2014 Great River Ragnar Relay: Another Fantastic Run!

August 17, 2014

My life has already been altered by the greatness that is the Ragnar Relay. Last year’s 2013 Great River was my first ever Ragnar experience and was an amazing, eye-opening adventure through Wisconsin and Minnesota that I gushed about over and over again right here.

2014 was different. I was no longer a rookie bracing for the unknown odyssey of multiple runs on short sleep, piles sweaty clothes and the camaraderie that develops among your van-mates. I knew what to expect. The sweaty clothes would be everywhere, gathering in little piles throughout the van. The runs would be long and tough, filled with hills and gravel and dust. I would be tired. The sun would be hot. I’d need to bring water and chews and an extra pair of shoes, baby wipes, a few towels, a bunch of bandanas, cell-phone and iPod chargers. And I’d need to get plenty of sleep. I knew all this stuff. I could predict almost hour by hour exactly what would happen. This was not new – at least, not for me.

What made Ragnar 2014 special was that we had five newbies on our team. Four were in my small crew, making Christine and I the veterans of our 6-person van. We had graduated from rookies to van captains and would be guiding four others through their first Ragnar experience. Chad, Dan, Denise and Kelly (and Rachel in Van 1) were recruited to fill open spots vacated by some of last year’s crew. The new folks had heard stories of Ragnars past, had seen the photos, had read the blog posts. But they, like me last year, really didn’t know what to expect. They’d be seeing it all for the first time, and their excitement and dedication made it feel as if I were doing it for the first time too.

Kelly is rewarded after finishing an amazing hill climb!

Kelly is rewarded after finishing an amazing hill climb!

I was so impressed by how well everyone did. By how hard they pushed themselves. Kelly conquered that impossible hill on Leg 7 without walking a single step. While every other runner broke down at some point during that wall of a climb and was forced to walk, Kelly just kept chugging along and somehow made it to the top, still running, and inspiring everyone in the van. I had a pair of tough hills on Leg 8, with a 104 heat index but told myself I’d have to push it and keep running no matter what (ok, I stopped to buy a cup of lemonade for 50 cents from a little girl whose stand was reportedly “killing it”). Denise also had herself one hell of a climb but seemed to be effortlessly floating along the road as if out for a light Sunday morning jog. And while Christine, now a Ragnar veteran, killed her 8+ mile opening run, Kelly and Denise basked in the glory and accomplishment of having completed their first run. Dan dominated his first leg, passing something like 25 people as the sun started to fall and the vans kicked up giant clouds of dust on those Wisconsin dirt roads. But Chad had one absolute bitch of a twisting, turning up-and-down, gravel-and-dust-filled journey during Leg 12 that made me thankful my first run was pretty much a straight shot. It’s nice when you can see the end but when you’re making turns every half mile and don’t know what’s next it can make your run seem twice as long. But he pushed himself and made it through.

Ready to run!

Ready to run!

Yep – the newbs killed their first legs and as we handed the baton back to Van 1, we collected ourselves, regrouped and settled in for a few hours rest. I had spent the last 12+ hours thinking mostly about the logistics of the van. Finding the next exchange point, navigating the unknown roads, making sure we had all the proper supplies, coordinating with Christine as van captains and deciding where to go next, when to stop, where to stop. This year the running was secondary. So when we finally stopped at Holiday in the middle of a small town somewhere, and I bought myself a much needed Dr. Pepper fountain drink and Little Debbie, I could finally stop and think.

Those first twelve hours had gone fast. We met up at 10:00am – that’s the advantage of being in Van 2. You get extra time to sleep and wake up feeling refreshed vs. being in Van 1 when you have to wake up at 3:00am, meet your team and 4:00 and start running around 8:00. This year I didn’t even wake up until 8:00. So by the time we finished our first leg and stopped to rest, it was about 10:30 at night, and I was simply not ready for sleep. So I didn’t.  

Dan and Chad discuss the finer points of Ragnar.

