Sweet Peachy Tea…

For much of my adult life, I’ve stated that every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  For the past 14 years though, I’ve been lying.  Peaches Fern Cohen, has held the highest place in my heart.  Not just in mine though, everyone fortunate enough to know Peaches, recognized that she was special.

Peaches belonged to my daughter, and her mother.  Peaches went home yesterday, to be with her sisters, Leilui, and Luna.


If I could describe Peaches in one word, it would be Sunshine.  No ray of sun, shining down from the sky, ever touched or warmed me the way Peaches did.  It began with her face, which was sweetness incarnate.  It just wasn’t possible to look at Peaches without feeling her sweetness.  But that was just the first layer.  Beyond sweetness, there was the happy – and her happy was always turned on.

Except for the occasional grumbly stomach, broken leg, fractured spine, paralysis, or bladder reduction, Peaches radiated joy.  In fact, she experienced and survived all of those, and more – a big part of what made her exceptional.   Any one of those medical events might have taken her too soon, but not one of them did.  Each condition made her a little more fragile, but they also increased the worth of her spirit.  Her 14 years is a testament to the commitment she had to her loved ones, and ours to her.


When I think of Peaches, my mind always sees her first, sitting outside beside the rosemary plant that she loved to smell.  Her face was often pointed to the sky, and it appeared that she was the one radiating warmth toward the sun.  Whenever I would see her like this, whatever toxins might be in my heart or mind, we instantly defused.

If I’m being honest, Peaches had an unusual look about her, but she made it work.  Due to the afore mentioned medical events, her body changed over time, becoming increasingly fragile.  A Pomeranian by birth, by the time she was 8 years old, she looked more like a punk rock Chinese Crested, mutating into a tiny pachyderm.  She used this funky look as both a fashion statement, and a way to make friends.  It wasn’t possible to walk Peaches without a stranger stopping to admire and inquire.  It almost always started with…

“Oh my god, she’s adorable….!”

The funny thing is, it was impossible to describe Peaches to a passerby with any detail, because once they saw Peaches, the person walking her became an invisible bystander.  People just marveled at her.


One manifestation of the physical changes she endured, was a high arching spine.  This made her look like a little buffalo.  She often fulfilled the buffalo look by lowering her head into thigh of the nearest seated human – as a silent request to get petted.  If the petting hand would dare stop, the li’l buffalo would push her head harder into the human’s leg until they got the hint.

When she wasn’t being a buffalo, Peaches, always held her head high and looked up in wonder and in joy.  In 14 years, I never saw Peaches growl, snap, or display any intent towards another creature, other than kindness.  From her earliest days, she was a kind old soul.


Every dog is the best dog that ever lived, tied for 1st place with every other one.  The one that rose above them all though, well she went home yesterday.  She is now free to smell the heavenly rosemary, to buffalo God’s thigh, and turn heads wherever she struts.

As Miss Trudy and I each held one hand to Peaches, our daughter was present in spirit.  Peaches lay calm on her belly, getting weaker, but still holding her head high.  Radiating sweetness till the very end, she was still looking up when she took her final breath.  Be well…  rc


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Irony At Easter…

One of the great ironies I see in the social media era is this…

I have a network of friends, liberal, open-minded people, who would fight to their death to protect my human rights. If I were gay, transgender, smoked pot, or preferred having sex with inanimate objects, they would support me. Yet there is a duality in how they view people’s religion – they are against it.

By the way, being against religion doesn’t make one an atheist, it makes one an antitheist, and that’s dangerous. Simply put, if a person is against religion as a collective, or a specific religion, that is a form of prejudice – period. To be against anyone’s beliefs in favor of their own is an undeniable act of bigotry, and cannot be justified, only rationalized. Hint: when you rationalize bigotry, you don’t look so good.


Religion has been part of our cultural DNA since hunter-gatherer times. If we accept that cultural evolution parallels biological evolution, and that over time it weeds out traits that don’t serve the cause of advancement, then cultural evolution would have weeded out religion millennia ago. This has not been the case. Though religion has changed through the years, its practice is at an all-time high.

Religion, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of culture. All art began as sacred art. All social structure began as sacred law. All wonder, I believe, is rooted in sacred awe.

As millions of people celebrate Easter this week, I am saddened to see so many of my open-minded friends poking fun at the Christian faith in the forms of memes, sophomoric observations, and childish ridicule. We should do better than that.

To all my friends who celebrate Easter, may you celebrate in peace. To all my friends who ridicule the former, don’t be so gutless. Please support those who wish to celebrate in peace, as you would support those who would rather not.  Be well…  rc


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The Ultimate Weight Loss, Loss…

Proceed With Caution…

As a fitness trainer, I’ve been associated with roughly 40 people who have lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off. On one level, I feel pride in being part of those experiences. To have aided in such life changes, is near justification for choosing a career path which has been too often maligned.

However, there’s a darker side to the weight loss experience, and one I struggle with, even now. Going back 17 years, and with the exception of just one man I worked with in 2005, each person I have worked with who lost 50 lbs. or more, and kept it off, has ended up out of their relationship.  Marriage, engagement, boyfriend, girlfriend, or domestic partner, all but one I have helped, would go on to become single.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many, and not just limited to the reckless abandon that one assumes might come with a new waistline.

Before I take this any further, I’ll state that this a singular set of experiences, that are exclusive to one fitness trainer, from a sample of roughly 40 people, and within a unique Southern California demographic.  I don’t mean to suggest that losing a lot of weight will doom a relationship.  However, the experiences I’ve seen unfold, might be a cautionary tale for some.

One: I’m Leaving…

“I’m planning to leave my husband/wife, and I want to be in the best possible shape when I start my new life…”

No sentence you ever hear, will sound as unsavory…

I have been approached with those words, or some similar, at least a half-dozen times since 2000.  My place is not to be judgmental, or even inquisitive, for they might be planning an escape from hell.  My place is only to determine whether I can help the individual with their weight loss objectives, or not.  If they are a viable candidate, I will accept them as a client.

Not too much to read between those lines though.  People who have approached me from this angle, are decisive, motivated, and usually successful in weight loss.  I do my job, wish them luck, and try hard not to get involved.

Two:  Left Behind…

With most people though, the motivation isn’t abandonment.   The common motivations are usually wanting more energy, better health, increased longevity, more confidence, keeping up with the kids, etc.  If I’ve learned one thing about the psychology of approaching weight loss though, it’s that people can be dishonest when stating their motivations, and often aren’t aware of how dishonest they are being – even with themselves.

Give a middle-aged man or woman a new body, some opportunity (very often in the workplace), and it could be goodbye – if only for a while.  But it can be more complicated than that.  A person can lose a great deal of weight, change their life for the better, be the pillar of fidelity, and it can still go horribly wrong.

Often the other partner, if they are also overweight, but not motivated to lose weight, will feel left behind when their partner succeeds.  A division can form, and feelings of jealousy might manifest.  There can then be a withdrawal from, or even aggression toward the successful one.

The newly fit person might have a new life – the gym life, which will include gym behaviors, and may include gym functions and gym friends.  The couple now has less in common, and live more separated lives which, may go on to be separated lives.  I saw one woman eventually leave her husband, and partially blame me for her departure…

“I can’t stand who he has become…”

I don’t blame her.  I can’t stand who he became either, but my job was to help him lose weight, not carve out the new lifestyle he chose.


Three:  Sabotage…

I have seen the left behind partner sabotage the successful one.  Repeated attempts are made to bate them into gaining the weight back, or derail the from their success – to keep that common ground.  This is also complex.

If going out for Italian, followed by ice cream, a couple nights per week is a standard practice and a time of enjoyment for a couple, then taking it away can be a legitimate loss for both parties.  For one party though, there is a good tradeoff for that loss – a new body is the reward.  For the other, the evening they looked forward to all week is suddenly gone.  That might be one evolutionary step toward separation of values, which might lead to a separation of other things, each other included.

I had one client tell me, as she was in the process of losing 80 lbs., that each time her husband came home from work, he would drop a King Size Snickers in her lap.  Why would a spouse do this…?

One possible reason is that his wife had begun turning heads wherever they went.  She was a grounded and devout wife – the embodiment of fidelity.  However, his insecurity had convinced him that her new abs were going to lead her astray.  This snowballed to the point of serious friction.  Never once did she stray, but he became jealous and even accusatory.  If nothing else, he no longer believed he was good enough to keep her – despite her assurances.  They are no longer married.


Four: Separate Lives…

A scene I have been guilty of myself:  A dinner table is set.  The family sits down.  Dad is eating broccoli, brown rice, and skinless chicken breast.  Mom and the kids are eating lasagna with breadsticks.  After a while, the smell of the lasagna gets the better of dad.  He breaks down and finishes what his family leaves behind.  A few hours later, he’s mad at himself for cheating on his diet.  Out of frustration he becomes grumpy with his family.  They spend the evening separately.

Eventually, and solely to avoid the temptation of lasagna, dad begins eating at a separate time of the evening than his family, and/or in a separate room.  This probably isn’t going to work out too well for family unity.  Either dad caves and forsakes the diet for the sake of peace in the family, or it becomes a bigger priority to him to avoid his family at dinner time.  That might be one more evolutionary step toward separate lives altogether.


Those are just some of the scenarios and complications which might result from a successful weight loss.  I have seen all of those, and many more play out before me.  There are many more angles and possibilities when it comes to the effect of weight loss on relationships.  The point of this isn’t to disclose them all, as much as it is to illuminate to any reader that there can be more than weight lost in the course of weight loss.  There is a darker side, and few people care to talk about it.

Back To Honesty…

Ten years ago, I participated in online conversation, hosted by one of the premier weight loss bloggers in the country at that time.  There were roughly 30 participants.  As I described some of the scenarios above to this group, many participants, all of whom were successful at losing weight, were quick to tell me that they did not have those experiences, or any similar.  Rainbows rained.  Unicorns grazed.  And happy hubby loved the new bod!  Amen.  The problem is, it wasn’t true.

After the chat was over, I was met with a half-dozen emails, confessing that their relationships were in jeopardy, coming apart, or already ended – all due to their weight loss, but they didn’t wish to make that public.  That was the first time I had ever considered that my profession, along with my good intentions, had played a role in couples coming apart.  Though I don’t hold myself accountable for the separation or divorce of any client as a result of helping them lose weight, I now approach weight loss candidates with great apprehension.

Yesterday I interviewed a potential weight loss candidate – she wants to lose 75 lbs. When we spoke on the phone three nights ago, I didn’t ask if she was in a relationship.  I was concerned only with her objective, and with whether I might help her fulfill it.  She will begin working out with me next week.  I hope to have the good sense not to warn her if looks like she’s going to succeed.  I’ll just stand by quietly, and watch as she navigates the minefield of that comes with profound change, and I’ll hope she’s the exception to this pattern…  Jhciacb


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Tale Of Two Teams…

In the 1st grade, I played for 2 baseball teams. One team, the Oaks, was structured. We had a coach, uniforms, space at the municipal park, good equipment, officiating, monthly dues, a specific pecking order of players, and parental pressure. Our competition was assigned to us. On my first day with the Oaks, I didn’t know most of the players.

My other team didn’t even have a name. We had no schedule, we had to find, or create our own space to play, had rag-tag equipment, and a loose pecking order of players which rotated – depending on who might be available to play.  Though we occasionally had new players join us, the concept of the team was born because we all knew each other, liked baseball, and wanted to play.  Of competition, we had to seek out our own – similar groups of like-minded, anxious boys, fighting off the ailment of boredom. Leadership manifest Darwinian style.

Though I played hard for both teams, and many of life’s lessons were learned with each one, I more enjoyed, and feel I got more out of playing for my loosely structured friends team. I feel this way, because it wasn’t a construct – we weren’t placed within it.  We owned it.

There was creative fulfillment in assembling equipment, finding a field, seeking out competition, and scheduling our games.  Length of game, flexible rules, tools of the game, game times, and who played which position, solidified organically.

There was though, one conflict inherent with playing for two teams at once – that there were times when I had to choose which team I was going to play for, on those Saturdays when each team was an option. Since mom and dad paid the bill for the Oaks, my requirement to play for them superseded my desire to play with my friends.  Fortunately, no direct competition ever existed between my league team, and my friends team.


Scanning the headlines today, I see myself once again as a player on two teams. The first team, the Planet Earth. The other team, Team Human Beings.  I have a deep appreciation for, and profound responsibilities on behalf of each team.  As I reflect on the baseball of my youth this morning, I’m conflicted over who I should be playing for.  This time, mom and dad don’t get to make the decision for me.

On this day, my team of Human Beings, with its new coach, has chosen direct competition – to play against my friends team — Team Planet Earth.  Since I have appreciation for, and responsibility toward each team, my temptation is to forfeit – and I think of Shakespeare…

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice…”

Or was it Neil Peart…?  No matter.

I am partial to the human animal, since I happen to be one, I have an inherent tendency toward that allegiance.  Sitting here though, contemplating – recognizing the Earth’s history as being far greater – far more significant than that of man, I choose that team — Team Earth.  I can only hope that 300,000,000 people will stand beside me, and switch teams.  That, or get out and vote in the coming elections to help Team Human Being elect a new coach, and a new managerial staff…  Jhciacb


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The Laundry…

Why do I take so many pictures each week, and post them on social media, you may ask…? The answer should be obvious, or even ingrained with the pictures and accompanying words, but allow me to explain…

It’s a practice I began a couple of years ago to (help) offset the negativity, and the forced agenda that goes with social media. By forced agenda, I mean the relentless cramming of hatred, bad ideas, fear, and ignorance down the throats of others, by way of memes, slanted news stories, gossip, outright lies, and inappropriate jokes and pictures.
If my own feed is any indication, this is a battle I’m losing, though I’m still committed to.

To my way of thinking, and I’ll admit I might be wrong, there can only be a few reasons to propagate such negativity on social media:

– To Promote one’s self as intellectually superior to others
– To hurt or shame others
– To change the minds of others
– To win favor with others of similar ilk
– To release the buildup of fears and frustrations growing within

Beyond these, I don’t see any reasons to share negativity on social media. Still, it dominates my feed. I will gladly entertain other reasons if you wish to present them to me, but come prepared…

A friend once said to me…

“What’s the point of having a strong opinion if you can’t cram it down someone’s throat…?”

Sadly, he wasn’t joking.


Sharing a strong opinion without invitation, is like wiping a dirty diaper across the faces of many others, and all at once. If one’s hope is to clean the smears of crap left by that dirty diaper by wiping another dirty diaper against it, well, that might be a fool’s task.

I’m not suggesting there isn’t any meaning or fulfillment for the people who share and propagate social media negativity. I am suggesting though, that there is little social value in it.

So, I walk daily. I think. I take pictures, and share – all in hopes that helps offset the negativity of social media. Maybe a good thought and good photograph, is just a kind of daily laundry, to help clean up after bad ideas… Jhciacb


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Run River North.  Enjoy….

The Rain Delay…

Even casual sports fans have seen the effects of a rain delay.  An outdoor sport is called to a halt by the officials, only to continue later, and reach the inevitable win/lose conclusion.  Fans wait anxiously.  Players wait anxiously.  And all involved, it seems, can’t help but feel the outcome will be tainted.

Without exception, 50% of the fans will be certain that the game resulted with the wrong conclusion, influenced by the stoppage, even if their team was well behind at the onset of the delay.  The other 50%, however, will be equally certain that their team would have still won, with or without the influence of the rain delay, but the asterisk will haunt them.  Of course, there’s no way the alternative result can ever be known beyond the great, WHAT IF…

What takes place after a rain delay, is what takes place, and until humans are better able to control the flow of rain during sportsball events, we should accept the results – just like we accept the results of political elections.  Wink…

I had my own rain delay of sorts yesterday, though it wasn’t as critical as game 7 of this World series, past.  My early morning walk yesterday, was put off for a few hours by a late-season storm.  I was anxious.  My dog was anxious.  We were certain the outcome would be tainted.  However, thanks to a mid-morning cancelation in my schedule, which came after the rain subsided, we were provided the opportunity to walk – after the rain delay.

Unlike in sport, the result of our rain delay offered two winners, me and my dog, with no losers and no thinking about the great, WHAT IF…

As he and I are both fans of, and participants in our morning walks, 100% of us agreed with the result, and there was no grumbling from Stroodle or myself about the effect the rain had on the outcome of our walk – the conclusion was stunning.  Here’s some proof of yesterday’s outdoor game. May you all engage in such sport, daily… Jhciacb



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Appreciating Goodbye…

The last time I saw my father was in the assisted living facility where he resided in Las Vegas.  He had been on hospice for several weeks.  My brother and I made the trip to see him in Mach of 2012, to say goodbye, both knowing we would never see our father again.

The three of us sat in the commons area of the facility.  My brother and I shared a sofa, with our father beside us seated on his motorized scooter.  We made small talk.  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

The last memory I have of my father is of him eating a lime green Otter Pop, wearing a yellow t-shirt, and questioning a caregiver about something insignificant.

When it was time to leave, I stood up, bent down, and hugged my father.  I then told him I loved him, kissed him on the head, and turned swiftly attempting to hide the lump in my throat, and the tears forming in my eyes.  I headed out the door, and into my rental car to wait for my brother, who would say goodbye after me.

Looking back, I wish I had been more engaged – that I asked him more questions, fostered a more sincere dialogue, but I didn’t.  I was in a hurry to get back to the hotel, to sip tequila, watch Sports Center, hit the treadmill in the morning, and get on with my life – to focus on the next Roy things.

