One Billion Friends…

Facebook claims to have over one billion users. Every so often I have this thought:

If I asked each of my 300+ Facebook friends to send and accept friend requests to one-another, and also asked if they would make the same request with all their friends and so-on, and if all users were compliant, eventually one billion people would be interconnected.

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Of course, if this did happen, scrolling through status updates over coffee each morning would take a bit longer.

When I think about this more seriously though, I can’t help but wonder if social media isn’t an evolutionary step toward that universal oneness – a global consciousness in process, which is the direction I believe we are all ultimately headed in anyway.

I don’t mean that in a trite way.

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Of course, I don’t truly expect to have a billion social media friends anytime soon, or to know what one billion people are thinking at any one time. I have a hard enough time coping with 300 opinions, let alone a billion.

I do think on some level though, that a digital imprint — a collection of all our thoughts is manifesting via social media, and is an actual step toward that universal oneness.

Global consciousness, coming to a server near you… Jchiacb

#siliconeternity

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What Can You Say to a Terminally Ill Person…?

Guest Post this week from my friend,

Pete Rosky

I had a friend.  His name was Dave.  We worked together.  The year was 1992.  I had just started dating someone, and we both agreed that getting tested for Aids was important before having sex.  I was telling Dave that I got my results back, and whew, they were negative.   Dave smiled, nodded, and told me he was HIV positive.  Had been for a number of years.   I was shocked to hear this.  It was a death sentence.   I thanked him for sharing something so personal, but didn’t really know what else to say.

A month or so later, Dave quit.  He told me he had to get out of Oregon.  I wished him well, and we promised to keep in touch, but didn’t.   To be honest, I didn’t think about him that much, until a year later, when he called me to tell me he had moved back home, with his mom and step-dad.   When I asked him what prompted the move, he told me that he was no longer HIV positive, but now had full blown AIDS.

I didn’t know what to say.  Who does in this situation?  I can’t even tell you what we talked about next.  I can tell you that I drove to his mom’s house that night, and we drank beers and talked.  And talked, and talked.  At first it was small talk.  We talked about his travels.  He asked about my life, and I told him about my job change, and the status of my relationship.   I asked him about Christine.  Christine was the person who introduced me to Dave.   She got him the job at the call centre where we all worked together.  I had left there about 6 months prior, so I asked how she was.  Dave said he didn’t know.  He said they didn’t talk anymore.   This surprised me, as they were best friends, who had gone to school together, worked together, and when you met them, you would swear they were brother and sister, they were so close.

Dave then proceeded to tell me that Christine stopped talking to him not long after he told her that he had full blown Aids.  See, it was 1993.   People were scared of Aids.  It was incurable.  It had only been around a little over 10 years, and people didn’t trust the science that told them you couldn’t get it just from being around someone who had it.   She had panicked and shunned her best friend.  When he probably needed her most.  She wasn’t the only one.  Dave told me that almost everyone he knew was the same.  They were afraid of getting sick.  They were young, they wanted to party, they didn’t understand.  They had a million excuses, most of them bullshit.  The reality was, Dave’s friends, both gay and straight, abandoned him.

And Dave was getting sicker.  Have you seen the movie Philadelphia?  Remember when Tom Hanks character got the skin blotches and went blind?  This was Dave’s future.  This was what he was facing.  Mostly alone.

I decided that night, that I wouldn’t abandon Dave.  I would be his friend.  I would visit him.  I would talk to him.  I would be there if he needed me. Please understand, I’m no saint, and this story is not about me.  I split up with my wife when my son was 2 years old, and missed seeing him grow up.  I’ve done a lot of shit I’m not proud of.

As I drove home that night, I started thinking about what conversations would be like when I talked with Dave.  What do I know about being terminally ill?  What could I offer?  Would I say the wrong thing?

I went back to Dave’s house a few days later.   He was sick at this point, but not bed ridden.  We sat on the veranda, and got stoned.  And we talked.  And we talked.  Not about dying.  Not about living.  Not about anything really.   We just talked.  We laughed.  We did normal shit.

As I drove home that night (yes, I drove stoned, sorry), I thought about how easy it was to just talk with Dave.  There was no expectation on his part.  I sensed he was just happy to have someone besides his parents to talk with.

For the next 11 months, this became routine.  I would go to Dave’s house, we would talk, sometimes get stoned, sometimes not, and I would go home.   He would ask about my day.  I would ask about his.  He would tell me of his medical appointments.   He would tell me stories about his past.  I would share stories of my past with him.  To be honest, when this started, Dave was more of an acquaintance, but we became friends.  In hindsight, I wonder if I would choose to become friends with someone who was dying?  I’m not sure I had thought this through.  I just felt he had reached out to me, and I felt I couldn’t say no.