Dan and Chad discuss the finer points of Ragnar.

Instead I laid on the side of a hill in my sleeping bag, with Christine on one side and Dan on the other while the rest of the group rested on seats in the van, and tried to relax and rest my body. I listened to the applause coming from the exchange point across the parking lot, and the enthusiastic announcer who called team numbers as runners approached, “Runner 152 coming in hot!” 15 minutes I laid there, then 30, trying to fall asleep. I wondered if anyone else from my van was asleep. I looked over to Dan whose eyes were closed, and then over to Christine, who opened her eyes. “Can you sleep?” I asked. “Not at all.” So we sat up and chatted for a bit. Dan rolled over and said he wasn’t sleeping either. It was still too early, or there was too much noise coming from the parking lot, or the streetlight was shining in our eyes. But it felt nice to rest and that breeze sure felt damn good. So we laid and we rested but I barely slept.

Van 1 looks way too happy!

Van 1 looks way too happy!

Soon it was 1:00 in the morning and time to move out. Van 1 arrived and we caught up with the rest of our team. This is always one of the best moments in Ragnar – those few minutes when your entire team is together and you have a chance to connect with the other van. Share quick stories of your adventures, pause for a few photos, make your own moments together before one van says it’s time to rest while the other knows it’s time to move out.

Last year I was in the same van with Donn, Meredith and Becca, who were in the opposite van this year so my time with them and with Sarah, Erica and Rachel was limited to these brief exchanges. I felt myself trying to make the most of this time as I really missed the Van 1 crew and wanted to be around them for a lot longer than Ragnar allowed. Because when it’s time to move, it’s time to move. Off we went for 6 middle-of-the-dead-to-the-night runs. The weather was perfect. Cool…so cool that I could see my breath with every exhale. I ran almost 10 miles for my second leg and it was my best run of the 2014 Ragnar, and was probably better than any run I did in Ragnar 2013.

I am a better runner this year than last year. More sophisticated. More aware of my body’s limits and how it reacts to various conditions, terrain, gels, electrolytes, salts, goos and other nutritional issues. I’m also a bit faster this year than last overall, on my regular runs, yet my Ragnar times were slightly slower this year… almost completely because of those killer hills and the heat during my first leg. But leg 2 was great. I ran for more than an hour and a half and never broke stride. For 9.6 miles I was in a fucking groove. My legs felt great, my breathing was perfect and my headlamp and night gear amazingly stayed in place and never became a distraction.

I finished that leg, collapsed onto a seat and began surfing Facebook photos to catch up on Van 1 while Dan and Kelly

Looking Cool

Looking Cool

managed the driving and navigation. That was one great thing about my van that I must mention. Even through Christine and I were captains and tasked with keeping the van on track, we still had to run and recover which meant the rest of the team needed to step up and help with logistics. This meant driving the van, navigating to the next exchange point, handing off water and generally taking charge in our absence. They did a great job. Chad was the master navigator who seemed to always have the map in hand calling out the next turn, when to stop to give our runner water, where the next road would be and how long we had until we needed to be at the next exchange. Dan was in the driver’s seat as much as Christine and I yet he always found time to meet a runner on-course and hand them a jug of water, or refill their bottle or just spray them down and cool them off. So when I finished by 9+ run and we coasted along while Denise charged through her 10-miler, I was totally confident that Dan and Kelly would lead us to the next exchange. And they did!

Caffeine. Hydration. Straws.

Caffeine. Hydration. Straws.

By the time we finished our second legs, we were physically exhausted, sleep-deprived and sick of goos and various sugar-drinks. I managed to get about a half hour of sleep but once the sun came up and we parked at the last major exchange I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep. Some did. Others showered and freshened up. I ate a little, rested in the van and chatted with Christine about this year vs. last year. Being captains vs. being rookies. The advantages of Van 2 over Van 1. The advantages of Van 1 over Van 2. The plan for the rest of the journey and whether we wanted to get some coffee. “I’ll drive!” I called out as soon as the idea hit and soon Chad and Kelly joined us and off we went to the nearest Caribou.

