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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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…

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.

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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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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 Steve Wynn.  Enjoy…

A Good Day For Schleprock…

Soccer Niece…

Last week my niece invited me to attend a soccer tournament in Las Vegas; a college showcase. Since Vegas is only a 5 hour drive I said yes, excited that she asked. She lives in Colorado so it would be nice to see her play, even if we wouldn’t have a chance to visit – team activities and all.

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Natalea “Bug” Cohen

After hanging up, I called my friend Brian and asked if he wanted to ride along. He was glad to join me. Brian and I have become road trip compadres over the last couple of years. I booked a room in Vegas using Travelocity, and secured digs at the Luxor for $64. Brian even offered the use of his truck for the trip.

Quick Trip Out…

Brian and I left for Vegas early Saturday morning. It was an easy drive out, and a great chance for Brian and I to catch up, and solve the world’s problems while Stroodle observed, occasionally rolling his eyes.

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Truth is, he doesn’t even have his permit yet…

We stopped only for lunch at The Mad Greek in Baker, CA. Possessing the social media habits of an 8th grade girl, it was important that I post pictures of dolmas and falafels from The Mad Greek on Instagram. Despite this olive pit-stop, we arrived at the soccer fields a couple of hours early, and relaxed under the shade of a tree while waiting for my niece’s team to arrive.

The girls showed up soon after. As they warmed up, I casually walked by and waived to my niece to acknowledge that I was there. She waived back as I continued walking, not wanting to interrupt her.

She and her team played well, but lost 1-0. When the game was over her team headed off in the opposite direction from where Brian and I had parked. That’s ok, I would try and see her prior to her game the following morning and give her a hug. I was there to show support, not take up her time. Brain, Stroodle and I headed to the Luxor to check in and spend what I hoped would be a quiet evening and enjoy a good meal.

Travelocity Sucks…

The front desk clerk at the Luxor reeked of you’re screwed buddy from the way he asked me,

“Did you book this reservation yourself…?”

I explained that I booked it through Travelocity.

“Uhm… yah. This happens from time to time with them” he explained.

After expanding his search, he clarified that my reservation was for the following night, and that he had no rooms – that Vegas probably had no rooms. This was the week of the Las Vegas Comicon, March Madness, and the largest high school soccer showcase in the western U.S. – even the Holiday Inns, Best Westerns, and Days Inns were sold out. The closest room we found was nearly an hour away at state line for $169.

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Now 5:00pm, our only realistic option was to go home, and forgo my niece’s morning game. I thought to myself, at least I got to wave to her and show her some family support. Brian and I hit the road and were home in 5 hours. Due to the late hour though, and that I live 20 miles south of Brian, he asked me to drop him off at his house, keep his truck for the night, and return it to him the following day. Made sense.

As I left Brian’s driveway the gas light came on. It was late. I was tired. I figured the truck would have no problem going 20 miles. Hey, it was mostly downhill anyway. Through heavy fog, I headed home.

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Looks much better on F than on E…

I was at the intersection of Old Highway 395 and I-15 when the truck ran out of gas. It was now 10:00pm. My choice was to leave my dog in the truck and walk about 5 miles to the closest gas station, or call a cab, keep my dog with me, and get the deed done. The cab arrived quickly. I explained what needed to be done when the cab driver replied,

“We ain’t allowed to carry hazardous cargo” referring to the can of gas I wanted to obtain.

I asked if for $40 he could refer to it as scarcely dangerous cargo instead. We were back at Brian’s truck with a can of gas within 25 minutes.

The fitness studio where I live and work is located in a historic building over the only bar on Main Street. Historic, of course, means old, and old means thin walls. When I arrived home, a live band was playing in the bar below me. On nights when they have live music, I usually stay with my mom.

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The historic El Real building.  Fallbrook, CA…

Now getting close 11:00pm I knew my mother was already asleep. Mom always attaches a chain lock to secure her door night. Staying with her was not an option. My choice now was to stay at my studio and attempt to sleep through the sounds of a live band 14 feet beneath me, or go to a local motel. The motel wanted $124 for a room. I chose to ride out the music.

Though the band below me was to quit playing at midnight, I guess with nothing else to do, they decided to stick around and jam for a couple hours more. I probably fell asleep by 3:00am.