Last week, my mother, in her 80s, flew across the country to say goodbye to her younger brother who is on hospice, the result of the cancer which spreads within.  It was a very hard trip for my mother; long flights, long car rides, staying in a strange bed, etc.  The trip clearly wore my mother out.

She has since told me of the conversations she and her dying brother had – that they held hands several times, that they laughed, cried, shared memories, and that she kissed him before they said goodbye.

She was there out of the deep love she has for her brother – for her family.


When I said goodbye to my father, if I’m being honest, it was much more out of obligation.

It’s only now, 5 years after he’s gone, that I think to have held his hand, to have engaged him in greater conversations, and to have seen him for what he was – my family, my father.

If we are lucky enough to know – to understand that we are saying goodbye to a loved one, the best thing we can do is to make that opportunity about them.  I failed at that the day I said goodbye to my father.

And I ask myself this morning, is a lesson learned too late, a lesson learned at all…?  Jhciacb


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It Always Passes…

Dark times come, but they always pass – they always pass. Waiting for depressed or suicidal feelings to pass might be the hardest thing I live with from week to week, and day to day.  I hope to remind those who also live with such feelings, that they will always pass.

For many, depression or suicidal feelings are foreign and unrelatable.  For others, if we are lucky enough to connect, it’s as though we share a common language which we’re afraid to speak in public, for fear having a net thrown over us. Throw a net over everyone who lives with depression and/or suicidal thoughts, and say goodbye to most artists, many creative thinkers, and all baristas everywhere.

I have lived with depression and suicidal thoughts since I was in elementary school. These often need to be dealt with daily. When I frame it that way, I have been successfully taking on and overcoming such feelings for more than 50 years. Do something regularly for 50 years, and one is likely to be good at it.

I am quite adept at finding ways to ride out the storms of chaos in my mind, because experience has taught me that it passes – it always passes.

At the end of the day, for me, the idea is to do whatever is necessary to win the day. This might include music, food, or companionship.  More likely though, it involves exercise, solitude, and nature.

Last night I was in dark place.  The reasons why aren’t important.  Exercise didn’t make a dent.  Nature helped, but not a great deal.  So, I sat home alone.  I reached out scarcely on social media, and was met with a wave of kind thoughts and well wishes.  That helped more than I can convey.

A simple comment was all it took to reassure me, and to remind me I’m not alone.  I was taken by the number of replies I got; emails, text messages, and phone calls comforted me until bed time.  It wasn’t too long before I was centered once again – and grateful for the flow of compassion.

It passed.  It always passes.

Today is a new day.  As I sipped coffee this morning, after a good night’s sleep, I held close to my dog.  As his chest moved in and out in my hands, and as his eyes declared the peace within, I felt needed, if not inspired.  As I reflect on all who reached out last night, I am humbled.


Today there is dew on the grasses in the meadow, and blossoms waiting to be photographed by me.  Clients need to be trained.  Dishes need to be washed.  And a little girl, who ain’t so little anymore, still owns my heart.

Last night, with the help of social media, and with the compassion of many friends, I won the day.  It passes.  It always passes.. Jhciacb



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A Mensch Buys Karma…

“You can’t buy karma” a friend recently told me.

Buy it…?  I replied, hell, I’m investing heavily in it!  Perhaps…

I probably come across, at least in the social media sphere, as a bit of a mensch.  Of course, I like that identity, but it’s not the whole story.

A year ago, I invited my mother to live with me.  This would be a win/win scenario.  I would be proximate to her and able to assist her with increasing needs as she ages.  In return, she would be able to clean up after me, do my dishes, cook, and split the utilities.  I win – again and again, hence, win/win.

And I do look out for her.  I make her coffee each morning, and bring the paper to her in bed.  I take her to Walmart, on the occasional casino trip, and I accompany her to all medical appointments.  When called upon, I do the heavy lifting around the house, and any carrying she requires. So, mensch!

But that’s not the whole story…

Yesterday, as I grew frustrated with a question she asked repeatedly, I threatened to shove a tennis ball in her mouth and wrap her head in duct tape if she spoke so much as another word.  I’m not sure the people behind us in the checkout line took this seriously, but when mom rolled her eyes and threated to beat my butt, I think they understood my threat was one of endearment.

That’s become my persona with her.  Whenever mom says something asinine, which might be every hour or so, I point my finger toward her nose and say something like…

…I’ve got two words for you, woman:  Nursing Home!

She always responds with, “I’ll beat your butt!”  or the more resolute, “I’m the parent here!!!as she stares me down.

I joke with my mom quite a bit like this – too much, I’m sure.  On a deeper level I know this bothers her, and in some ways, might even hurt her, but I keep doing it.  It’s how I cope with the frustrations of helping someone who is aging, forgetful, and doesn’t process as quickly as she once did.  She isn’t ready to let go the control of her life – or even loosen up the grip a bit, and I don’t blame her.


Despite the often sharp and serrated edges that can accompany my sarcasm and humor, I appreciate that she acknowledges and puts up with my frustrations.  Viscerally, I know that she recognizes that the real love is in the bringing of the coffee, the doctor’s visits, and the trips to Walmart when I would rather be hiking.

This isn’t always easy for either one of us, but at the end of the day there’s a lot of love in the house, and that’s good enough for me.

“You can’t buy karma” a friend recently told me.

Maybe not.  Perhaps the best we can hope to do is to purchase good field position…  Jhciacb


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Dress Down For Success..

I spend all day dressed as expected – in lose fitting shirts and athletic shorts with an elastic waistband. It’s the official uniform of male fitness trainers everywhere.

Though keeping in good physical shape is a requirement for my vocation, keeping in perfect shape is not. This means my elastic waistband reminds me of my dietary sins – all day long, every day.

I spend my entire working life with me elastic waistband judging me for not being as lean as a fitness trainer should be. This brings a negativity that bubbles under my psyche, all day long, and is reflected in my job – at least from my side of the partnerships.

When I am not otherwise engaged in fitness training though, I remain in shorts, but in casual Bahama shorts, with a loose-fitting waistband. Wearing these, I’m always in a better mood – always, because my waistband isn’t reminding me I’m not perfect.

Last week, as I prepared to step into my studio for my Saturday sessions, and for no reason I can explain, I chose to wear my loose-fitting Bahama shorts, rather than my athletic shorts with the elastic waistband. A funny thing happened – I was in a better mood all day long, for actually being comfortable.

I spent that Saturday conducting fitness sessions in a uniform that more resembles that of a Jimmy Buffet fan than a fitness trainer – and it was one of the best workdays I have had in years. I was in a good mood. I was more engaged with my clients. I was having fun, and there was no constant reminder that I’m not 6-pack lean.


And there’s where the lesson is for me – I think, that dressing for comfort vs. expectations keeps me in a better mood, me more engaged with my clients, and they all seem to notice and appreciate the difference. I have worn Bahama shorts most days since that Saturday.

So, the question I’m now chewing on is this…

In a necktie and long skirt world, what does this tell me about the comfort of clothing as it relates to jobs well done…?

On one level, I get the ideal of the value of uniforms and decorum for a properly organized social structure, business or otherwise.

On another level though, if an elastic waistband can keep me uptight and on edge executing such a simple job, then what’s happening beneath all the neckties and pantyhose in all the boardrooms, courtrooms, offices, and the in halls of Congress…?

Maybe society would function better if we all dressed as Parrot heads.  Fins to the left… Jhciacb


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The Family Next Door…

Each morning, in contemplative prayer, the first thing I remind myself is to not judge others…

I have lived in my current house for almost a year.  I’m happy here.  I enjoy it.  This is home now.   The family next door is a landscaper, his stay at home wife, and their two adult children; a son and a daughter, each in their early 20s.

My neighbor’s yard is separated from mine by a chain link fence with wooden slats woven through the links – it’s very 3rd world.  A double gate separates their driveway from the street we share. That gate more resembles a junkyard entrance than that of a home. The junkyard comparison is only reinforced by the two pit bulls with heavy chain collars who patrol behind the gate.

Unless otherwise barking at the postman, squirrels, or falling palm frawns, the dogs sleep, and occasionally amble between several old cars on blocks, the old refrigerator, and the dead tress which give my neighbor’s back yard its lived in look.

The gate to the driveway is bound shut by a heavy chain, and a giant padlock.

One sign reads…  PRIVATE PROPERTY

The other… BEWARE OF DOG


Each time someone comes or goes from my neighbor’s property, the chain must be unlocked and removed.  That operation is noisy.  The chain clanks as it falls, the dogs bark, and the gate screeches on its axis as it drags against the dirt below.

My neighbors come and go all day long – often 10-12 times per day, between the 4 of them.  At least once per hour, I hear the chain, the gate, and the barking dogs.  Add to that, when either of the adult children come or go, the stereos in their cars thump so loud that vibrations transcend, and the walls and windows of my own home shake.

I don’t like these people.  I try to like them, I really do, but I can’t seem to.  I don’t like that I don’t like them, but I don’t like them.

I wave.  I say hello.  When I attempt to greet them, the two parents acknowledge me, but do so scarcely, and usually looking down.  At best I get a slight head bob or a weak hand gesture.  The two adult children have never even made eye contact with me – it’s as though they live in another dimension of time and can’t see me.

The son always wears a wife-beater t-shirt.  His tough guy face is puffy and not all that tough.  His tattoos are many, and probably mean something to him.  His physique sloppy and resembles a bowling pin.  I dislike him the most because of the falseness of the bad attitude he attempts to convey. I feel more laughter than intimidation when I see him.

At night, mother, father, and the two children spend much of their time in the back yard.  The barbecue fires, mariachi music emanates with a tinny sound from a small radio on the hood of one of the old cars.  Voices and laughter are frequent. It’s the sound of a happy family.

I speak no Spanish so I have no idea what they are saying, but I recognize joy in the conversation.  They seem to live, love, and enjoy each others company.  They do this every night.  They are a family in a way which is foreign to me.  I have never been a part of a family like this.  I am jealous.

Maybe that’s why I don’t like them – that they get family right, and I have failed at it multiple times. Yeah, that’s probably it.  I have failed at family, and despite their gruff appearance, they seem immersed in it, and fluidly.

Each morning in contemplative prayer, the first thing I remind myself is to not judge others.  By 9:00am most days, I have screwed it all up.  Still, I keep trying.  In writing this today, I think I like my neighbors a little more now, and myself, probably a little less.  Family…  Jhciacb


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Value-Added Behavior…

In no scenario, in my opinion, does insulting a person or a group add value to a situation, conversation, or cause. The moment a name is called or a disparaging remark is made, any objective in dialogue slows down, ceases, and can even reverse course. If productivity is the objective of a conversation, it can no longer be maximized once unnecessary negativity enters the conversation.

I’m not saying it doesn’t feel good to insult somebody, or to reach high and spike their argument back over the net – it can feel great, but what has it accomplished…? In any scenario, negative discourse won’t add value to the cause, and may actually take away from it.

Still, we bathe in it daily. Go sixty minutes without being proximate to a caustic conversation and it’s likely you are alone, and with no electronic window to the rest of society.

In his very important book, Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft, author Douglas Johnson offers multiple examples of why he attempts to keep all adversarial dialogue on a positive note. There are so many good examples of this in the book, it should be required reading at the State Department…

…and it was, for a very long time.

“Allowing negative discourse” suggests Johnson, “is to work against the evolution of culture itself.”


I like that perspective; that each time we use an insult or barbed comment, we are taking a hack at forward moral progress. Imagine if, just for a moment, we all ceased to did this. We we would be engaged in value-added behavior. Think about that; value-added behavior. I like it. I’m down. And the men who hold high places… Jhciacb


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Read to your child.

Read to her from the day she is born.

Read to her every day.

Read to her until she can read her first word, then let her share in the reading.

As she can read more, encourage her, and read less yourself.

Hear your child read – listen to her read.

Let her know you are listening.


This is good practice, not just practice for a child’s reading, but
practice for a parent’s listening.

Read to your child… Jhciacb


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C’est La Vie, Say The Old Folks…

Last night I witnessed a most humbling act of human love.  I was invited to dinner by oldest client, a 91-year old widow.  Also invited were Dick, a retired Marine Colonel, his of 54 years, Beth, and my mother.

Just over a year ago, Beth had a stroke which almost killed her.  When I say “almost killed her”, a mutual friend had called me the night of the stroke and suggested Beth wouldn’t make it more than a few hours.  I went to bed that night believing she had already died.  Goes to show you never can tell…

Beth would spend weeks hospitalized, and in an unconscious state.  Eventually she would regain limited motor function and be transferred to a skilled nursing facility where she would reside for months, barely able.

In time, Beth would be sent home to be cared for by her husband, with a vigilance and determination no medical facility could provide.  She now has an obvious awareness and presence of being, limited motor function, limited and delayed speech, and is wheelchair bound – and that’s where I witnessed a love like no other.

When they arrived at Dinner last night, I met Dick at the driveway to assist him with getting Beth out of the car.  Like a good Colonel, he cast me aside with an arm gesture and a grumble, and stepped in for a job only he could do.

As Beth sat in the car, Dick leaned in and wrapped his arms around her, locking his hands against her back and began to hoist.

“Come on, Babe.”

“Help me out, Little Lady.”

“We’re almost done.”

Beth, frail and unable to help, smiled each time Dick spoke.

The tenor of his voice was soft and quite reassuring.  The hold he maintained as he transferred her to the wheelchair was better than any firefighter.  All the while…

“Come on, Babe.  Thank you, little Lady.  Let’s do this together…”

Throughout dinner, Dick doted over her like they were in high school.  All evening, Beth smiled with eyes so bright they were in a perpetual state of big and round.


Dinner was good.  I ate too much, but in a room full of post-depression era people, piles of food kept flowing, and who was I to argue.

The evening’s nutrition though, for me anyway, came not from the food, but from witnessing the love of man for his wife who nearly died, but stuck around finish what they had started so long ago…  Jhciacb


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The Great Peace…

One of my favorite compiled statistics from Steven Pinker’s, Better Angels Of Our Nature is this…

If you were born the day World War I began, and died the day World War II ended, you lived in the most violent period in human history.

However, if we extend that window just a single year on either side – if you were born 1 year before the start of World War I, and died just 1 year after the end of World War II, despite the millions of deaths from both wars, you would have still lived in the most peaceful time in human history.

That’s how peaceful we had become as a species by the mid-20th century; that the years prior to, and post the two World Wars were such a time of peace, that it adjusts and offsets the skew of the two greatest tragedies of that period.


It’s easy to think we live in the most violent time on earth. This is part of why I believe the biggest crisis we face today is the crisis of perception – most people believe we live in extremely violent times.

Most people believe what they see, read, or hear – so long as that’s what they wish to believe, this included.

Historians though, social scientists, and even amateur body counters agree, we are living in the most peaceful time in human history. We have bounces, but the direction is clear… Jhciacb


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The Excavation Of Morality…

Long before single-celled organisms, complex organisms, and long before factories, TVs, and political discourse gone bad, there was the framework of math. Mathematics is woven into the structure of all things.

Math wasn’t invented, as Einstein suggested, it has been there all along, to be discovered as we pull back the layers of the Earth’s natural existence to create our own human existence.

As we excavate to what’s already there, in order to create more of what doesn’t really need to be there at all, we always find math in the digging.  Sometimes the math isn’t what we were expecting, but when we find it, we know it to be undeniable, and true.


So too is the fabric of morality, I believe, woven into all things. Not to be invented, but to be discovered as we peel back the natural world to make our little human nests.

I see that this week – that we are excavating a morality that already exists.  As things unfold in politics and government – as we dig out and around the bones of our political structure, we are exposing more moral truths every single day. These truths though, have been there all along, even before the Earth calmed and cooled.

Moral truth is as real as math – it underlies and exists within everything.

At the end of the day, moral truth can’t be changed or proven wrong, any more than a mathematical equation can be changed or proven wrong.  This brings me comfort… Jhciacb


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The Key…

Survival Of The Negotiator…

In a Max World, I like my odds. Not because I posses exceptional survival skills, grit, and physical resiliency, though I have enough of each to get me started.

I like my odds because I know how to get along with people – even with people whose values and my own might be at opposition. That skill-set goes a long way when things in the moment seem to be coming undone.

I speak one language, English, but I speak it differently as needed throughout the course of my days. I speak in the English people need to hear. With a Texas friend, I might speak a little more casually, extend my vowels a little more, and add in some lesser words that ain’t always proper.

When speaking to a friend with a math or science background, I find myself slower to respond, more linear in discussion, thinking through answers more clearly, and always concise.

I don’t just do this with language, but also with values and ideas. There’s not two sides to every story. There are infinite facets, angles, and sub-stories. Fractals apply to ideas as well.

When I sense conflict or even mutual distrust, I break the argument down, layer after layer, until I find a mutual talking point. When I reach that point, I push the pause button and try and build the conversation from there. This usually works – usually, and that’s the key.


That ability might be the most useful, non-academic skill that I have cultivated through my conversations over crunches.

In a Mad Max world I like my odds. Not because I’m tough, but because I know even the toughest opposition usually has a mutual talking point… Jhciacb


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Mariah Sucks…

The wind can go fuck itself.  Really, it can.  And no, this isn’t going to be some mindful shtick, like my usual shtick, with a touchy-feely message woven into it by the end.

The wind can go fuck itself.

I have been proximate to, or affected by every natural disaster except for a tsunami.  Volcano, hurricane, tornado, mudslide, dust storm, flood, blizzard, avalanche, earthquake, fire, and probably a few I can’t recall, have each threatened my family, my own life, or my home.  Wind, to some degree, is a colleague to many of these, though not always.