Erica drinks and runs.

Erica drinks and runs.

We had what we described as a running hangover. So tired, so clumsy yet aware that we each had one last run before the finish line. We had to summon the last of our strength, gather every bit of courage and grit and push through those final miles. It was tough, it was a grind, our legs were depleted of energy and no matter how fast I willed my body to move, it just wouldn’t go. I normally run a 3-mile route in 9:30 so I was hoping my final leg of 3.1 would be my fastest. It was but I logged a lumbering 10:30, well off my pace but I no longer cared. I ate a turkey sandwich, chugged a giant bottle of Gatorade and was thankful that my body had made it through without an injury, without a massive case of runner’s trots, without barfing or simply falling over dead.

And as the rest of the van completed their final legs, each team member collapsed into the van, sweating and breathing heavily but satisfied that they had pushed their body to the limit. One after another, as each person arrived back in the van they all had the same look on their face. A look that said not only “I’m done” but that “I did it.”

Yeah, see how tired I am?

Yeah, see how tired I am?

Ragnar is an endurance race. It’s not about speed, it’s about pushing through long miles, running while tired during any and all hours of the day or night and finishing. Whether your leg is 3 miles or 7.8, it’s only one of three that you’ll have to do. And each member of this Run Long and Perspire team had to push through miles and miles of road that stretched from Winona, Minnesota to St. Paul. For 200+ miles we had to slog on, chugging away through both heat and darkness, uphill and down, hating running and loving it at the same time.

Van 2 selfie

Van 2 selfie

You run your individual legs knowing that you’re only part of the overall adventure. I couldn’t have done 17.9 miles without someone dropping me off at my exchange, without someone meeting me after 3 miles to hand me some water, without a comfy place in the van to sit and recover. Each person struggled as much as I struggled. The only way I was able to complete 17.9 miles was because of my team. The only way any of us were able to complete a single mile was because of the team.

The sweet odor of success

The sweet odor of success

Running is an individual sport but Ragnar is a team event and this group of both veterans and rookies pulled together and moved selflessly from exchange to exchange, looking out for each other, supporting each other as we tried to achieve personal goals. And watching the newcomers get through it for the first time, while the veterans did their thing made me very happy and very proud to be on such a supportive and dedicated team.

Me, running long and perspiring.

Me, running long and perspiring.

This is my favorite race of the year, and one of my favorite weekends of the year. The second go-around, I’m not forever changed as a runner but I know that some were and that I played a part in that. As we met at the finish line and said our farewells, with everything from “See you Monday” to “See you next year,” I went home feeling satisfied that five teammates, Dan, Chad, Denise, Kelly and Rachel went home with stories and medals from an all new adventure. When Denise thanked me for asking her to be part of the team I felt touched, but mostly satisfied that I was able to share this experience with an all new gang of runners.

I write these posts to reflect but also to gather memories that will otherwise fade with the passage of time. And while I know my memories of this team with fade with time, one thing is certain: I will always remember this crew, and I hope they will always remember me.

The crew

The crew

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Baseball’s Greatest; a Book of Top Ten List from Sports Illustrated

December 10, 2013

SIEditors of Sports Illustrated, 2013

288 pages, color and B&W

5 out of 5 stars

A big part of being a baseball fan is debating the nuance of the game from the stands, or at work the day after a game, or during the cold, quiet offseason. Which current players belong in the Hall of Fame? Who was the greatest catcher of all time? Should there be instant replay? What was the single best game ever played? There are hundreds of debates, and each debate has hundreds of opinions. And in the spirit of year-end lists, Sports Illustrated’s Baseball’s Greatest presents a colorful and thought-provoking summary of baseball’s best,  including the top sluggers, pitchers, stadiums, managers and games of all time.