On Friends & Family…

So, for the cost of 3 tanks of gas, lunch at the Mad Greek, an unused hotel room in Las Vegas, a cab ride, a cab driver bribe, a very long day, and a poor night’s sleep, I got to wave to my niece and watch her play soccer for 2 hours without ever speaking with or hugging her. Would I do it all again…? Of course because… family.

All in all, it had been an excellent day despite the cascading snags. I got to spend 16 hours with a good friend. We enjoyed good food, good conversation, spent time outdoors watching young women play soccer, and Stroodle got 16 hours of lap time. Best of all, the day didn’t end in an animated fist of smoke disguised as a hotel room.

The following morning, I received this note from Brian:

“No matter where we are, no matter what we do, we are together as family.
Yesterday was “Just Right”. It does not matter to me, whether I’m driving with you to Major Market or driving over 575 miles round trip to Las Vegas to watch your niece’s soccer game for 90 minutes, then back within 16 hours.

It was all good. From having Stroodle on our laps, the conversations, the lessons learned, testing our patience, learning more about forgiveness, and acceptance. It was just right, and things do happen for a reason. Thank you for The Mad Greek Experience!
Love You Man”

Not what we had planned, but a very good day indeed. Be well… rc

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Brian, dressed as “Joe” that day, and Stroodle, dressed as…

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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 Heartless Bastards. 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.

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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

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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 a later incarnation of Led Zeppelin. Enjoy…

First Step On A New Road…

Hunting For Smells…

We call it, hunting for smells.  It’s the 3-4 times daily ritual of my dog, Stroodle leading me on a walk along the streets and nature trails which run through town.  We go at his whim, at his pace, and are guided exclusively by the scents of the day.  My primary job is to ensure that he safely navigates the intersections he must cross as his nose guides us through town.

More recently we have come to rest briefly at the halfway point, a small grassy park just a block off of Main Avenue. Once there, we lay on the ground together for 20 minutes or so and Stroodle warms his bones in the sun as I find purity and peace by watching the calm of his face as he does this.  This is one of the more grounding and beautiful experiences I have known.  The other day as he lay in warmth, with the sun shining on his face, and with my hand gently stroking his head, I had never seen him so content.  It stirred a few tears from me.

From Peace To Macabre…

As I held one of Stroodle’s legs in my hand, I took note of the musculature.  Not from the perspective of a fitness trainer, but from that of a carnivore.  I was looking at his meat.  Only the night before, I had enjoyed one of those roasted chickens from the grocery store – the ones which smell so good under the heat lamp that I have to buy one almost every day because I can eat one almost every day.  And that’s when I looked at Stroodle differently; I envisioned how some 3rd world refugee or indigenous hominid might view his leg as I have viewed the legs of chickens time and time again.

The rapid fire chain reaction in my mind began immediately.  First, I was upset that I even went there – that I envisioned my dog as someone’s entrée.  I went further by picturing his leg without skin and this disgusted me but I couldn’t stop.  Worldwide, I thought, few animals have avoided being meals to other animals, dogs and humans included.  Suddenly, some words popped into my head and I froze.  They were words I heard spoken several years earlier by the singer, Morrisey while being interviewed on British television…

“If it has a mother” he said, “I won’t eat it.”

That has always made sense to me.  As the parent of a child and as the steward many dogs through my life, I wouldn’t want anyone eating my children – or my dogs.

The Intimate Bond...

The Intimate Bond…

The Eagle, The Snake, And The Rationalization…

I have been down this road several times before. Under the influence of inspiration, and motivated a bubbling morality, I have told the world that I am all done eating animal products of any kind.  The longest I have ever made it was 6 months in 2012-2013.

Though my intentions had always been sound when turning away from animal products, I have applied the brakes to my stance against eating them, and dipped my fork back in the trough, by contemplating a single experience I had years ago…

In 2005 I was paddling a kayak down the Middle Loop river in rural Nebraska on a hot summer afternoon.  As I turned a corner in the gentle current I looked to the shore to see an eagle swoop down, grasp a snake in its talons, rise up 50 feet or so, and thrust the snake into the ground killing it instantly.  The eagle returned to carry the snake away, presumably as takeout for its family.

