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Vlog the Inhaler, or The Occasional Video Blog Musings of Jim Thornton

Book 1: The Old Man and the B.....70, that is

Rating: 3 votes, 5.00 average.
And so now begins the epic trilogy of an old man, a possibly illegal swimming costume, a quest for immortality, and so very, very much more.

In today's preamble to the first 77-chapter volume of my planned trilogy, I will attempt to do a little scene setting and foreshadowing of themes that will, over the course of centuries, develop slowly but with the inexorability of truth itself.

Foreward: Who Are These People and Why Should I Care?

On Friday, April 24th, a somewhat frail man by the name of James Thornton left the Pittsburgh metropolitan area with a single destination in mind: Destiny.

James did not travel alone. His personal driver was the ever so comely adult-onset swimming sensation, Mermaid. He was also accompanied by the spirit of a heroic lawyer from Hood River, Oregon, by the name of Bill Sumerfield, Esquire, friend to honest men everywhere and champion of the even more numerous ranks of crooked fellows who need his help.

As Mermaid fiddled with her Sirius radio system hoping to find yet another 80s station to slake her thirst for the songs of her infancy, James thought back to his own teenage years when Tommy Dorsey and Ludwig Von Beethoven drove the hit parade on his family Victrola.

And so, onwards along the PA Turnpike to Breezewood, then south through a succession of increasingly crowded freeways towards Tyson's Corner, at first flying well beyond the speed limit, eventually slowing to a snails pace, the Mermaid ramrodded her pleasantly dreamy elder ward to the Compound in Vienna, Virginia, a Compound that is home to yet another character in our trilogy, the lovely Fortress herself, whose ownership of said Compound with her incredibly generous husband Scott has been diluted ever so slightly by several years of squatting by James, which has given him legal title to the guest house, though he (James) probably needs to talk to Bill Sumerfield about this in more detail and maybe get another favor from this legendary friend of the crooked (Bill, I can arrange some kickbacks, trust me, the deal I am thinking about here is really, really sweet.)

Then James woke up.

At this point, let me quickly provide some pictures of our story's early protagonists:

Mermaid and the Fortress: Magnificent Lasses the Both of Them, and what indefatigable providers of succour to an Old Man! Does there exist in all of Christendom a quartet of bluer eyes containing nearly so much kindness? I say, look at their eyes, man! Up! Up!

The Spirit of Bill Sumerfield, Esquire, debating the finer points of B70 legality and a squatter's real estate rights in a Virginia Commonwealth Court of Law. "My client and his suit," he appears to be pleading to an obvious sympathetic and converted to liberalism former hanging judge, "are every bit as legal as my client, Jim Thornton's, claim is to part ownership of the Livingston family home, Your Honor!"

And finally, James Thornton himself, albeit inhabited still by the wraithe-like specter of Mr. Sumerfield, the two of whom appear in their utter post-400 I.M. Zones Record Establishing Performance exhaustion (this is, I'll admit, a teasing dip into what professional writers call foreshadowing--wherein the ending itself [in this case, unmitigated triumph of every stripe] is never in question. The drama emerges, instead, as a result of the reader's overwhelming itch of curiosity about how such an unlikely protagonist could possibly defy his "three score minus 3 1/2 year" ancience to prove himself.) ] to be possibly coughing up a hairball.

I seem to have lost control of the previous sentence. Never mind! I shall soldier on like Dickens dim-witted twin, knowing as my smarter brother understood that stories emerge best when serialized over the course of eons and remunerated at a a satisfactory if not exactly handsome per-word rate...

Chapter 1: Comes A Zonesman.

In the events I planned to swim at this year's Zones, here were my best times in recent years and my age at which I performed them. For those of you who may have missed earlier mentions of my age, I am three score minus 3 1/2 years old, or 56 and 1/2, and will be FINA 57 for Long Course purposes this summer even though I do not officially become three score minus three until Sept. 24th of 2009, a date that present-minded vlog readers might want to jot down somewhere.

Anyhow, here are my old bests of late:

  • 50 free 24.53 set at age 56 at the Sprint Classic last fall

  • 100 free 52.90 set at age 55 at Colonies Zones last spring, establishin the new Zones record for my age group and becoming a Zonesman

  • 200 free 1:57.44 at age 56, again at the Sprint Classic last fall

  • 500 free 5:24.57 at age 55, set last spring at Clarion University and out local Y championships here in the Pittsburgh area

  • 50 fly 27.67 at age 56, set this past season at some hard to remember mid season Y meet, albeit after not swimming butterfly for three years to prevent shoulder pain

  • 400 IM 5:11.59, at age 56, ditto for hard to remember Y midseason meet, again, after having not swum the IM for years because of shoulder pain.

All the above swims were done either in a Fastskin 1 knee skin or one of those Tyr heavily discounted $56 suits that work pretty well as long as the Teflon-like coating remains in tact, that is to say, a few meets.