Truth be told, I love natural disasters and extreme weather phenomenon.  I look for them when I can, and enjoy them when they find me.  I will go out of my way and take great risks to stand at the shoulder of a disaster, or even within that disaster, and always in awe.  When in the throes of an organic upheaval, I am like a child on a thrill ride.  And what is a natural disaster, but the ultimate thrill ride…?

I have always accepted wind as a necessary ingredient to propel and expand most these phenomena.  After all, what is a fire, or a hurricane, a tornado, or a blizzard without wind…?  Wind on an otherwise clear day though, is the ingrown toenail of weather phenomenon.  At best, wind on a clear day is annoying.  At its worst, it’s hateful.

We’ve had 3 weeks of on again off again rain here in Fallbrook, and with some very powerful winds.  Despite the devastation which resulted from these storms, I have enjoyed every moment, though it has kept me from my cycling routine.  Today I woke to a blue sky, and a day which promised to be clear all day and near 70 degrees.  Thanks to a couple of cancellations at the peak of the sun, I found myself with a warm afternoon off.  My bike was calling me.


I wasn’t too far from the house when I turned from northbound Main Avenue to the eastbound Mission Road  when it hit me; a dry Santa Anna which slowed me immediately and nearly stood me up.  Oh, and I was then heading uphill.  I found myself tucked and hiding behind my lower gears like they were my momma’s apron when I was a child.  I was defeated before I had gone 2 miles.

I hate riding in the wind.  Hate.   New York Yankee hate.  Dallas Cowboys hate.  Adolph Hitler hate.  Albertson’s grocery store kind of hate.

A quick right turn and I was headed home, beaten and demoralized before I got out of town.  I would return to my fitness studio and spend an hour or so on my stationary bike to undo the shame.  I pushed it up to the window where I would peddle and watch the wind blow the eucalyptus and palm trees like they were weeds in the distance, but even with the windows and door open it wasn’t the same.

No sense of freedom.  No immersion into nature.  Just mechanical cardio to clear my head.

Despite that I exercised – that I did do more than most people do on a given day, I couldn’t shake that I am quitter, a loser, and that I suck as a human being for tucking tail and heading home, beaten by the wind.

But unless it’s accompanying the natural disasters which so amuse and entertain me, the wind can just go fuck itself.  It just can…  Jhciacb


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Ass Chewing: It Leaves A Bitter Aftertaste.

If your job is to land jets on an aircraft carrier, it’s assumed that you are good at it.  That’s why you get a paycheck.

Say one day you have bad landing.  Your commanding officer witnesses this and gives you an ass chewing.

Your next landing is noticeably better, and your CO sees the difference.  He assumes that the ass chewing got you to raise your game, and now ass chewing is deeper in his leadership DNA.

Conversely, one day you have a particularly good landing – a textbook landing, and your CO sees it.  He’s delighted, so he praises your competence.

Your next landing isn’t as good, so he assumes his praise caused you to ease up on your attention to detail.  From this, he chooses to avoid praises in leadership for its obvious detriment to the cause of landing jets safely on deck.

Here’s the thing; you’re there landing jets on small spaces because you’ve been proven competent at doing so.  On average, you always get the job done within the scope of expectations.

Truth:  An exceptional landing will almost always be followed by a lesser one.

Truth:  A poor landing will almost always be followed by a better one.

It’s the law of median effect.


Yet much of our institutionalized instruction is rooted in the discipline of ass chewings; academia, sports, military, and so-on.  Praise though, is used all too sparingly in these environments.

Turns out that in the big picture, praise may not raise one’s game all that much.  Still, praise contributes to a positive environment.

It also turns out that ass chewings don’t do too much to raise one’s game – and always make for a demoralized environment.

One more truth:  Success in anything is rooted exclusively in intelligent training, and consistent practice over long periods of time — fitness concerns included…  Jhciacb


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The Intergalactic Short Bus…

People watching is my favorite sport.  I am fascinated by the variety we hominids display with our aesthetics and our behaviors.  Diversity is what we do best as a species, even if that diversity is the foundation for most of our hates and fears.

Last evening I was people watching in the local market.  In no hurry go home after fulfilling my grocery list, a purposeless meander seemed a great way to pass time.  I strolled up and down the aisles, observing other lives incarnate, while contemplating my own.  It’s a game of comparisons, or as I like to call it, Jhciacb Counts His Blessings.

I became aware that a group of special needs adults were being led about the market by a woman who was clearly their doyen.  It seemed they were residents of a group home, and there to select groceries for the coming week.  The leader asked questions to them as individuals, and encouraged them to make consensus decisions.

I followed them for a bit, eavesdropping, studying, and contemplating.  Suddenly I remembered I needed Brussels sprouts, and broke off from my tailgating.  When I caught back up to the group, they had dispersed.  Apparently, each had been assigned an item or two to gather on their own.  This would be a good study.

I continued wandering the aisles as the blender in my head churned, still people watching – still contemplating.  At some point, my brain went sideways when I realized I couldn’t differentiate the special needs people from anyone else.

Without their leader guiding them, they all just blended in.

Suddenly, if only for a moment, I viewed anyone in the store as a special needs person, until I concluded that they were or were not one.  But I think I got it wrong at least a few times…


And that’s when it hit me; that we’re all special needs people, each with varying abilities and peculiarities.   Most of us get through it though, with no need for a grocery store leader, and for that we should be grateful. We just go in circles around the sun, day after day, doing the best we can on this intergalactic short bus we call earth.

As I watched the special needs people reconvene with their leader at the checkout line, I couldn’t help wonder if they really needed a leader at all.  Some seemed to be doing okay on their own.  And I also wondered if maybe myself, and a few others in there, wouldn’t have been little better off with someone to take our hands and show us the way…  Jhciacb


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Reading, Writing, And Writhing…

I received a nice compliment from a friend the other day.  He said that he enjoyed my morning musings here on Facebook.  He likes the way I write, but he called into question my claim to be reading challenged.

“Nobody who writes as eloquently as you could have a reading disability” he suggested.

I get that from time to time.  I can write 1,000-word essay in 20 minutes, yet it would take me in excess of an hour to read one the same length.


I absolutely LOVE to write, and I can’t stand to read.  Here’s a simple explanation as to why:

There are essentially two root causes of dyslexia.  The first being an information processing disorder.  The second being a visual processing disorder.  The kind I live with is a visual processing disorder.

When I write, there’s no visual processing involved.  Thoughts form in my head and get relayed, via synapses, from my brain to my fingertips, which then put them to pen or to keyboard.  My eyes are not really involved.  I can type with my eyes closed with good accuracy.


When I read, it’s a visual process.  I see words first through my eyes, then attempt to form them into thoughts, via synapses which lead from my eyes to my brain.  When it comes to words, those synapses are uneven tracks for information to glide upon.  That’s okay.  I can listen to books rather than read them, and I process the information better with my ears than I do with my eyes.

I share this for one reason; that you may have a child, niece, nephew, or grandchild who hates to read, but does well with writing.  Often when a child dislikes or even fears reading, but is also a capable writer, he is seen by adults as being lazy, unmotivated, or as a child with lesser priorities.

Forcing a child who lives with dyslexia to read more in hopes he’ll just get better at it, is not the right course of action, and I assure you, it can be traumatic.  It may be that he has a form of dyslexia rooted in visual processing.  Get him tested.  Get him help.  Don’t be a dick.  It may change his life – for the better…  Jhciacb


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Pictures Of Match Shtick Men…

We’re all photographers now. Anyone with a smartphone possesses the ability to take worthy photographs. If our photographs aren’t so worthy, there are digital tools available, right after the fact, to help manipulate them into better photographs. In seconds, we can turn any picture into something completely removed from the reality of the original image.

And best of all for this expanding base of so-called photographers, social media has provided us with the one thing we most desire; an audience.


I have more than a few friends who are professional photographers – it’s how they pay their bills. I empathize with them in this era when so many people are taking so many photographs without much thought or experience. The smartphone has made it so that showing up the right time is all one needs to do to take a great photo. Oh, and some touchup skills.


I feel guilty, and sometimes foolish, suggesting that any of my photographs are worthy of a glance by anyone but me. Despite this, I use my own photographs daily in my fitness blog and other social media platforms. When I do this, I feel as though I’m insulting those for whom photography is not just their craft, but their livelihood.

It’s where we’re at though.


Exchanging photographs more frequently, and via different media, is a part of the evolution of how we communicate – pictures are once again becoming language. It’s just that in the modern era, we don’t have to carve them into stone.

Today we communicate with images at a rate much higher in proportion to written languages than at any time in modern history. It has been suggested by some that within a few hundred years, images will have largely replaced written languages as the primary means of communication for our species.

But wait, isn’t that where we started…? Jhciacb


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Beth Rosen’s Right Breast…

Beth Rosen was the curvy Jewish girl who was seated in front of me during home room in the 9th grade.

It was the first hour of the first day of my short-lived high school career.

I had been attracted to Beth since halfway through the 5th grade. However, as was typical with awkward Jewish boys, I kept my feelings inward.

The manufacturers of Q-Tip swabs had recently switched from the white paper bodies between the swab ends, to hollow blue plastic bodies. I had learned from Steve Yates over the summer that this change in Q-Tip design would revolutionize spit-wads.

– Cut the Q-Tip in half and expose the hollow plastic body
– Take one half of the Q-Tip and fill it with glue
– Into the glue filled section, back in a sewing needle about half the length of the needle itself
– Let dry
– Insert newly made blow dart, ehr, spit-wad into a straw
– Aim
– Fire

And with such a blow dart, ehr, spit-wad, I would attempt to overcome my shyness with Beth Rosen.

Just 45 minutes into my high school career, I shot Beth Rosen in the right breast with a makeshift blow dart. I finally got her attention.

As a business man, my father was often out of town Monday-Friday. On that, my first day of high school though, he made sure he was in town, to pick me up and drill me, ehr, quiz me about my first day.


Lost Jilgeuros Preserve.  Fallbrook, CA 1/4/17

I’m sure my father wasn’t expecting a call at 9:45am that morning to pick me up and take me home. After a trip to the Deans office, I was assigned a 2-day suspension – my first 2 days of high school.

My father arrived promptly. It was a long ride home.

I was telling this story to a friend yesterday, and though her eyes got quite large as I disclosed the events of that day in 1976, her eyes got even larger when I told her I had dozens more stories – just like this one, and that some of them even involved, oh, what’s the term…? Squad cars. Yes, squad cars.

Shortly thereafter, I released myself from high school on my own recognizance. It was just better this way. Beth Rosen and I would become friends, but never dated. Must have been something I said – or did… Jhciacb


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Reasons, Not Excuses…

Not excuses, but reasons…

I do fitness for a living – it’s kind of what pays my bills.  Despite this, and that I have a well-equipped workout room just 7-feet from where I am typing this, fitness doesn’t happen as much with me these days.

It’s not that I have lost interest in exercise. It’s that my responsibilities have increased, and my priorities have evolved.

Some will suggest there are no excuses to miss a workout.  The Roy of yesteryear would certainly have suggested that to the Roy of today.

And on one level, as a fitness practitioner, I agree that people use far too many excuses to avoid exercise, but there’s a fine line between excuses and reasons.

Yesterday I took my mother shopping to help her with her post-holiday returns.  We were gone most of the day.  I had planned to work out as soon as we got home, but then realized my mammal had been cooped up alone all day, so I took him for a walk – my workout could wait.

After his post-walk treat, I was about to head into the studio to work out.   As I stepped through my studio door, my eldest niece called to wish me a happy New Year.  I was delighted to hear her voice.  When she and I were done, she passed the phone to her sister and it was then my turn to exchange greetings and catch up with her.  She then passed the phone on to her brother.  I enjoyed catching up with all three.

After a day of shopping, a long dog walk, and a long phone call, I was chomping at the bit to exercise – until my brother called, also to exchange New Year’s greetings.  It was nice to catch up with him as well. My workout could wait.

Just as my brother and I hung up, and I was about to rise to enter my studio, my sweet dog jumped on my lap and burrowed into a soft blanket on my lap, and settled in for what I will refer to as, the rest of the evening.


There would be no workout, only CNN’s The History Of Chicago, and that’s okay.

There are excuses to skip workouts, and there are reasons to skip workouts.  Though very often that line is blurry, yesterday it was as clear as a new day after a rainy night on New Year’s Eve.  These were reasons, and all good ones.  Be well…  Jhciacb


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Dignity Etched…

I often see things on social media which suggest to me that, even as I watch my mother age, as I also age, I’ll remember her more as she was when she was young.  Or at the very least, I’ll remember her as she was when I was young.  Though when I consider this, after having had my mother living with me for nearly a year, I’ll suggest they are optimistic reminders of a reality which won’t exist.  I’ve mostly forgotten the mother of my youth.


As she continues to age, and as her physical and cognitive abilities lessen, the images in my head of my mother in her youth fade more each year, giving way to the more indelible imprints of my mother as she is today.  This is not a bad thing.  Five years from now, 10 years from now, or even 20, I’m sure I won’t want to think too much or remember too well the mother of my youth, but I will be grateful to remember my mother of today.


When I think of her then, as she was when I was young, compared to how I see her now, there is an absence of much.  True, the mother of my youth could hike, swim, stay up late, and prepare a holiday feast for 12 in less than 3 hours, but there was yet to be the earned dignity which now defines her.

Today, as her steps become shaky, as her voice quivers, and as her hands resemble road maps with stains on them, the wisdom, the experience, and survivalism that come with these, add up to a dignity which I do want to remember her with.


This is a good reminder to me that, as bright and capable as I feel I am today, I have yet to pay my real dues.  The dues I speak of are not the dues of career, of parenthood, or of middle-age responsibilities.  The dues my mother has paid – those she continues to pay, are the most important dues of all.  These are the dues of having it all, and of having it all slowly slip away, yet waking up each day to live a little more despite the inevitable decline of all things material, all things physical, and many things cognitive.


I am grateful that I will remember my mother as person who falls asleep watching Jeopardy, who heats up a Stouffer’s creamed corn casserole for dinner rather than attempt to make one from scratch, who often calls me by my brother’s name, and who asks me the same damned questions again and again – all day long.

This person – this mother of mine now, is the mother that reminds me daily that I will be more like her in the not-too distant future, than the me I am today.  This mother, not the mother of my youth, is the woman who reminds me that it’s a fool’s task to believe in or even pursue perpetual youth, and that dignity comes only from letting go of youth, and letting go of all those things that, as time proves to us all, never mattered that much to begin with.  Be well…  rc



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Don’t Be Cruel, Pretty Please…

Like many, the recent election caught me by surprise.  More honestly, it caught me off guard.  Yup, I had my guard down, and for too long.  So too, it seems, did a lot of people.  Also like many, I’m now wondering what I can do to help offset the inevitable shift of culture that may result from a change in our leadership.

I have seen people standing up for a variety of causes recently, many speaking out and taking action for the first time.  Others, putting their money where their mouths are and donating to social causes.  Whether these actions and donations will be short-lived, or the foundation of a new ground swell for social change can’t be predicted.

For my part, I’ve just been a deer in the headlights.  I want to do something – to contribute in some way, but all I have really done since the election results were tallied, is to spend hour after hour walking among the trees in a state of shock, talking to my dog about Syria, The Supreme Court, Social Justice, and attempting to digest this unexpected shift in our national behavior.

It seems clear that, now more than ever, if we are to keep social progress moving upward and ahead, more people need to be more active with a variety of causes.  My cause of choice, the area where I will direct my attention, will be with animal rights.  I will champion a cruelty-free society as much as I am able, and in ways that are reasonable considering my other responsibilities.   That is, I’m not going zealot, but I am going…


This is not to suggest I won’t also support other causes.  I will remain a supporter of religious liberty, LBGT rights, and social causes which serve equal rights among American humans, and I will donate to them increasingly as I am able.  I will direct my volunteerism though, toward promoting a cruelty-free society with the animals we steward.

You may find this interesting…

In early human civilization, 98% of the vertebrate animals on earth were self-made.  That is, despite that we had begun domesticating animals around 15,000 years ago, most animals on earth through human civilization, have been the result of the earth’s natural progression.

According to several sources though, today as many 98% of the vertebrate animals on earth are man-made.  That is, the domestication of horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, farmed fish, family pets, etc., has been so prolific over the past few thousand years, that these animals significantly outnumber vertebrates in the wild.  Oh,  and our own species is now more plentiful than ever.

Many of us, myself included, have had no problem spending $5,000 to repair the fractured hip of our family pet, or to spend money on behavior therapy for the kitty who eats toilet paper all day.   We have been just as at ease, myself included, with unconscionable acts of cruelty perpetrated against animals who are just as capable of feeling love and pain as a cat, a collie, or Shetland Pony.  Most of us are good with these acts of cruelty, because we allow ourselves to be insulated from them.  For my part, I can no longer be good with this.

Please take 10 minutes, if you have not already viewed this, to witness an intelligent perspective on stepping away from animals as a food source.

I won’t knowingly support animal cruelty, and I will try with each week to expose myself to the many gaps where I still do; leather or skin care products for example.   I will be active against animal cruelty, but do so with mindfulness, tact, and with as much intelligence as I can call to order from the walnut in my head.

Years ago, a good friend told me to put all my eggs in one basket, and to cover that basket.  That advice contributed to a livelihood which has served me well.  With my direction chosen, just like my direction with the weight room so many years ago, each day I will wake up and step, step, step, with all my eggs in one basket, and walk toward a cruelty-free lifestyle.