This became an ongoing reminder to me during my vegan times that animals have been eating animals since there have been animals.  And that is where the rationalization to fight my moral current with this topic has always ended; with the realization that man too is an animal who has been eating animals since man has been man.  And then I saw my dog’s leg as meat and I froze in my thoughts.

The Intimate Bond…

I recently read The Intimate Bond, a book which chronicals man’s relationship with animals since hunter-gatherer times.  Among the many ideals that were exposed to me by this book is that through much of civilization, man has revered and respected the animals he has raised to eat.  Through some of the earlier times, man has paid lesser respects to what we now call household animals; cats & dogs.  It seems now that paradigm is upside-down.  Many of us hold our household pets in higher regard than members of our family.  That, and it’s okay for chickens and cows to be kept in cages, injected with steroids and antibiotics, and subsequently slaughtered only to be dressed up with just the right amount of rosemary and lemon.

Through books like Nonzero, The Better Nature of Our Angels, and The Intimate Bond I can see the trajectory of man’s gentile is getting better over time – slowly, but consistently.  There are many things which were once common place that we no longer find socially or morally acceptable; burning witches, drowning cats, and corporal punishment in schools to name a few.

I can’t help but think that 200 years from now, along with the asinine notion of growing decorative turf lawns in the American west, and sending fossil fuels into the air by the metric ton, that the idea of raising animals to kill them cruelly, and eat them nonchalantly will be something our descendants will find disappointing if not shameful.

Social & Moral Evolution For Some…

Going back to the eagle and the snake.  That eagle has not evolved morally or socially and probably never will.  Eagles 5,000 years from now aren’t any more likely to consider the snake’s feelings than the eagles of today.  The eagle reacts out of instinct and necessity.  I don’t.  I react to options and choices.  For me I’m choosing to follow my heart and my conscience, even if people see me as a fool.

I understand that a skeptic or critic might question my stance on the use of leather, other animal related products, services, and where I might draw the line.  In truth, I have no response to this at the moment.  It’s a duality that I will have to navigate for now, but I will be exploring ways to minimize the use of all animal products until the systems that stewards animals can show me a better side.

I have taken meat and animal products out of my diet before and yes, I have gone back.  On occasion, I have even questioned whether or not plants feel pain and if so, then what to eat.  Looking at my dog’s leg though, and contemplating it as though it were a piece of meat is a place I don’t think I can ever come back from, but I’ll keep you posted.  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 Cornershop.  Enjoy…

The Path Of The Righteous Man (Get Off My Lawn)…

Dear Graduate,

Well, you finished. You should be proud of all you have accomplished, and anxious to begin clearing your path. If you’re like many, you’ll be busy clearing that path before you ever begin defining it.

Of course your path be largely defined by the influence of others, whether you want it to or not. Ultimately, it is you who decides in what direction it will extend, and when it is to change directions, though you may not realize this until it’s too late. Remember, that path is not just to be aimed, but to be studied. This concludes my use of the term path.

On the occasion of your graduation some pretentious asshole will stand up and speak before your entire graduating class. He or she will offer words of caution, of optimism, and of inspiration. Because your parents and school faculty will be present, those words are likely to be tempered and sugar coated. I might use this platform to offer you some thoughts less sweet, which may help illuminate the road full of forks which you are about merge onto.

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Work, Bosses, And Co-workers…

The best job you will ever have is the one you just left, or the one you are going to next. Rarely will it be the one you are in right now. You may find yourself in some employment situations where you work for assholes, but love your co-workers. You may be in situations where you love your boss, and loathe your co-workers.

At some point these may intersect and you will despise everyone in your workplace. However, the winds may blow just right one day and you may find, if only for a moment, that you love everyone you work with. Enjoy those times, for they are as magical as they are rare.

Through it all, there will be times when you thoroughly enjoy the work that you do, but some of your time in the adult workplace will haunt you far beyond quitting time, and will disrupt your sleep on a regular basis. The older I get, the more I see this as being evenly balanced. Please remember though, that at the end of the day work is what we are here for, not retirement.

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Ultimately, if you can’t find a job that you love, or can’t learn to love the job you’re in, you may wish to create your own job and your own work environment. Of course even when one is self-employed, a job is still a job. Self-employment is no guarantee for happiness, but it can put you in better field position.

