Happy Friend Day

It is good to have a wide circle of friends.
It’s even better to let that circle grow – without even really trying.
So, no-brainer statement, right?
Well, as a supposedly impassioned journalist, I’ve always thought it proper to distance myself from people. And since I’ve wanted to be a journalist all my life, I’ve taken this approach throughout my existance.
Very few close friends – and a lot of acquaintances that I never let in close.
Screw that.
Through trials and tribulations – and just being out there – I see better now the power and beauty of friendship.
The weekend was full of friendship. And the circle got a little bigger.
Sunday sort of just put this all into perspective.
I got up, blogged and spent nearly three hours on the phone, talking to friends and family. I needed to return a movie I borrowed, so I decided to ride the Mule Mountain Trails (it's close to my buddy's house).
But when I rolled up to the Institute for Advanced Hedonism, the chancellor invited me in for an espresso. We sat on his porch, with an expansive view of the valley and Lassen Peak in the distance. We talked.
I think I overstayed my welcome, but that’s just me.
I said my goodbyes and got in an OK ride (I’ve decided that I’ve got 364 days to get in ride shape, as I have committed to ride the Lemurian mountain bike race next year).
While out on the trails, Winggirl called to say that we were to meet at 4 p.m. for a Nordic walk. I hustled to a friend’s house, talk a bit and borrow an extra set of sticks – and rolled in the parking lot sweaty and dirty, still in my cycling gear.
A few wet-naps and some deodorant to be presentable (and a quick-change into less disgusting duds in the truck) and we decided to do the entire 7-mile river trail loop – and did a lot of talking and a lot of walking.
And it was suggested that I accompany my other friend to a barbecue for her softball team.
I accepted.
And had a blast.
(Although three cosmopolitans would have been enough for the evening – instead of the four cosmos, a martini and a beer - so thank goodness of the restorative sobering powers of ice cream and cherry pie.)
Great conversation. Extended invites for future events. New friends who got to see me as me –and not just as the guy in the newspaper.
Nice.

LiveSTRONG

Perhaps I’m a bit too forceful when I respond.
But if you’re going to ask a stupid fucking question – without first gaining the knowledge and background – then you deserve a scowl and a terse retort.
“So, do you get extra credit for wearing two of those?” the guy at work asked on Friday about the two yellow LiveSTRONG bracelets on my right wrist.
“You do when you’re honoring two people who actually died of cancer,” I shot back with a look – a look that people actually have told me they never want to have directed their way ever again.
And the stricken pall that came over his face is one that I actually hoped for.
“Oh, ahhhh, I, ahhh, I’m sorry, I wasn’t being flippant,” he said. “I didn’t know.”
And spent like two minutes at my desk making nice.
(And if you didn’t know, maybe don’t ask – or inquire nicely as to why I might want to wear two LiveSTRONG bracelets.)
They are there to honor my uncle Roger and my mother, who both died of colon cancer in 2005. It’s to honor how they lived with the disease.
And how both died with dignity – surrounded by family and friends.
They are there to remind me to live my life to its fullest.
Every single day.
And now, if you excuse me, it’s a fantastic day out there. Time for a long ride – and then a long hike with friends.

The incredible shrinking buttocks

Maybe the ass isn’t so big.
My current trousers are all cartoonish big. Like balloons, they bag and gap all over the place.
I hate to shop for clothing.
I mean, if I had a list of things to hate, clothes shopping would be near the top.
(Benefits of small-town life: When I was a kid, stores used to let my mother take clothing home for me to yea or nay; trust me, it was better on the both of us – and the store.)
I had to go shopping.
I decided a smash-and-grab job would be best, park near the closest entrance to Old Navy, run in, try on clothing, toss money at the 17-year-old girls who would bug me to open my own Old Navy account and save 20 percent on my purchase – no matter how many times I said no.
I ran in, selected four pair – two pair of shorts, a pair of jeans and a pair of cargos – and hit the dressing room.
Now, the last time I bought pants was a few days before I left for Italy last year. I bought two pair of those no-wrinkle, stain-resistant jobbies. They were a snug 40-inch waist.
I brought with me all size 38-inch pants into the dressing room.
None of them fit.
I mean, they hung on my hips.
Dare I try a 36-inch waist?
(I haven’t worn a 36-waisted anything since the early 90s.)
I didn’t want to ruin the really good mood I was in. Squeezing into new pants I didn’t want to be shopping for in the first place would tip that balance.
I found a pair of cargos that were on sale for $12 and plucked two pair of cargo shorts in styles I liked and walked back to the dressing room.
All were 36-inch waists.
And they all fit.
(Yes, I spent a little time waggling my ass at the mirror. Giddy, I was.)
Actually, they’re all a loose 36. I still need a belt.
And this shopping trip didn’t seem so bad.

Something wicked this way comes

“Put Neidermeyer on it. He's a sneaky little shit just like you.”
- Dean Vernon Wormer, “Animal House”

The call came in early, while I was having coffee.
“ThomG, I need your help, I need your deviance. I’ve got a problem and you’re some much better at deviant than I am.”
Yeah, I have a certain skill set. A reputation. Street cred.
That, and my good nature to want to assist those in need, brought my attentions to this newest concern. Two people I love dearly who are being manipulated by a third party, a Borderline Personality Disorder train wreck who wields a certain amount of control over one of the other parties.
“Are you busy? I found out some more. I just feel we need to do something. But think about it – I need your deviance, because you’re the best. Call me later.”
(Like MacGyver good.)
And I thought about it. This person is deeply concerned for the other – the one actually being manipulated.
But I decided I couldn’t help. I couldn’t lend my malevolence in this case, ‘cause it was going to backfire. And anything I did – sure, I came up with certain scenarios – would end up hurting the wrong person.
And it is this person’s challenge to see the manipulation.
(But had this person come to me for some wicked assistance, I would have been happy – gleeful – to lend my particular brilliance.)
“Just see what you can accomplish without resorting to deviance,” I said.
“You’re right. Thanks.”
No, I haven’t lost my edge.
About the time I decided not to help, I ran into a fellow who is a major pain in the ass. Opinionated blow-hard. Rigid-right-wing nutjob.
Seriously homophobic shithead.
And I decided that a gay pride sticker would look fantastic on his car – nestled in-between the “In God We Trust” magnetic ribbon thing and the Bush/Cheney bumper sticker.

Blow up your television

Editor's note: There's a sweet irony to this post; it is National TV-Turnoff Week. Synergy, baby, synergy.

