Quote For The Day

“Now one of Clinton’s laws of politics is this: If one candidate’s trying to scare you and the other one’s trying to get you to think, if one candidate’s appealing to your fears and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.”

—–Bill Clinton, 2004.

Hey. I’m just saying.

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Friday, 148 2 Go

Happy Leap Day, my day of grace, giving me an extra 24 hours in the race to The End of Life As We Know It, or my 50th birthday, depends. It’s sunny here, as it should be.

No famous Five-Oh birthdays today, statistically not unexpected, but I will note that both Alex Rocco (72) and Dennis Farina (62) were Leap Day babies and both ended up becoming famous for portraying (mostly) mobsters, Rocco most notably as Moe “You don’t buy me out! I buy YOU out!” Green in that movie from the 70s. You know the one. Also Tony Robbins, who I find a little creepy but darn optimistic, is 48 today.

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Loyal Reader Scott Beauchamp prompted a mini-discussion in the comments yesterday, wondering how somebody who smokes can walk a long way and not, you know, die. Janet noted that her father was very active and still smoked. Beth suggested that it was because I was an artificial life form. Good discussion.

It’s interesting, in a morbid way. My father, who smoked for 50 years, multiple packs a day, seemed to have a very healthy heart, at least from what I remember of his infrequent doctor visits and one stress test. He also had a low cholesterol, which seems to be a genetic gift for me. Janet’s dad died of heart disease, while my father took the lung cancer route. Same difference, though; death by cigarette.

But this is important to me for a couple of reasons (well, more than a couple). First, as I mentioned to a couple of people last night — and I’m not talking about my dad here; I’m too close to that situation to be objective — I really, really don’t want to end up like one of those guys who never quits until he’s in his 60s or 70s and is forced to, then spends the next couple of years really wanting a cigarette and then dies. I’ve seen that a lot. No, thank you.

Not that this latest adventure in good health ensures me anything. Cancer could already be creeping through my system. The odds of some diminished lung capacity, as I get older, are very good; emphysema at the least. And I could die suddenly of a massive heart attack, although I think that’s probably unlikely given everything. Choices I made long ago are still spinning merrily along, playing with my destiny.

But more importantly, part of my motivation is that I’m doing pretty good still. All things considered. I’m going to be […snip…] years old soon and I’ve never been hospitalized, never had a major (non-addiction) illness, never broken a bone, never had a lab result or imaging study or EKG that raised eyebrows, and never had major surgery. I’ve got lousy eyes, some periodontal disease, some male-pattern baldness starting to happen, marginally dry skin, sort of fragile shoulders, and a stupid looking nose.

So the fact that I could smoke a cigarette and then immediately walk 3-1/2 miles in slightly over 50 minutes and not be out of breath or tired is a GOOD THING. I should be so lucky. So while I can’t count out major consequences for a lot of bad behavior, so far so good, and I wanted to quit while I was ahead. So to speak.

I’m not obsessive, as fun as it is to call somebody else that. I walked a huge amount because I wanted to lose weight, and then I cut it back by two-thirds. I’m walking a huge amount these days because I never smoked and walked, so it helps with the urges (a friend said since he never smoked in bed, he just climbed in there for a few days to quit smoking. It worked).

Although my neighbor did say to me yesterday, “You seem to like to walk a lot.” I must look like a crazy person. Or a cyborg, but that’s just my daughter’s opinion.

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Thursday, 149 2 Go

I think nicotine gum is stupid. It’s a stupid gum. You have to chew a little, wait for the tingle, plant it between cheek and gum, then the tingle goes away and you have to chew some more…it’s stupid. It’s a stupid little gum stupidity. And you’re stupid for reading this. You and your stupid blog reading. Shut up. You want a piece of me?

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Oh, really. It’s fine here. Actually I miss coffee more, since I dumped that brief habit also for reasons smokers will understand. I’m just sort of dazed at the moment. Also, I keep biting my tongue. But no irritability and I haven’t cleaned out the refrigerator, although I did spontaneously eat three little oatmeal cookies this morning, right in a row. Odd for me.

And I walked 10-1/2 miles yesterday, almost three hours’ worth. It keeps me busy, I guess, and it will offset whatever chance I might have of putting on weight. Lots of people don’t, of course, and I’m pretty well trained after all this work I’ve done. In fact, I commented this morning on this — I dropped 70-plus pounds pretty quickly, and now two months later I weigh a bit less than I did on January 1, when I hit my goal. Knock on wood. I could lose 20 more and not look gaunt, that’s for sure, so we’ll see. In the meantime, I’m brushing my teeth a lot and fighting off cues, which are the worst part.