Relationships…

Above all things, life is about relationships. Little else in your life will matter more than the relationships you protect, except the ones you fail to protect, though you may not discover this until it’s too late. Appreciating the value of the relationships you maintain, and possessing the ability to understand why relationships so often change or deteriorate will be useful in finding your way in dark times and in light.

People, you will learn, are clearly beautiful. Just as clearly, they are complicated confusing, messy, and can be tiresome.   At some point everyone gets dirty, bruised, and ignored, and they will let you know it. That they will let this bleed into a relationship only makes them human, not disposable.

You may be married someday. If you are, that marriage may be wonderful, tolerable, or tragic. If it’s like many marriages, it will hold elements of all of these. It may also include divorce. Divorce, I have learned, is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of the marriage. Conversely, a sustained marriage does not necessarily state quality in a relationship.

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Before marriage and beyond, there will be other relationships. Many of these will start off with promise, but will quickly dull. Others may end with you never really knowing why they ended, and wanting for more. You may ask yourself at some point; how many soul mates does one get…? At best, that question can create knots in one’s stomach. At its worst, it can paralyze you to a point of emotional stagnation.

Marriage or partnership, if you are fortunate to find the right one, and are able to ride it out for the very long term, it will not be without your share of sacrifice and second guessing. In relationships, it is best to wake up each day and do what you believe is correct that you win the day, even if it contradicts what you did the day before. That ideal by the way, can be superimposed over just about any situation or dynamic in life.

Loss…

You will have friends and loved ones who will get ill and recover. You will also have will have friends and loved ones who get ill and die. Nothing can prepare you for the shock you feel when a friend or loved one dies unexpectedly.  There isn’t anything you can do to prepare for how to handle this when it happens, but it will happen.

When it does happen, use these instances as perspective to better appreciate your own life, and those relationships who remain in it. Disease and loss never make sense, but they can make you appreciative anything and everything else that much more.

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Money And Freedom…

There will be times when you have money, and you will feel an overwhelming sense of security that fits you like a warm cocoon – don’t get used to it because it’s not likely to last. Other times you will be broke, question many of your spending choices, and it will seem like the end of the world. It won’t be the end of the world, though it should be the start of a new behavior.

At best, money is a useful tool that is necessary to experience any level of personal freedom. Personal freedom though, as most people know it, is an illusion destined to distort and disappoint. Ultimately freedom means not doing the goose step down Main Street, and the proper use of money can help you avoid Main Street altogether – the road less traveled.

Lessons Learned…

There are lessons to be learned in every moment, every circumstance, and every conversation you will ever have. Of course, you won’t find those lessons if you are not looking, you won’t hear them if you are not listening, and you won’t benefit from them if you are not receptive.

Perhaps the most fruitful lessons you can hope to learn are those you will learn from watching others. Being a conscious witness to the joys, tragedies, triumphs, and misfortunes of others is often the best way to assure your proximity to them.

Creativity…

If you can incorporate some level of creativity into your daily work, or find some level of creativity buried within it, your life will surely be warmer. If there seems to be no room for creativity in your workplace, finding a creative outlet beyond he workplace will help keep you whole, if not sane – especially in difficult times. Creativity is a gift we all possess, but very few take the time to explore or to enjoy.

I am reminded of the most formative movie line I know, written by John Hughes for the movie, She’s Having A Baby…

“In the end, I realized that I took more than I gave, that I was loved more than I loved, and in the end, I realized that what I was looking for was not be found, but to be created.”

That this was recited by Kevin Bacon, makes it that much sweeter.

You will be the creator of every single one of your days. I ask you rhetorically, what kind of day will you create today, that will be acceptable to you tomorrow…?

Children…

I’ll suggest only one hard rule in all of this: If you go on to have children, please don’t shelter them from the realities of life. Expose them to the beauty in life of course, but don’t screen them from the harshness and messiness of it all. Expose your children to life as it comes and teach them, as best you can, how to accept it. Be honest with them – all of the time. Dishonesty with our children is the cause for more social decay than anything else.

Expose your children to who you really are without fear – regardless of how it may make you look in their eyes. Be humble when you are wrong, don’t gloat when you are correct, and when their names show up on caller ID, don’t ever let the call go to voicemail.

I wish you luck. Now get off my lawn!