Whoops. My fault. I put it out there to the universe – and see what I get?
I’ve been wrestling with television.
Satellite television.
I watch about five channels on any regular basis: Food TV, Discovery, NFL Network, ESPN, the Travel Channel.
Mostly, I listen to Sirius Satellite Radio, which is a perk if you have Dish.
Only I have to get the 200-channel package to get Sirius.
Why not just get Sirius in the car – and then get the $49 docking station for the radio and run it through my stereo system?
That was the debate I was having in my head. It was the message I sent to the Universe.
And the Law of Attraction made the decision for me.
Last month, I dumped my land telephone line with AT&T. Bundled with that was my Dish contract.
“You’d like to keep Dish, correct?” the person on the phone said.
“Yeah, but I need to dump HBO and Cinemax.”
“No problem, we’ll go with America’s Top 200 package, which includes all the great music choices with Sirius Satellite Radio. Anything else I can do for you today?”
“No, thanks.”
Tuesday, I get home to no satellite signal.
“OK, I see the problem,” Todd at Dish said. “AT&T didn’t debundle the package.”
“What’s that mean?”
“Can I put you on hold for a few minutes?”
“Sure.”
“Ahh, sorry for the long wait,” Todd said about five minutes later. “Ahhh, it means you’d have to start all over as a new customer and I’d have to rebuild your package from scratch.”
“And that means?”
“You’d have to pay the $50 activation fee, set up the account with a new credit card and pay the first two months. Oh, and we’d have to send out a technician to re-install new equipment, meaning a service call.”
“Todd, why would I want to do that?”
“Ahhh, well, there’s nothing we can do here at Dish. AT&T bundled it and they messed up. I wish I could just turn it back on, but I can’t.”
“So you’re willing to lose a five-year customer because you can’t just re-activate the account.”
“Ahhh, yeah. Sorry.”
“So my options are to pay you about $200 to recreate the account, or what?”
“Our we ship you out a box to send back the equipment.”
“Todd?”
“Yes, sir?”
“Send the box.”
And the decision is made.
I’ll get Sirius, which I wanted anyway, for substantially less than satellite or cable television.
And rely on the goodness of my friends when football season rolls around.

I know 'The Secret'

Pardon me for being one of the last six or so humans to hear about “The Secret.”
The new buzz.
The new thing.
“The Law of Attraction.”
Oprah’s new pet project, for chrissakes.
Wasn’t on my radar (I’ve been busy).
Until a friend asked me – after seriously bitching about a couple of circumstances I had found myself in – if I’d heard about it.
She even gave me a bootleg copy of “The Secret” DVD (which now of course means my dreams will never come true – or they’ll all come true, depending on how much you believe in the Laws of Attraction and how fussy Prime Time Productions LLC is about keeping “The Secret” a profitable endeavor).
I watched the DVD. Hell I even re-watched it Monday night.
Lost for centuries was this Law of Attraction (and the film also teases that The Man keeps “The Secret” hidden from the unwashed to help consolidate their own power).
The Law of Attraction states, “our feelings and thoughts attract real events in the world into our lives; from the workings of the cosmos to interactions among individuals in their physical, emotional, and professional affairs, if you put it out there, you’ll reap the benefits.”
So if I want a hot, single 6-foot-tall New Zealand woman to show up on my doorstep (she’s athletic and toned - but has real, womanly curves, too - a smoking-hot backside, brunette, green or gray eyes, college-education and a self-made millionaire – if you’re going to dream, go big), all I have to do is put out to the universe these thoughts.
I do not call bullshit on it.
Not totally.
I do call bullshit on marketing it to legions of lazy, unhappy people who will grasp at any quick fix to help save their sad and sordid lives.
I believe in karma. I believe in the power of positive thought.
I have been witness to the power of both, as I have opened myself up to my own emotional and spiritual self over the past eight months.
And you can have both, without shelling out $29.95 for the DVD, $23.95 for the book, $29.95 for the audio book or $23.95 for the movie soundtrack.
(Here’s a tip: go down to the public library and check out Norman Vincent Peale’s “The Power of Positive Thinking;” Peale published it in 1952 and it’s the same deal.)
I’m not condemning the message, just the messenger. Australian Rhonda Byrne is making scads of money on people’s collective unhappiness by wrapping a simple process up in ancient mysticism and repackaging it for a world who wants its power, wealth, fitness and happiness without actually having to work for it.
What really pissed me off about the DVD was that “food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight.”
Look, if you eat a dozen Krispy Creams every day for breakfast, I don’t care who you are – your ass is going to spread like Western Kansas.
To say food doesn’t make you fat is complete and utter bullshit.
I’m going to write a self-help book to help you deal with your own fat ass. In fact, I’ll write it right now:
“Eat healthy, eat less; exercise more.”
It’s so simple, yet the weight loss industry is still a $30 to $50 billion yearly enterprise in this country.
Fuck me.
The United States is Ground Zero for unhappiness. We’re also the most lazy complainers on the planet. We want it all, now, and if we don’t – it’s his fault or her fault or their fault (but never is it our fault).
I believe in “The Secret” in its base form. That you get what you think about; your thoughts (help) determine your destiny.
Do send out good vibes into the universe. You will begin to collect people and experiences that will help you enrich your daily life.
But don’t ask the universe to bestow material wealth upon you (not without some good, honest hard work).
It cheapens the whole karma thing.

I've got your back

I cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound (small fences give me trouble).
I probably could be run down by a speeding Dachshund.
Strength? Certainly not more powerful than a locomotive, but…
I’m the guy you want to have around.
I’ve got your back.
I’m good in a crisis.
Twice this weekend, friends made the call – and reached out in times of trouble.
While I can no long save anybody (in a salvation kind of way), I relish the roll of being the one person someone can depend on to be there. For whatever crisis happens to have befallen them.
And I felt honored that these two friends felt comfortable enough to make that call.
Whenever. Wherever.
Saturday, a friend had her house broken into. All she needed was someone around. Just to be calm. Just to be there. To reassure her everything was OK – and would be OK.
We chilled. Ate chicken soup (the girl can cook). Drank wine. Until the jitters left – and her roommate returned.
Sunday, another friend called.
“What are you doing?”
“Sitting on my ass. Trying to get over this cold.”
“Mind helping me get a bike?”
Her husband was on a road ride and went down. Broken collarbone (which, having broke both sides of mine at the same time, I can honestly say that it is one bitch of a bone to break). The bike was in front of a double-wide, out in the sprawling hills west of town.
We got the bike, talked about the break and I told her what to expect. I recommended that he try sleeping in a recliner.
And then I left the pair alone to commiserate.
As I walked to the truck, my friend said:
“You’re definitely the man to call in a crisis, ThomG.”
Always have been.
Always will be.

I've got skills, baby

I am not a conspiracy theorist.
I do not see black helicopters.
I do not hear the clickity-click of wire-tapped phones.
I do not feel the creepy tendrils of Big Brother tickling my spine.
I just don’t think any government – or any faction – has it in them to be so powerful, so secretive to shape policy or illicit control.
But where we stand in 2007, there are many who opening question any number of conspiracy theories. I listen in on conversations at pubs, at restaurants at the gas pump. And it is all the same:
Control; manipulation; conspiracy.
And it’s not like I have this rosy, rose-colored view of the world. We’re in big trouble. The world, that is. And I’m just hoping to survive my little patch of it.
I got asked the question this week if I could survive a major catastrophe.
The answer is yes, quite well.
First, I have a survivor’s mentality.
And I’ve got skills.
If the shit were to hit the fan, I could count on myself for the four basics of survival: fire, water, shelter and food.
I have been able to start my own fire with the bow-and-drill method; it’s tricky, so I now carry a fire-starter tool.
I know how to build a solar still, and carry the materials to do so in the backcountry.
I can build a shelter to weather the elements.
I know the basics of wild, edible plants (I could do better here), but know that I could, in a pinch eat all sorts of nasty things that could keep me alive.
I do not obsess over the four basics of survival. I don’t run drills, I don’t practice in the backyard.
I remain confident that the skills are there.
Just in case, you know, the black helicopters start circling.