It is the ultimate book of baseball top ten lists, compiled through a collaboration of SI writers and editors, ranking the best players by position but also the best base runners, sluggers, defensive players and baseball movies. Who was the #2 shortstop of all time? Derek Jeter. Who is the #9 center fielder? Kirby Puckett. What was the greatest game ever played? It’s not Jack Morris’s 10-inning shutout during Game 7 of the 1991 World Series. As a Twins fan I’m biased towards that one, but it came in at #3. And isn’t The Natural a better baseball movie than Moneyball? As you can see, there is already plenty to debate. Imagine the opinions, the arguments that a top 10 list in over 20 baseball categories can create!

This is a hefty, significant coffee table book, overflowing with wonderful color photos, and classic shots of the old baseball legends who occupied this earth long before many of us. Ty Cobb (the #2 center fielder of all time), Lefty Grove (the #2 left-handed pitcher), and the Polo Grounds (the 8th best ballpark) all make appearances in giant, vivid black and white.

One thing I liked about the book is that it doesn’t ignore the men who have been tainted by their involvement in steroids or gambling, but judges all players by their performance on their field and the field alone. As a result, great players like Pete Rose, Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire are held in the same esteem as Babe Ruth, Jimmy Foxx and Eddie Murray. This is a book of baseball greats, players who contributed significantly to any fan’s enjoyment of the game, and it leaves the debates to the fans.

More controversial are the lists themselves and which players, stadiums and games were chosen and which were left out. How is 1988 World Series Game 1 not in the top 10 best games? Why is 1975 World Series Game 6 the #1? Sure, Fisk waved the ball fair and then jumped for joy after it cleared the monster, but his team went on to lose Game 7 to the Reds the next day. I can understand why Rogers Hornsby is rated as the top second baseman of all time, but why is Joe Morgan #2? Oh, perhaps I’m letting myself be influenced by his broadcasting. Like I said, the book doesn’t fault any player for their behaviors off the field.

I won’t give away much more, but here is how they ranked the greatest ballparks. Feel free to debate these for the rest of your life, as I know you have been anyway, without assistance from this enjoyable book.

Best Ballpark

1. Fenway Park

2. Wrigley Field

3. Yankee Stadium (the old one)

4. Ebbets Field

5. Oriole Park at Camden Yards

6. Tiger Stadium (not Comerica)

7. AT&T Park

8. Polo Grounds

9. Dodger Stadium (the current one in LA)

10. Comisky Park

Are these correct? Did they leave anything out? Can the Polo Grounds be included when it was demolished almost 50 years ago? These are the kind of questions and debates this book can spawn. It’s not only a great coffee table book, not only a great reference book, but it’s a great history book. A tight document of all the greatest things about history’s greatest sport.

Baseball’s Greatest is available from Sports Illustrated, makes a great gift, and you can buy it wherever books are sold.

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Home to Nagasaki – Chapter 4

March 6, 2013

Ping Fan, China

1939

Masaru planned to turn Manchuria into a gigantic chemical and biological warfare laboratory and it was my job to execute his plan. We decided nearly eighty buildings would be constructed on the compound, including an administrative building to house laboratories, dormitories for the civilian workers, barracks for the military, and a collection of barns and stables to house test animals.

Masaru was proud of the special jail that would house Chinese prisoners of war and Masaru personally supervised the construction of a facility that could conduct frostbite studies year round.

There was a power plant, a group of furnaces used to animal carcasses and human waste and a recreational facility that Masaru designed himself. I wasn’t surprised when I learned it would be staffed with what Masaru described as “a healthy collection of comfort women.”

A railroad connected the facility to the city of Harbin and a private airfield was constructed where newly developed chemical and biological weapons could be tested.

I would later learn that the facility’s perimeter rivaled that of Nazi Auschwitz.

“Japan needs to expand in order to survive as a great nation,” Masaru told me as we stood in a corner watchtower and surveyed the completed facility. “The Home Islands are simply too limited in resources.”

Total war with China was underway and our government believed Manchuria to be the most obvious place to fill our needs.