Sincerely,

Still Learning

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Please check back n 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 Dead Daisies.  Enjoy…

A Daughter, A Tortoise, And A Ray Of Hope…

A Family Trait…

Several weeks ago, my brother and I were driving through a snow storm in the mountains of Colorado. As he drove, he explained to me that among his highest priorities as a father is to raise his children with a sense of compassion for animals. A love of, and a compassion for animals is something I have seen in my brother since we were children.

With the windshield wipers scraping, and Dos Gringos providing the soundtrack, that conversation transported my mind to a memory of my own daughter a few years back, and her compassion for animals. I am grateful her mother and I raised her with an appreciation for all creatures great and small.

Shell Game…

During her sophomore year at DePaul University, my daughter and a friend spent an afternoon in Chicago’s Chinatown. Somewhere between dining and shopping, they visited an Asian market with a unique product; live tortoises. Being 19 years old, and seeing the world with ultra-clear vision, my daughter and her friend each arrived home that evening with a tortoise of their very own. By my daughter’s account, each bought her tortoise responsibly, with all the appropriate tortoise gear, and with the best of tortoise intentions.

Okay, so maybe ultra-clear vision was obscured by whimsical impulse. Probably not the most responsible decision for my daughter or her friend. After several weeks of stewardship, my daughter decided that things with her and the tortoise were not working out, and that each might be in a better place without the other, but what to do…?

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Understand, this animal was scarcely the size of a 50 cent piece. A teenage girl living in the big city could have easily released this tortoise on its own recognizance, exonerated herself from all responsibility, and done so in a variety of ways; the toilet, Lake Michigan, the dumpster out back, whatever. What she chose to do on behalf of this reptile still resonates with me today.

Reptile Rescue…

She advertised him on craigslist, free to a good home. After several inquiries and telephone interviews – yes interviews, she selected a new home for the creature; a young business man and his wife. When the time came to arrange for the delivery of the tortoise though, my daughter was unable to get a hold of person she selected for adoption. It was the weekend. Pressed for time, and with a working college student’s Monday morning closing in fast, she sought a second option.

Rather than toss it out the window or throw it away, she found the nearest tortoise rescue – in Milwaukee, some three hours away. On a very cold Sunday morning in Chicago, she bundled herself and the little creature up, and prepared to deliver him to the rescue in the neighboring state by way of subway, bus, and ultimately by taxicab.  She was committed to doing the right thing.

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The Chicago tortoise transit system…

As she was headed out the door to catch the subway, her phone rang. It was the young businessman she had previously spoken to about adopting the tortoise. He was still interested. Rather than boarding the train and hauling the little creature to another state, she met the man and his wife at a coffee shop later in the morning.

Not only was she impressed with them, but impressed with their intentions as well. Apparently they had several other rescued tortoises, and seem to put a great deal of emphasis on proper care of the animals. The reassignment took place, and all was good with the world.

Better Than We Did…

In this age when it is easy to see and believe that our next generation is doing less than our own on behalf of the planet, I think of my daughter, of her friends, of her generation, and I wonder why my generation has not done as much as is being done by the youth of today — especially when it comes to compassion for animals.  This, in my opinion, is one area where my daughter’s generation far exceeds my own.

Even Stroodle Has Compassion For Animals...

Even Stroodle Has Compassion For Animals…

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Or perhaps it’s a morsel to him…

There are many more mindful people out there than not these days – I truly believe that, and the next generation of mindfulness grows. I hope that my get off my lawn generation can put down our negativity and the evening news every so often, and take a better look at the young people of today and all they are doing to better the planet.

It’s easy – so easy for all of us to look for the bad. I have news for us. If we quit looking for it, we just might find a lot less of it. 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  Al Green  Enjoy!

Leap, And The Net Will Appear…

Evil Cohnievel…

A friend recently referred to me as the Evil Knievel of leaps of faith. That is among the highest compliments I have ever received. Her statement arose from my willingness to change the circumstances of my life on a dime, regardless of the potential for a disastrous outcome, in hopes of a positive outcome. I guess I do this on a regular basis.

My friend was probably unaware though, that emotionally speaking, I have gone over the handle bars, been thrown like a ragdoll, and tumbled to the end of the landing ramp on more than a few of my leaps. Even the leaps that look seamless to those looking on, have rattled me pretty good on the inside.