Here are the times Bill and I ended doing at this year's Colony Zones while wearing the borrowed suit. I say Bill and I because it was not only the suit that helped me, but the spirit of Bill inhabiting the suit.

Note: those hoping for endless analysis and dissection of the minutiae here shan't be disappointed! I plan to sautee the numbers every which way from here to CremePuff in vlogs stretching out over the remainder of my life.

But to very quickly sum up, the suit absolutely helped, but I did not do the miracle times I was secretly hoping for; Michael Phelps has absolutely no cause to look over his shoulder at the likes of me, but I can't say the same for, say, Ryan Lochtke style lesser swimming greats who remain closer to my league as evidenced perhaps by my inability to spell their names.

Anyhow, it's possible the suit did indeed promote absolutely miraculous improvements over a ruined Jim, but because my times seem to conceal from me the degree of this ruination, I might just assume I am pretty much as good as I was last year and thus modest improvements mean the suit contribute modestly.

I fully acknowledge the possibility, indeed the likelihood, that without the suit, my "true" times would have proven so abysmal that I would have checked myself into an assisted living facility.

Who knows?

Anyhow, for now, here are the times I swam this year along with any improvements over the previous best times of the recent era:

  • 24.17 50 free (.36 improvement; I missed Zones record by .03)

  • 52.86 100 (set new Zones record, breaking my own record from last year by .03)

  • 1:56.07 200 (1.38 seconds improvement over earlier season time; this one set new Zones record and was my lowest 200 time in 5-6 years)

  • 5:24.84 500 (set new Zones record, breaking my own Zones record by 2-3 seconds, though it was also .27 second slower than last year's Clarion time)

  • 27.00 50 fly (best time for me since I did a 26.86 at age 50 six years ago)

  • 4:57.85 400 IM (set new Zones record, my all-time best time)

Endless analysis to come. Tomorrow, the first of 34 short videos, most lasting no longer than 2 1/2 hours, will begin.

I hope you can sleep tonight! I know I am much too excited myself to find my way to the Land 'o Nod!

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Updated April 29th, 2009 at 11:22 AM by jim thornton



  1. Crazyman's Avatar
    I wish i could swim that fast. Congrats!
  2. Bobinator's Avatar
    Hey Jimby, great showing at the Colonies Meet!

    Did you like the feel of the BS suit?
    It sounds like you all had a great time at Fort's party.
    nothing beats good swimming, great friends, and tastee food/drinks!
  3. Chicken of the Sea's Avatar
    First line: I like how you said "swimming costume". Nobody knows what that his over here.

    Last line: TMI
  4. jim thornton's Avatar
    Thanks, you guys. If you ever have the chance to come to a Colonies Zones meet and attend a post-meet Leslie fest, you will see firsthand how life was meant to be lived by us mortals!

    Bobinator, how close to Indianapolis do you live? Would you consider making yourself open to the steady pedophilic-style grooming process, nonsexual/perverted, of course, which should go without saying, but in our modern society today!--anyhow, a slow but sure, steady grooming process over the next few months by which I ever so incrementally talk you into becoming that most blessed of all women: a Midwestern Leslie "the Fortress" Livingston, whose generosity knows no bounds, vis a vis allowing penurious swimmers from Pittsburgh sleep on her floor and eat left over victuals and hence afford the trip to Indianapolis this summer for Long Course Nationals?

    You should be advised that if I am successful in wheedling you into such an arrangement, two things are likely:

    1) over time, more and more of my teammates may end up joining me in bivouacing at the Bobinator Compound (like cockroaches, when you see one Sewickley Sea Dragon, there are often billions more

    2) to save both of us protracted litigation that will test our friendship, we should both just agree to abide from the outset by the 1842 Napoleonic Code of Squatters Realty Owernship Rights, as I understand this to mean.

    Can't wait to meet you in person, Midwestern Fortress!
  5. knelson's Avatar
    So now do you have to return the suit to Bill or have you declared it your own like Gollum's ring?
  6. jim thornton's Avatar
    Alas, I have sent it off via UPS Ground to its rightful owner, BillS, as played in the movie, Lord of the B70, by one Mr. Viggo Mortenson.

    I am now suffering a sore throat no doubt induced by lack of proximity to The Precious.
  7. BillS's Avatar
    First, let's clarify the fee agreement for staking your claim to Casa Livingston: I will take my standard 40% contingency of any recovery prior to trial, 45% after trial, and 50% if an appeal is filed. (Presumably, this will result in us allocating certain times each of us may utilize our hard-earned space, a/la a squalid timeshare. I am in no way implying that I would share space with you. The horror of the My Little Pony photo is still far too fresh in memory).

    If the settlement or resulting judgment is structured in any way, I reserve the right to get my portion up front in cold hard cash, or to participate in the structure, at my sole and exclusive option. All costs, including the cost of beer which is my elixir of life and which will be desperately needed to get us more or less safely through the pure hell of litigating with lawyers as the opposing parties, are the responsibility of client.