Toilet tissue trashers from hell

You’d think, since she’s not changed her basic disposition in 12 years, that I’d be the one to learn and adapt.
But no.
I got up early to get to the Certified Farmers Market (go late and you miss out on the Egg Lady’s eggs), fed the dogs, made coffee and got ready to go.
I decided to let the girls, Trinity and Scully, remain out of their kennels.
I mean, how much trouble could they get into in the 42 minutes I was at the market?
Scully is a longtime trash addict. She’s been plucking stuff from trashcans for 12 years.
Used tissues are her crack cocaine.
And with this cold, my trash is filled with her drug of choice.
I thought I had all the doors closed to the bathrooms and my bedroom.
Forgot to check the back bathroom.
I walked in from the market (eggs and a whole round of whole-milk cheese) to a pile of chewed up trash.
It must have been quite a feeding frenzy.
The cats took the brand-spanking-new roll of toilet paper I put in the bathroom and shredded it.
From one end of the kitchen to the other. What was left of the roll was soaking up water in their communal bowl.
All four of them, two cats and two dogs, were lined up in the living room.
Looking into the kitchen.
Waiting for a reaction.
And I swear, they were all smiling.

ThomG dabbles in the occult

It’s all fun and games.
Tarot cards. Readings.
But you never know. Positive mental attitude and all that; it’s either a case of seeing what you want to see in the cards, or maybe there is something to it.
A couple of weeks back, a friend of mine and I broke out my Aleister Crowley set of tarot cards and did a reading (yes, I have a set of tarot cards; it is interesting what you find on bookshelves when you dust).
Just, you know, for shits and grins.
I went first, and we did the Celtic Cross. It uses the most cards, 10, and supposedly “gives you insights into the quality of the moment from different viewpoints.”

For those uninitiated to tarot, it is said that it is a “tool that can be used for orienting oneself on the path toward greater awareness;” you think a question, you ask the question and turn the tarot cards over to get the response.

“Where am I going?” was my question.

First card (my basic situation): The Emperor. “As long as the Emperor’s powers are used for transformation and new beginnings, their effect is beneficial.” Indications: This is a propitious moment for change or a new beginning; trust your own energy and move with it."

Second card (influences hindering or furthering the basic situation): Prince of Wands. “The Prince of Wands is a fascinating expression of youthful, bubbling-over energy and joy of life.” Indications: “You have all you need! Don’t let yourself be contained! Don’t let yourself be slowed down! Life is prepared to receive you. Trust your boundless creative potential.”

Third card (my conscious thoughts about the question): 10 of Disks - Wealth. “These riches must be shared (communicated) if they are to remain valuable. Indications: “You have attracted to you everyone who is a part of your life. You have created every situation in your life and you create your own reality. The wealth in your hands is your own to do with what you like. The responsibility is yours and you are endlessly wealthy!”

Fourth card (my unconscious thoughts about the question): Queen of Wands. “…she has mastered self-knowledge. She has looked deep into her own nature, which has led to a transformation of her being.” Indications: “You have worked on yourself and made progress; it’s time to learn how to share this with others. Let your self-realization be expressed in your everyday life.”

“This is spooky, ThomG,” my friend said. “Very spooky.”
It gets better.

Fifth card (past influences, or that which is just ending): Three of Swords - Sorrow. “Clarity has become diffused; gloomy clouds of doubt, fear or worry are limiting mind and soul.” Indications: “This card is a summons to make clear, unequivocal decisions.”
It also was suggested that I draw another card to “show what awaits you when you confront your problem.” I drew Four of Swords – Truce.
“Worry has been conquered. The yellow-green of spiritual creativity dominates the picture once again.” Indications: “You have enough inner clarity to successfully carry out your plans. Be sure at all times that you feel good about what is happening.”

“OK, this is getting freaky,” my friend said.

Sixth card (Future influences, or that which is just beginning): Prince of Cups. “The central task of the Prince of Cups is to master dealing with emotional needs.” Indications: “Accept your sexual needs and passions and live them out with awareness. You will discover a lot in the process. Give yourself totally to the experience and observe yourself in it.”

(Sweet!)

Seventh card (myself; my attitude and approach to the question): Queen of Cups. “The light of consciousness causes unconscious energies to arise in new form. The old appears in a new light, is transfigured and emotional rebirth has taken place.” Indications: “By showing your feelings openly you have become beautiful. There may be people who don’t understand you; don’t concern yourself about it. There are enough others with whom you can share your feelings.”

“Man, that’s true,” my friend said. “So far, so good.”

Eighth card (the energies coming to me from the outer world): Nine of Cups – Happiness. “A great sense of blessedness arises from total joy.” Indications: “This moment is filled with harmony and inner joy; open yourself to it totally. Don’t miss!”

“I like that one,” I said.
“It’s spooky, just spooky Mr. G.”

Ninth card (my hopes and fears): Three of Disks, -Works. “This card indicates full employment of your energies in any situation which you feel yourself obliged to deal with; you are willing to undertake even difficult tasks: The sense of obligation comes from within.” Indications: “Some situation is demanding your readiness to work steadily; engage yourself totally, it is worth it.”

Tenth card (result, outcome, key): Seven of Swords – Futility. “Gloomy subconscious expectations muddy your insight. A heavy anxiety prevails, although in reality everything is going perfectly well.” Indications: “Your fears have nothing to do with reality! Wake up and see what’s really happening.”

(And the brakes finally engage.)

But, it was suggested that I draw another card and ask the question: “How will my life look when I drop my doubts?”
I drew the Princess of Wands.
No shit, I have a witness:

“The fear is conquered! When fear disappears, undreamed-of springs of enthusiasm and joy bubble up, revitalizing our lives. Our self-limiting fears, the tiger’s corpse, can be buried and forgotten.” Indications: “Your old fears have lost their power over you. Their dead remains cannot frighten you any longer. Reflect now on your greatest strengths.”

I dig this tarot stuff.

Give me a sandwich board, bell and a soapbox

The world is a fantastically beautiful and wondrous place (watch one episode of Planet Earth and you’ll see).

The world also is a place of great pain, hurt and dire ugliness (witness the massacre at Virginia Tech).