I have no illusions that I will change the world with my actions, but if I can change a few minds, I will have done more than I have up to this point.  Championing on behalf of animals, by the way, is not such a small-minded task.  It stands to reason that if our society can get good with the treatment of animals, we might get just as good with ourselves.

Lastly, I will be glad to reply to and to discuss any intelligent comments or arguments whether they be left in the comments section below, or in private emails.  If your comment though, is going to be, please pass the A.1. sauce, please refrain.  Be well…  rc


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Kamikaze Treadmill Guy…

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in gyms over the past 42 years.  In that time, I thought I had seen it all as far as the characters of the gym go.  You know, gym characters…

  • Grunter Guy
  • Groaner Guy
  • Weight Slammer Guy
  • Intentionally Using The Equipment For Purposes Beyond The Equipment’s Design Guy
  • Loud Talker Guy
  • Swinging Ponytail On The Elliptical Machine Girl
  • The ‘Spot Me Bro’ Guy
  • The list goes on…

Add to that, all I have seen on social media – you know, the videos that show a man in tights using the cable crossover machine like it’s a Jolly Jump, or the girl faceplanting on the treadmill, and I should have seen it all by now.

Last night though, at a commercial gym in here in Souhern California, I saw the unimaginable.  It was a scene so surreal I had to ask myself whether I had taken LSD prior to my workout.  Of course, I did not.  We all know LSD is best used post-workout, for recovery.

There I stood though, high on a StepMill, the tallest piece of cardio equipment in the gym, and I was looking down to survey all the gym characters below me.  Deep into my rhythm, taking step after quiet step, suddenly I heard him…

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…” I heard emanating from a man on a treadmill in the foreground.

That was followed up by a couple of shorter, but more intense bursts of “Shyow!  Shyow!  Qui!”

No, I thought to myself, there’s no way somebody running on a treadmill is grunting that loudly and that deliberately.  But there he was, shouting over and over again as he ran short, fast intervals on the treadmill.

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…”  “Shyow!  Shyow!  Qui!”

I have heard thousands of grunts, screams, and moans from the lifting platform since the age of 12, and though I rarely grunt myself, I understand the desire, even the need to grunt during a heavy squat or deadlift.

Never though, have I witnessed anyone grunting during cardio, and certainly not in a way which was both deliberate and aggressive.

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…”  “Shyow!  Shyow!  Qui!”

Within minutes I wanted to hang myself just to make it go away.  He was loud too.  I looked around to see if any other members were bothered by this.  I saw a few others who seemed to notice, but most in the area appeared to be protected by their earbuds.  I was not, as my phone had died earlier in the day, so for the next 45 minutes while on the StepMill

“Hoy hoy hoy hooooo…”   “Shyow!  Shyow! Qui!”

was the soundtrack to my workout, with only a distant chorus of Loverboy’s Working For The Weekend and other crappy music offering scarce relief from the classic rock station playing through the house speakers.

It was clear nobody was willing to cease their workout to help me subdue this guy.  There was just one employee in the gym at the time, and he was on the other side, apparently oblivious to the scene.

Now here’s the punchline to this little joke…

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t point out that the grunting runner was Japanese.  A person’s ethnicity is rarely relevant in the scope of any situation – but for the Kamikaze headband this man was wearing – with the sign of the rising sun square in the middle, and he ran with fists tightly clinched.  His head was pointed up the entire time, as if he here shouting at God or a deceased relative.  He was drowning in sweat.  I had never seen anything like this.


As previously mentioned, my phone had died prior to entering the gym so I was not able to video Kamikaze Treadmill Guy.  He will live forever though, as a memory shot in my head – a new edition to the pantheon of gym characters.  Kamikaze Treadmill Guy is in now in the house, and apparently he wants us all to know it.  Be well…  rc


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Throwing Darts At Music…

Throwing Darts…

The older I get, it seems, the greater the stakes with each decision I make.  So, I don’t throw too many darts in my decision making these days.  I did though, a couple weeks ago, throw a single dart at an album cover that caught my eye, an EP by the Nebraska band, Bazile Mills.

There was something about the aesthetic of the album art which caught my eye.  A friend, a music promoter in the Midwest, had posted the EP on his business’s social media page.  I honestly knew nothing about the band or what genre of music it was – I had no idea.  My only safety net was that it was being promoted by Widmest Productions, the enterprise of a friend whose musical tastes and my own often cross paths.


Rather than check out Bazile Mill’s music on Spotify, YouTube, or Soundcloud, I purchased the EP based solely on the cover art, and the recommendation of my friend.

A few days after I placed my order online, the EP arrived.  Opening it, I was struck by the quality of the packaging.  I say that because startup bands and early releases often default to lesser packaging due to the cost of production.  I hadn’t even heard their music yet, and I was already impressed.  A crisp lyrics sheet accompanied a vivid blue disk.  The t-shirt I ordered along with the EP also impressed me.


Proof In The Stylus…

Unpackaged, I placed the disk on my turntable, lowered the stylus to the vinyl, and held my breath not having any idea what music lay ahead.

The first track, Personal Concierge, went from reeling me in, to stopping me in my tracks.  There’s a tempo about the song that pulled along the physical me, as the lyrics picked away at the thinking me.  It was one of those rare songs that got me to like it – immediately.

The next two tracks, Spirals Out, and We Are Mistfits (Just Like You) also have tempo that resonates within the senses, and lyrics which tug at the mind.

The final track, We Are Here, has a different feel to it than the previous tracks, but is just as sincere.  Musically, it has a tempo which more allows one to digest the song’s lyrics while listening.


Mixed Thoughts On The Experience…

I’ll never presume to know or suggest what a lyricist is truly thinking when they share a thought, a moment, or a series of actions by placing them into a song.  We are free to interpret them as we can.  I found the lyrics to all 4 songs worth pondering – again and again.  That’s what a good lyric should do.


Last week I threw a dart at an album cover.  I hit a bullseye, but I recognize that it was my bullseye and might not be yours.  I do recommend this EP though, for anyone who appreciates mindful music. The 4 songs of Where We Are by Balize Mills provide a wide enough target with the scope of its 4 songs, that anyone throwing a dart will score at least a few points and probably more.

Lastly, I am reminded that within all the structures we keep in place and move about in order that we keep ourselves safe, it’s nice to throw a dart from time to time to keep things fresh.  Or, to take a left where I generally take a right.  Be well…  rc


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A heavy day for me yesterday.  Issues with mom notwithstanding, midafternoon I found myself in a barbershop spending $23 (ATM fee and tip included), getting a haircut which removed little hair, but a good portion of my soul, though only for a while.

The barber, a man in his 70s and seemingly not in the best of health, struggled making small talk with me, a new customer.  After several awkward minutes negotiating some fractured clichés of light familiarization, he began spewing campaign hatred at an alarming rate.  He either mistakenly sized me up as one of his own, or just didn’t care about offending me.

Within a few minutes of his rant I had learned that Hillary has killed more people than Saddam, that Trump was going to rid the country of all the lesser brown people, and if for any reason Trump’s victory failed, an all-out civil war would occur within weeks.

When he stopped to take a breath, a female barber seated near us and eating a snack, probably in her 60s, chimed in to reinforce what the man who was too busy hating to properly cut my hair was espousing…

“The nation will go straight to hell” she said, “The woman is pure evil.”

That’s when I was reminded that ignorance is not an individual effort; that it takes a village to raise an idiot.

This is not a political stance for or against either candidate.  Just a reminder that ignorance, like fire, requires three elements:

  • Receiving misinformation
  • Believing misinformation without verification
  • Sharing misinformation

Sky above Barker Reservoir.  August 2014

When my haircut was complete, I stood up, thanked the man, shook his hand as I paid him, and wished the two of them a good Saturday.  It made me feel good to do so – to offer friendship rather than retort.  May you all have a good Sunday.  Be well…  rc


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Not A Healthy Addiction…

When people when speak to me about their fitness regimen the phrase, it’s a healthy addiction, is often used to support their rationalization of how dedicated they are.

Of course, there is no such thing as a healthy addiction. The very nature of addiction is that one sacrifice more in the pursuit of the result, than the result will actually yield on their behalf.

On a personal level, I am compelled by the fulfillment of challenging exercise. The drug of intensity in movement clears my head, offers me confidence, and provides moments to me during which I can hide from the stress of daily living, if only for a while.


Whether my requirement for challenging exercise is an addiction, a compulsion, or a mere personality defect, I may never be sure. What I have come to accept though, is that for now, exercise for the sake of fulfillment is a necessary component of the clock that is me.

On a professional level, I am more cautious about the ideal of intensity in exercise. This caution though, is relative to the moment, and to the client. Some moments in my studio are all about fulfillment in exercise. I am paid well by some clients to establish the limits of their physicality, and incrementally raise those limits, rendering them more capable at gin tasks, aesthetically improved, or both.

With other clients it’s about utility. They entrust me to help increase their physicality by inserting functional exercise into their lives. This may be due to age, disease, or simply because they have lived a previously deconditioned lifestyle. Regardless, for these clients mindfulness comes first, and intensity isn’t even a consideration.

There is a blurry line between pursuing what we want, and what makes sense. When I have difficulty distinguishing that line, or when I see it more clearly but can’t decide which side I should stand on, I draw from the only scripture which has mattered to me in my adult life:

“Speak today in hard words what you believe, and speak tomorrow in hard words what you believe though it may contradict what you say today.” Ralph Waldo Emerson


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Turn And Face The Strain…

Aye, Captain…

When I see him coming, I cringe a little.  A tall man with gray hair topped by a ball cap which usually sits a bit too high.  He’s in jeans, and always wears a blue windbreaker.  In his hand is a leash, and at arm’s length a Dalmatian with a muzzle lead.  The dog’s name is, Captain.  Honestly, I don’t like Captain.  I don’t care much for the man walking him either, though he and I have never really met.  We just pass each other early in the morning, several times per week, walking our dogs.

Some time ago this man confronted me about not having my own dog on a leash.  I explained that my dog walks off leash because he’s prone to panic attacks on a leash, probably because he was abused as a puppy.  He suggested that his dog might hurt my dog and was just giving me a warning.  Well, I thought to myself, is your dog that much of jerk or is it just you…?  I thought it, but I didn’t speak it.  I wished him a good day and moved on.

Since that encounter, we have passed each other dozens of times, always with an obvious tension between us, but we always smile and exchange good mornings.  When I see him coming I begin to feel a bad day coming on.  As we pass we each other though, and as I say good morning to him, I always feel better.  Bad day averted by simply reaching out.

When this happens, I often flash back the character, Lloyd Dobler, from the movie, Say Anything.  In one scene, Dobler, played by John Cusack, questions his grumpy sister, asking her again and again, “how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…?”


I’ve never been able to let that go – that very often having a good day, or turning a bad one around is simply a decision, like saying good morning to the man with the Dalmatian, despite that I don’t care for him.

Tricks Of The Trading…

Bad moods happen, and almost always when I least expect them.  Hard as it might be, the best way I have found yet to combat a bad mood is by simply asking myself that Cusack question; how hard is it to be in a good mood, and then just be in a good mood…? By just stopping and asking that of myself, it gets me thinking about how easy it really is to get back on track to a better day.

Most often the answers to that question lay in several possible actions, the first being to go for a walk.  Walking in nature diffuses a bad mood quickly – especially if I set my phone to airplane mode.  With nothing but the rhythm of my feet, the thoughts in my head, and the sounds of nature, a bad mood doesn’t have much of a chance.  Problems, however mighty, soon get small when I’m walking in nature.


To create good mood just add water…

Music is another tool I use to pry a bad mood from my head.  I dare you to listen to Jimmy Cliff’s Many Rivers To Cross and walk away sulking.  Not likely.  It tends to bring my inner resolve to the surface.  There is a dozen or so songs I know that carry this weight, any one of them can lead me into a better mood.  George Harrison’s Hear Comes The Sun being another, and Matthew Sweet’s Divine Intervention.  I call these my mood altering songs…

I might grab my dog and just hold him.  I’ll say something like, “This may be selfish, but I really need you right now…”  We’ll sit on the porch.  Feeling his heartbeat in my hand, and knowing that he’s absolutely dependent on me is both grounding and humbling.  It’s also a bridge to a more peaceful moment.


My sincere belief:  All dogs are therapy dogs…

Perhaps I’ll reflect on a real tragedy; the illness of a friend or the death of a loved one.  Considering this, my bad moods don’t usually seem so bad.  Dropping my coffee on my laptop isn’t a nightmare, thinking about a young widow is, but even so, that’s not my nightmare, it’s somebody else’s – which reinforces my point precisely.  When I stop and think of the things which might be the cause my bad moods, few of them are ever worthy of that kind of power.

I’ll Come Full Circle Now…

One of the best tools I regularly use to turn a bad mood around is to simply reach out and offer a sincere hello to someone – anyone who’s path I might cross, regardless of how I might feel about them.  This could be in the bank, on my street, at the grocery, or back out on the trail.  Saying hello to a stranger, a friend, or even an adversary, and actually feeling it from deep within, always makes me feel better inside.

I can think of few better mood altering drugs than the drug of a human connection.  The next time you’re having a bad day, try saying hello to a stranger or perhaps even someone you don’t care for.  Reach out.  It might be just enough to help turn the corner on a bad mood, and it might become an addiction worth keeping.  Be well…  rc


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Analog Cabin…

Love In Decay…

Digital music, without me ever realizing it, has eaten away at my love of music.  I don’t think digital music did this intentionally.  It was just another cultural subsystem, doing what systems have done to societies for years; taking mankind on rides that humans can barely see and rarely control.

As vinyl gave way to CDs and then to digitized files, as speakers gave way to earbuds, and as collecting the finite gave way to downloading the infinite, my pallet for music has deteriorated without me realizing it.

To keep me hooked though, digital music has regurgitated bits and pieces of what I once loved, and sold it as the only nutrition I would ever need – much like orange juice concentrate would improve the state of hand squeezed orange juice back in the 1960s.

Because of this process, my love of music has been neglected and misfed for decades.  Like other aspects of my life left to neglect, my love of music is reawakening…

The Paycheck Process…

The system was simple.  From the age I began to work, 15, until CDs choked vinyl out of the music retail scene, I would direct the $1 line and the $.00 lines of every paycheck I ever eraned toward buying vinyl.

Example:  If my paycheck for being a sandwich maker in 1978 was $42.73, $2.73 would go toward music.  If my paycheck as a Coast Guardsman in 1985 was $419.38, $9.38 would go toward music, and so-on.  And for years, that was the most important product from any paycheck.

Through this process I accrued a catalog of albums ranging from Herb Alpert, Aztec Camera, Molly Hatchet, Joe Satriani, Steely Dan, Lee Ritenour, The Fabulous Poodles, Mental As Anything, and on and on.


Not saying I’m proud, but I once owned their entire catalog…

Eventually though, turntables became scarce, new music was released on CD only, and my record collection became boxed and stored where it remained until my daughter graduated from high school in 2008.  At that time my daughter, who was raised on punk and classic rock, asked if she could have my albums.  She sensed a comeback that I didn’t buy into.  So the albums became hers.

In the meantime, the infinite Spotify and decent earbuds became my music only source.  With so much to choose from, I spent more time assembling playlists than I would ever spend listening to them.  And all of this became tedious and secondary.  I might still be in-like with music, but the love was gone…

What Goes Around (and around and around)…

With the advent of social media, and a growing outrage over the poor quality of digital music, the demand for vinyl now swells.  Much new music is released on vinyl, and buying a turntable is as easy as buying fresh oranges.

As I have witnessed this, it’s occurred to me to begin the process all over again; if a client pays me $1188, then $8 would go into a vinyl fund.  Starting from scratch though, has seemed too daunting.

Earlier this week I was searching Amazon for a vintage style radio for my studio and ran across one with a turntable onboard.  I figured, why not…?  Maybe it will inspire me to find a Herb Alpert album in good condition, or the soundtrack to Brigadoon.  But it didn’t end there.  Twenty-four hours later, and under the influence of inspiration, I purchased a console stereo for my living room.  Now what to do about the necessary vinyl…?


To arrive this Friday…

Shortly after I purchased the console stereo, I asked my next client if, by chance, he had any old vinyl.  I was floored when he told me he was in the process of cataloging several hundred pieces to sell on eBay.  Quality be damned, I’ll be picking them up later in the week.  The symmetry of my designed universe never lets me down.

Lessons In Love And Appreciation…

This isn’t about the quality of music for me so much as it’s a romance thing.  It’s about the act of removing the disk from the cardboard jacket and running the Discwasher over the album.  This about placing the needle gently onto the glossy rim and waiting for my soul to rise…


It’s a romance thing…

Once again I want to listen to and to appreciate albums as bodies of work.  The most soul-smothering problem with playlists on digital music is this:  You take just a piece of the painting and line it up beside a piece of another painting. You may create an interesting mosaic, but the point of each painting has been lost.

Through digital music I have lost my love of music, and that’s 100% on me.  I guess it’s time once again for me to learn the lesson I seem to keep on needing to learn; that when you truly love something, you don’t box it up and put it away, because you’ll probably never take it out again.  And even if you do take the box out of storage, what’s in the box will remember how you treated it.  Love what you love, and love it with passion – always.  Be well…  rc


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Aerosmith.  The Sgt. Pepper remake movie may have sucked, but the soundtrack had one great cover.  Enjoy…


I can honestly say that my morning shower is the best part of every day of my life.  What’s more, is that each shower feels like it’s the best one I’ve ever had.  How could any morning shower ever feel as good as the one I took today…?  Yet it always does.

When I look to my front yard each morning, on those rare mornings when sunlight actually hits it, it always pops brighter and looks more alive than the day before.  Yup, today was that day.

