extra pounds can’t be helping. Two years ago I was running four miles in 38 minutes. Now? 44 minutes. I am an ex-smoker but I quit damn near nine years ago. I know that it takes 15 years to undo it, but you’d think my cardio-vascular health would be better than it is. Granted, I have not been able to get my speed back since back surgery.

My new problem is mystery quad pain and tightness I’ve never had before. I used to suffer from shin splints. Quality running shoes with plenty of cushion solved that. Now I wonder if my new running shoes are causing the quad problem. My new weight bench has a built-in squat rack and I am squatting more weight that I ever have. Maybe that is causing my quad issues. Who the hell knows? We’ve established that I don’t understand my anatomy.

Maybe I’m not sticking to anything long enough to get any real results. Getting enough protein on a daily basis is a constant struggle. I’m good once in awhile. But I forget my discipline and I don’t stick to it. I forget to make a shake, or miss the window to drink one. I don’t eat enough animal protein during the day because I don’t want the calories. The JYM Army and Stoppani tell you screw the calories, it’s about losing inches and fat and building muscle. I would say, “yeah, that’s great if you’re 25,” but the are 50-somethings in the group that look like professional bodybuilders. And for me, and my body, eating to fuel muscle growth and workouts is not what works for me. I just put on fat. I never shred.

Maybe it’s low testosterone. I have been tested. It is a bit low. Not catastrophically low, but lower than it should be. Maybe that is what’s hurting me. I read an article in the March 2017 Men’s Fitness that said people with sleep apnea shouldn’t take testosterone replacement because it could worsen the symptoms. It’s bad enough I thought losing 60 pounds would cure the condition only to find out I am stuck with it for life, only to read that something that would help lose weight, build muscle and provide numerous other benefits could also hasten my demise.

It seems like I am constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think the added weight has not only hurt my running ability, but has also exacerbated my symptoms. Evening fatigue would be the most glaring. I have trouble getting up in the morning. During my last visit with the sleep doc, my CPAP machine was adjusted to help with that.

This week, I’ll try something new. I’m hardheaded I guess. I don’t know when or how to quit. But I do feel like for the first time since I started four years ago that there’s no point to it. That no matter what I do I’ll continue to gain weight no matter what I eat or how much I exercise. And that simply won’t do.

The Slippery Slope Has Been Coated with Grease

I have been on the fence with this one. I thought I could ride it out without feeling the need to articulate these thoughts but as events have unfolded the past few days in South Carolina and Florida, I can hold my keyboard no longer. I’ll cite sources as necessary but I may not need to because the source of my anger and angst is more visceral that literal.

I grew up on Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. The latter made me a Republican.

On Nov. 8, 2016, I voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since I came of legal voting age. I voted for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush (twice), John McCain and Mitt Romney. Voting against party lines was inconceivable. Every now and again, there was a Democrat state legislator, U.S. senator or representative I would find appealing. I never voted “Republican” when it came to ballot initiatives, save one (and I’d vote opposite if I could do it all over again). I had to be one of the few registered Republicans in the state of California who voted for our embattled high-speed rail. I am proud to say I voted for Hillary Clinton. I was no fan of her husband, but I believed she was the best choice.

President Donald J. Trump ran as a Republican. He defeated Democratic challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton, 304- 227 in Electoral College votes. He continues to lie about the margin of victory, claiming it was the largest since Ronald Reagan.

During a press conference earlier this week, President Trump continued to falsely brag about his victory, and refused to admit inaccuracies.

Politifact reported on Twitter that President Trump lies 69.9 percent of the time. During the campaign it was 71 percent, while Clinton was proven to lie 27 percent of the time, which happened to be about average for your average president or presidential candidate. So, our president lies more than he tells the truth. More on that later.

From CNN.com

Trump claimed at a news conference that he had the largest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan. When told later in the news conference by NBC’s Peter Alexander that information was false, Trump did not defend the argument, which he has made repeatedly in recent days, but said he was “talking about Republicans.”

“I was given that information,” Trump said, before quickly moving onto another questioner. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. It was a very substantial victory. Would you agree with that?”

He spread blatant lies and misinformation throughout that press conference as he continues to demonstrate that he does not understand the hate that his election victory has allowed to fester across the country. During the debates, he was asked about Islamaphobia and he clearly didn’t understand what Islamaphobia is when he clearly practices it (as evidenced by the Muslim ban, not ban, yes, it is a ban, disguised as an Executive Order on immigration). He was asked about anti-Semitism and demonstrated that he didn’t understand the question or this term. He thought that the reporter, who happened to be Jewish, was asking him if he was racist or anti-Semitic.

The fact of the matter is, hate crimes rose sharply after Trump was elected. People of color, non-U.S. citizens, and people of non-Christian religious faiths have been targeted by bigots with graffiti and in-person confrontations. A Jan. 5, 2017 USA Today article indicated that hate crimes have subsided, but the indicated that the election and the incidents are not mutually exclusive.