I remember early in the piece, we had the conversation about dying.  I asked him if he wanted to go through the pain he knew was coming, or if he’d rather just leave this world without all that pain.  He said he didn’t want to go through it.  If he was going to die, he just wanted to die peacefully.  We didn’t talk about suicide directly, but we both agreed that if it came down to it, it would be better to kill ourselves, than to endure the pain that was sure to come with Aids.

I watched Dave as he got sicker.  It was sad.  It was horrible.  It was soul destroying at times to watch someone I had grown to care for get so sick.  He lost so much weight he couldn’t walk.  He got the skin blotches.  He went blind.

As he got sicker, visits got tougher.  It was obvious Dave was dying.  One night, about 6 months later,  we re-visited the ‘would you go through the pain scenario’.   The answer was completely different.  Dave no longer cared about the pain.  He wanted to stay with his family.  He wanted to enjoy every minute of his life.   No matter how painful.

I would show up at Dave’s house, and be greeted by his mother, or his step father, who would give me the run down on his condition.  They looked so sad.  So worn out.  If you didn’t know better, you’d think they were the ones who needed medical attention.  Hell, they probably did.

Dave’s mother was a wonderful woman.  Dave told me she knew he was gay, long before he came out to her.  She was totally accepting and supportive.  His step father on the other hand, had a hard time with Dave’s sexuality.  He had been in Dave’s life since Dave was 8 years old.  He was a truck driver.  A man’s man.  He didn’t know how to deal with Dave and his lifestyle.  Dave told me this was part of the reason he moved away.

I got to know his mother and step father during this time.  Not well.   More superficially.  They were nice people, and they were dealing with a terrible situation.  They were watching their child die before they did.  As a parent, I can’t even fathom the pain this must cause.

I got a call from Dave’s step father on a Tuesday morning to tell me that Dave had died the night before.  I was devastated.  I had been there on Sunday night, and Dave was really sick.  He had that death rattle in his chest.  It was the first time I’d experienced that.  Sadly, not the last.  He was in and out of consciousness.  Still, hearing the words, he’s gone, was a shock to my system.  I think I thanked his dad for calling, and then I cried for a long time.

A week later, I was back at Dave’s house.  I was there to celebrate Dave’s life with his family and friends.  Mostly family.  His mother had made a poster that had all of Dave’s school pictures from K-12.  I met his sisters.  I met aunts and uncles.  I don’t know who else.  It was a blur.  It seemed unreal.  It was so sad.  His sisters, whom I hadn’t met before, thanked me for coming, and one of them said that Dave had told her nice things about me.  A few family members got up and spoke about Dave, some stories were shared, and there was smiling and crying and sadness and laughter.   As a non-family member, I felt a bit awkward at best, but wanted to be there to honour Dave.

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When it was time to go, I said goodbye to everyone and started to leave.  Dave’s step father walked with me down the side of the house.  As we walked he thanked me for being there for Dave.  He told me how much he appreciated it.  And how much Dave appreciated it.  I told him that I was just doing what was right, and that he was the one who was there for Dave.  That Dave knew how hard it was for him to deal with everything.  And that Dave had told me he loved him.  Dave’s stepfather, the most stoic man I have ever met, burst into tears.  He hugged me hard for a long time, while he cried.  Neither of us said a word.  Then he thanked me, and I thanked him, and I left.

I never went back to Dave’s house.  Sure, it might be a better story if I became friends with his family, and we started a foundation, and gave away scholarships, but that isn’t reality.  Reality is, our link was Dave.  And he was gone.

I was so worried about what to say to him when I found out he was dying.  But, that was never a problem.  Never.  Sometimes we forget how social we are.  How much we need others to be there to interact with us.  Especially in an awkward situation.  Like when someone is dying.  We don’t think we know what to say.  We don’t want to mess up and say the wrong thing.  So, we say nothing.  We do nothing.  We walk away.  I hope if you get anything out of this story, it’s the message that there is no wrong thing to say.  The truth is, we need each other.  We need to feel that human connection.  We need people to listen to us.  So, smile at your fellow human.  Talk with people.  Sure, it’s hard.  You might fuck up.  But, walking away is even worse.