I listened to a song recently which was popular during my teens; Sister Golden Hair by America.  As I contemplated the lyrics and drifted back in time, I felt it was the most clever and poignant song I had ever heard.  I really felt that as I was listening.

Maybe later today, or sometime down the road, I’ll hear another song, and whatever song that might be, I will think that is the most poignant and clever song I’ve ever heard.  And at that time, I will also mean it.

The workout I just had…?  Is almost always the best one of my life!  Most of the time, when I wrap my fingers around that cold steel bar, the deadlift I am about to commit is the most important set I will ever attempt, and nothing else will be on my mind.

That’s just how life is for me.  If nothing else, I enter each day with a sincere appreciation for my appreciations.  In those moments when I am truly appreciating something, there just aren’t any other somethings other than the something I am appreciating at that moment.

On a full moon surf at Trestles, in June of 2009, my friend Mike observed of me,

“The look on your face when paddle is like each wave is the biggest wave on earth…”

Though I am certain he meant it as a critique of how I could improve, I took it as a great compliment.   I was caught in a moment, enjoying myself because each wave was the biggest wave on earth, if only in my mind.  And each one always will be.  That’s what appreciation does…


Stroodle don’t surf!  But if he did….

Even with this essay, after I complete it and publish it to my website, I will be confident it’s the finest piece I have ever written.  At some point though, my daughter may read it and will remind me that it’s just another piece of overwritten dreck.  But as I write it in this moment, I am certain it’s fantastic.

It’s not that every moment is the best moment of my life, it’s been a rough week for me.  More bad things happened in the world.  People proudly said things that I found to be offensive if not outright asinine.  I hear songs that make me want to hurl, and occasionally I get a flavorless tomato.  But it’s those moments that strike me as worthy of my appreciation, that I bow to, and attempt to do so all day long – they alone keep me coming back!


A hand to appreciate…

And what does all of this have to do with anything…?  That during any moment, all we have is that moment, and who and those who we may be with in that moment.  So last night when I held my mother’s frail hand and led her across my rocky driveway so she could see the full moon break the horizon, and as I watched her stare with awe, well that, that was my finest moment as a son – at least for now.  Thank you to landlords Stephanie and Brian for giving me a great gift last night.  Be well…  rc


A gift of a vintage smudge pot for my fire pit…


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from The Cynics.  It might be the most poignant and clever song you’ll ever hear.  Enjoy…

Synapses At Play…

Slow Down…

“Slow down.”

“Take an extra breath in-between repetitions.”

“Eliminate the hurry in your head.”

These are just a few of the clichés Royisms that I repeat to clients all day in my studio.  Yesterday I even compared strength training to fly fishing…

“It’s a rhythm” I told a client, “but it’s a slow rhythm, just like fly fishing.”

And really, it is like fly fishing.  Strength training, practiced slowly, can be intimate and meditative.

One of the better aspects of strength training, and one that is underappreciated by most, is the opportunity one gets to develop a relationship with the individual muscles of the body, as well as the actions taken by those muscles.  Not just in realizing one’s potential for strength, but to know what meat we’re made of, and which meat does what.

Synapses, both electrical and chemical, develop quickly during the act of strength training.  Using a slower repetition speed helps better establish and reinforce those synapses.  These lines of communication between brain and meat are always active, whether one is pushing a leg press upward, or stepping onto golf cart.


The inner universe.  Sensational synapse…

Sensational Sensations…

Increasingly, I have come to better appreciate the relationship my mind has with my skeletal-muscular structure.  Always bubbling under the surface is the tactile sensation I experience during every kind of physical exertion I may be involved in.  I can’t imagine not taking note of this, yet so many move about their whole lives never really knowing what they are made of.

Ten-thousand times per day I may strike my heels on the ground before me, subconsciously connecting the electrical dots from my feet, to my legs, to my lower back, and into my shoulders, as my well-oiled machine drives me forward.  When I push a door closed, lift a box, or pull a container from a shelf, I feel the muscular me in action.  When I press firmly on a large knife as I cut a cabbage in half, in my mind I am both feeling and thanking my triceps.  I love this, and it all starts in the weight room.

Not Widely Practiced…

The slower repetition speed I teach in strength training isn’t widely practiced.  If you were to walk into any commercial gym during peak hours, you might find one or two people lifting in this style, but you would more likely find none at all.  That’s too bad, and honestly, it haunts me. I know something wonderful and want to share it with the world, but the world — the weight room world anyway, is made up mostly of blind followers.

I am often questioned by students, fitness enthusiasts, and even fitness professionals alike as to why I place such an emphasis on form, and on slow speed in particular as a part of that form.

I don’t see too many people lifting weights as slowly as you have me do…  is an observation I have been confronted with time and again.

I try not to get too technical with my reply, and never preachy, most often just shrugging it off and saying it’s not for everyone.  I feel kind sorry for those who live physical lives, in or out of the gym, yet aren’t truly connected with their muscles in action.  They are missing one of the great dances in life.

Vacation Vindication…

Often times a student will take a break from training with me.  They may continue strength training on their own or take a break altogether.  When they come back to me, almost without exception, they will have a greater appreciation for the slower repetition speed I enforce.

I walked into a commercial gym once and saw a former student performing lunges.  Perfect, fluid lunges.  I could see people watching her and appreciating the mindful intensity she was engaged in.  I find that too; that when I work out in a commercial gym, people tend to watch me when I lift, knowing that they are seeing something different than anything else going on in the room.

Simple Execution…

It can be distilled to a simple explanation…

  • During the eccentric (negative) phase of an exercise, I typically use a 4 second count.
  • During the concentric (exertion) phase of an exercise, I typically use a 1-2 count.
  • After each completed repetition, I pause and take a secondary breath. This serves to better oxygenate the muscles, as well as supports my ability to concentrate on the muscles involved – to stay connected to them.

As I do this, I am concentrating only on the muscles involved – not on anything else.  This also helps that body awareness.

A Case For Slow…

If you strength train regularly, and you are not practicing slower repetition speed, I will encourage you to give it a try.  Be warned though, slow speed doesn’t make it easier, it makes it a little harder – the path of most resistance, so to say.  You make a lighter weight a whole lot heavier by slowing it down.

With slower repetitions, the TUT (time under tension) is greater.  You will require fewer sets since each set is going to be much longer than if you are mindlessly repping out.  A set of 10 repetitions should take between 50-65 seconds, depending on the exercise.

It’s good stuff – this slow strength training thing, and a great way to connect your mind with your meat.  Be well…  rc


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At Peace With The World…

Troubling Times…

Clearly it’s been a difficult month in America, and around the world.  Just yesterday .000000011% of the world’s population was killed in an act of terrorism in France.  In writing this, I don’t wish to diminish in any way the loss, the suffering, and the feelings of sorrow which resulted from the incidents of terror and violence which have taken place from Istanbul to Dallas in recent weeks.

Like laser beams though, channeled through our LCD windows to the world, we continue to allow streams of violence and destruction into our minds which are highly disproportionate in relation to the world’s population and activity.  The images we invite into our minds forge thoughts and conclusions in our heads that skew reality so severely that most of us fail to see and appreciate the world we actually live in.


I say this not as an ignorant man tossing a mindless opinion about freely.  Rather, as man who invests a great deal of his spare time attempting to learn and reconcile the human condition and the directionality of society by way of books, journals, and lectures from some the world’s leading critical thinkers.

I also write this as someone whose own daughter passed through the international terminal at the airport in Istanbul, just days prior to a man blowing himself up there.  She had walked within yards of where that incident took place.

Beyond The Information Beams…

Today, roughly 7.1 billion people did not get blown up, shot, held hostage, or engage in violent protests.  Many of those 7.1 billion people had amazing sex.  Some did not.  A lot of those people started new jobs while others got deservedly fired due to a lack in their productivity.  Somewhere in southern Europe a young man tended a flock of sheep thinking very little about anything but the safety of the flock.


Elsewhere, a woman took a coworker’s lunch from the refrigerator of the breakroom at work, without fist asking permission.  Directly over our heads, a pilot both drank and slept on the job, while most others were careful not to.  A Rabbi married a young couple in Brooklyn, and a new baby was born in a thatch hut somewhere on an island in the pacific.  Since our televisions and laptops weren’t aimed at any of these, the broad actions of others across the world did little to help cultivate our social sensibilities.

Though we think we control our LCD windows to the world, and to some degree we do, our minds are fed primarily by a finite stream of for-profit institutions which make greater profits when we are compelled to stay tuned for more details.  Dog bites man isn’t a story.  Man bites dog is.

MSNBC, CNN, FOX News, and all the others are masters of seeking out and beating to death the man bites dog stories, and we are hungrier than ever to absorb them because shock and awe provide us with an addictive stimulation.  I can no longer tell the difference between NPR and Yahoo news online.


The Directionality Of Culture…

I am to cultural anthropology as sea cucumber is to semiconductor, so I’m not going to site books, data sources or anything else to support this opinion, but I will argue until my dying breath this clear truth…

Cumulatively, from the day of my birth until my ashes feed the fishes, the span of my life will have taken place during the most peaceful time on earth.  With few exceptions, every age of man could say the same thing – that theirs was the most peaceful time on earth.


This is not to suggest that during my lifetime or any time there have not been spikes of violence and gross atrocities committed by horrible people.  However, as social media is brimming with far too many of these violent times we live in observations, it just isn’t true – not in the big picture.  The most violent cultures on earth were hunter-gatherer societies, and it’s been getting more peaceful, on average, with every subsequent generation.  Perhaps the best way to comprehend that statement is this:

Imagine a ball is held at arm’s length. That ball, in that place and at that moment, is the most violent time on earth – hunter-gatherer times.  The hand lets go the ball.

The most peaceful time on earth, the one our descendants will inherit, will be when the ball is resting firmly on the ground.

When the hand releases the ball to hit the ground, the ball bounces up, but then it falls again.  It bounces up, but not as high, hits the ground. Bounces up again, and so-on, over hundreds of thousands of years.

Eventually, after a good bit of bouncing, the ball will rest peacefully on the ground.

The direction we are headed is one of a global culture of cooperation – of the ball resting on the ground. It won’t get there without some bounces, but the trajectory is clear, after each bounce we become a little more peaceful.  There is no shortage of good data that demonstrates this in clear terms.

The need to be informed exists within all of us.  It’s incumbent upon us to stay informed.  I’ll make a pitch here though, that we take time to look and live beyond the technologies that feed our minds electronically, since they account for so little of what takes place around the world each day.  Speak to strangers.  Step into new places.  Don’t let fears govern our choices.  Be well…  rc


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Squalls Of Vanity And Function…

Old Guys Rule…

One of the things which attracted me to recreational bodybuilding in my teens was that it is an old man’s endeavor.  I realized early that playing football, baseball, and wrestling had their limits and, that young men peaked out with both function and opportunity by the time they reach their late teens or early 20s.  Early on though, I saw evidence of quality physiques being maintained by men who lifted weights well into their 60s, 70s, and even into their 80s.  For a kid who hated letting go of anything good, bodybuilding appeared to be a sustainable long-term outlet.

I also realized early that older bodybuilders, despite having quality physiques, can often look weathered, flat, and 2-dimensional.  That is, they can have muscle and be lean, but those physiques didn’t appear youthful nor supple.   Just the same, the idea of looking and functioning well at an older age appealed to me.


Weathered…?  Perhaps, but still functioning well and, in my opinion, looking great!

Cyclical Affair…

Bodybuilding is a seasonal endeavor.  Even at the recreational level, few people stay in top shape year round.  Maintaining a quality physique in the long-term, is a cyclical way of life.  It’s like rotating crops and soil so they bear better fruit, longer.  To go the distance in bodybuilding, it’s important to relax the diet at times, as well as to back off on the workouts.

Bodybuilding shape, as I define it to myself, means maintaining the most possible muscle, with the least possible amount of body fat.  For me this is the 9-12% range.

I hadn’t been that lean in nearly a decade, so in my early 50s I dieted to down to get into bodybuilding shape once again.  This was around 2012-2013.  As I went through this process, I was surprised with how young my physique still appeared.  I was 51 and looking 40ish.  I kept this condition for roughly 9 months before I decided to relax the cycle a bit.

As my priorities changed during this period, I let my body fat climb up to roughly 15-16% where it is now, but have maintained a fairly rigorous, but not all-out, weight room schedule.  My daily running or hill climbing happens no matter what.  I don’t look spectacular by bodybuilding standards, but by middle aged man standards, I’m ahead of the game.

Every Ointment Needs A Fly…

More recently, I have gathered my life to be in an order it has not seen in a decade.  I am once again living the life I designed, and it’s pretty damn good.   I live in a nice home.  I maintain a healthy business.  I’m spending quality time with my mother and my friends.  So, with everything in my life going that well, why not screw it up by getting in bodybuilding shape once again…?

With no clear objective in sight, other than to just kick the tires and see what might still be under the hood, I have intensified my strength training, and begun to streamline my eating.  Not with the intentions of competing in bodybuilding, but just to see where I’m at.  I’m roughly 4 weeks into this process.

I’m no longer a mirror guy.  That is, I can walk past them without turning my head, but I did take a peak today – just for a moment.  As I honed in on my self-honing, I saw a man I knew would eventually be looking back at me; older bodybuilding guy.

I’m pleased with my conditioning so far, though I still have about 6 weeks until I hit that 10-12% body fat mark.  However, the shoulders and triceps are not as round as they once were – less full.  The quads still have some geometry, but no longer sweep and pop with every step.  The V-taper is now more a v-taper, and the calves are just calves, and no longer cattle.  I look weathered, flat, and 2-dimensional.


Weathered…?  Perhaps, but still looking and functioning well….

Any Gym In A Storm…

In all of this I’m not the least bit disappointed.  I have always known it was inevitable.  I no longer produce testosterone the way I did even 5 years ago.  I now eat very little animal protein.  I push during my strength workouts, but not as much as I once did.

I have long recognized and appreciated that we are designed to age – that our looks as well as our abilities and will lessen in time.  My body is now weathered too, only to be weathered a little more with each passing year.  My body is not weathered from having passed through massive storms which might have torn it apart.  My body is weathered from all the little storms which I willingly step into each day in the form of my workouts; the squalls of vanity and function.  Be well…  rc


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One Now, One Later, And One On Down The Road…

The Gift That Keeps On Giving…

When I was 13 years old, the book Pumping Iron was given to me by my mother.  The book’s impact was immediate, and steered me in a direction in which I had no control; a lifetime of bodybuilding.  Bodybuilding morphed into fitness, which ultimately led to a career.  The book that Charles Gaines and George Butler assembled in 1974 was the foundation for my passionate life of exercise.  In a more subtle way, and over a long period of time, Pumping Iron also gave me the foundations for a couple other passions.  More on those later.

Though I opened that book daily and was obsessed by its pictures, I would not actually read Pumping Iron for nearly 5 years after it was given to me.  Since I struggled with reading, I selected only brief passages, and only on occasion.  Who needed words, when George Butler’s black and white photos told a story I was so hungry to see…?

I would spend the next few years of my life putting all my eggs in one basket, and clutching that basket.  Lifting weights was the first discipline I would wholly commit to.  If nothing else, from Pumping Iron, which led to pumping iron, I learned that I had discipline.  In time it became clear that I was not so genetically gifted nor so determined, that competitive bodybuilding would be my dominion.


My Future’s So Dark…

Elsewhere in my life, I was less disciplined.  By the time I was in my late teens I was a high school dropout with a bodybuilding habit, no skills, and no apparent future.  The US military would be my only hope.  To be considered for the military, I would have to take my GED.  Being dyslexic, I was fearful that my struggles with reading would inhibit this process.  To this point, I had never read a book of any kind from cover to cover.

So with a workout-like discipline, I chose to read an hour per day – no matter what, hoping my reading would improve.  I selected Pumping Iron to read first because I had an interest in its content.  If any book could help pry me from the pictures and place me into the words, this was going to be it.  A funny thing happened on the way to The End…


Reading Pumping Iron was a chore.  I kept at it, because I believed my future depended on becoming a better reader.   Despite my struggles, there were occasional passages which kept me coming back for more – like a good golf shot on an otherwise fruitless outing.  Charles Gaines crafted phrases that suited my imagination.  Writing of the bodybuilder Pierre Van den Steen, Gaines wrote,

“The little Belgian whose chest looks carved from ice.”

Of Arnold Schwarzenegger performing incline bench presses, Gaines wrote,

“His biceps looked like two grapefruit sliding on greased tracks.”

Reading was a challenge, but images like those provided a sufficient reward.  I completed the book, and felt that my reading actually had improved along the way.  I would read more books prior to taking my GED, but none painted pictures the way that the words of Charles Gaines did.

new bulding

It was some lucky combination of intuitive guessing and my improved reading ability which got me through my GED.  I would go on to serve in the US Coast Guard.  It was during my time in the Coast Guard when I began to write creatively.  With Charles Gaines’ descriptive phrase still bubbling under my psyche, I felt like I had something to say, and was somewhat confident in my ability.  This would be a short lived discipline though, as my writing time was a lesser priority than my exercise time.  I would not write again creatively for another decade.


Workouts And Words…

My pre-dawn workouts, originally inspired by Pumping Iron, were once the most important part of my day.  Those workouts now take place later in the day or in the evening, and though they are still important, writing is what does it for me now.  Eventually writing took priority over lifting.  For nearly 15 years now, I have been writing for one hour every morning, almost without exception, with workout-like discipline.