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Given the nature of this countdown theme, I guess I should mention that 50 years ago today, the worst school bus accident in U.S. history happened in Floyd County, Kentucky; 26 kids and the bus driver lost their lives. A long time ago, but I imagine there are those who still grieve.

On a happier note, today is the first anniversary of this blog, at least on this site. We’ve endured 572 posts and some 800 comments in the past year, and those Legos still look pretty good. Lots of changes in this past roll around the sun, and personally I can’t help but think all of them were good. See ya next year. Now, I need to either take another walk or eat a cookie, and I’m thinking walk. Which may sound like a stupid thing to say, but who asked you?

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Wednesday, 150 2 Go

Twenty-five years ago, when I was (quick! Do the math) 24, Julie and I drove south and east to visit my parents, who were spending a few days in a trailer they had parked up in the mountains. We’d eventually, five months later, sort of honeymoon in that same trailer (we were working at the time and couldn’t take time off; we’ve been honeymoon catching up since).

The purpose was sort of to introduce Julie to them, although they’d run across her before. Just not on my arm, so to speak, and they were curious and probably a little worried that I was going to bounce from girlfriend to girlfriend. Nope.

The occasion, though, was Julie’s birthday, and Mom baked her a cake. It was a nice day, as I remember. We were still probably glowing as a couple, and the drive down the snowy roads was fun.

And here we are. She’s gone off to teach undergraduates. I went for a walk, and now I’m working up the energy to drive down to the store to buy some nicotine gum. I have a long and sordid smoking history, starting almost by accident, quitting for a long time, sneaking them in between and then finding them a nice post-booze crutch in the past year and a half. But I stared at a list of statistics the other day and it just got really stupid. Alcohol kills, all in all, about 60,000 people a year in this country. Smoking kills nearly half a million, and is the main killer of recovering alcoholics.

So we’ll see how this goes. I made a lot of noise these past few days, sort of whining and grumbling, but the fact is I’ve stopped and started them more than a few times in my life, and there are worse things than nicotine withdrawal. Most smokers go through it at least once a day, anyway, since nicotine has a half-life of 40 minutes; in an hour and a half it’s out of your system. Maybe the gum will help this time. I can’t say that I’ve done anything in the way of psychological preparation; I’m just tired of them, I don’t like the statistics, it’s expensive, and I’m much better off without them. Psychologically they’ve helped in the past 18 months, I guess, although I don’t recommend it.

Really, it’s hard today to get too worked up. I refuse to be a secret smoker, and it’s my decision, and frankly I can’t get too stressed. I’ll just probably walk six hours a day and get really skinny for a while, and maybe I’ll be irritable for a couple of days, and maybe I’ll be around for 25 more birthdays, maybe more, which Julie seems to think is a good idea. Me too.

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Tuesday, 151 2 Go

In my opinion, you can’t go around saying you’re the “change” guy, exhort the growth and goodness of change, and then slink away when the going gets rough, when change looks a little intimidating. That would be wrong, for sure.

Talking about me here. Who were you thinking?

One of the things I’ve changed lately is my proximity to the latest political stuff. I’ve just backed away a bit. First, I’m getting increasingly frustrated with my lack of time management. Second, the glitter is starting to slip off. I’ve found this a fascinating season so far, lots of surprises and interesting things, but as it settles down I see same old, same old in a lot of ways, and I think it’s better to have some perspective. These things have never been pretty.

And the memes are forming up. For the Democrats, it’s going to be a nickel-and-dime offense, slowly picking apart the halo that John McCain has drawn above his head for the past 15 years or so. And there seems to be room to do that; the more I read about a man I once had tremendous respect for, I start to see just another pol, a guy who liked to give press conferences and talk frankly about corruption and then pretty much did what everybody else did.

That actually doesn’t faze me much; we’re all hypocrites in a sense, falling short of our principles, and McCain has pushed back enough times in his career to keep me sort of liking him. But that will be the attack, I suspect. That, and his prickliness, and that other thing. You know.

I was watching Hillary Clinton on something the other night and thinking that she looked pretty good, energetic and healthy and young. It’s been a grueling campaign and she’s hung in there, and probably is at the prime of her life.

Her husband, on the other hand, looks like he’s on his last legs. Or is it me? The man does not look well. And of course he had the heart thing, but you know what it really is?

He spent eight years as President of the United States. That job will age you big time. The only one who seemed to leave relatively unfazed was Reagan, and he was probably an exceptional specimen and also had a philosophy that helped; we sure laughed at all those naps, but who’s laughing now?

So McCain will assume probably the most difficult job in the universe at the age of 72? This would not end well. So that’s going to be an issue in some shape or form, although he appears to be going strong at the moment.