If you’re looking for wisdom to explain the latter, I’ve got no clue. As a journalist, I have been witness to all sorts of cruelty humans have managed to heap on one another.
Like the time I followed a county coroner for a story and we discovered the homeless guy who had rotted through a mattress is a hot Arkansas abandoned warehouse – and his killer, another homeless guy who didn’t bother to flee.
They had argued over a $1.50 bottle of fortified wine and the killer bashed the guy’s head in with a cinder block after he passed out. To get to the wine.
Remember, we’re the species that brought to the world Hitler, Ted Bundy and a whole host of other spectacularly frightening killers and nutjobs.
The world is ill. It’s got the cancer and it is not getting any better.
I’ve had conversations with people that focus on the “Hell in a Hand Basket Theory” that there’s a conspiracy out there to break U.S. citizens down with high gas prices, historic levels of home forclosures just so the government can better compete with China's labor force.
That there’s a conspiracy for the U.S. to join Mexico and Canada in a new Super Nation.
That there will be ruling families, a new world order, and we’ll all be living in some Orwellian society of control, propaganda and misinformation.
I just don’t think our government - or any other government or faction - has it in them.
Systems all tend to fray the further out you go; total control is impossible to achieve. Humans are poor secret keepers; we all like to talk.
I do believe that we’re getting closer to a time where the world will reset itself.
And it is not going to be good.
If you think about it, the last time the world has seen a huge reset was World War II. We’ve been percolating along for 62 years, growing more ill as each year has gone by.
Maybe that’s a simplistic way to look at things. Maybe not.
I just feel like the world can’t go spinning along as it has.
There’s a reset coming.
And it’s not going to be pleasant or pretty.

Rx is more than chicken soup

I told her it wasn’t going to be pretty.
I told her coming over would be like poking a bear with a stick.
She came over anyway.
I’m sick. Bubbling with viral nasopharyngitis. The common (fucking) cold.
I hate being sick.
I am not a good patient.
Like a bear, I go to my cave (no, I do not see my power animal) and hibernate.
And she came by anyway.
She brought tissues, the kind with the lotion in them.
And she cooked me chicken soup (minus the chicken because she forgot it at the store, but she’s promised to make a proper chicken soup with real chicken broth, a trussed chicken, a bay leaf and everything) and she brought brandy.
And let me sulk on the couch, dressed in sweats and a hoodie, to watch DVR’ed episodes of Planet Earth.
OK, I felt like I needed to be in the kitchen helping (old habits die hard) or at least be in there to keep her company.
“Don’t worry about it. Go watch TV.”
It was fantastic. Here was a beautiful, opinionated, articulate and intelligent woman who cooked me soup, sipped wine and engaged me in conversation (she even served me and did the dishes; fabulous, I tell you).
It was exactly what I needed.
And it felt so good to be on the receiving end of so much kindness.
That hasn’t happened in a great long time.

Responsibility

Today’s word is responsibility.
(But that’s the wrong word, I think.)
I don’t know. Yes, there’s a certain duty that I have. But where does that duty begin – and where does it end?
I guess I like this definition the best:

“The moral and forward-looking sense of responsibility is the sense in which one is responsible for achieving (or maintaining) a good result in some matter. The idea is that one is entrusted with achieving or maintaining this outcome, and expected to both have relevant knowledge and skills, and to make a conscientious effort. However, despite one's best efforts, the result may not be achieved.”

In the last several days, people have reached out to me. For an ear, mostly – listening, I’m good at it – and just to know that there’s someone else out there who cares.
Sometimes, that’s all it takes.
There are also those out there who need my help, but have not (and maybe will not, unless I intervene) reached out.
Where is my responsibility?
Do I stand on the sidelines and wait for the call to get in, or do I just wade in?
And what do I do when I get there?
I do know that my responsibility begins and ends with being there for someone. Unless you are willing to fix in yourself what most bothers or ills you, please don’t come to me seeking salvation.
I looked into my dark closet and found salvation for years of arrogance, years of trying to save people.
And know that I cannot save anyone.
Save for myself.
But I will be there. I will listen; I’ll even give an opinion, when one is asked for.
I have excellent knowledge, considerable skill.
But yeah, even my best efforts won’t necessarily make for a successful outcome.

Mid-life crisis? No, just practical

I’m sure it’ll smack of guy-in-transition-mid-life-crisis, but I have the new-found desire to buy a motorcycle.
And while I am a guy in transition and I am nearing middle age, I look upon this idea from a practical standpoint.
Gas is nearing $3.50 a gallon and I drive a 4Runner that on its best days gets 20 mpg in the city.
(I will not bitch about paying that much for gas; I need it and I use the 4Runner as it was intended and I have the dings and dents to prove it.)
There are just days where I wonder if I could do more for the planet. Reduce greenhouse gasses. Reduce traffic congestion.
Yes, I should ride my bike to work. But with the distance between work and home, it just isn’t practical.
So, motorcycle.
(And it just so happens that my bestest friend’s family owns the Suzuki dealership in town.)
Couple of problems.
I am scared shitless of motorcycles.
Because I don’t know how to ride one.
“Dude, all you have to do is get the hand clutch down and the pedal,” that Meat-eating Robot said. “You drove a stick in the Rodeo and the Tacoma, right?”
Yeah, but not very well. I drove five-speed vehicles for 12 years and managed to kill them at weird moments.
“I did not know that,” the Robot said, laughing. “Really, dude, you can do it.”
So I ponder the possibilities.
And the chicks who dig motorcycles.
In leather bustiers.
It could happen.

“No Crowdsurfing or Moshing"

Holy shit.
Oh, the depravity. The humanity.
Dorothy, we ain’t in fucking Kansas no mo.
We’re in the mosh pit.
At Saturday’s Social Distortion show at the Senator Theater in downtown Chico.
(The ticket clearly states, “No Crowdsurfing or Moshing.”)
Fuck that.
I lasted in the pit for 38 minutes (and wasn’t knocked down once) and completely sweat through my black T-shirt.
It was good.
Strike that.
It was great.
Mike Ness looked like the Ness of old, menacing and wild (he’s a year older than me) and the band was tight. They played for two sweat-soaked hours.
Thanks to Dah-Veed and his lovely wife, we were fortified with elk burgers and potato salad before the show (and remember kiddies, if you’re going to drink and mosh, it’s best to put a base layer of foodstuffs in the belly).
The Senator is an old dive theater that’s been converted into a live music venue. It was an all-ages show, meaning you had to go upstairs to get a bracelet (remember hand stamps?) and a beer (the sign said Bud or Pale Ale $4; we had to laugh – people were actually buying Bud, the fucks) and survey the seating arrangements.
“Hey, let’s go down to the front row, the view should be pretty good,” Dah-Veed said.
(But drank more beers first.)
And ended up on the other side of the railing, in what was the old orchestra pit.
The band roared out.
The moshing started.
Oh, to be (of a large frame) and young again.
(The Meat-Eating Robot plowed into the crown, not to be seen again for quite some time.)
It was a compact, huge-energy show, not a lot of talking between songs, and the band wailed through stuff from 1983’s Mommy’s Little Monster through 2004’s Sex, Love and Rock ‘N Roll.
All the good shit.
(OK, I was a wee bit disappointed that Ness didn’t unleash “The Creeps” and “Telling Them.”)
For the encore, Social D rang up “Ring of Fire” and “Story of My Life” (made famous on the “Reality Bites” soundtrack).
Ohhhhhh, good times, I tell you.
(And how's this for good omen shit - when I woke up on Saturday and fired up Sirius punk channel, Social D was singing "Ball and Chain;" it was totally Happy Fun Day.)

If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to take multiple Ibuprophens and lie quietly on the couch for a bit.