Pete Rosky is Comic, Professional Master Of Ceremonies, and Real Estate Executive living in Brisbane, Queensland AU

peterosky2012

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Richuals…

The Little Ball Of Rituals…

My skin might someday burst for all of the rituals which are packed within me, waiting, not always patiently, to be carried out each day.  From the moment I get out of bed, everything I do that matters, I do ritualistically. Every action has a purpose and must be executed at the right time and in just the right way.  To live a day in my shoes, is to extend one ritual right into another, connecting them end-to-end to form a completed day.

Turn on the coffee pot.  Shower.  Stretch.  Check my electronics. Text my daughter.  Walk my dog.  Hike.  Eat.  Work with clients.  Workout.  Write.  Share time with friends.  Listen.  Wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I own it as if that is exactly where I should be and exactly what I should be doing.  I savor these times, these actions, and each conversation.  I think this is a good way to be.

What makes all of these things rituals to me, and not habits, is that as I am doing them with reverence and appreciation.  Turning on the coffee pot, as I my finger directs the lighted button from left to right, is the only thing which matters at that moment.  We are one, me and Mr. Coffee.  Nothing in my life is as important as watching my dog call our walks to a halt as he pauses to sniff the underside of weed’s middle leaf.  The picture I take of a tree or a bird or teaspoon of peanut butter each morning, and text to my daughter, is always the most important text I will ever send.

When the earliest of my morning rituals have been completed though, and I feel confident that the day will come off okay, then it’s time for the ritual which matters most in my life; my phone call to Miss Trudy.

A Song In Her Voice…

Though we are no longer married, Trudy remains the most important person in my life – tied for 1st place with the daughter we share.  Most mornings, and most evenings I call her or she calls me – just to check in and say hello, and to ensure the other is okay.  So imbedded is this ritual, that very often, as I am preparing to dial the phone, her number shows up on my caller ID, and vice-versa.

My day officially becomes official when I utter the words,

“Good morning, Miss Trudy!”

And she reciprocates,

“Good morning, Mista Roy!”

I think her voice might be what a flower would sounds like if flowers spoke.

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What a voice might look like…

Here’s the thing, nothing big happens – especially with our morning phone calls.  You see, our evening phone calls generally take place right before we go to bed.  Not much latitude there to expand on.  It’s simply light conversation inquiring to about how well each other slept, and about how well our dogs slept.

We might dig a little and inquire about each other’s impeding workday.  Perhaps catch up or discuss any major news that broke overnight.  Talk about the weather.  We may even talk about what we plan to have for lunch.  Occasionally we’ll ask each other about a YouTube link to a song we felt like sharing the day prior.

I lied when I said nothing big happens.  You see, the biggest thing of all happens when I hear Miss Trudy’s voice; I know for certain that I have a true friend and a compadre in my corner.  There is a song in her voice.  Maybe the song is more like a medicine which soothes the stresses of life which often get the better of me.  There is a joy in the simplicity of innocent conversations with her.

When I reflect on all my rituals, and the ones which mean the most to me, and when I consider all we available in the form of vices to help us feel better, I well appreciate that what soothes a confused mind or an aching soul isn’t alcohol, sex, entertainment, or even money.  It is hearing the voice of my dearest friend each morning, and again each night.  May you all hear such sweet music in your own lives.  Be well… rc

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The Hand…

The Hand…

We have all seen the infant who seems bewildered by the sight of his own hand held in front of his face. He stares at it with fascination, knowing it holds amazing powers yet he has no idea what those powers might be or that he is even in control of that hand. Over time he will learn that hand is an extensions of himself and the power it does hold, good or bad, will only and always be wielded at his discretion.

I see a parallel between that infant/hand relationship and the relationship between humans and social media. It’s not a stretch to suggest we are only now learning that social media is an extension of ourselves in how we interact with others. Like the hand of the infant, in time we will learn how to use social media for good, for bad, or for purposes of indifference, but it’s still new enough that we spend more time fascinated by it and placing it in our mouths than we do honing our abilities to use it intelligently. For my part, I am trying hard to break that barrier.

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Ask The Ignorant First…

A Facebook friend posed a fitness question to her constituency recently that reminded me of how new and detached that social media hand is from the infants we all still are. The question was this:

To all my workout buddies, which is best for cardio, burning fat, and building muscle; bike riding or running? Obviously I have other workout plans but I’m really just referring to cardio and out of the two what helps more with burning fat and building muscle?

The replies to her question were many, and of course they were varied. As I followed the thread throughout the evening it was clear that the answers arose quickly enough that they were not well reasoned and certainly not well researched. They were immediate reactions of superficial knowledge belief that were offered by a sea of non-experts who likely gained that knowledge at the watercooler.

The Mecca Of Fitness Knowledge...

