Weighting For Summer

I bought my wife a scale yesterday, as she was good-naturedly complaining about looking fat in a recent picture. In fairness, she was wearing a summer dress that sort of billows. Paris Hilton would look heavier in this dress.

But I definitely get it. After trying to at least get up to 120 pounds for most of her adult life (achievable during pregnancy, but only for those situations and towards the end anyway), with marginal success, always a thin woman, around the age of 50 she gained a few pounds. Then surgeries and lots of meds and a very busy but sedentary life, with no regular exercise, and it happens.

The positive news is that this is nothing, at least not in America. She weighs less than the average (American, again) woman and looks wonderful, but hey: If it bothers her, I’m perfectly willing to help. Since I hold the philosophy that the only way to keep an eye on the weight creeping up is to step on the scale every morning, under the same circumstances (naked or as few clothes as possible, and always the same type, e.g., underwear and bare feet), and since my scale is in a corner of my work room and offers little privacy, I bought her a scale to be used in our master bathroom with a door that locks. Get as naked as you want.

Of course, I say that a lot.

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Not that I want to dwell, even given my obsession on this subject. At a certain point – and under a certain point – the health effects of being a bit overweight are meaningless. The rest is comfort and vanity. And few people discount vanity.

And then there’s age, the great equalizer in terms of hey, we’re still alive. We can live with love handles.

But there are clothes we wish we could wear before carting them off to the thrift shop, and there are cameras everywhere.

So maybe the scale will help. My suggestion is to write the weight down, expect some fluctuations from time to time as water is retained or meals are eaten late at night, or just heavy meals that stick around until the next morning, and watch what it does. Up is bad, down is good in this scenario. We shall see.

And after some wifeless indulgences these past couple of weeks, and spotty exercise, I could use some help myself. I keep rigorous accounting of the calories I consume, good ones and bad ones, just an old routine that has locked itself in, I got pretty good at predicting my weight, even if I skip the scale for a few days. I even put it all in a spreadsheet, calculating what I should weigh, matching that against what the scale says, revving up my optimism and counting the late-night eating and so on, but this is starting to look foolish.

So I decided a goal was in order. My 57th birthday is in 29 days; I think clocking in around 175 pounds, an excellent weight for me, is in order and not out of the question. Goal posted then. I’ll keep the updates coming.

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For those of you who have your own problems with summer, I’ll just mention in passing that western Washington has been warm and sunny, unusual for our normal June gloom when the marine air pushes inland with low clouds. Sunny, and maybe more than warm for our area, although nothing to speak of for most of the rest of the country. Mostly 70s, which of course is perfect. Lately, into the 80s and creeping toward 90 and beyond the next week or so. It makes us uncomfortable, given the strangeness and lack of air conditioning, but really, we manage. Windows open, fans buzzing. Very manageable. Not 115 degrees like Phoenix recently went through. Little humidity. Warmish.

Prof. Cliff Mass, Northwestern weather guru, suggests that we’re getting a preview of 50 years in the future, when the heating of our planet increases and we do nothing about it. Of course, barring some advancement in science, I won’t be around in 2070 to see if he’s right. In the meantime, I’m sort of enjoying it. A mild reminder of my years in the desert, and better than cold, definitely.

And if you want to weigh? Naked has its advantages these days.

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In Roanoke, VA, in 2009. About where I’d like to be by July 26. Let’s do it.
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Drinking It In

I was unloading the dishwasher the other day when I had an epiphany. It can happen at any time.

Putting away glasses, I ran out of room and wham, there it was. My wife had been gone nearly two weeks, only my son and I rambling around this house, drinking liquid periodically but not, apparently, out of glasses.

It’s not as weird as it sounds. We mostly drink out of bottles, and one coffee cup (me). Both of us like cold water, so our fridge is filled with (reusable) bottles of that, plus some Diet Cola that I make with the SodaStream (it’s not great, but sort of reminds me of Diet Coke or maybe Coke Zero, and it’s fun to make).