The importance of nothingness

Stop.
For the next few moments, do not do a thing.
Feels pretty good, huh?
For some months now, I’ve made the conscious effort to build time into my life to do absolutely nothing. It’s one of my 43 Things.
Because I still cling to a bit of life that was governed by regulations and standards (completely self-imposed), I set a time limit and decided that in these moments, I could do some serious nothing.
No thoughts.
No dreams.
No decisions.
No emotions.
For 15 minutes.
Fuck that.
Building time in my life to do absolutely nothing means just that.
It’s where I do some of my best day-dreaming.
It’s where I relax.
And do nothing. I let my brain off its leash and let it wander.
For as long as I need.
A lot of the time, I sit in my plastic Adirondack chair in the front yard with a Nalgene bottle full of water and watch the world go by. I watch the sun stream through the clouds over Shasta Bally; I catch a sunset or three.
The other night, I invited all the animals to join me in bed as I just lay there in the dark (the strains of punk music bouncing off the walls).
After some time (I never look at the clock now – and I used to have a serious time fetish) I started to laugh.
I was so relaxed, I nearly fell into a deep sleep.
The world moves too fast for most everyone; if you don’t do something just for yourself, who will?
Be an advocate for you.
Build time into your life to do nothing.
You’ll thank yourself for the gift.

Raise a glass to Pint Night

She strode into the place wearing a tight teal top that ended way before her navel and distressed Levi’s that started just a bit higher than her mons pubis.
“Focus!” winggirl yelled. “She’s not that cute anyway.”

Pint Night at the pub is always exciting, exhilarating.
(And it is not my fault that I’m observant; I wasn’t staring, I was merely looking in her general direction as she stood in line to get her beer.)

I can’t believe I stopped going to pub night for such a very long time.
The place started as a coffee shop by a couple of lawyers. His family owns the building; she wanted a place like the cafe in Paris where she used to study.
The couple started having babies and the place became too much. They sold to another couple, who added a beer and wine license (always six micro beers on tap and always Guinness) and made it a cool little soup and sandwich place (I can highly recommend the half cashew chicken salad on whole wheat with the cup of tomato-basil soup).

Wednesday pint night started as a way for the couple to get out of the house once a week.
In the early days, back when I still lived downtown, I might have been the only patron picking up a pint. I’d call up coworkers to come along. I called friends to meet me downtown.
And things just kinda grew from that.
On pint night, you can buy the glass of the featured micro-beer for $5; refills are just $2 all night (soda and water are always free).
That’s how, when I transmogrified from single guy to family guy, I had a cabinet full of pint beer glasses.
And as I transmogrify back, I just get the beer, still a bargain at $3.50 a pint.
It’s a neighborhood place. Unpretentious. Hip, without being hip.
It’s always loud. You always see someone you know. Parties form and break up, as people join different tables, different groups.
The runners and open-water swimmers come in first. Then the mountain bikers. The college kids come last, always in the mood for a cheap beer.

I had the intention of staying for one beer, then go do my laundry.
I stayed for three.
The laundry can get done tonight.
Although, the new owner added a Thursday pint night, too…

Ass in gear

It’s not a complete fucking disaster.
(Tell yourself something enough, and it becomes the truth.)
It’s a setback. A blip.
A minor obstacle.
“Hi, Thom, just wanted to check in and see how the first week went. Your base fitness level is no doubt high, so I would suggest to get your heart rate higher, try to add incline with wearing the backpack with the jug of water in it (that’s such a great idea, by the way),” my coach emailed me on Monday. “Just let me know what other obstacles you faced, so I can give you advice on those.”
What, the beer(s)?
The fasting for three days for Easter?
That my fucking arm hurts from tendinitis so bad some days, I can’t even grip a beer glass to raise it to my lips?
That the only thing I can do is walk - and how boring that really is?
I’ll show her some fucking obstacles.
“Hi, Laurie. It was a quiet week. A little too quiet. The tendinitis is really a setback and fasting set me back a bit as well (great to see you at mass, too, by the way). I hear you about adding the incline to the hiking, which I don’t need my arm to do. Will do. Thanks so much for the checkup.”
It’s not the way I wanted to start this march to a new Residual Self Image. The march toward climbing Mt. Shasta with my coach.
The march to being able to be a stud backpacker all summer.
But I refuse to beat myself up about it.
I gained two pounds. Big deal. Not a huge problem.
Forward motion, forward progress. Move. Move more.
More happy news came Tuesday.
Come to find out that while in the “Winds” in August, we’ll have to average 12.5 miles a day on-trail at like 9,000 to 11,000 feet in elevation. The mapping portion of the trail is just 50.5 miles; but to get to the nearest trailhead and back to Jackson Hole, it’s 70.6 miles total – trailhead to trailhead.
Yipes.
I gotta get my ass into any gear that’s not neutral.
“You are no stranger to challenges,” my coach said. “Just remember this:
“What counts is not only the number of hours you put in, but what you put in those hours.”
Point taken.

Home cooking for the soul

Markets aren’t the only thing that need corrections.
Emotional states need them, too.
I’ve been running along at a heightened (wholesome and good) emotional state for some time now; a freight train filled with good thoughts and feelings and a shitload of straight track ahead. Miles and miles and miles of it.
I am a work in progress, this I realize; I know that I have trouble with downturns in my emotional market. The lull times. Being “down.”
I don’t realize that the lulls are a time for correction. Deep thought. A small sigh. Living with the lull – embracing it – rather than letting anxiety swallow it and choke me is the learning curve I’m still having trouble with.
All it takes is one small blip to begin a lull.
It happened Tuesday.
There are things I’d rather not have to do or deal with. I’m not ignoring them, I just haven’t had the time to give my full attention to them (they’re not going away, this I know; ignorance is not bliss in this case).
So I’m sitting in the yard watching the world go by and my legs are pistons that fire the anxiety engine of my soul.
I needed something (that’s wasn’t alcohol).
I needed home-cooking.
Comfort food.
Mom’s China pie.
(Shepherds pie for those in England; pâté chinois for my French Canadian friends).
We ate a lot of China pie growing up. It’s cheap ground beef sautéed with onion, mixed with whole-kernel corn and topped with mashed potatoes and a liberal sprinkling of Lawry’s Seasoning Salt (an absolute must).
Course, being a cook, I needed to fuck with that.
I sauté the onions in good olive oil and seasonings. I pan-roast the corn kernels. I use ground sirloin.
The mashed ‘taters? New potatoes, skins left on, and roast garlic added. Real butter. A little cream.
A liberal sprinkling of Lawry's Seasoning Salt and a little time in a 350-degree oven.
One fork-full and I was better. Calm, cool, collected. Ready to embrace the lull.
(OK, it also helped to have stimulating dinner conversation with a lovely dining companion – “notice that I got you to cook for me first,” she said - and a nice, little 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Columbia Valley, but I digress.)
I slept well. I slept in. I purchased an Americano to go.
Let the lull happen.
I’ve got leftover China pie in the fridge.