As for Obama, he managed to avoid the right-wing sleaze machine and just draft behind Clinton, letting her take the blows, but those days are over. I suspect he’s going to win Texas and maybe Ohio, but if not it’s still over. As has been pointed out over and over again, she has to win the rest of the primaries by huge margins just to tie, and it’s apparent that the more people know about Obama the more they vote for him. I think the first week of March we get a Clinton withdrawal, but stranger things haven’t happened. And if there’s a major Obama slip or gaffe, or she ends up with big wins in those two states, the game could still be on. I just don’t think so.

And we know what’s coming at Obama, thanks to the Clinton campaign. Yesterday a picture of Sen. Obama, taken during a trip to Africa in 2006 in which he’s wearing traditional Somali garb, suddenly appeared all over the Web, apparently pushed by the Clinton people. And listen to Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), a Clinton supporter, herself an African-American (nice touch), talk about it on MSNBC:

JONES: Understand this: The Clinton campaign does not condone people putting out pictures that they seem to believe are inappropriate. But let me say this: I have no shame or no problem with people looking at Barack Obama in his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.

Whoa, Stef. Let’s slow down a sec, OK? “I have no shame or no problem with people looking at Barack Obama in his native clothing, in the clothing of his country.” His native country?

There you have it. Welcome to the fall of 2008. Barack Obama, grown in the womb of a Kansan, born in Hawaii, educated in the halls of Harvard Law School and the streets of Chicago, is, I would think, you know. An American. His father was from Kenya, true, and his paternal grandmother still lives there, but the clothing he was wearing was Somali.

Have good memories of Somalia, do you? Ring a bell? Anybody think this is just a coinky-dink?

So that will be that. Obama isn’t really an American, he’s not patriotic (whatever that means), and of course the oldie but goody, he’s a Muslim who marches to the mullah orders and will be sworn in on the Koran and side with the terrorists and probably abort babies in his spare time. Thanks, Hillary, for the head’s up.

Should be fun. Go. Enjoy.

As for me, I have more changes to make, probably none involving exotic clothing but then the day is young.

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Monday, 152 2 Go

0720_116.jpg

Hey! It’s the 50th birthday of Kurt Rambis, the most-famous sixth man in NBA history (well, probably not, but I’m still saying that). Dubbed Clark Kent by Lakers announcer Chick Hearn, Rambis won four championships with the Lakers, as well as playing stints with the Suns and Warriors, and playing Coach Cleary on “7th Heaven.” He’s now an assistant coach with the Lakers.

And speaking of coaches, Jeff Fisher, head man of the Tennessee Titans, also marks half a century today.

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I ignored the Oscars, so I guess I’m over that. Used to be, it was a big night; I enjoyed the glamor and the suspense, the clips and the flash. Maybe it’s just my age, but I’m currently rejecting that idea. I didn’t get old. The Oscars got…really young.

So I went to a Sunday night meeting in north Seattle and had a good time. Nice people. Cake, too.

I will note that I actually saw, in a theater, the film that won Best Picture, so that’s unusual. Other than that, I have nothing to say. Except Barbara Walters should retire. OK, nothing else.

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This is going to be a rough week for me, loyal readers, for reasons I’ll probably whine about in a couple of days. Good thoughts might be in order for Mr. Chuck.

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Sunday, 153 2 Go

Sammy Kershaw, singer/songwriter, former husband of Lorrie Morgan and one-time Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Louisiana, turns 50 today.

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One of the advantages to this countdown, this relentless ticking to July, is that it forces me to pause, take inventory, and evaluate whether or not I’m living in the day or just being a passive observer.

Also, it keeps me from posting titles like this, which I really, really wanted to do: Lawn Day’s Journey Into Night.

Brother Terry, our Gardening/Walking Baptist minister (as opposed to our Cussing/Writing Baptist minister, although I’m sure Terry cusses), mentioned in a post the other day that he was listening to his body more. I understand this completely; exercise tends to focus the concentration, and in my case I was paying particular attention since I thought there was a possibility I could drop dead and I wished to avoid that. It’s no coincidence that the circle I walk daily is sort of bookended by a fire station and a walk-in clinic. I wanted to be able to crawl for help.

I’m also, of course, a lot more aware of the weather. I haven’t walked yet in a thunderstorm, since thunderstorms are rare here, but I’ve pretty much otherwise experienced the postal gamut — rain, snow, sleet, wind, and occasionally, very occasionally, since I started in late October, sun.

I’ve also noticed that it’s been warmer lately, which is sort of like noticing that the days are longer. Color me duh.