“This is the most advanced weapons research facility in the world,” Masaru proclaimed, his arms opened wide and his face frozen into a grin like a father admiring his beautiful children. “It is time we started to experiment.”

I was more concerned about my filtration system and the munitions needed to deliver our weapons. I poured over my own blueprints, constantly revising and updating the schematics. I created designs for a portable water purification system that could be carried to the field of battle. A setup big enough for an entire barracks, even an entire base. Bombs that dispersed biological agents when detonated, balloons capable of traveling great distances to deliver these poisons to their target.

Japanese army soldiers at the facility were constantly coming to me asking for decisions on administrative matters. I delegated these mundane duties to my underlings and focused on my designs.

Masaru was more concerned with the experiments. A chemical and biological weapons development facility means our concoctions were to be tested on rats and other rodents. Wild animals captured near the facilities. The Chinese POWs were a constant reminder that we were at war.   

Our prisoners were Chinese, yet we didn’t call them prisoners. We never referred to any of them by name. “Logs,” Masaru decided they would be called. Nothing more than a word used by the military to dehumanize our enemies. As far as we knew, these prisoners never even had names. Only numbers.

Log 741. Log 622. Log 881.

I was more concerned with spare parts needed to build my machines. Not all pieces could be manufactured on the islands and we needed to seek outside help. The army put me in contact with a firm from Australia where my chief contact, ironically, was an American named Turner Denton.

Purported to be a member of the international scientific community, I knew little of Turner at first and our relationship began as nothing more than a buyer and a supplier discreetly exchanging goods and monies. Over the years our relationship would change considerably until I saw Turner as the only man who could deliver me from the predicament I took part in creating.

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Home to Nagasaki – Chapter 2 & 3

March 5, 2013

Chapter 2

War Ministry Grand Conference Hall, Tokyo

1937

 

Masaru dressed immaculately in his military uniform and stood half a head taller than the Imperial officers in the auditorium. With a handsome face and a deep, bombastic voice, he took the podium and stared for a moment into the standing-room sea of Japanese military officers, scientists, and even Prince Chichibu, brother of Emperor Hirohito.

Masaru was to demonstrate the advanced water filtration system that I had invented and he had championed. “Conduct the demonstration yourself,” Masaru had urged me, but I politely declined.

“I’m a man of engineering and science, not theatrics.”

Masaru smiled knowing we both thought of him as the superior showman. I owned the scientific contributions while Masaru pulls strings and converted my designs to reality. He was a better advocate of the device I had developed, of anything we had developed. Now he stood on the auditorium stage beside a table with a prototype of the filtration device, a complicated mishmash of tubes, piping and chemistry. This was a miniature version of the system we hoped the army would fund. A funnel at the top collected the unpurified water while pair of dials measured its chemical properties. A tin canister underneath the device would collect the purified water as it dripped from the pipes above.

Masaru addressed the room, needing no microphone as his voice boomed and echoed off the back wall. “Who can deny the importance of providing drinkable water to our armed forces in the forward theater? I present the most advanced water purification system in the world, capable of cleansing the most putrid water into a clean, drinkable supply. Allow me to demonstrate.”

Masaru unzipped his pants as the military audience gasped in horror and watched him remove his penis. He produced a metal cup and urinated into it in front of everyone. This move shocked me at first but I had already learned to accept this flamboyance as part of Masaru’s personality. He cared little what others thought of him. He was known to brag loudly of his successes with little regard for decorum, and to indulge in wine and women recklessly and frequently. This brash act of peeing into a cup as a crowded room of his superiors watched every drop fall was simply Masaru seizing attention. He thrived on the discomfort he caused and used it merely as a method of engaging his audience.

Masaru zipped his pants and carried the piss-filled cup to the device, pouring the urine into the funnel atop the contraption. He narrated the filtration process as the urine made its way through the pipes and eventually came dripping out of the nozzle above the collection canister clear as air.