A night at the Grindhouse

If you’re going to see “The sleaze-filled saga of an exploitation double feature,” you might as well sneak into the theater a couple of 40's for you and your companion and share a large popcorn (with butter, because our theater uses real butter and she insists).
Trouble is, all that beer is gonna cause a problem.
Missing any part of Grindhouse just won’t do.
I’m running to the bathroom with another guy, and we’re having a public urinal conversation.
“Dude, ultimate guy movie, it’s killer,” he said.
“Oh, I dunno, the lady I’m with is totally digging it.”
“No shit?”
“No shit. Plus, there’s this young couple next to us and the girl is on the edge of her seat.”
“Cool.”
And we’re running down the hallway again.
“When’s the last time you ran back into a theater?”
Awhile.
(Usually, I can hold it. We didn’t actually sneak in 40's. I had a 24-ounce Old English 800 malt liquor – Crazy 8! – and the lovely Kimbolina had some weird-assed drink with both caffeine and alcohol.)
Grindhouse is Robert Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” and Quentin Tarantino’s “Death Proof.” Mixed in are “fake” movie trailers done by Rob Zombie, Eli Roth and Edgar Wright (whilst taking care of bidness, I missed Zombie’s “Werewolf Women of the S.S.”)
It is not a movie for everyone.
Certainly not conservative fundamentalist Christians (they wouldn’t get a single joke).
Probably not a “first date” movie, either (unless your lady is totally on the cool side).
But it is the first film in a long time that I’ll pay to see in a theater again (and yes, I will purchase the DVD).
It’s bloody. It’s campy. It’s over-the-top. It’s crazy.
Pure fun.
Just keep your eyes open, because there's surprises everywhere (Johnny Reno, an old bud from my university days hanging out at The Zoo Bar, shows up in Planet Terror). And, well, I've developed a slight crush on one Zoe Bell, who plays herself (she's a stunt woman from New Zealand) in Death Proof. She totally steals every scene she's in.
ThomG says, “Check it out.”

TDaddy in the house

From now on, just call me TDaddy.
The truck has a new name, too.
“Chariot of Goodness.”
(I like that.)
It was so decreed on Friday.
“Where did you come up with that?” a friend asked another, as she decreed it.
“I just made it up. Right now. TDaddy.”
Look for the clothing line very, very soon.
Expect lots of leather.
And fur.
And hats (I like hats).
TDaddy has a request for my posse.
The final 10 minutes of my ride home were the most uncomfortable I’ve ever spent in my own vehicle.
(And no, I never would have left the task up to either of you ladies.)
But the next time you see me at the pub, I expect to be paid handsomely, plied favorably with frosty beverages.
TDaddy says “Peace, out.”

Diagnosis: Quirky

I’d say they’re quirks.
Kimbolina says different. She says it like they’re afflictions.
“I don’t know, it sounds like OCD to me.”
I’m quirky.
We all are (She did admit that we all have our baggage that we drag around with us; some just have more matching Samsonite than others.)
Yes, I have certain tasks and rituals.
When I go through a yellow light in the truck, I tap the ceiling.
“How long have you been doing that?”
Longer than I can remember.
(But I can not do it – just to prove I’m not OCD, I sometimes consciously don’t tap.)
The stereo in the truck has a digital readout for sound. Mine has to be set on an odd number.
“OK, that’s definitely OCD.”
It’s a quirk.
I don’t wear underpants.
“I, hmmm. I can’t help you on that one.”
Obsessive-compulsive disorder is “a psychiatric disorder most commonly characterized by a subject's obsessive, distressing, intrusive thoughts and related compulsions (tasks or ‘rituals’) which attempt to neutralize the obsessions. Thus it is an anxiety disorder. It is listed by the World Health Organization as one of the top ten most disabling illnesses in terms of lost income and diminished quality of life.”
See, mine are just quirks. I’m not debilitated by mine, nor do they diminish the quality of life (I’d say they add “color” to it).
I do have a routine in the morning.
“A set routine?”
No. I change things up.
Except for three things.
“The three S’s?”
Yes (and I’m very impressed she knew the Rule of 3).
Shit. Shower. Shave.
“Always in the same order?”
Yes.
“It is possible to do them in combination, at the same time.”
I had to think about that one.
And no, you can’t (unless you are crazier than a shithouse rat) combine them all.
I checked math Web sites to figure this out. Three things, you can come up with 16 different combinations (and that includes just doing one of the three).
You can only combine two that would be acceptable in a civilized society.
It’s up to you to figure it out.
Anything else, and man, you’re not OCD.
You're just creepy.

ThomG frightens Christians

The doorbell rang while I was wiping down the bathroom.
A couple of days ago, there was a flier on the front doorknob announcing that a very conservative Christian church would send their faithful to “preach the Good Word” during the Easter season.
At the door were a heavyset middle-aged woman and an awkward, pimp-faced teenager who looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but on my porch.
Sirius’ punk channel pumped out “Brand New Cadillac” by The Clash.
The volume wasn’t at 11, but it was damn close.
I got to the door just as Joe Strummer sang;

“Baby, baby drove up in a Cadillac; I said, Jesus Christ! Where’d you get that Cadillac? She said, balls to you, daddy. She ain’t never coming back!”

“Oh, oh,” the woman said. “We are so sorry to have bothered you.”
She turned, bumped into the teen and nearly sprinted down the driveway.
Here’s a blanket statement (and my opinion): Conservative Christians are some of the most intolerant people on this planet.
(And if any conservative Christians want to debate me, here I am.)
Granted, I’m hard to pigeonhole. I march to my own musical beat. I look different. I act different.
And make no apologies for doing so.
(And no one else should either; what makes this world special an interesting is the little differences.)
This woman decided not to get to know that. She saw what she wanted to see, and left.
She didn’t see a man secure in his faith, his spiritual condition. Connected to his emotions, his feelings.
I believe in faith, fidelity, family. I believe in a lot of great and wonderful things.
I stand at a place of great adventure, open to the world and what it can teach; what it can share.
She didn’t get the chance to find that out. She didn't want to chat.
Her loss.

Fly your weird flag proudly

Bad Religion is singing “Stranger Than Fiction,” and I couldn’t agree more.

“The worlds is scratching at my door.... Cradle for a cat, wolfe looks back, How many angels can you fit upon a match? I want to know why Hemingway cracked, Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction…”

As I type this, my fat-assed cat is streatched out on the floor at the water dish, sticking his paw into the water, pulling it out and licking the water from it. He’s been a pain in the ass since 6 a.m., when he ran into the bedroom, onto the bed and across my chest.
His weird flag is flying.
Proudly.
Everyone’s got a weird flag (the idea was snatched up by me from the movie, “A Family Stone”), and we decide whether or not to fly it.
Consciously or unconsciously.
Mine weird flag is more of a skull and crossbones. The Jolly Roger of fabrics, where also sorts of signal flags are thrust below. Hurricane warnings (malevolence, but that flag has so mellowed); the little yellow and blue number (steer clear of me, I’m maneuvering with difficulty); the solid yellow one (everything is fine and I am receptive to all weirdness).
It’s a quiet Easter weekend and the Jolly Roger catches no wind. That’s fine by me. It’s been a week of success and strangeness, friends and fun.
Things happened that are too weird even for the Tension (just so you can imagine; I may be able to mask some of it, wrap it in fiction for later, but what’s truth and what’s fiction? Truth is stranger than fiction…)
“What’s with the shit-eating grin you’ve been wearing all week?” a buddy asked.
The Jolly Roger has been flying.
Proudly.
Strongly.
But in the quiet of a Saturday morning, with no plans, no agenda, no itinerary, I have lowered my weirdness flag. Sometimes, quiet is good.
But should the winds of life begin to blow, my weird flag is ready to be raised, ready to be stiffened in whatever gale that presents itself.