But this week has brought some exceptional February weather. Yesterday I walked an additional two miles just because I didn’t want to stop, and then I came home, marveling at the sun and the warmth, and I thought, Hmm. This reminds me of something

So I mowed the lawn. I woke my sleepy lawn mower, which took 5 pulls but no priming, and cut the grass. I could have put it off a few weeks, but I’ve always done that, always waited until it was a grass emergency or worse, and then it’s been miserable. It would take me all day, pretty much, with lots of stalling and starting and sweat and tears and language like a sailor or a San Antonio clergyman.

And yeah. Yeah, yeah; I will mine any moment for a metaphor, particularly as I look back on the last year and a half. It was, in fact, exactly 18 months ago today that I sat on my front porch, pathetic suitcase that wouldn’t close by my side, waiting for my ride across the pass to God knew what. My lawn was not on my mind, other than noting it needed to be mowed and nobody was going to mow it for me, no matter how lost I looked.

So maybe you can excuse me for observing that, as I unwrap spring this year, there’s so much less to fix. And my work gloves were right there, sitting on the bench, a little stiff but present.

I think it might be hard to grasp the little joys I got yesterday if you haven’t wandered through a lot of chaos; I get that, and I’ll let this analogy die a good death now, except maybe to note that those bare spots in the back yard, where John and I finally removed the obsolete swing set, are pretty much covered with grass now, and I got some pleasure from that, too.

And also the idea that my new neighbors, who moved in last summer, might have looked out their window yesterday and assumed that the old fat guy who lives in the house next door finally gave up and hired a thinner old guy to mow his lawn, and that he seemed to be smiling a lot.

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Saturday, 154 2 Go

I’m sorry, but the sky is just too blue to blog. And I have to be back in this chair in a few hours to work, so I have things to do.

I’ll also note that a friend of mine, yesterday at lunch, mentioned that sometimes it’s best to just shut up. Just stop talking, stop analyzing, and shut up for a bit. He was being general, but then I was the only person there. It’s good advice for me; I’m a little manic these days.

I will say that I’m more observant in certain areas, and that I’ve noticed some winter weight on people I know. Not all; some, in fact, are slimming during the short days. But others have expanded a bit, and for the first time I really, really get it. I think the period between the middle of January and the middle of February I ate enough crap to cover the rest of the year.

In theory, I was testing the waters, trying to see what I could consume and still stay about the same, weight wise. And it worked fine; I had this fear that as soon as my intake went up, I’d start to pack it back on, but no. It seems I can eat about exactly what I calculated, somewhere around 2600 calories a day, and stay the same, as long as I do a a minimum of exercise and keep active.

But I took those calories from some really questionable places, and I understand that better now. Dark days can drive a lot of choices; sometimes the winter blues just call for cookies.

I was standing in line at the convenience store last night, though, and just out of curiosity I picked up this Reese’s Easter egg thing that was placed pretty prominently at the front. A couple of tiny candy eggs, pop pop and they’re gone, for nearly 400 calories. Wow. I could fill up on 400 calories with chicken and vegetables.

And then I became Calorie Guy, checking out the fine print while I waited, and I came across peanuts. These little packages of peanuts, two for a dollar, maybe two handfuls in each bag. I used to buy them occasionally when I was in the mood for peanuts.

You could, I suppose, fill a small bowl with these two bags of peanuts and snack on them all day, if you were careful. A bit here and there. And let’s say you’re very stable in terms of your weight — you eat exactly what you burn, I mean, and your weight never changes and you never vary your diet. I’m not saying you would be a human person.

And let’s say you just decide one day to add these two little bags of peanuts, just over the course of the day, every day for a year. Peanuts you’d hardly notice. Literally four handfuls or so. Every day. Where would you be, in theory anyway, in a year?

Fifty pounds heavier.

It’s scary out there. But also sunny, at least here, and now I’m going to shut up and do something about the winter blues. No cookies will be harmed during the course of it, either.

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Friday, 155 2 Go

It’s funny how I think people walk the wrong way.

No, I’m not talking about dogs. God no. Heaven forbid. Walk your dog, love your dog, pick up poop all day long, be my guest.

I’m talking about the lake I lap. I walk clockwise, which is how you’re supposed to do it, but most people I see walk in the other direction and I don’t get it. How come they can’t me more like ME?

All sorts of people. An older lady, her green coat clutched tightly around her, who never meets my eye. She walks every damn day that way, except around Thanksgiving, when suddenly she was out with family, a younger couple and some kids, and she was smiling. Walk enough and you’ll find lots of stories.