I like it when the words of others paint pictures in my head.  I also enjoy using words to paint pictures of my own.  Words, in that sense, are the most malleable medium we can use as form of creative expression.  As I sip coffee in bed, with my mammal at my hip, and my 17” window to the world on my lap, I attempt to craft sentences like Charles Gaines did in Pumping Iron, knowing all the while that I am to Charles Gaines’ writing as I also am to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s physique – much less than, but I still have fun.

Walks And Wonder…

Oh, and there’s been one other influence Pumping Iron has had on me, which I have only now come to realize and appreciate…


Each morning, after I’m done with my writing session I walk through town with my dog.  As Stroodle takes in the smells of the day, I have come to appreciate how well this town sets up in black & white.  George Butler shot all the pictures for Pumping Iron with a Leicaflex SL2, and those photographs were nothing less than artistic.

I’m just a chimp with smartphone, and do nothing which I would consider artistic, but I have fun with it, as I have fun with writing and lifting, and that my friends explains all the picture above which have almost nothing to do with this story.  Be well…  rc


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The Ongoing Battle…

I have invested far too much in seeking precise answers to questions that I know have no clear ones.   Chief among these questions is this…

Just because we are capable of doing something physical, and we can refer to it as a form of exercise, does it mean that we should take that action…?

My formula for answering this question has (almost) always defaulted to the risk/reward ratio.  That is, does the risk involved with performing the exercise outweigh the reward…?

I think I have spent the last couple of decades making what I think are good choices based on using the risk/reward formula, both for me as well as for my clients.


Even so, there are times when I step under a bar to do a squat or lay on a bench to push a weight vertically away from my body, and I will ask myself if this is the right thing to do.  If I am wrong, and I am wearing myself out prematurely or putting myself at risk then that’s on me.

If, however, I ask a client to stand under a bar, to jump, or even to twist, turn or bend, and I haven’t fully analyzed and applied the risk/reward ratio, not only am I a bad trainer, I’m also an ass.

On the surface, I always feel as though I am doing the right thing, but deep down I wonder, and I guess I always will…  Jhciacb


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Reading, Riting, and Roy…

“I write not to get money, but for pleasure.”

Isaak Walton, from The Compleat Angler 1653

The gift of words…

Of all the gifts inherent to me, the one I am most appreciative of is creativity.  Though I seek a creative path with most of my affairs, my primary creative outlet is writing essays.  I see each essay as a kind of performance.  The beauty for me is that I am under no scrutiny when I perform.  I am free to make mistakes, change directions, retool, stop and start again, or throw it away without anyone but me ever knowing about it.

If I have completed an essay, and thrown it out to be read by an audience of dozens, it’s because I feel I have done my best with it.  If read by even a few, I feel validated even when criticized.  I understand that not everyone will be interested in what I have to share, while others may have interest but not agree with my message.  If a few people find value in my thoughts, that’s great, but I would write anyway.

I am not a professional writer.  I am a hobbyist who, like most hobbyists, would rather spend time working at my craft than at my job.  At this point, I feel that I am a capable amateur.  Not world class, but a better writer than many who are professionals.  I enjoy my job as a fitness trainer, and also see that as a creative outlet, it’s just that writing is a necessary compulsion for me.  One benefit of my day job is that it affords me the time to write.

I can write a 1,000-word essay in less than an hour, and do so with relative ease.  In fact, if I begin taking too long on an essay, I’m usually overthinking it.  When this happens, I will put it aside or just throw it away.  My creative side wants my words to flow, not be forced or hurried into place.

If the truth be told, I could not write a lick if not for modern word processing software.  My mind is too disorganized to write in longhand, and in linear fashion.  That I can cut, paste, backspace, and try different paragraphs in different places serves my dyslexic brain well.  If words are the color pallet of my creativity, editing options are my brush.


My writer’s den…

Listen up…

Here’s the irony; I read at less than an 8th grade level.  Though writing essays is easy for me, reading one takes work – because I have to see all the words at once.  Reading a book is an outright chore.  I don’t enjoy reading.  I do read on occasion.  Most of what I physically read are online articles, columns, and blogs.  A friend or client might hand me a book.  When this happens, I make every attempt to read it even if I do struggle with the process.  It’s important to me to honor a gift from another, even if it is a book.  Honestly though, I remember very little of what I read.  I listen to books.  I listen to books every day of my life.

My comprehension when listening is greater than when I read, probably because when I listen to books I’m active.  I don’t just sit and listen to books.  I listen to books while I clean, while I organize, and when I exercise.  I listen to Kurt Vonnegut when I deadlift, and Stephen Hawking when I bench press.  I believe the activity with my body frees my brain up to absorb information better than if I just sat and listened.

where i read

My “reading” room…

There are times when I will buy a hardcopy of a book I am listening to.  If I find a life-changing value with it, I will read portions of it concurrently – not as I am actually listening to the book, but in the same time frame.  This allows me to use a highlighter on certain passages of the hard copy which I can easily find and review later.

The books which interest me most are on science and the humanities.  I don’t listen to much fiction – there is enough of that already in my head.  There’s something about a book being spoken into my mind, especially when done by a good narrator – it’s as though the voice of God is projecting it to me, or the voice of an authority figure anyway.

My library and my shame…

With my listening done digitally, my book shelf is my phone.  I know for my literary-minded friends this is near sacrilege – to not have a wall or a room full of books.  My entire library fits in my pocket.  I like that it is always with me.  I wonder if my more literate friends ever feel sad that they leave their library behind as they walk out of their home each day.

The collection of my own writings is even less soulful.  I don’t save hard copies or even digital copies of what I write.  After I complete an essay and post it to my blog, I delete the Word document from my laptop.  All the thoughts I am so compelled to forge and to share, I trust to the gods of Google and WordPress, that anyone who might be interested in them will be able to find them, stored on a server in some unknown location with trillions of other data bits until the end of time.

That I write with the aid of technology feels good.  I enjoy the process, and am proud of the way I create my essays from my laptop.  People seem to be very accepting of this.  That I depend on technology for my learning, in place of reading, doesn’t sit as well in my head.  I feel guilty, often ashamed that I can’t read that well, and that opening a book intimidates me.  However, my biology conspired against me ever becoming a good reader.  My eyes play tricks with words, and no amount of practice makes this better.  In the scope of reading and writing, this is just who I am.

Whether they are printed on parchment or sent to straight to silicon, words are the primary messengers of all of our ideas.  Words allow us to share so much.  For my part, the words I send out each week are a message in a digital bottle.  I never know where they will wash up, but I am always hopeful they will be read by someone.  Be well…  rc


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Catharsisaurus Rx…

The blender in my head…

I’ve live pretty deep inside my head.  I am continually haunted by the complexities of modern life, and how they may be impacting my reality, assuming there is a reality. That doubt, of my own reality, is the heart of the thing.

On the surface I train clients, check on my mother, text my daughter, and reassure my dog.  Underneath all of this, my mind is bombarded by tiny pellets of doubt, all day long, that are slowly deteriorating the shield which protects my rational side.  Among my greatest fears is that this shield will parish before I do, leaving the chaos in my head to play unbridled havoc with my mind as I age.

My inner Cartesian has come to appreciate those frantic moments in my life, like when my frozen vegetables fly out of the bag and land all over my floor because I pulled them too quickly from my freezer.  That things like this always happen at the worst possible time also serves me well.  Those moments snap me out of my doubt, if only for an instant, and halt the existential banter between all the Roys within.

The life within the life…

I regularly entertain the life within the life.  I imagine waking from a nap on a summer’s day, my right cheek stuck slightly to the warm concrete beside the swimming pool of my youth.  The distant chatter of Marco and Polo awakens me.  I am 12 years old, and the life that I have lived since will have been only a dream.  Reagan never won.  I never married so I never divorced, and the internet was all in my imagination.

Perhaps though, I’ll awaken in an asylum, and not by the pool.  My arms tied behind my back, and with a crayon between my toes I write my suicide note on a foam wall.  This life I write from right now will have been a peaceful dream, and what lay ahead, a nightmare.

And don’t get me started on my lifetime of chronic bad dreams.  Where do I go when I dream…?  Is what I do any less real than what I do when I’m awake…?  In an active mind, I often feel that the only thing separating my memories of life from my bad dreams  are the words memory and dream.


Kinda hopin’ Really hopin’ I don’t wake up here…

Occasionally I consider that all other people are just extras in an orchestrated game between the gods.  I am at the center of their illustrious amusement – just a silver ball in their game of pantheonic pinball.  At the end of the game, I wonder, will the gods rise in unison and offer me the ultimate thumbs up or thumbs down, based on how well I performed bouncing off the obstacles they set before me.  Ever-present is the feeling I am being watched and judged.

The illusion of conclusion…

Even if I am real, where and how am I real…?  Between parallel universes, infinite universes, or an eternal universe where anything that can happen will happen, I find myself right here, right now, and in this glorious life.  Although in the quantum world, I’m only probably here, and probably now.

Physicist Brian Greene tells me freewill is only an illusion and suggests that mathematics supports this.  The calculations of my future have already been laid out, he says, and that I have no say in my say.  However, I don’t steel tips off tabletops in restaurants when nobody is looking, and I don’t push people down the stairs – even when they deserve it.  Sounds like free will to me.

Some scientists suggest existence as I know it is some kind of holographic image created in an alternate reality, and is smaller than the tip of a pen.  Others say I am slave to the algorithms within a cellular automaton.  Just the thought of that has me pining to be a slave building a pyramid, for at least then I would exist in a simpler state.


Holographic Youniverse…

The idea that some being in another dimension might be administering my every thought and every motion by way of a joystick bubbles under the surface of my daydreaming as I clean my studio.  On one hand this appeals to me inasmuch as if it is true, then I am exonerated from all indiscretion and responsibility.  However, if I’m not a Sea Monkey in a jar on some extraterrestrial kitchen counter, atonement and responsibility are not only my duty, they are my only hope.

Dog is one of us…

When my eyes lock with my dog I feel love and truth – simultaneously.  That emotion is a daily confirmation that I am real.  When our eyes break though, I can’t help wondering if my dog is actually an angel sending signals back to God, or an observer sending recommendations back to the mother ship.  I wonder the same thing with many of my human contacts too, you who is reading this included.


“Stroolde calling Orson, come in Orson…”

I flash back to a time in school when I was taunting a special needs kid.  My friend Jeff stopped me and said…

“Roy!  Don’t tease Milton!  What if he’s God and he’s just testing you…?”

Jeff was joking, but I’ve never been able to get that thought out of my head; that anyone else might be God, or a designated representative of the Junta Grande.

The scratch ticket and the interwebs…

I feel guilty for having won the lottery of existence.  All my needs are met – exceedingly.  I’m able to enjoy and appreciate so much.  That I get to make a living doing what I love, and do so in such a beautiful place seems unjust to me, on behalf of those who can’t.  I wonder why I’m not a knobby-knee’d Ethiopian child with fly on one eye suckling his mother’s dry tit.  Yet I seem to be me, and this seems to be my time and my place – probably.

Living in the internet age has only thrown gasoline on the fire of my doubts.  I wonder if this increased connectivity with people and information around the world isn’t just an expanded test by my maker.  It makes no sense that I have instant access to most of the much of the knowledge ever attained and so much information, even if it isn’t always accurate.

Are my social media friends and my analog friends truly connections, or are they an audience watching me and trying to influence the way I bounce off the bumpers in the pinball game of my life…?  They might just be 7-billion lesser gods.

When I look the grocery clerk, the beggar, or the barista in the eyes, I often wonder if they’re thinking,

“He’s on to us…”

That people so seamlessly merge in and out of my digital and analog lives makes me feel increasingly uneasy.


My maker…?

The known universe is precisely 54 years old…

Let’s assume I am real.  I see memes on social media daily that remind me how small and insignificant I am relative to the immensity of the universe.  This is bad internet juju in my opinion.  I am the only component in the universe that I have absolute dominion over.  If ultimate inter-connectivity is inevitable, then the universe can’t fulfill its own destiny if I fail to fulfill mine.

I was dead for nearly 14-billion years before I was born.  I’ll be dead again in a decade or two more.  I better get this thing right while I’m still here.  It’s all pretty overwhelming at times, this work of performance art which I call my life.


At the end of the day, I suppose my reality is simply my choice – my decision to carry forward without worrying too much about any of this.  Whether or not I’m a spec in the universe, the center of it, or an organic shuttlecock in game of badminton between gods, so long as standing in nature stirs my heart, and my daughter returns my phone calls, I will choose to act and feel real.  I will though, always have my doubts.  Be well, and thank you for taking the time…  rc


Enjoying God’s creation, in his creation, and where I feel most real..


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Psychic Ills.  Enjoy…

Music Has The Power Of Wings…

Why So Many…

I was saddened when I heard of Merle Haggard’s passing last week.  I chose to take the rest of that day off to hike, to contemplate, and to write, just as I did with the passings of Glenn Frey, Michael Been, Christ Whitley, and Stuart Adamson.  Each has left substantial etchings on my psyche.

In 2016, people are asking the same question,

Why so many rock & roll deaths all of the sudden…?

It actually makes sense.  Like the big bang of the universe, Rock & Roll had a big bang of its own in 1954 when Bill Haley sang Rock Around the Clock.  That singularity set the Rock & Roll universe into motion.  Haley would be 91 if he were alive today.  But he’s not alive, he’s dead, just like everyone else is or will be.

Like any big bang, the Rock & Roll big bang resulted in an increasing complexity, creating more and more stars as time passed.  Whether they be stars in the universe or those here on earth, stars are born to grow bright, some more bright than others, and to ultimately perish.  With so many more stars existing than ever, that they are losing their lives with increasing frequency should not surprise us.

Despite the sadness we feel when they go, each passing star is the ultimate reminder of their work and their gifts.  So long as we remember it and pass it to the next generation, music can be eternal, if even the musician can’t.

On The Values Of Music…

“Music has the power of wings.”  Mike Scott


Music has helped me frame moments and has provided postures that have salvaged me time and again.   In my post-divorce years, music helped me find faith and mindfulness.  On stressful days, music has been a release – a way to vent by listening rather than speaking.  Music has helped me relax when needed, and I have used music to amp me up when coffee had its limits.  Music has calmed a heart full of rage, and prevented a clinched fist more than a time or two.  Music transports.

Above all things to me, music has been about relationships. The relationships which have come my way because of music have had the power to endure in ways many of my nonmusical relationships haven’t.

When I was 15 my father caught me jumping on my bed and mimicking Jeff Baxter’s guitar solos in My Old School.  My dad, who hated rock music, found the humor, then joined me on his own air guitar, forging a moment in time I will never forget.

Music can help reinforce a strained relationship better than concrete and steel.  Had it not been for a common love of music during her teen years, my relationship with my daughter might have never recovered after her mother and I divorced.

In the 16 years since that divorce, my daughter’s mother and I remain close friends – largely because of a love of music.  Just three nights ago my lovely former wife called to ask me about some of the guitars Sister Rosetta Tharpe played. At first she chastised me for never exposing her to Tharpe

“Why haven’t you ever told me about her…?” she asked.

We stayed on the phone for quite a while and enjoyed some laughter.  I got a bit weepy when we hung up because the conversation was so dear; two divorced people laughing and talking about whether or not Prince’s guitars might be derivative of Tharpe’s, and whether or not it was a Gibson or a Gretsch.


If being human is about relationships, then I know of no better way to enjoy or enhance a relationship than by exposing it to music.  Music can transcend politics, religion, philosophy and even social status when it is allowed to.  For this to work though, one’s ears need to be open.

I think of my camping friends who I meet most summers in Nebraska.  From working class schlubs like me, to educated working professionals – conservative and liberal, Christian, Atheist or Jew, when the campfire is aglow and the guitars come out, we harmonize as one.

Music To Our Children And Beyond…

As a child, when my father wasn’t playing Pete Fountain or Mitch Miller on the Sears Robuck stereo, my mother was playing Eddie Arnold and Bobbi Gentry.  On Brigadoon, they both agreed.  Music was encouraged.  In our house at one time or another were drums, trombones, a trumpet, and the ever-present untouched guitars.  Our musical dreams destined to be unfulfilled, though experienced quite well through the lives of others.

When my daughter was an infant in her bassinette, and just days old, her mother and I danced around the room singing to The Ramones…

Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker, Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker Chel-sea IS, a punk rocker oh oh oh oh oh oh

As part of the earthly autographs etched into the Golden Record aboard the Voyager I spacecraft, are recordings of Blind Willie Johnson, Mozart, and Chuck Berry.  How wonderful it would be, I have thought, that if the only thing an alien species gave a rat’s ass about in receiving this information would be Chuck Berry’s Oh Carrol…?  Surely they would put the tops down on their intergalactic Cadillacs and head our way with the best of intentions.  Maybe we could trade some of our vinyl for some of theirs.  And some dilithium crystals – we will need more dilithium crystals if we’re ever going to get out of here.  The God I believe in plays air guitar.  Be well…  rc


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from me, Roy Cohen.  I wrote this nearly 30 years ago for what was to be the world’s first rockabilly opera, but never completed it.  Enjoy…

Fat Dogs, Niebuhr, and Tomorrow…

No Time For Obese Dogs…

I sat down this morning preparing to pose a question on social media about the responsibility humans have in stewarding obese dogs.  This after an exchange last week about who is responsible for canine obesity.  My stance is that, much like obesity in humans, pet owners bear only a portion of the responsibility for canine obesity.  That is, dogs like humans, are subject to increasingly complex food, pharmaceutical, medical, and social systems.