This is the place I'll go

Bitchin’ view, huh?
That’s the Cirque of the Towers in the Wind River Range in Wyoming.
Where I’ll be spending seven days in August writing about, photographing and mapping the Continental Divide Trail with my team and sponsored by Backpacker Magazine and the Continental Divide Trail Alliance.
It is trip 30, out of 50. Fifty teams, 3,100 miles of trail from Canada to Mexico.
Backpacker ranks this section as the best week you can spend outdoors. Anywhere:

“What backpacker hasn't dreamed of a range of soaring granite peaks cloaked in snowfields and azure skies, a place to hike from lake to alpine lake through endless meadows of bluebells, lupine, and purple gentian? Well, sometimes dreams come true - like on the 67-mile section between the Big Sandy and Green River Lakes trailheads. The path traverses the west side of the Wind Rivers, paralleling the 12,000- and 13,000-foot mountains forming the Continental Divide. Special thrills include the Sound-of-Music meadow of Fish Creek Park, the jagged peaks reflected in Mirror Lake, the views of spires from the CDT's highest point in Wyoming (11,120-foot Lester Pass) - but in truth, the entire stretch is so idyllic it might just redefine your vision of perfection.”

I spent much of the afternoon stressed as how to get to Jackson Hole, Wyo. (trivia time: the Jackson airport is the only airport in the U.S. within a national park). Team members were working fast and furious to get to Jackson and the team leader called and said there were 10 seats left on the plane from Denver to Jackson and he booked my flight.
And I needed to call the travel agent with my credit card to pay for it.
Gulp.
It’s a great round-trip fare. I just don’t have it.
A wise and caring coworker told me to ask the boss to pay for it.
“Worst case, they say no.”
They said yes.
And more faith is restored.

The sweet smell of success (a tale of pheromones)

I suppose it’s the natural thing to do.
Attract the opposite sex by any means possible.
Watching Planet Earth the Sunday, I was amused by the bluebird of happiness dancing his fucking ass off for the ladies.
It is wild turkey season in Northern California, and the toms are doing some serious strutting.
Male peacocks, perfect example of flash.
Humans do it to.
In some pretty spectacularly bizarre ways.
Back at the university, we had a huge campus party coming up. I was a free agent. A buddy convinced me to try something new to attract the ladies (he’s a very successful actuary these days; I can’t account for what happened in the wayback machine of 1984).
“I know how we’re going to score tonight,” he said.
“How?”
“We’ll use pheromones.”
“What the fuck are pheromones?”
“Your body produces them. It’s a smell. Only women can smell it.”
“Where?”
“Testicle sweat.”
“Bullshit.”
“No, I read about it.”
“Where?”
“Penthouse.”
(Penthouse, the magazine famous for it’s letters that all start “…I was at a small Midwestern university…” and the fuzzy-focus Pet of the Month centerfold. Not the New England Journal of Medicine or the Journal of American Medicine – fuck, not even Nature. But Penthouse. Doomed. Doomed I tell you.)
“OK, cool. I’m in.”
So how does one go about collecting pheromones?
We put bandanas in the cup of a jock straps, put the jock strap on, pulled on a pair of shorts – and went for a 5-mile run.
A couple of hours before the party.
“Now what?” I asked.
“We get cleaned up, and wipe the bandana on our neck and our wrists, so the heat from our arteries will release the pheromones.”
“OK.”
So I’m about to wipe sweat from my nutsack across the carotid arteries in my neck and the ulnar and radial arteries on my wrist, and I have one spectacular second thought – “This is sweat. From my nuts. Fuck am I doing?”
I pride myself on being fastidiously clean. I smell good most of the time. And in 1984, I’m about to pull a bandana across clean parts of my body that’s been soaking up sweat from my unit. My package.
“Uhhhh, I’m not so sure about this,” I said. “What if they smell something. Something like scrotum smell?”
“Dumbass. That’s what we want. That’s where the pheromones are. But just in case, wear some cologne, too.”
“Oh, OK.”
It didn’t work for either of us that night. But he did meet his wife a week later at a sorority mixer. I don’t think he was wearing any nutsack sweat, however.
I bring this up because there’s big doings Friday night. The Jim Dyar Band is playing Klub Klondike in Lakehead (c'mon down, bring your friends).
There will be ladies there.
I want to be attractive. To the ladies.
I googled “testicle sweat pheromones” and came back with 10,400 hits.
I guess there’s something to it.
I think I’ll stick with a shower.
And a couple of spritz’s of Kenneth Cole’s Reaction.

Good juju day

Tuesday was a day.
One of those days.
But not those days.
Not a glass-is-half full day.
It was a day where the cup runneth over (OK, I didn’t get laid or win the lottery, which really would have made things runneth – but you celebrate the victories, both large and small).
I have to handle this chronologically.

Had a coffee interview with an oncology nurse who hopes to raise $10,000 by climbing Mt. Shasta for the Breast Cancer Fund.
(Giving would be a nice thing to do).
I got back to the office, plugged into the iPod and wrote her story (and when I say plugged in and wrote, I mean I go about banging away at the keys, large Sony MDR-V300 headphones on my ears and spasm out like Ray Charles; people know not to bother me when I’m swingin’ and a swayin’).
Of course, the boss – being the boss – doesn’t know this. She came up between the hedges (I remain strategically hidden by greenery while at work, it seems to cut down on much distraction; the receptionist actually has come up with a novel way to tell if I’m actually here – if my cowboy hat’s hanging on the wall, the ThomG is in) and says, “ThomG.”
OK, she had to say it – loudly – a couple of times. I was completely into my words – and into a loud, rousing live rendition of Social Distortion’s "The Creeps (I Just Wanna Give You )” and managed to ignore her for a bit.
The headphones slid to my neck.
“Have we told you lately how much we appreciate you?”
“Nooooooo.”
“Well, we do. We do appreciate you very much. And we needed to tell you that.”
It was particularly random, like a drive-by compliment.
(And I’m suspiciously paranoid.)
But I smile anyway. Getting singled out is good.
It was one of several compliments I received all day; the other best being, “You do so much for this community. That must feel really good.”
It does.

And while doing a final edit on my Sunday column, I got all teary and emotional (figuring, hey, it’s pretty powerful if it made me all weepy). Yeah, it’s about cancer, it’s personal, and it poured out. I was happy; confident that I’d (finally) put a ThomG effort into work prose.

In my mailbox was a CD of music and note from a friend. Haven't yet listened to it, but I look forward to it (thank you, Mr. Singletrack Guinness swiller).