A Snow Cohen In Winter…

I had been shoveling snow at 5:00am on a hateful Colorado morning in February of 1999. After I dug tracks wide enough and long enough for the wheels of my car to pass through the drift, I came inside, shook off the cold, and exclaimed to my family, never again! Weeks later I would be in the San Diego area looking to purchase a home.

That leap didn’t go so well. Less than a year after the move I ended up divorced, broken, and beaten. It was my Caesar’s Palace moment as the Evil Knievel of leaps of faith. It took a long time to recover from the numerous injuries that resulted from that leap; not withstanding that I severely injured two others, and the recovery continues even now for us all.

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Eventually I was healed enough to start a business, make new friends, and put down some roots in Fallbrook, California. For 15 years in my life was on autopilot. I lived a minimalist life with few expectations, and designed my existence to be aesthetic, if not ascetic.

My Fallbrook Home...

My Fallbrook Home…

However on a visit home in May of this year I got a good look at much of what I had left behind in Colorado 15 years earlier. My mother, now in her mid-80s, was primary to this view. I quickly came to realize how important it will be for me to be close to her in the coming years.

An almost immediate decision was made to walk away from those roots, relationships, and even my business in Fallbrook, and return to Colorado to be closer to my mother, my brother, and his children. Leap…

Mammy:  How I love ya...

Mammy: How I love ya…

Snake River Cohen…

I had no idea how I would earn a living back in Colorado, I simply leaped. I had been somewhat burned out on fitness training. I began looking for work almost immediately. Anything would do – I just needed a job to support my leap.

There were many promises of low pay, long hours, and human exploitation. I was beginning to wonder if I would be going over the handlebars yet again – to have walked away from a good life and my own business in favor of swapping out restaurant floor-mats at 4:00am for $15 an hour.

Eventually a high-end athletic club in the Denver area expressed interest in me as a sales manager; a job that would have paid me a good base, with incentives I was confident I could exceed. A smooth landing was in my sights.

Leaving this athletic club, in a city of 2 million people, I took a good look around. I saw traffic. I saw suits. I saw stress. But what stood out most of all, was an absence of soul. I began to question my decision to accept such a job, and live in that environment. I designed my life to be simple, low stress, and pedestrian in a small town.

I returned to the place I was staying, wrote and sent this letter to the Director of the Community Center in Nederland, Colorado – a town I have had a peripheral relationship with for nearly 20 years.  The Director called me the same day she received the letter and we agreed to meet later in the week.

11let

 Long story less long: I am now in a collaborative effort with the town of Nederland, using my social media and networking skills to promote use of their facility in the community. In exchange, I can run my fitness training business there – so long as there are folks willing to be trained. Leap…

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It Could Be Ugly. It Could Be Pretty…

I continue to be as amazed as I am appreciative of the people, the circumstances, and the choices which seem to have influenced and shaped my life; a life that has changed more in the past 6 months, than in the 15 years previous.

I’m still midair on this one. The landing could be smooth, I could once again go over the handlebars, or it could be something in-between. I know the potential reward. I understand the risk. I leapt. I now await the result. Either way, the audience is sure to be entertained. 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 The Plateros. Enjoy…

Gratatouille Part II…

Facebook Games…

Social media can be a fickle bitch. One week it’ll slap me on the back of the head and make me wish I didn’t own a computer at all, while simultaneously wondering why I remain friends with that asshole or moron who writes, believes, or propagates so much of the hatred, nonsense, or ideas unwanted.

Other weeks, social media can bring me nearly to tears, overjoyed with the human connections, ideas, and experiences that reach me through my 17” window to the world and touch me so deeply.

Though I try hard to avoid Facebook trends and games and hope not to drag others into them, this week one caught me by surprise. My friend, Jenny Marie, tagged me to share 3 gratitudes per day for 5 straight days. I have to say this was one of the better experiences I have had on Facebook in a quite a while.

Rather than write my usual essay this week, I thought it would be fun to share my 15 gratitudes here.  This is dedicated to those readers of this blog who are not on Facebook or captives of social media.

Day 1 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Family

1) I am grateful for Trudy. Though we are not married any longer, she remains the most important person in my life, alongside the daughter that we share. Her friendship and kindness defy words.

2) I am grateful for my Mark. Being 4 years my senior, my brother has taught me many lessons, and provided much inspiration in my life.