So we don’t use glasses. A lesson learned, although I’m pretty sure we’re not getting rid of any.

Or any of the 25 or so coffee mugs, since mugs always have a story.

John and I are alone around this time every year, and every year is different. He gets older, I get older. Our socialization is limited but constant, considering we share a house. He’d be in hog heaven if I sat down and played video games with him for a few hours, but that’s not going to happen. I’d be pretty pleased if I could get him to go see a movie with me, but that will not come to pass, either.

So we’re left with bumping into each other in the kitchen, commenting on the weather (very nice, too warm for his taste but even in a heavily insulated house with no air conditioning, 85 degrees is very livable, as many of you know, particularly with rare humidity). The grass is losing some green luster but I don’t care, grass is stupid. We’re due for a long, warm, sunny summer, slipping well into autumn if we believe the long-range, El Nino-based forecasts, so better get used to it.

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“Winning Dad” opened the Kansas City LGBT Film Festival last night, assuming people stopped celebrating long enough to watch a movie. It felt appropriate in an exciting way, a story about two men who want to formally commit to each other, and about one man who resists change and grasps tradition tightly. There are no bad guys, if some marginally bad behavior.

I regret, a bit, that the film has been relegated to LGBT festivals, to the genre cellar of independent, low-budget films, because I see it as a family story, ordinary and frustrating and painful and full of love, the trickiest love, the love that requires sacrifice and transformation, or at least acceptance, in order to express it.

But it’s being seen, and it was cheering to have it open on a big day. A very big day.

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So I washed the car on Thursday, did two loads of laundry (one the bedding), mopped some floors, and otherwise welcomed my wife home to a house that was marginally cleaner than when she left, which was not hard. We don’t use glasses, and we don’t make much of a mess.

And the atmosphere has changed again, now with our little family complete once more, and summer is well on its way. No more waiting for after July 4th; we’ve got summer, now and for once on time. Our fans are in place, the grass requires less mowing, the windows are always open, strawberries are still in season, and we’ve got plenty of glasses. If you’re thirsty. And here.

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John and constant companion.
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Google “Hate.” You’ll find it.

My mother mentioned the other day that I must have been busy; she rarely saw posts from me.

Ah. Well. Busy, in a way. Lots of lawn work and minor landscaping. Lots of dealing with the son and his issues (minor, but sometimes he needs a dad’s ear. And car). Lots of résumé tweaking and submissions submitted, some writing work for my daughter’s business (fun to see some album liner notes I wrote show up on a website). She’s right on this, too: Most musical/artistic types have your basic bio, which lists their accomplishments and cause the eyes to skip paragraphs and glaze a bit.

So I spiced up a little. It was easy, but a skill in my set.

But busy? Nothing major. I was very busy and I got less so, and there are only some many 30-mile hikes I can take before it looks less like an adventure and more like avoiding life.

Although that was fun.

So I don’t post because I don’t have anything to say. I think a lot, but I couldn’t even manage a decent column on the events of last week. I was sad, and frustrated, but completely uninterested in the politics. Yes, I know the hateful history of the Confederate battle flag, I understand the Civil War, I’m constantly amazed at the weird, historical 1984-ish redrawing of an act of treason by South Carolina and then the rest, searching for heritage and memorials and meaning in, once again, an act of treason. A shot fired at Fort Sumter, attacking the United States of America, all because a Republican candidate (a third-party candidate, essentially) was elected with a fairly famous reputation as holding the opinion that slavery would eventually run its course, and maybe in the meantime try to hold it in check in terms of spread until we could come to some consensus. That mild position, reasoned and nuanced, was enough. He was a conservative on this, at least in the classic sense, but well before he took the oath of office the plans for treason, espionage, and mayhem were being hatched. In South Carolina in particular.

Sure the Civil War was about state’s rights and tariffs and local control. Sure it was. They taught their children well down there.