Though humans do have some say in the obesity of their dogs, these systems are probably also influencing canine obesity, though not to the level that the same systems are influencing human obesity.  To a lesser degree, canines are also susceptible to the economic and media systems which influence humans, though the freewill thing which humans relentlessly pander to, probably doesn’t distract dogs too much.


I’m thinking, too much bread in his diet….

I chose not to post my original question on social media though, because I realized it would have done nothing more than set anchor to a line of convoluted and irrational arguments that would chain me to my laptop for hours.  At the end of the day I thought, we’re all caught up in an endless web of systems anyway…

Three Wise Men…

In his book, The Religions of the World (formerly The Religions of Man), Huston Smith suggests,

We need to remember that in their own day, prophets are not seen as prophets.  To most, they appear to be fringe thinkers, not to be trusted, and often irrational.  It is only those few who follow them, and with the posthumous spreading of their ideas over time, that elevates them to prophet status.

As they walked and spoke in their own communities, men like Jesus, Confucius, and Muhammad did not command the attention of too many, though they did make some noise.  It was only after death, and by those few who valued their ideas who worked to spread those ideas, did they become elevated to prophet status.

I have been reading (some of) the works of Reinhold Niebuhr recently.  Niebuhr is hard to classify.  He was a Christian theologian and educator.  He was a prolific author, a public intellectual, a sounding board for other intellectuals, and an occasional advisor to heavyweight political figures during his time.  Though he considered himself a socialist Christian, and since both of those terms today have been hijacked and mutated, I will argue that Niebuhr was the ultimate conservative by the real meaning of that word.

Portrait Of Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr

A portrait of the American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892 – 1971), United States, mid-20th century. (Photo by Bachrach/Getty Images)

I came to Niebuhr by way of Chalmers Johnson and Andrew Bacevich, both of whom draw on Niebuhr’s moral and diplomatic sensibilities in their own works.  In his book The Limits of Power, Bacevich refers to Niebuhr as a prophet at least a dozen times.  Chalmers Johnson suggests that if every nation had a Niebuhr whispering in the ear of its leader, there would be no need for NATO, The United Nations, or military bases beyond domestic borders.

All Systems Go (Where They Want To)…

Among other things, what the works of Bacevich, Johnson, and Niebuhr reinforce to me is that principled ideals, however impactful their potential might be, are not going to immediately override systems which are already in place and aimed in a forward direction.  The best we can hope is that reasonable ideas take root, and are cultivated over time to gradually steer the trajectory of a system.  The civil rights movement, still in progress, is a good example of this.  If we take an honest big picture view, it’s clear that prophets make good helmsmen on the initial watch, but communities need to keep steering once the prophet is no longer around.

Americans are caught up in all the systems of modernity; technical systems, political systems, cultural systems, economic systems, and many others.  Whether we are talking about obese canines, the military industrial complex or international diplomacy, and whether we consider ourselves passengers, components, or victims of the systems which carry us, I am reminded as our presidential election draws near, of the two flies believing they control the horse who’s ears they stand upon.  We are driven, and we are bound by systems.

Vote The System To A Slight Turn…

Like many, I often think voting doesn’t matter and I don’t trust any of the candidates.  I do though, believe that voting is a responsibility and it’s one I take very seriously.  Perhaps my vote this year, which will go to the most Niebuhrian candidate on election day, will help steer the modern political system just enough toward a new direction that we can pass it off to a more reasonable generation, who might spread the word of Niebuhr’s prophecy and steer us better still.  Of course I’ll need the help of 100,000,000 or so like-minded friends to make this happen.

Before you vote this November – before you decide on a candidate, a platform, or donate any more money or your own sensibility to a cause, please consider reading The Irony of American History by Niebuhr, The Limits of Power by Bacevich, or Blowback by Chalmers Johnson – all 3 if you have the time.  It’s time we steer away from America’s imperial ambitions abroad, and that we take a good look in the mirror.

I gasp at what is taking place with the current presidential race, but realize the idiocy of it all is a reflection of our culture at large – of the systems we have set into motion and make no attempt to steer.  It seems clear to me that we could benefit from a new prophet to help lead us out of our Idiocracy.  As Bacevich calls for a Niebuhrian revolution, I stand alongside him in hopes that someone – anyone will listen, learn more, and help spread the word.  If not Niebuhr, perhaps David Brooks.  Be well…  rc


We are just one or two elections away from President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Comacho…


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from Dave Alvin.  Prettiness and such like that.  Enjoy…

Disorder In The House…

Set Thine House In Order…

Eating, eating disorders, and food psychology are areas, in my opinion, where there are still many more unknowns than knowns.


Los Juilgeros Preserve, Fallbrook

Factors which can lead to the more common eating disorders are, in no particular order:

– a lack of sleep

– use of alcohol, narcotics, and stimulants

– stress

– blood sugar/insulin imbalances

– other hormone imbalances

– biological depression

– environmental depression

– a self-depreciative persona

– food selections

– social and peer behaviors

– social and peer expectations

– media habits

– parental influence

– spousal or romantic influence

Of course there are others I can’t think of off the top of my head, but my point is that the roots of eating disorders are complex, and I’ll suggest for people who live with one or more eating disorder that more than one these causes might be at play at different times, and that multiple causes might be at play much of the time.


Veggie Spring Rolls.   Golden Kitchen  in Fallbrook

Expecting that an eating disorder can be traced to a single cause, and that cause can be addressed with a single fix or two is wishful thinking.   I say this not as a fitness trainer, but as a man who has lived with, and for the most part controlled, my binge eating tendencies through my entire adult life.

I can say that at one time or another, multiple reasons have contributed to my binge eating, and in different ways at different times.

What I have found most useful in controlling it, as odd as this may sound, is by simply being myself – the person I am deep down.   When I conduct my life as I truly aspire to be – by just being true to myself, however hard that might be, I find that my eating is more streamlined, more rhythmic, and more consistent.  This ideal, I suspect, might be superimposed over other behaviors and disorders which might manifest within any of us.


Brown rice, brocc and some tofe.  I speak casually of my veggie delights…

I am not so naïve is to suggest that simply being a moral person is enough to reverse hormone imbalances, cascading pharmaceutical conflicts, diseases or other factors which can contribute to eating disorders.  I will suggest though, that living one’s life consistently with one’s values will always place that person in a better field position to receive or to accomplish anything good.  Be well…  rc

If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from David Lowrey.  Enjoy…

The Doorway, The Empty Bed, And The Parents Left Behind…

The Bad News…

I was driving south on highway 163 through Balboa Park when I adjusted the radio dial to to catch the news of the day. That’s when I learned of the Columbine shootings. After a few seconds of shock, I pulled to the side of the freeway and gave in to some trembling and a few tears. Though I was in San Diego looking to buy a house, my wife and daughter were still back in Colorado. Columbine was an unincorporated area of Littleton, adjacent to where were lived in Highlands ranch. This traggedy hit home.

I soon gained control of my emotions and continued driving to my empty apartment. Despite the early hour, I crawled into my sleeping bag and took it all in, continuing to listen to the radio, and to all the media speculation as to why the shootings happened. I wasn’t interest in why.

My most immediate thought was not about the reasons why, not about the perpetrators, nor even the victims of the tragedy. The image that stood fast in my mind was that of a married couple – two silhouettes of unknown parents standing in the doorway of their child’s bedroom on the first morning after the shootings, and staring at an empty bed. And that was the tragedy to me; the doorway, the empty bed, and the parents with nobody to wake up on that first day after. It’s an image I’ve never been able to go.

Too Soon…

Since that time, other school shootings notwithstanding, I have been proximate to the deaths of too many children, some by accident and some by disease. When I become aware of these losses, that’s where my head goes first; to the doorway, the empty bed, and to the parents standing emotionally paralyzed with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on that first day without.

Two months ago, after learning that a friend’s adolescent daughter passed unexpectedly, my head went there again. My heart ached at the thought of my friend and her husband standing in that doorway, looking at an empty bed, with nobody to wake up and get ready for school on their first morning without Clara.



I checked out that day. I cancelled my sessions, took my dog to a nature trail and spent the day immersed in heavy thought. Trying to be grateful for all I have and all I am, I took inventory of my life but came up short. For the next several weeks I tried to reconcile this untimely loss. Despite the strength her mother has showed in the wake of this tragedy, I just can’t do it – I can’t get good with the loss of this child.


Several weeks later I would learn of another young girl stricken with cancer who may not see 2017. Again, I went to the doorway, to the empty bedroom, and the parents who will be left behind with nobody to wake up the next day and get ready for school.

As I think of these young people, and of the parents they leave behind, regardless of what circumstances lead to their passing, I will always think first of the parents in the doorway, and of the empty bed.

Though the bed can be removed and the room can be reassigned, the doorway – that portal of access into a child’s life, always remains. I can’t imagine the strength that is required to pass through that doorway on a regular basis. I can though, love and appreciate all the parents who face this, and I bow down to them with enormous respect and a great deal of love. Be well… rc

Beyond the doorway there is an empty bed
Two shadows stand and nothing is said

This moment is a vacuum as love can’t breathe
It falls to the floor and two parents grieve

Tears form but aren’t able to flow
Dreams fall never to grow

A blanket of sadness covers the two
Souls filled with lead not believing it’s true

Though the sun may shine, and the world may turn
And as the lives of others may flicker and churn

The parents in the doorway are unable to feel
Unable to cry, not ready to heal

The empty bed may stay or may go
It might be a shrine or may be let go

But the doorway is there, and will always remain
An ongoing reminder, and a portal to pain
If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.. Oh, and there’s this from Hymns from Nineveh…

The Pot On The Burner…

The Blender In My Head…

I spend much of my waking time in various states of conflict. Conflicted over matters such as events in the Middle East, Wall Street, the corrosion of America’s political structure, and the ever-increasing social complexities of mankind. I spend as much time conflicted over smaller things such as the ethics of fast food, bicycle culture, as well as changing trends in the arts and in entertainment. Conflict, it seems, is my essence.

The blender in my head...

The blender in my head…

One tool I have used through the years to (help) manage this inner turmoil is my morning meditation; it re-centers me. Each day on sit on the floor of my shower in total darkness, with the lights off, and with warm water cleansing the remains of yesterday’s dust from my skin and from my soul, and recite the following meditation aloud:

I thank you for receiving these words.

I thank you for a new day and new chance to walk in the right path.

I ask forgiveness for the sins I have committed and the mistakes I have made. Help me have awareness that I learn from those sins and those mistakes that they don’t become repeated.

I thank you for the blessings and opportunities which surround me. Help me have awareness that I recognize and appreciate those blessings, and help me have determination to fulfill those opportunities for the betterment of this world, the people in it, and the people in my life.

Help me speak the truth this day. Regardless of what situations I find myself in, and what circumstances surround me, help me remember that it’s better to stand in a room empty of words than to breach the truth for the sake of a sound.

Help me remember that my place is not to judge – that what person looks like or what they don’t look like, is not a reflection of who they are. Help me remember that behind every pair of eyes is a heart, a soul, and a life’s worth of circumstances I know nothing about.

I ask, on behalf of my loved ones, for their good health, for their safety, for their comfort, for peace, that they know love in their lives, and for strength during difficult times.

Help me take time to remember the animals in this world and in my life, that I give to them as much as they give to me. Thank you for the lessons they teach me in unconditional love, living in the moment, kindness, humility, and most of all, forgiveness.

Help me be a good man today. Help me walk tall, speak few words, be far in my reach, and help me be kind.
I thank you for hearing these words, and I love you. Amen.

Schmaltzy, I know, but it’s a part of me.

Estuary. Oceanside, CA

Estuary. Oceanside, CA

Dances With Schmaltz…

This Schmaltz Waltz is my most valued daily ritual. When I do this, who I am speaking to is unknown by me.  I suppose I speak to myself mostly – a way of reminding myself how I wish to live. It would be a fool’s task and childish game for me to suggest it’s god, God, or the Universe receiving those words. Perhaps I just speak to the underlying current that 14 billion years ago worked and reworked very little matter into increasingly complex matter which became more complex matter still, and that somehow the tiniest fragments of all that matter would become me.

Despite that my morning ritual resets and calms my early day, the conflict in my head soon returns and increases as the day goes on. Is combating ISIS worth the risking ground troops over…? How broad is the 2nd amendment…?  Is grass fed beef better for society than feed lot beef…? Should we eat beef at all…?  TV is the devil!  Thank god for college football on TV!!!  Chap-Stick or Burt’s Bees…? And so goes the blender in my head.

On the road to Santa Cruz

On the road to Santa Cruz

Despite that my morning meditation does little to eliminate this chaos, it does slow it down – if only for a moment. I can easily imagine how much worse it might all be without my daily reminder. I call it meditation, though others might call affirmation, mantra, or even prayer. Regardless, I’ll suggest we not be too quick to criticize those who participate in such contemplative practices, be they secular or religious.

A rare flat day. Carlsbad, CA

A rare flat day. Carlsbad, CA

Without such practices – rituals which regularly remind us to take step back and recenter, culture might be that much more chaotic. Maybe prayer is just the social equivalent to raising the pot off the burner before it boils over – only to place it immediately back down. We call off the overflow, but the boil beneath the surface remains. Be well… rc

Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from the Fray. Enjoy…

Thank You…

Living Intentionally…

Each morning I wake up with the best of intentions. In my pre-dawn meditation, as I take inventory of all I have and all I am, I remind myself to be the best possible father, son, friend, businessman, and neighbor that I can be. Most mornings I have screwed it up by 9:00am. Never though, do I quit trying.

Yesterday, after helping a friend complete the final stage of a move into her new apartment, it was a sincere joy to surprise her by treating her to a live Christmas tree. Her artificial tree had been lost in the move. Not only did I buy it for her, I chose to stay and set it up so she could spend the afternoon focused on her school work.

When it came to buying a stand for the tree I had 2 choices; $6.99 or $14.99. I chose $6.99. Once the stand was assembled, I tilted the tree up, positioned it in the center of the stand, and tightened the 4 screws which were to stabilize the tree. I was ready to be a hero for my friend, if only for a moment.

Like a bad case of Tourette’s though, the rapid-fire discharge of my foul language from my mouth, as the tree fell out of the stand was cause for my friend to take shelter behind a led shield. She just stepped into the kitchen instead, as her 2 dogs and my dog began to shake. So much for being a hero…

After offering my friend and our dogs my sincere apologies, and hiding behind a false calm exterior, I returned to the store to purchase the $14.99 tree stand in hopes it would actually work.  Though the short drive should have been a good opportunity for me to calm down and remember what’s important, each red light raised my blood pressure a few more points. By the time I got to the Wal-Mart parking lot on the Saturday before Christmas, I felt like Michael Douglas in the movie Falling Down.  My hands were trembling and steps were fast and hard.

Then I stopped for a minute and re-listened to a voice mail message which another friend left me only hours before. In this message I had gotten word that an elderly friend and former client had been hospitalized – I was told she wasn’t going to make it. So a Christmas tree fell out of a stand, and I hit a few red lights – no big deal. I quickly remembered what’s important and calmed down.


Goodbyes Too Often…

In the last few years I have known or known of more than a dozen people who have passed away unexpectedly and far too young. The younger brother of one of my best friends died suddenly and unexpectedly – he was in his early 40s. Another friend who had recently texted someone that she was having the best day of her life died of a heart attack only moments after she sent that text – she was 42. Last month the adolescent daughter of a friend and fellow fitness trainer passed – that one will haunt me forever. Earlier this year the son of a client and local business man passed – he was my age. I have run out of fingers to count these losses with. Hardly a month goes by…

Thinking of these people and their families is always grounding to me – a good reminder that, as cliché as it sounds, each day really is a gift.

So when I returned to my friend’s home with the better Christmas tree stand, I immediately put the stand down, kissed her cheek, and told her that appreciate her. After all, we were married for 17 years and have a daughter together. For me, that kind of appreciation is eternal.

Each morning I wake up with the best of intentions. I wish to be the best possible father, son, friend, businessman, and neighbor that I can be. I really do try. Most mornings I have screwed it up by 9:00am, though I never quit trying.

Thank You…

In the course of my life I have given everyone who knows me numerous opportunities to dislike me, if not sever our relationship. Family, friends, business associates, and neighbors have all seen me at my worst, despite that it is always my intention that they see me at my best. To be around me long enough is to see me go from zero to son-of-a-bitch in 2.3 seconds.

I suppose everyone who knows me well though, knows me well enough that they understand my good intentions. Like a quality golf shot on an otherwise poor outing, I guess that’s what keeps them coming back for more.

As another year closes out, and the mile marker of 2016 is within sight, and as I try even harder to let the better me prevail, I would simply like to thank my family, friends, business associates, and my neighbors for knowing me and liking me anyway.

If a tree falls in the living room, do I make a sound…? I will hope that in the future, I won’t. Be well… rc

Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from a later incarnation of Led Zeppelin. Enjoy…

The Primary Colors Of Strength…

Few Ingredients…

We learn the primary colors early in life, often before we even learn to read. From combining just 3 colors; red, yellow, and blue, all other colors can be reached. Often though, we don’t need much more than the primary colors to achieve a creative conclusion.

Though many great works of art include a myriad of colors from across the spectrum, it is the seasoned artist who understands best where and how to apply those colors, or even if they are needed. Even so, some of the most advanced artists through the years have been touted for their simplest works. We call this minimalism.


The Workout As A Form Of Art…

All traditional strength exercises are variations of 6 simple movements; pushing, pulling, bending, torso rotation, squatting, and raising the extremities laterally. Every strength exercise is a variation of those 6 primary movements.  What is a workout, if not an expression of creativity…?

Pushing: The use of force to transfer a load away from our body. There is vertical pushing, horizontal pushing, downward pushing, and pushing through any angle in-between.