    I make no guarantees regarding the outcome of lititgation, other than to represent that it will be occasionally mildly amusing but more often hellish (see litigating with lawyers, above).

    Finally, while I am flattered by the portrayal, I actually look much more like a faded, somehat flabby Masters swimmer than a dashing courtroom attorney. I am the zipper in the attached photo, seen here zipping (read: stuffing) my good friend and zippee Tim Waud into his B70. Note the look of sheer bliss on Tim's face, no doubt caused or contributed to by oxygen deprivation as he sucks in his massive . . . er, chest, matched only by the look of dogged determination on mine as I force, ever so gently, an XL sized master into a perhaps M sized B70.

    (Well, I am evidently more technologically challenged than most. I am presently unable to attach my photo. I will email it to Jim and prevail upon him to add it somewhere appropriate in the midst of his 77 part Cormac McCarthy-esque trilogy).
    Updated April 29th, 2009 at 01:26 PM by BillS
  8. tjrpatt's Avatar
    Excellent job this weekend. After seeing your 100 fly split in your IM, it looks like someone should through in a 200 fly here and there!!! You need to work on your backstroke flipturns. Practice them at every warmup!!
  9. jim thornton's Avatar
    Bill, I agree to everything. I do think we need to get some sort of blanket indemnification clause in there which will somehow make sure that, win or lose, the Colonies Zone itself will be responsible for all our lawyer fees. I am not a lawyer myself, but I have watched enough television to know that they NEVER check for credentials at the courthouse. I am pretty sure my powers of obfuscation and belligerence and pseudo outrage at real and imagined injustice is such that I could pull off a pretty good jurisprudential fraud, thus qualifying me for lawyer's fees too, though I will clearly serve as "second chair" to il miglior fabro.

    I got your picture and immediately thought of this poem by e.e.cummings. Merely substitute the words "Bill Sumerfield" for "Buffalo Bill" and you will see how fitting it is:
    Buffalo Bill's
    who used to
    ride a watersmooth-silver
    and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
    he was a handsome man
    and what i want to know is
    how do you like your blueeyed boy
    Mister Death

    -- E. E. Cummings
  10. 's Avatar
    I liked the pic of Leslie and Mer the best. But your fab times take second to that! Congrats!
  11. Bobinator's Avatar
    I not quite sure what you were asking me in the above babbobobolish?!?....but yes, I think it would be ok. I live really close to Indy (about 20 minutes north) and an easy shot to the natatorium.
    I am truly not a "Fortress-esque" type swimmer; In fact I'm slow but I could possibly become the president of the" Fortress Fan Club" because I really admire her speed, drive, determination, and work ethic! Anyway you are welcome to stay at my humble homestead.
  12. Iwannafly's Avatar
    Bobinator, you have to promise to hide any, and all, ponies you may have at your home while Jimby is present!!!
  13. jim thornton's Avatar
    Bobinator, you are the greatest! Are there any creatures we need to beware of? Giant woodchucks or southern wolverine migrations? What about simply a heavy wind and a shower of buckeyes launched like missiles from the surround hardwoods?

    I will pack a helmet and cup, and bring some blood meal to surround my bedding ground with.

    CreamPuff, as a fake lawyer, I know it is dangerous for me to ask a question I don't already know the answer to. But here is one:

    Is it safe to assume that I am still No. 1 in the androgynous hormonal Jim v. CreamPuff competitions in the 50, 100, and 200 freestyles?

    Have you ever considered running for the Mrs. Buckhead Pageant in suburban Atlanta?

    Thanks again, Bob. CreamPuff, can you read the above message to Bobinator, substitute your name for hers, substitute LCM Nationals for next year's SCY Nationals in Atlanta, and consider becoming the Southern Fortress?

    Leslie, I will franchise you yet!
  14. Bobinator's Avatar
    Good point "I wannafly" I will take my ponies to the closest stable and lock them up while Jimby is in town. I guess he'll be okay with a couple of cats and a pug. (I know he likes pugs).
    We do have an occasional red fox or coyote from the golf course that wraps around the neighborhood; they generally leave us alone and go for the garbage.
  15. The Fortress's Avatar
    I'm still sticking with Bill as my current idol and sportsman of the year!

    Just get rid of the earwigs, Bob, or you'll hear complaining.
  16. jim thornton's Avatar
    If by complaining, you mean, "Leslie Livingston is the most blessed of all women short of a cross between Mother Teresa and Barbie Benton," why then maybe you are correct.

    But wouldn't she want to pack more earwigs to eliminate sound?


    Oink. There it goes again. What is wrong with me.

  17. qbrain's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by jim thornton
    If by complaining, you mean, "Leslie Livingston is the most blessed of all women short of a cross between Mother Teresa and Barbie Benton," why then maybe you are correct.
    Hopefully you mean a young version of a cross between Mother Teresa and Barbie Benton, because 1) they are about the same age, 2) Mother Teresa is only with us in spirit and 3) Barbie Benton is only with us because of advances in composite materials.