But that wasn’t the issue in Charleston, in my mind. I’d like to see that flag, as the President said, in a museum (I wouldn’t like to see it at all. But it’s a sad part of our history. Not to be hidden). Not hanging around courthouses. A reminder of treason, and the most deadly war in a country’s history.

And then Jim Crow and so on. Really, I don’t see that as the point.

I think Dylann Roof just got some bad information.

And that’s what worries me most. Not to jump the gun, but what’s come out so far shows a shiftless, maybe confused young man who paid little attention to the news, and when Trayvon Martin happened he started looking and there’s the problem. If you’re not aware enough, or smart enough, to see bogus when you read it, you’re ready made for politics on the Internet. Or cable news.

The gun is relevant, because it murdered nine people, and our laws are in sore need of some common sense precautions, but I doubt it would have mattered in this case (still worth discussing) and nothing will be done, as Jon Stewart pointed out. And maybe nothing can be.

I know so little. Certainly Dylann Thomas may have an underlying personality disorder, some depression, who knows? Maybe something worse. But he picked a powerful symbolic target, two hours from his home, and then there’s the manifesto and so on. So the deranged killer argument strikes me as specious, or at least weak. This was planned, and carried out as planned. Kill as many black people as possible, in the most symbolic way possible, start your race war, imagine your own Nathan Bedford Forrest-esque statue…he might have been deranged, but he knew what he was doing. Not sure that’s a contradiction, but I’ll stand there for right now.

I’ve read pages and pages of commentary, and some of it touches on my point, although mostly to comment on a particular culture, while I think it’s a pervasive culture. I find the Internet an indispensable tool in digging into a news story, finding contrary views, checking facts, etc. In other words, being a responsible citizen, or trying.

But free speech is free speech. Right-wing talk radio and FOX News like to fan the flame, or else pretend that racism is a liberal bogeyman to raise taxes (or whatever they think, or pretend to think), and they’re free to do that this side of something vaguely legal (e.g., libel or slander), but the Council of Conservative Citizens was an easy find for a dumb kid, and there you go. Nine bodies.

So take down your flags, fine, about time. Make your speeches, try to mollify your base but avoid the pitchforks, but the pitchforks (real or figurative), I think, are coming. And try as they might, they can’t stop the spread of bad information. They can only tell the truth, and hope somebody hears. Flags don’t kill people. People do.

And I have a feeling Dylann Roof knew exactly what he was doing. Because he’d been told to.

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Funny People

Every year, around this time, and in the past several years exactly at this time, my wife gives her final final exams, grades like a bat out of hell (do bats not care for hell? How do they escape? I have many questions), then boards a plane away from us for a long time. Or a couple of weeks.

In the past, this left me trying to earn a living while simultaneously parenting a couple of children. One of those offspring grew up and moved away, taking a cue from her mother (in more ways than one). The other, no longer a teenager, still lives here, and while the two of us are accustomed to seeing his mother only occasionally, usually when she’s imitating bats making a run for it from Lucifer’s evil lair, it creates a slightly different dynamic, which means we declutter and make fun of his mom for her cluttering ways.

And I always write about it. Every year.

As I always write about at least one adventure in trying to trim back the blackberry brambles that invade every spring. Already I look like I’ve been in a knife fight. That column is coming.

And I’ll write about warm weather, and weird people I see in the neighborhood, and the occasional movie I’ve seen, and with luck I tenuously link these pieces to something relatable, maybe an article or event in the news, maybe not. But I write them. Every year. And I expect no different results.

Sometimes, though, I get the urge to go rogue. Pick a subject and write it into the ground. Doesn’t matter what it is. The challenge alone intrigues me, much like the challenge of incorporating the personal observations of a man who doesn’t do much into the 900 words I write every week that get printed on real paper and get read by somebody.

I’m too lazy and timid to do this, but lately I’ve had this crazy idea to deconstruct the FX series The Comedians for a few months.

I have no business watching anything, other than personal pleasure or boredom. And if you catch me watching a reasonably obscure cable show (since I don’t have cable, and have to find another way to watch online, either buying the episodes or sitting through commercials), you can be pretty sure it’s boredom. Not a good sign.