Pulling: The use of force to draw a load toward our body. We can pull from overhead, pull from in front, we can pull from below, or we can pull from any angle in-between.

Squatting, bending, torso rotation, and raising the arms and legs laterally have as many variations.

Other ways in which we can vary our pushing and pulling are by adjusting hand positions. Wide grips, medium grips, narrow grips, overhand grips, and underhand grips can all be used to promote variety in the pushing and pulling aspects of strength training. These varying angles and hand positions allows us to direct tension to different areas of our musculature. In squatting, varying one’s foot position can have the same effect.


Primarily Speaking…

I try and teach my students that not every painting requires every color. In fact, the works of art I appreciate most are those with few colors and few complexities. Similarly, not every workout needs every possible angle, hand, or foot position. This is a mistake I see frequently with others; the more is better mindset. Walk into any gym and you’ll see people of all ages and all levels of proficiency performing set after set of many variations of the same exercise by changing angles, hand, and foot positions until they are exhausted.

Though I also tend to pursue this type of variety in my workouts, I do so more on a monthly basis, not by the workout. That is, in the course of a month I might include bench presses performed on an incline bench, on a flat bench, or on a decline bench.  I might perform chest presses on a machine, with dumbbells, or with barbells in a month’s time – there is value in all of these, but rarely do I duplicate them in a given workout. Not only can that duplication be detrimental to the muscles by over training them, it is a very large waste of time – my most valued commodity.

Though variety will help to foster progress in hypertrophy and functional physicality, it is variety over time which matters much more than variety within a workout. Like the simple painting, simplicity in the structure of a workout can offer more from less.

It’s Not Rocket Science

We live in the granite counter top generation. We decorate every wall. Most of us have at least some clothes in our closet which we rarely wear or have never worn. Our phones have more power than most of us can comprehend, and our cars now do things which we could do on our own not long ago. Increasing social and technical complexity are among our many co-masters.


For my time in the gym, that is where the real beauty is; in a lack of complexity. I usually perform one variation each, of 6 basic movements in my workouts, and use the 13.7 billion year old force of gravity to affect them. Despite what social media, many fitness trainers, and the fitness industry at large might have you believe, it’s not rocket science – it’s a simple art. Be creative, and be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Van Morrison. Enjoy!

Mixed Thoughts On Religious Tolerance…

Calling 9/11…

In the days after 9/11 people went to books stores and got online in droves to attain, read and better understand the Qur’an. Presumably, so they might better understand the motivation behind the attack on the World Trade Centers. Huston Smith once wrote, “nobody ever curled up on a rainy night with the Qur’an.” Honestly, on the heels of 9/11 the need to better understand Islam never crossed my mind.

I guess I was fortunate inasmuch as I didn’t feel a need to read Islamic text to better understand Muslims. I simply saw them daily and up close. I had two Muslim clients at the time; hardworking business people with dreams, beliefs, shortcomings, puppies, and tonsillitis – just like me. Because we were social in and out of the gym, I saw firsthand through their extended families and friends what their surface lives looked like. With the exception of names which were often difficult to pronounce, their lives and mine were surprisingly similar.

My friends, both female, didn’t dress in what we think of as traditional Islamic women’s attire – unless sweat pants and ponytails fall into that category. From their gym memberships, to their favorite chocolates, to Wiggles concerts and all in-between, they were Americans.

They didn’t remain clients too long after 9/11, though they do remain friends. Despite that they dressed and conducted themselves like normal Americans, they had middle eastern names, darker skin, and did little to hide their Muslim faith, though they were not overtly Muslim. Their Islam, like many people’s religion, was just something they carried in their back pocket, to be taken out as needed.

Celebrate difference...

Celebrate difference…

In a conservative town though, it became increasingly hard for them to go out without having their faith publicly questioned, and often persecuted by the ignorant. In watching this take place I would learn that ignorance can be overpowering. So overpowering that my two friends eventually left the area in favor of the more forgiving downtown San Diego where there is a more broadminded populous.

To think, from that singular day in 2001, and from the actions of only a few, every day thereafter my friends, like many Muslims in the US, would have to pull their Islam from their back pocket and present it like some kind of cultural ID card to be scrutinized whenever questioned by the ignorant. How old that must have gotten. Rarely do I see Christians and Jews have to explain their beliefs or justify their intentions while buying detergent, based solely on the act of a few on a given day.

Broad Brush Strokes…

I was asked recently by a young woman I mentor about the differences between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I was quick to channel her toward seeking the commonalities between them, explaining she would learn more by directing her attention to how similar the 3 faiths are. She kept pressing me though, as if she might discover some major difference(s) if I were to better divide the 3 religions for her.


I explained that broad brush strokes usually paint blurry pictures, but I would do my best to reduce it to three fundamentals differences which I see to be as much cultural as they are religious:

– Christianity is fundamentally about forgiveness over indiscretion.
– Judaism is about repairing indiscretion.
– Islam is about living life in a way that there is no need for forgiveness or repair.

None of those 3 explanations is more noble than the other two. I’ll even suggest that it is the goal of each faith to combine all 3; to forgive, to repair, and to move forward in a better way, but that each tenet noted above is central to its corresponding faith. However broad those brush strokes might be, I actually stand with them. I feel very good about offering this perspective to my young friend.

Atheism, Islam, And Prejudice…

One of the great ironies I see in the social media era is this: I have a network of liberal, open-minded friends who would fight to their death to protect my human rights. If I were gay, transgender, or preferred to have sex with monkeys, they would support me. I find an unsavory duality with the knowledge that many of those open minded friends are against all religion and call themselves atheists.

By the way, being against religion doesn’t make one an atheist. It makes one an anti-theist. In an even more inverse irony, many of these anti-theist friends are now standing up for immigrant Muslims, yet take a hard stand against American Christianity. This makes no sense and can’t be explained, only rationalized.

Simply put, if a person is against religion as a collective, or any particular religion, that is a form of prejudice – period. To be against anyone’s beliefs in favor of their own is an undeniable act of bigotry. So please, don’t defend my right to have sex with monkeys if you won’t also support my right to pray to a god – any god, or every last god in the pantheon.


Religion has been part of our cultural DNA since hunter-gatherer times. Like any trait of biological evolution, if religion did not serve a sound purpose in carrying our species upward and ahead, cultural evolution would have weeded religion out long ago. Clearly it has not. Be well… rc

Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Jellyfish. Enjoy!

The Elegant Plateau…

Road Detour…

In life we often find ourselves traveling a road which takes us in a direction that was once obvious and fitting, but in time becomes no longer consistent with our personal growth and changing values.  So we choose a new road, one which we see leading us in a better direction or into the next phase of our life.  Somewhere down that road, we may realize we’re back on the original road we turned off of.  Either consciously or subconsciously we’ve circled back only to find that we’re headed in that same direction which we had exited for all the right reasons.

As it relates to my relationship with strength training, several times since my mid-40s, I have chosen to leave one road in favor of the road which makes more sense for the next phase of my life.  It usually doesn’t take long though, for me to end up back on the road I left; the road of bigger, stronger, leaner.  That was the right road for the younger me, but no longer.

At least 3 times in the last 10 years I have said enough is enough in the pursuit of more; more strength, more mass, more lean.  I well understand the limits of age; that the human body will only get so strong, so muscular, so lean.  So I choose a new road; the road of the elegant plateau.  The elegant plateau is a direction where if I don’t get any stronger, any more muscular, or any leaner, I’m ok with it.  That if I can just maintain what I have as I grow older, that is progress enough.


This Time I Mean It…

Nearly 10 years after I first told myself enough is enough, I found myself on the road to bigger, stronger, leaner yet again.  Daily in my strength workouts I note in my journal how challenging or not a movement is.  If it’s not too challenging, and the form is intact, I note to increase the weight for the next workout.  In some exercises I’m actually using more weight in proper form than ever.  That this progress is doable is feeding me ego.  It is also stifling the very purpose for my workouts.

This pursuit of increased poundages is not breaking my body down excessively.  It isn’t hurting me.  It isn’t stressful.  It’s simply a departure from a philosophical tenet; that I just don’t need more of anything.  In all other aspects of my life I pursue less or just enough, yet when it comes to my workouts, I have been pursuing more.  I’m done.

I am once again committing to the road of the elegant plateau – and this time I mean it.  Simply stated, I will no longer pursue more strength, more muscle mass, or a leaner physique.  The condition I maintain today, is also the site of my next month.  If I can maintain this condition ongoing, I’m ahead of the game.

I look ok in a form fitted shirt – even when it’s tucked in.  I push reasonable weights in proper form.  I can run as fast as needed if being chased by Frankenstein.  I’m as lean as I’m going to get.  For all of this, I have few aches and much confidence.  I work out first and foremost to enjoy it.



Bodybuilding light, or Buddhabuilding as I like to think of it, is based on the structure of traditional bodybuilding for larger purposes, but with a little less intensity, a little less volume, and a more moderate load.  It is still concerned with strength, size, and aesthetics so far as maintaining them goes.  However, it carries with it more utility in the areas of functional strength, balance, flexibility, sustainability, and the best aspect of all, a transformative, meditative state during the workout that just isn’t there when I’m in pursuit of more.

Buddhabuilding also incorporates balance and stretching movements in-between sets.  That is, if I’m doing 3 sets of incline bench presses, in-between sets I’ll either hold a stretching posture for 30 seconds or perform a balance exercise for 30 seconds, then on to the next set with more balance or stretching in-between the sets which follow.

The weights used with a given strength exercise are by no means light.  They are challenging, yet achievable, and lend themselves to a meditative state as I am better able to concentrate on the muscles involved.  This is where a connection takes place between my mind and my body that just isn’t there when the weights are heavier.

The Soundtrack & The Result…

One of the better aspects of Buddhabuilding to me is the soundtrack.  I gave up listening to music while exercising years ago.  These days it’s books on philosophy, religion, and cultural evolution which lead me through my games with gravity, efficiently building body and mind simultaneously, one hour at a time.  I had a great run at Buddhabuilding from 2005-2011 when I got greedy again and wanted more.  It’s time to get back to being me.

Liking my workouts – loving them has been the methadone of my existence for years.  It’s where time stands still for me.  I find that when I’m pursuing bigger, stronger, leaner, the physical results may be glorious, but that timeless state that sooths my soul is elusive.  When the weights are more moderate, the concentration is higher, and my mind is similarly stimulated, the result is a transformative workout, and that result is much more needed in my life than larger triceps.  Be well…  rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Jason Falkner.  Enjoy!

Obedience To Observation…

On the table to my right, rests a rectangular of book of paintings by the artist, Andrew Wyeth. The book is one of the few remaining links to my childhood. Looking at it this morning, I am reminded of the formative nature of things, even those things we may take for granted.

For most of my childhood, the Wyeth book was the centerpiece of the coffee table where I would rest my feet after school each day, and dull my sensibilities by watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island, McHale’s Navy, and Hogan’s Heroes.

During the commercials though, I enjoyed flipping through the pages of the Wyeth book, staring at his paintings, reading the stories about them – about him, and imagining those scenes in my head. I’d snap the book shut though, as soon as Gilligan came back on.


What fascinated me most back then, and what would become so formative for me today is that, despite the diversity among Wyeth’s work, he painted on the same farm, week after week, year after year for most of his career – always finding more within a relatively small space.

The artist, author, and naturalist, James Prosek once said in an interview…

“If you’re not looking, you won’t see it…”

He was speaking about walking in nature while trout fishing. Hearing Prosek offer that sentence, I was taken back to Wyeth, painting on the same farm for most of his life – finding so much without going too far.


The lesson learned from both artists, born two generations apart, is central to my life today. As I amble through my life each day, I not only take pleasure in stopping to observe small things, I am compelled to do so. Observation has become my obsession. Whether I am walking in the woods, or in the cereal aisle of the local market, I enjoy stopping appreciating the details.

Now in no way am I comparing myself to Wyeth or Prosek.  I’m just a chimp with a smartphone, and too much time on his hands. I am grateful though, for the fingerprints both Wyeth and Prosek have left on my soul.


Walking in nature each day, in the same place, and taking pictures with the expectation that I’ll find the new, forces me to slow down, and to look more closely at small things. And that is a lesson which can be superimposed over every other aspect of my life… Jhciacb


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Digital Legacy…

Through the ages of man, we remember very few individuals. From the onset of the written word, to the current day, the people we remember, are most often kings, politicians, priests, and performers – anyone for whom there might have been a written record.
Though the occasional commoner might have etched the words
“Dear Diary…”
onto a stone tablet or piece of parchment, for most of the 100-billion people who have ever lived, we have no record of them as individuals.
Today that’s a different story. Anyone with a social media account, whether they realize it or not, is writing Dear Diary… with every post or entry.
Cyber-Archeologists 100, 500, or 10,000 years from now will (potentially) have an archived record, and at least some evidence of every individual who has ever logged onto a computer, made an entry, written a post, or published a blog.
I find that fascinating – that after 15,000 years of being upright, organized, and looking beyond the moment, most humans have been long forgotten. However, anyone alive today, and savvy enough to chain a few words together, has the potential to be remembered through the balance of the ages.
Though I do keep a personal journal on my computer, it is my blog as well as my Facebook posts which capture my essence – digitally. So, whether I share something each morning or each week, I try to remember what I’m sharing is less a statement of the moment, and more a legacy of my thought – to be remembered for what might just be all eternity… Jhciacb


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Chambers Brothers.  Enjoy….

Sikh And Ye Shall Find…

The idea of navigating the southbound 405 freeway, from LA to San Diego, at the start of rush hour is daunting.  However, that was the price I was willing to pay, to show my nephew the peak of the day at the Santa Monica Pier.

I have a genuine phobia when it comes to LA traffic.  Eight years ago, I witnessed an accident so horrific, it would reframe my perspective on the experience of being a driver southern California.  Since that time, I have had 2 legitimate panic attacks while driving in LA traffic, both times I had to call a friend to help me through them.  Yesterday, I did not want to have a 3rd, in the presence of my nephew.


We had a great time at the pier.  We sunned.  We dined.  We talked, laughed, and philosophized.  We did pier stuff, and uncle stuff.  The time came though, for us head home with our memories tucked safely in our hearts and in our iPhones – it was 3:30pm.

The freeway entrance is less than a mile from the pier, so I had little time for the crippling anticipation of the traffic to come.  I don’t think I let on to my nephew just how worried I was that another panic attack might be forthcoming, but my hands were already a bit shaky as we merged into traffic, and my heart-rate was increasing.  I was more calm than I expected to be, but I could feel it coming on.


Looking at the rows of cars barely moving before me, I couldn’t help but feel that I was born into the worst time in human history, and by choice, I was in the worst place – LA at rush hour.  Traffic, I thought, is like a pistol whipping – a dull pain that still has the ability to kill.  The good news was, that it was less of a merge, and more of crawl – it took nearly 5 minutes just to get on the freeway.

As we claimed our parking spot on the 405, I looked to my left and immediately saw an older Lexus, in weathered condition.  Inside was a man with a long gray beard – maybe 60 or so.  He was wearing a turban, nibbling on a piece of fruit, and bobbing his head up and down.  His passenger window was open, and we were moving slowly enough beside him that I could clearly hear The Patti Smith Group resonating from his stereo.


I can’t explain why, and really, I don’t want to know, but I felt an overwhelming sense of peace with this scene.  My shaky hands calmed a bit, and my heart and senses eased up.  There I was, with my nephew at my side, driving alongside a Sikh in a tattered Lexus, eating an apple to the core, as the song, People Have The Power, gave rise to my spirit.

In that moment, I could not help but feeling that I was living at the finest time in human history, and in the best possible place to be – stuck in LA traffic.

For the next 3 ½ hours, we barely moved – to go 90 miles.  There was no panic though, no fear, and no frustration from the traffic.  Just peace in the idea the life can be still good, even  when anticipating the not-so-good, and that the people have the power… Jhciacb


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Dogs O f Peace.  Enjoy…

What The Hell Is That…

I have a friend who is an administrator at a major university. She manages a department of a dozen or so people, most of them under the age of 25.

Several months ago, some light construction took place in her office. This made it necessary for her employees to shuffle a half-dozen or so cubicles, and temporarily relocate their workspaces. Also involved in this, was the relocation of a storage cubicle – you know, the one nobody works in, but gets used for the storage of things deemed too good for the trash.

Fast forward…

The construction was completed, and the day arrived for everyone to un-shuffle, and return to their cubicles of origin. Toward the end of the process, a young employee, under 25, requested that my friend (her boss) meet her at one of the storage cubicles – she had seen an item that she didn’t know what to do with it, because she didn’t know what it was.

The two met at the cubicle, and the young woman pointed to the item, looked perplexed, and exclaimed to her boss, “I don’t know what this is, do you…?”

Her boss smiled a secret smile, kept her chuckle inaudible, and replied…

“It’s a typewriter. They were used before computers and word processors.”

Apparently the young woman had never seen a typewriter before. Even after the explanation, she looked perplexed, and failed to understand the straight forward concept of a typewriter. Her boss explained to her that she would take care of it, and directed her employee to return to work.

On one hand, it’s easy to think of the young woman as dim, or perhaps even clueless. Nope. Just young, and born into an age of profound technical innovation.


As technical innovation approaches the rate of exponential, so too does the rate of obsolete. Don’t blame a young person for failing to understand the past. Just hope that they are competent enough to handle the present, and are prepared for a rapidly changing future… Jhciacb


If you are not already a subscriber, please scroll up and do so.  Tell your friends about me — about what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens.  Enjoy…