There’s a diminutive Asian couple whom I see occasionally. They stop and feed the horses, which you’re not supposed to do, of course. Now when I pass there’s usually at least one horse sticking his nose over the fence, looking at me reproachfully, wanting me to get with the program.

And yesterday I saw a psychotic killer.

Maybe.

He was actually walking in the correct direction, but ambling, with this tiny dog-like creature on a leash, whom he was letting sniff every conceivable blade of grass (just saying). I came up behind him, gaining ground, and he turned back to look at me several times as I approached. Finally, as I reached the two of them, he looked at me, gave me sort of a smile, said “Good afternoon,” which is a weird sort of thing to say, and then pulled out a gun and shot me in the stomach.

Well. He didn’t, but for a second I thought he could. And maybe today he will. He had a very strange smile. A pretty strange dog, too. Hannibal Lector would have a dog like that.

This is what happens when you see a Coen brothers film over the weekend, I guess.

As I passed him, though, and kept walking fast, expecting any second to find myself face down on the pavement, staring at a slowly pooling collection of my very own blood, the whole thing got very cinematic. The camera pulled back and suddenly it was a helicopter shot, and me and my red sweatshirt got smaller as you saw the lake and the trees and the Asian couple and then the Cascades and I thought, what was that about?

I mean, the story. If I’m walking through a film version of my life, and it ends with a near miss, a casual encounter with a guy who might be a mass murderer and might just be walking his dumb dog, and the music plays, what happened? When you leave the theater, what are you talking about?

WELCOME TO EXISTENTIAL DAY! COME ON IN!

I just know Robert Duvall would play my father. And Julie? Annette Bening, of course.

Oh. Maybe Debbie Reynolds for Mom. That would be fun.

Some unknown teen actor for John. Lauren Ambrose for Beth (of course).

And John Malkovich could play any number of my male friends. At least two.

I just can’t quite cast myself. Of the actors my age, Kevin Bacon is too fit and Kevin Spacey is too short. Even if I expand my choices, I’m guessing William Hurt is too laconic and William Macy too neurotic. Willem Dafoe is just too…something. I don’t even want to imagine it.

George Clooney would make me a rogue, and I’m not rogue-like at all; I don’t have enough charm to pull that off. Although George could direct.

I think I’m going with Alec Baldwin. He could do the fat part. He could do the funny voices part. He looks like he’s had a drink or two. Yeah. Alec Baldwin stars as Chuck. I could definitely live with that. I’ll start on the screenplay right way; I can probably fax it to George by this weekend. I just need a decent ending.

Which is where the guy with the weird dog and smile comes in, I guess. And, I guess, Willem Dafoe, but I’m still working on that.

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Thursday, 156 2 Go

Happy 50th birthday to this:
Symbol.jpg

Designed by British artist Gerald Holtom, it combined the semaphore signals for “N” and “D” (standing for Nuclear Disarmament) and has become the universal symbol for peace. So how that’s working out?

And happy Five-Ohs to Jake “Body By Jake” Steinfeld, Jack Coleman, who played Steven Carrington on “Dynasty” and currently is Mr. Bennet on “Heroes,” and Mary Chapin-Carpenter, who currently stars on my iPod. Loving me some MCC.

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Aging Gracefully Story of the Day: Last night I toyed around with the idea of stealing John’s iMac, at least for some work stuff, as my poor 4-year-old CPU seems to be giving up the ghost; it just gets overwhelmed, I guess, when I need to be running several programs, and it either sloooooows way down or overheats.

Which is sort of me, too.

Anyway, I plugged in my keyboard to his Mac later on and played around, and later on when I switched back I couldn’t plug my adaptor cord into the keyboard (it’s my favorite and it’s got one of those 9-pin connectors, or whatever, so I use a USB adaptor). Obviously a pin had gotten bent, and I looked at those tiny things with my aging eyes and I said, nah, I’ll let John fix it in the morning for me.

And so my manhood slowly slips away.

Oh, speaking of manhood…

I had MSNBC on last night a little, sort of half watching biographies of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and talking with John, when suddenly I saw a friend from college. He does a fair amount of commercials, and I catch him all the time, but usually it’s for insurance or something relatively benign. He’s a David Duchovney type, solid and reassuring.

And he was selling Levitra.

That’s right. I watched this guy, who I remember from his stunning performance in “King Lear” in 1978 and an acting class scene we did together that frankly I thought was pretty impressive, and he looked at the camera and talked openly and frankly about his erectile dysfunction.

John thought this was hilarious. I’m not sure I know what to think, except I’m glad he’s still working. And he was very good in the commercial. Very believable, in fact, which is hard thing to say about this kind of commercial, and actually just writing “hard thing” is not all that comfortable for me either, so I’ll stop now.

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