The Comedians premiered back in April and they’re wrapping up season one in a couple of weeks, 12 episodes. We can picture the ostensible star of this show riffing on abbreviated TV seasons, having been there when a season had twice as many shows and probably three times the budget and nice weekly paychecks.

This ostensible star is Billy Crystal. His costar is Josh Gad, whom I’ve been watching for a few years now, catching snatches of small parts in film and TV, and now gathering some momentum from his star turn in The Book of Mormon and the voice of the snowman in Disney’s Frozen. He’s as hot as an actor like him can be. He is, then, in all probability, toast in terms of a future career, but I wish him well. He’s talented, funny and carries tons of presence.

The show is interesting in that it’s a mash-up of two contemporary genres, the mockumentary and the two-person sketch comedy show (e.g., Key & Peele). Some differences: This is a show about making a two-person sketch show. This is a show about a generational divide, with possibly a fading star and an up-and-comer.

And, to add a third genre that I just thought of, they play versions of themselves, as Louis CK and Marc Maron do on their weird cable networks (IFC for Maron, which apparently a lot of people don’t know if their cable company carries). It’s on the FX Network (like Louie, and as is their pretend show). Billy is Billy and Josh is Josh, although they generously use their less-pleasant sides to give us at least a partial picture of how this business works, how ideas are tweaked and massaged and focus-grouped, how network suits interact with talent, how fear and desperation lead to choices that may or may not make this “show” a success (with three of them left to watch, the actual “show” has yet to premiere).

Every week. I would just deconstruct this insignificant offering on a borderline cable network, discussing the generational conflicts and the reluctant bonding and, I dunno, maybe a King Lear reference tossed in.

Look: I found it by accident. I was looking for Louie, wondering if I could take another season of brilliant but slightly uncomfortable and dark stories with laughs. FX is promoting the hell out of it, especially now that Louie has wrapped.

So I can’t swear anything. It might turn out to be good. It might be a nice try, but ultimately a failure.

Still, I’ve seen some very funny moments, and been moved (there’s nothing resembling pathos here, but people are people. They have bad days, and sometimes other people try to help when they’re not trying to fire them). But there’s also something weirdly anodyne about the show, as if it’s intended (or unfortunately ended up being) fluff for somebody. Somebody bored.

Hey. There’s material here. I could write about it.

Except I watch very little TV. I’m not an authority. I love Key and Peele but don’t watch full episodes. I think Silicon Valley and Veep on HBO are exceptionally smart and intriguing comedies, far more sophisticated than The Comedians.

Then again, it’s Billy Crystal. While my comedy tastes led from Cosby albums to Carlin to the burst of creative, conceptual comics like Andy Kaufman and Robin Williams, all the time Billy Crystal was there, a throwback to just funny. Funny bits, funny voices, funny observations. He does voices for animated films. He did a successful Broadway show. He’s hands-down the favorite Oscar host, perhaps of all time. He’s still funny, even if films aren’t popping up in his inbox. He’s 67, fully aware of the contemporary world and only occasionally sniffing a little at the bizarre ideas that come out of his co-star, most of them dumb and vulgar.

And Billy can be conservative, and so on. We’re set up. Add in a cast of supportive characters who vary in interesting qualities.

The generational relationship has the most promise, so far (nine episodes in). I’m a little fascinated.

But, again. This is not something on my radar, usually. We’re back to boredom.

I’m really tempted to do a comedy exegesis on this, though. I think it has potential, including the potential to disappear, but I’m curious.
And something Billy Crystal said in an episode encapsulated in a single sentence the reasons well-established actors, dramatic or comedic, find themselves grasping at television and steady paychecks, a comment that resonated with what I’ve learned about filmmaking and that world in the past couple of years.

Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next week in the paper. Probably a column about the guys being alone will appear, though. Old habits. Arm scars. Warm weather. Long walks.

It’s a pitch for a TV series, maybe. A writer about nothing. Probably will try IFC.

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