3) I am grateful for my mother, the only woman on earth named Willie. She has always, and I mean (even today) always been there for me.

Mom.  Always there...

Mom. Always there…

Day 2 of 5 my days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Today’s theme: (some of) my near death experiences

1 – You learn a lot when your parachute doesn’t open correctly. Even more when you spend a year housebound recovering from the related spinal injury – oh and there’s a toddler in the house. For all the lessons I learned in that turning point in my life (1993), I am grateful, and can honestly say I haven’t taken too many days for granted since.

2 – You learn a lot when you drink beer for breakfast while camping with your buddies and decide to leave your lawn chair and jump into the top of a Class IV rapid. Of all my near death experiences that one should have killed me. Every bone in my body took an exceptional jolt except for my head. I am grateful for the humility I gained. Another turning point in my life.

Yes.  I actually jumped into this...

Yes. I actually jumped into this…

3 – You learn a lot when you realize there’s a rattlesnake in your car. I learned immediately that the entrance to the King Sooper’s grocery store could accommodate an S10 pickup. Got out, went right to the gardening tools, grabbed a shovel, and killed said snake. Not a single employee questioned me or what I was doing. I am grateful I saw him before it was too late.

 Day 3 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Self-deprecation:

1 – I am grateful to all of those who know me, and like me anyway.

2 – I am grateful that I can look at the disappointment of a man that I was 15 years ago, but take comfort knowing that I eventually learn from all of my mistakes.

3 – Mostly today, I am as grateful for my pain as I am for my health so that in the words of Bob Dylan, I can know that I’m really real.

 Day 4 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Todays’ theme: Stroodle

1- The truth is, when he was brought to me 7 years ago as an abused 1-year old, I didn’t want him. My friend and her daughter insisted I take him. I think about that almost every day now – that I didn’t even want him. I am so grateful for said friend, and Stroodle.

2- Every morning while he is still in sleepyhead position (shown), I thank him aloud for the lessons he teaches me daily in humility, unconditional love, and living in the present. I am grateful for this ritual.

3- We walk commando (off leash) 3-4 times per day. I am grateful for the purity and joy I see when he turns back at the end, and sprints to the front door.

My hero, truly...

My hero, truly…

Day 5 of my 5 days of sharing 3 gratitudes. Today’s theme: Humor And Mental Survival

In the last 3 months I have walked away from a successful business, had my bike (my only transportation) stolen, got burned by a couple of clients for some pretty big money, I have moved 3 times and lived for 2 months without a place to call home until this week. I almost got my head taken out by a falling gate arm, and I have seen several good friends going through incredibly difficult times. I have been in dark places myself, fearful and more desperate at times than I would ever let on in social media. Through it all though, I have not lost my sense of humor.

1- I am grateful for my brother who almost singlehandedly cultivated an irreverent sense of humor in me while growing up – to the point that being the class clown was the primary reason I stayed in school as long as I did, though I did eventually release myself on my own recognizance. He taught me abut Franklin Ajaye, George Carlin, and Woody Page.

2- I am grateful for my father who raised me with regular jokes in the car and at the dinner table. They were often horrible, unfunny, or too complicated for me to get, but they were a constant part of my upbringing.

3- I am grateful for all the comedians of this world. A few of them might even read this. As Lewis Black once said, “the only thing that separates us from those who wish to see us all perish, is our sense of humor”.

I could not agree more. Laughter may not always be the best medicine, but it goes down smooth and never leaves me with a hangover.

That’s it.  Fifteen 15 gratitudes in 5 days.  I may just keep this up, even if it means I lose a few social media friends.   Ok, one more: I am grateful for the awareness this has brought to me.   Be well… rc

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

 

Formative Moment #3,287: Fitness Culture On The Skids…

Love Hate Love…

At the core of my love-hate relationship with the ideal of fitness, is my love-hate relationship with culture itself. Specifically, how society so often manages to ignore the very priorities which should preserve and enhance culture.

Example: Smoking causes early death.

Reality: Smoking is prevalent in society.

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So what does this have to do with fitness…?

Example: Working out to take care of one’s self is good.

Reality: Obsessing on exercise to the point of ignoring everything else in one’s life is selfish and counterproductive.