He poured the contents into a glass and carried the seemingly clean water into the audience. I wasn’t surprised when he stopped before Chichibu Hirohito and offered the water to the Emperor’s brother. Stiff and surprised the prince quickly refused the glass with a curt wave of his hand. Masaru, surely expecting the prince to decline the test, raised the glass as if he were toasting the room, tilted his head back and quaffed the entire portion in one gulp. The crowd gasped but Masaru wiped his lips with the back of a hand and then smiled proudly awaiting his applause.

The dutiful assistant that I was, I started it with a hearty clap that slowly spread until the entire room was on its feet. The purification device was a success and the army soon awarded Masaru with the funds he had requested, yet the money was for more than an innovative system of cleaning water. We were on our way to Ping Fan to the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army, code name: Unit 731.

With the funding we’d receive for our water purification system, Masaru and I would soon turn the facility into the headquarters for Japan’s chemical and biological weapons program.

“This is an incredible honor, Captain,” Masaru said to me as we celebrated that night, a bottle of sake in both hands and a cigarette dangling from his lips. He emptied one of the bottles into my glass and tossed the spent bottle aside.

For as long as I had known Masaru he had been a heavy drinking night owl, but only after a day of hard work. The microbiologist was tall and athletic, his uniform always spotless and he often bested me in footraces or games of tennis. Our fellow officers envied his physical bravado and his seemingly constant supply of cash. In social settings, women flocked around him and postured for his attention. He advanced quickly through the ranks of Japan’s military and was eager to take me with him.

His giant hand proudly slapped my back. He grinned and showed his shiny white teeth. “Drink up, Kiyoshi. Celebrate!”

He toasted our drinks as Masaru nibbled at the pair of young women on either of his shoulders. The nightclub was loud and rowdy. Music blared from above and Masaru made sure my glass was eternally filled with liquor. “The demonstration was a resounding success!” he declared. “I am anxious to put into practice these ideas we have developed. The ideas we have developed together, Kiyoshi. I’m anxious to make Japan the leading nation in the technologies of warfare.”

Developed together, he stressed. I had been the man behind the science, to engineer the water purification devise, to birth ideas for our military technology.

Masaru was right. It was an incredible honor for us to be chosen to head Unit 731. Masaru and I had studied together at Kyoto University. We became doctors together, men of chemical engineering, and had served together in the Army ever since we engaged the Chinese in Manchuria in 1931. Masaru was always one rank ahead of me, always had one more friend than I did, and seemed to need me one step below him always looking up. So he kept me around. When he was promoted and transferred, he always brought me with him, made sure I was paid well, confided in me, and trusted my expertise.

And when Masaru had been chosen to run Japan’s premier chemical and biological weapons research facility, he named me his second-in-command.  

Masaru’s remaining sake bottle clanked against my glass. “Congratulations, Captain, and be proud! It is an honor to serve the Emperor!”

I said nothing, sipped my sake and took the last drag from my cigarette.

Chapter 3

 

Hiroshima, Japan

August 6th, 1945 8:16am

 

White skies.

Then a bright and clear morning was suddenly dark.

My military instincts told me to dive for cover but before I hit the ground, a force like a giant’s hand lifted me into the air and threw me towards the river. I hit the paved road, landing on my knees as my wrists slammed onto the pavement. Ignoring sandy cuts and scrapes, I clawed my way behind a stone wall as I was showered by a bomb of splinters and dirt.

Black spots, white spots. Ringing bells.

I rolled along the dirt and turned by back towards the blast. Was I asleep? Did I awaken? I tasted dirt in my mouth and was stung by burning soot up my nose. Hot, acid snot oozed down the back of my throat like lava.  

For a moment I remembered the bomb shelter just fifty feet away but a hot wind blew dust into my face and prevented me from going very far. So I kept my eyes closed and my head down. I was curled into a ball, covering my face with my scraped wrists and stinging hands as the wind pelted me with sand and sticks. There had been no explosions. No familiar pop-pop-pop of bombs detonating in the distance, no BOOM! when one landed nearby. There was no mass of airplanes buzzing above, no whistle as their bombs fell from the sky, no return fire from our anti-aircraft batteries.  