Mr. Trump has escalated his war on the media. As someone who has worked as a journalist in one way, shape or form or another for more than 20 years, this is truly frightening. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees freedom of the Press. He continued that attack today at a rally in Florida. The term “fake news” is now being used to described legitimate news outlets when the “left” originally started using the term to call out Breibart, InfoWars and their ilk.

In fact, it was brilliant strategy by the Trump campaign. They co-opted everything the left tried to do to them during the 2016 presidential campaign. The “I’m rubber, you’re glue” strategy was unbelievably successful. “Fake news” has to be the most obvious example. However, while the Trump camp was screaming about Clinton’s use of a private email server, many of the president’s people do the same to this very day. He tweets from an unsecured Android device for crying out loud. Every time they screamed about the Clinton Foundation and “pay to play,” they planned to nominate Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Her family has donated $200 million to Republicans and several senators who voted on her confirmation, received money directly from DeVos and her husband. If this isn’t pay to play, I don’t know what is. The Republicans spent eight years obstructing President Barack Obama, and now they cry when Democrats offer any resistance to anything Trump and his merry band of fascists, racists, and xenophobes want to do.

The National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was asked to resign, quit, jump in a lake, and yet Trump defended him at this 77-minute rant disguised as a press conference. Which leads me down the Russia rabbit hole. I don’t have the bandwidth for this right now. There are smarter people than me dissecting this. However, whenever someone really gets close to convincing people who matter that a probe is necessary, Clinton and her emails get brought up again.

Every cabinet nominee has been tainted, either by being unqualified, unsuitability, corruption or a polar opposite viewpoint. Senator Mitch McConnell spent eight years obstructing Obama and his initiatives. And now he wants us to support Trump and the GOP. He’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This leads me to my actual point.

So many Democrats (elected officials and the citizenry) have been wondering and outright asking where is the Republican outrage. The short answer is that they don’t care. They don’t care that he lies, they don’t care that his cabinet nominees are unqualified and/or corrupt, they don’t care about the egregious things that came to light during the campaign even though they pretended to be mortified, they just don’t care. Why is that? I’m glad you asked. Because they are getting everything they ever wanted. They spent eight years waiting for Obama’s time as president to end so they could enact absolutely batshit legislation. Trump executive orders alone have been enough to scare the bejeezus out of me.

The folks who voted for Trump, for the most part, are happy with the job he’s doing, mainly because he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. And that’s the rub, that’s where it falls down. I watched a story on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt where people in a town in Wisconsin were satisfied with the first month of the new administration and one man who was interviewed told viewers to give Trump a chance.

I’ll point out that Trump lost the popular vote by three million, although he and crackpot conspiracy theorists say that’s because millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton in what would be the biggest case of voter fraud in American election history. Just in case you’re unclear, that shit didn’t happen.

And every time you point this craziness out, someone pops up and shouts, “but Hillary…!”

Well, it’s been a month. And it’s been a shitshow. Journalists have been fighting the good fight. And I hope they continue to do so. Trump also managed to piss of the judicial branch. Apparently he doesn’t realize that the three branches of government are EQUAL. He has a rubberstamp congress, but the judiciary will not be bullied. Neither will the intelligence community, but that is a different ball of wax.

Trump, his administration and his supporters all claim that the resistance is undermining the president and what he wants to do. Good. They want news outlets like CNN to soften its coverage of the president. No. None of this is normal, none of this should be normalized, and the bullshit flag needs to be raised every time – every time.

Now, you might be thinking that after almost 30 years as a Republican, that I have completely gone over to the other side and become a bleeding heart liberal. I am a registered independent and I am on the side of truth and facts. If the president can’t admit that Obama’s inaugural crowd was larger than his and then orders a government agency to find photographs that prove his delusion, there’s something wrong with that. That’s minor compared to all of the other lies and falsehoods.

He calls the mainstream media and major newspapers “fake news.” He says the general public distrusts the media. I read the subtweets, I read the Facebook comments. The attacks on journalists and anyone who would question the president are unbelievable.

This article will tell you what sites are truly fake news.

What I’d like to now is this, for those people out there who distrust the news media, do you think CNN, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, et al make shit up? Do you think they flat out lie?

So many folks believe the media is biased to the left. Maybe there is some bias for some outlets. However, I believe most journalists are telling truthful, factual stories. It’s what they were trained to do.

My broadcast journalism voice and diction teacher, Mr. Bob Runda, taught me that the newscaster is the subject matter expert (I think that extends to the news writer). It is their job to explain the world and world events to the viewer or the reader.

It doesn’t matter what you feel or believe – facts are facts. And the fact of the matter is, the GOP is trying to enact laws and policies that will slide us down that slippery slope straight into fascism. Our president and his spokespeople do not live in our reality. They lie and they get angry when you question them.

Read good journalism. Watch good television news (not panel shouting matches featuring Trump spin doctors). As Keith Olbermann ends every YouTube episode of his GQ series, “Resist.”