This morning I overheard one gym member speaking to his workout partner about blowing off his wedding anniversary later that evening in favor of a 2nd workout – on the same day. Hearing this, I began reflecting on a similar moment I experienced with my own workout partner a couple of years back.

Formative Moment #3,287: The Back story…

In 2012 I had been about 7 or 8 months into one of the better training cycles, and training relationships I have enjoyed in my life. My workout partner at the time, formerly a client, was a female bodybuilder with a great physique and a supreme work ethic. She was also a working professional, the mother of 4, and seemed to have it all.   She and I strength trained together 3-4 days per week, trail ran 1-2 days per week, and dined together frequently.

She was the most disciplined training partner I have ever had. She even planned her professional travel schedule around gyms in the cities and countries where she traveled. She helped reignite a fire in my training life which had been cooling for a couple of years.

If It’s Broke, Fix It. But Don’t Interrupt My Lunch…

One Sunday morning after my partner and I finished a hard trail run, we were on our way to our ritual lunch of Mediterranean salads, ice tea, and patio time in the San Diego winter sun. While driving, she got an unexpected phone call from her husband. Her son, 12, who rides motocross a very high level, had been in an accident and had broken his arm. So much for lunch.

I was a little confused when my partner didn’t turn the car around on a dime. She just continued driving as she and her husband discussed which medical facility he would take the child to. Minutes later my partner and I were on the café patio. This left me feeling uneasy. I was sitting under a palm tree drinking tea with this kid’s mother while he was on his way to the emergency room to have his broken arm set.

What's my scene...?

What’s my scene…?

 

The following day my partner had told me that her son had a fracture of both the radial and ulna bones in his forearm, and there would need to be a surgical repair involving rods and screws. That surgery would not take place for several weeks since his arm would have to set first in a cast.

Formative Moment #3,287: Gulpsmacked…

Several weeks later my partner showed up for a morning workout. As I do with all my clients, I greeted her at the door and asked her how her family was doing. During this exchange I asked about her son’s impending surgery. I was thinking it was scheduled for later that week.

“Oh” she said, “I just dropped him off.”

Just. Dropped. Him. Off.

Now the hospital in question was only a mile from my training studio. The child’s father was with him, and my partner did have her cell phone with her. However, I just couldn’t imagine the mother of a pre-teen boy who wouldn’t want to be at her son’s beside as he goes under a general anesthetic – or at least be in the waiting room. No surgery is a guarantee, but I guess no workout is either.

That moment changed me – truly and deeply.

Yes, she was the action figure every woman wanted to be, and the best training partner I ever had. She was becoming somewhat of a social media sensation, and a local hero for her physique and for her hardcore work ethic. She was no longer though, my candidate for mother of the year.

Zombie Workout…

I sauntered through our workout that day in an almost catatonic state. During my sets I was on. In-between I just looked at the floor and could hardly speak. I was saddened sickened that she chose leg day over her son’s bedside. Yet another person I had greatly admired up and disappointed me, but that’s on me not her. I should know by now the only person I should put any expectations on is me. This was just one more reminder that in life that those who seem to have so much often achieve their success at a price we may never know about behind the scenes.

My relationship with this partner deteriorated in the coming weeks, to a point where eventually we no longer trained together. She caught the CrossFit bug at just the right time, and that’s just as well since I am the opposite of CrossFit. She and I have come face to several times since the demise of our training relationship and have been cordial.

It all looks good -- until you have pass on the beer...

It all looks good until you have pass on the beer — or your kid’s surgery…

At the time she dropped her son off for his surgery in favor of a workout, I was nearing the best shape of my life past 50. That night though, as I took it all in, I ordered a pizza and enjoyed it with a beer or three – and didn’t think twice about it.

Keeping the right fire lit...

Keeping the right fire lit…

Since that day I have continued to train hard – most of the time. I have eaten well – most of the time. I have maintained a fair physique, though I am not where I was on that day two years ago. I knew the second she spoke those words to me, “I just dropped him off” that the fire required to be jacked and shredded would never burn that hot again. I can only hope that my fire to be mindful, and reasonable stays lit, and for the rest of my days. Be well. rc…

   *****COMMENTS ARE CLOSED THIS WEEK*****

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I hit the STOP button on the blender in m head. Oh, and there’s this from The Hoodoo Gurus.   Enjoy…