On the iBook was something special. Something I have been waiting for. Hoping for.
An email.
Backpacker magazine is in the process to choose 200 volunteers to help create the first-ever map of the Continental Divide Trail. More than 3,000 applied.
Team leader Tarpman asked if I wouldn’t mind too terribly to join his team – and hike 80 or so miles in July or August in either Idaho, Colorado or Montana. Taking pictures and being team executive chef.
I am so fucking in; a journey of epic proportions that will help define how my life evolves.

A friend came over and we distracted ourselves with an amusing organic Sangiovese – and my deck of tarot cards.
(I don’t want to spoil the suspense – this is something to blog independently – but let’s just say that during my reading, she kept saying, “This is spooky ThomG, very spooky.” In a really cool and good way.)

The evening ended with a call from a friend just back from vacation. It was good way to end my day (seriously, this girl stays up late; we hung up eight minutes past midnight and just before my chariot turned into a gourd) and re-connect with her. Because we listen to one-another. I like that.
Tuesday was a day.
A good day.
That has spilled on today (and, hopefully, tomorrow and the next day).

Residual Self Image

Residual Self Image.
Morpheus, in “The Matrix,” told Neo it was, “…the mental projection of your digital self.”
It works in the real word, too.
It is the image we hold of ourselves in our mind, whether it is a good representation or not.
That younger fellow to the right is my Residual Self Image.
Kinda-sorta.
The self-portrait (I was checking the lighting in my studio before shooting the hospital’s CEO) was taking in late 1994. As you can see, I am a much skinnier version of myself (and I really don’t want to discuss or contemplate the hair; all I will say is I dropped $55 on it each month at a salon and it went out on more dates than I did and I’d like to have it back).
I weighed 196 pounds, with a body fat ratio of about 12 percent.
As a 44 year old man, my new ideal, my goal by the end of the year, is 199 pounds, 18 percent body fat ratio.
Right now, I weigh 228.5 pounds, with a body fat ration of 29 percent (thanks to my personal trainer friend Joe, who poked, prodded and measured me last week).
I need to lose 29.5 pounds – and 11 percent body fat to reach my ideal.
(Joe said that each percentage point of body fat is equal to losing 2.5 pounds of fat.)
Funny thing is, in psychology, use of Residual Self Image is often linked with periods of radical transformation.
In October, I weighed 260 pounds.
I know I can probably never get back to my RSI. My current life is stacked against me, and that’s OK.
Back in 1994, I was chief photographer for Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, and a dedicated triathlete. I worked out at least six hours a day – since the famed Tom Landry Fitness Center was right on campus and was a perk that was partially paid for by the hospital.
I probably couldn’t take six hours to work out today; nor do I want to. Nor do I want to weigh my food, or worry that if I have a beer, I need to balance that with certain fats and proteins to keep my metabolism in “ketosis.”
But there’s that pesky self-image that keeps popping up.
My doctor, during my last routine physical, called me “the fittest fat man I know.”
I can hike all day with a 50-pound backpack and think nothing of it.
Small nicks and bruises (and age) aside, I’m healthy.
I’m happy.
I feel good in my own skin. Right here and now.
But I also have wants and desires beyond where I’m at now.
Climbing Mt. Shasta. Entering and finishing a mountain bike race. Not making a fool of myself during the Dancing With the Stars fundraiser in July.
So I have decided to eat right and exercise more. The Meat-Eating Robot gave me a great cycling-based eating plan, but I decided to not “diet.” I plan on eating right, eating often and will follow more of a Zone approach to eating. Meaning that if I want to go to the pub and get a Guinness, I will. And not worry that I may be out of ketosis (I just want to live free – not diet).
My fitness goals are simple. Elevate my heart rate for at least an hour a day. Every day.
Work in core exercises like sit-ups and push-ups. Blend in some Pilates and yoga.
I want to lose 2.5 pounds a week.
Meaning in 11 weeks, if I’m good and follow through on my goals, I’ll be at 27.5 pounds lost – and it’ll be time to re-evaluate.
Putting it down here makes it real (and don’t hesitate to jump in and offer encouragement or whatever).
And just so you know, this is me at 228.5 pounds; the starting point to a new RSI:

Just grit your teeth

It's amazing what you can accomplish with a pair of surgical scissors, tweezers, a big needle and lots and lots of rubbing alcohol.
(And a high threshold for pain.)
I fixed my in-grown toenail problem, took some Ibuprofen, wrapped the forearm in an ACE bandage and made my buddy Don feel guilty - and went on a seven-mile Nordic walk.
The river trail was hopping with people -and wildlife. I tried to get a picture of a doe with her two fawn, but mostly I got blurry brown smudges.
The walk was great. We hit a pretty good clip, and the weather stayed cool in the overcast for most of the trek.
When we got done, there was big doings on the Union Pacific railroad trestle. The train was stopped mid-way on the bridge and the engineers were talking to two cops.
A CHP fixed-winged aircraft kept circling.
"Do you think it was a jumper?" a runner asked me.
"Maybe, but why are they looking up there if it was a jumper?"
It is a long way down to the river from the bridge.
(Yes, I had my camera; no I didn't take a single frame.)
Boy, do I feel better.

No Happy Fun Day

The spirit is more than willing.
The body, however, is a bit dinged up.
Eight minutes after 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning – there’s not even a glint of the coming sunrise – and I’ve got an ice pack on my left shoulder, a heating pad wrapped on my right forearm and my left big toe? I just keep it out of the way, for fear of bumping the in-grown toenail that developed after a botched grooming attempt, followed by getting it jammed by the vacuum.
I’m a fucking mess.
And another beautiful day looks like it is about to blossom.
The forearm? Tendonitis. It’s better than it was last week, and with Stevo’s help, it’ll even better this week (although my brain still debates whether to just have my doctor jam a needle full of cortisone into it).
My shoulder? Friday to Saturday, I slept on it wrong. Really wrong. And this is not the shoulder to fuck with. Four separations, one torn rotator cuff and damage to the glenoid labrum later, yes, I baby it. Piss-poor luck on that front; I was asleep when the damage was done.
The big toe? It’s a mess. I’ll spare you the gory details, only to say that I’ve never before have had to see a doctor for an in-grown toenail. And I’m seriously thinking of going to Urgent Care to get it taken care of it now, today.
I loathe to be this slow, this feeble. I’ve got things to do, places to go.
Captain Penguin offered a newly-designed, 14-foot kayak for all my demonstration needs – this boat is as fast as a 17-foot sea kayak, but made by a whitewater boat company, so you can beat he shit out of it and not worry – and I had to decline.
I turned down two mountain bike ride invites.
I actually took a Saturday mid-afternoon nap (chissakes; I mean, it felt good, but what a waste of daylight).
I’ve got a training schedule to keep, not only for a Mt. Shasta summit attempt, but for the possibility that I’ll be named to the Backpacker Continental Divide Trail mapping project (I thought it was a done-deal, but the first team was named recently and it’s all ex-Navy SEALS and Eco-Challenge participants).
Ice and rest is boring.
But in the end, it’ll get me back on the path sooner.
Patience.
Is a virtue, I know.
Grrrrrrrrr.