Just a flash of light and a burst of burning wind followed by an avalanche of dirt and junk. Silent shock. Splintering lumber, buildings crumbling. Bricks walls toppling like toy blocks, glass shattering, trees snapping like twigs.

I had crawled onto a pile of rocks so I tried to push them away. The vial with my capsule dug into my ribs. Minutes later, as the wind began to die I lifted my head to see all of Hiroshima shrouded in a brown haze. Through the dust, a cloud of fire grew a mile into the sky.

I was suddenly disappointed that another city had not survived. I was outraged at America for the bombing. At Japan for starting the war in the first place and not being able to defend cities like this one. At myself, for being in the middle of it all and having no power to do anything.  

I wanted to know what it meant for my plan. Where was Turner Denton? I wanted to ask someone. I wanted to know.

My eyes burned as grit filled my pores. I began to lose focus. My head hurt and I could feel wetness dripping from both ears. I used a hand to wipe the moisture from my face and looked down to see red fingers.

Did I hear no explosion because I’d lost my hearing?

But I could hear the wind, the shattered pieces of lumber slapping and splintering against nearby houses. The fire. Like a rush of thunder, the fire! But there were no screams, no voices, no aguish. No cries of panic. Absent was the despair that had been so common during the wars I had known.

I checked my hands and saw the backs were scalded and burned, as if they had been dipped into a pot of boiling water. But I felt no pain. I felt nothing. Only a dull, numbing sensation.

Still in shock, I tried to stand but my knees wobbled and I toppled to the ground. A small child walked by in a daze. A black dog passed the child from the other direction, limping and silent. A group of soldiers crawled from the bomb shelter, their bodies covered in soot, their ears bleeding, their faces dazed. I heard a child ask his mother, “Why is it so dark in the morning?”

I saw myself walking up to the mother as she held her child close, towering above them as the wind and the dirt blew overhead. As she brushed dust off her child’s face, I saw myself looking into her blurry eyes, her mouth caked with dirt. I saw myself ask her, “What does this mean for me?”

The air raid was over in an instant. Had there been only one bomb?

“Impossible.” I muttered.

I imagined myself standing before a classroom of schoolchildren, looking upon the kids who raised their hands and wanted to know if Hiroshima had been hit – if it had been utterly destroyed – by a single American bomb?

I shook my head. “There is no way one bomb can damage so much.” Yet I saw burning buildings all around me. Bodies lining the street as if an army had marched through and executed thousands of people at will. Survivors rose from the wreckage, their faces blank, their eyes lost.

“No way one bomb can do this,” I told myself yet I had a suspicion that the Americans had won the race to develop a functional nuclear weapon. If they had more than this one they would likely begin dropping them on all our major cities.

Then a hand wrapped around my ankle. I looked down to see Masaru, my commanding officer and saw half his face burned red, his eye sockets swollen. His hair singed and smoking, his good looks destroyed. But when I saw the alertness in his eyes I knew his mind remained unblemished. There was a flicker that I recognized.

As his fist squeezed my ankle, I thought of Masaru’s intense patriotism. His sense of nationalism that refused to let me escape with our secrets. I was reminded of his exuberant need to carry out his orders and guard the tales of the facility.

I had survived the bomb but Masaru was alive and still wanted me dead.

Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Cigar City Magazine and Germ Warfare. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards.


Seventh Avenue Productions Releases “Lolly Poppet’s Lousy Year”

September 17, 2012

Now available for pre-order for $14.95. Click here to order and be one of the first to receive a copy!!

Lolly is having such a lousy year. She can’t wait for the next season to come along. Maybe next month will be better. Or maybe Lolly will have to learn to be happy in the present. Drawn in lively watercolor illustrations by Twin Cities based artist Lupi, a member of the International Cartoonists Conspiracy, Lolly Poppet’s Lousy Year is a bright, heartwarming storybook that any child will enjoy. Full color and written in bilingual English/Spanish text.

Lolly Poppet’s Lousy Year will be released October 6th, 2012 by Seventh Avenue Productions.

8.5 x 8.5, 30 pages, color, soft cover

ISBN: 978-0-9838854-3-6

$14.95 US


Give Joe Mauer a Break

March 31, 2012

I hear a lot of people trashing Joe Mauer. I understand why they do it, but I don’t like it. Sure, he only hit a measly .287 in 2011, even with the flu, pneumonia and some weird leg-something ‘r other.  He’s not worth $22 million a year, they say. Worst mistake the Twins ever made, they say. He has no power, he’ll never last at catcher, I even heard one theory that claimed his upcoming marriage would somehow destroy his production at the plate.

Joe Mauer is the worst…player…ever.

People can say these things, I don’t care. Fact is Modest Joe is a once in a generation, home grown ballplayer who has won three AL Batting Titles before the age of 30. The Twins have had him in their organization for 8 years and have him until at least 2018, maybe even for a bit longer if his health holds up. He won’t get to 3,000 hits but he will continue put up +.800 OPS seasons while being one of the hardest outs in baseball.

In his worst year ever, 2011, his OBP (on-base-percentage) was .360. That same year, beloved Face of Baseball Derek Jeter (fyi, he’s the Yankee Captain) had an OBP of .355. The year before, Jeter was at .340. Mauer was at .402. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to compare these two except for the fact that it makes perfect sense. Jeter is a once-in-a-generation player and for Twins fans, Mauer is too.

He’s OUR Derek Jeter. Multiple batting titles, an MVP and 4 All Star appearances. And he’s not even 30. Figure 4 more years of healthy Mauer and he’ll start approaching a place where Jeter already has a golden shrine: the Hall of Fame. He’s already won 3 batting titles. I’m willing to bet all the money this blog post earns from click-traffic that Mauer wins at least one more.

But Jeter won 17 World Series rings and hands out gift baskets to vanquished ladies!

Oh yeah? Well here are 10 Ways The Twins Have Bested the Yankees Over the Years, so chew on that.

Enough about Jeter. Back to Mauer. He’s good. Very good. A once in a generation ballplayer who when all is said and done will have been with us for more than 15 years. We’d love to see him win a World Series, but doing so would not make him a more talented player. A great hitter and solid defensive catcher who throws out 35% of base runners (not bad), he is the face of the Twins franchise and will be until the next great player emerges, probably 20 years from now.

The Twins had Puckett in the 1980′s and ’91, Carew before him and the Killer long ago. Mauer is the next one of those guys, and all those guys are in the Hall of Fame. Mauer could be there too one day. As long as he stays healthy and continues to perform. And I see know reason why he won’t. Except that, yeah, he’s getting married.

Sometimes when you go to a game you see Mauer go 5-5 with 2 double and a bunch of offense. We cheer like crazy and realize we’re witness to greatest. So when he goes 0-5, remember it’s five at bats out of 7,500. And you’re still witness to greatness. Mauer is not going to hit a double every time he bats, and he’ll be injured here and there and will continue to frustrate. But he’ll put up solid numbers, sometimes elite numbers. Better numbers than Jeter. And damn it people, he’s one of the best players of this era.  He’s once in a lifetime. Enjoy this ballplayer! He’s likely to be remembered as one of the greats.

Mark McGinty is the Author of The Cigar Maker and Elvis and the Blue Moon Conspiracy. His work has appeared in Maybounrne Magazine, Germ Warfare and Chrono Chaos.


Did Justin Morneau offer a gift of cigarettes and rum?

March 25, 2012

If not, then what’s with the cigarette lighter?

Answer: eye black. Notice the burnt cork next to the lighter, and a second burnt cork directly above? Burnt corks = cheap eye black. No lie. I didn’t know that!!


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