The Mecca Of Fitness Knowledge…

I didn’t comment on the thread nor contact her privately to offer my advice, despite that I have strong opinions on the very nature of the question, as well as the ridiculousness of the many answers.

My takeaway from the experience of watching this unfold was multifaceted. My most immediate thought was of the infant hand; that this in no way utilized the power of social media for good, despite her good intentions. In this case, the hand was advanced enough to reach out, but ended up being placed on the proverbial hot burner on the stove. If she takes the wrong advice, or attempts to blend several of the questionable replies into her fitness regimen, she might get burned.

Take the wrong advice and...

Take the wrong advice and…

My thoughts then drifted in hope that she would not heed any of the bad advice – which is usually the most attractive. One tip; that Zumba burns more calories than running, made me chuckle. Another; that protein ingested immediately after a workout is necessary to gain muscle, made me wince. I could go on and on.

What struck me most though by this question, is that it was a reminder to me that fitness expertise and information provided by legitimate experts is too often undervalued and underappreciated by the general public. The idea that useful information can be picked off a tree like an apple haunts me – ongoing. The more social media is used in instances like these, the more cheapened good information and good resources become.

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I will wish my friend good luck in her fitness endeavors, but will suggest that little will change in her realizing those goals so long as her Facebook friends are her trainers and consultants.

The Hand/I Coordination…

We’re still learning to use the hand. It is ours to manipulate and to use for good, bad, or indifferent results. If we are to use it for the pursuit of knowledge, only practice will allow us to use it with greater dexterity, accuracy, and to obtain more fruitful results.

When we use it blindly and without much thought, it is not that different than the infant staring at the hand before his eyes before placing it in his mouth as a toy to chew on. Increasingly, I attempt to use social media technology for more intelligent purpose though every so often, a pretty food picture must be shared. Be well… rc

Dinner this past Thursday...

Dinner this past Thursday…

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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 HuDost. 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!

An Open Letter To All My Friends…

Dear Friend,

You came into my life at an extraordinary time. In this age, the internet and social media are truly miraculous. I have become friends with people all over the world, and am able to connect with them from just about any place I stand, nearly any time of day. I’m also better able to stay connected with friends from the past who had become estranged in the pre-internet era.

Though we may not have met yet face-to-face, if I have accepted you into my life as a friend, this means you touched me on some level either superficially, viscerally, or both. I have one rule above all other with my friends; if you are a friend of mine, you are a friend for life.

Now that’s a bold statement that can be easily challenged by an outsider. If I call you a friend and you deliberately do harm of any kind to a loved one of mine, to another friend, or to myself, it would stand to reason that our friendship would falter. Beyond that harm though, the reason I allowed you into my life has not changed. Certainly the dynamic of our friendship might change, but you are still my friend.

Friends don't let friends stay mad -- for too long...

Friends don’t let friends stay mad — for too long…

Agree To Disagree…

My friend, in this age of increasing complexity and constant connectivity, it can seem as chaotic socially as it appears to be politically. I’ll suggest our relationships – our friendships are more challenging to maintain than ever before. I also believe they are more disposable for many.

If we don’t like or agree with somebody’s opinion about something, we often just end the friendship. It’s easy. We just click a tab and they’re gone. If we’re talking about analog friends, we just let their phone calls go to voicemail, never to be returned. I think this though, that friendships in this age matter more than ever.

The more unfriending we do, the more we corrode the possibilities of our society. A part of increasing complexity, in nonzero terms, is that the world might come together with an increased global strength, an increased global respect, an increased global love, and increased global intelligence for the common good.

Old friends, and new...

Old friends, and new…

Let’s Be Real…

I have both analog and virtual friends I often feel I could do without. Those whose political or religious stances can be so aggressive and so asinine, I often feel like slamming my head into a wall when discourse goes bad. Or worse yet, the moment discourse begins. But maybe that’s my point; I never feel like slamming their heads into walls – I would rather take the hit than to give it.

I still respect my friends when we disagree, and as soon as that disagreement becomes evident, I always take a moment to remember why I let them in to begin with – because I found value in some aspect of their persona. It’s selfish, friendship, if you think about it. I identify some trait of another, I see value in it, and allow them into my life so I can continue to experience that trait. Selfish indeed.

Friends that keep me from killing Subway store managers...

Friends that keep me from killing Subway store managers…

In truth I have unfriended a few of my virtual and analog friends. I have done so, usually as the result of some drastic change in my life which alters my perception of those friendships. I have reached out to some to reestablish those connections. I have succeed with some, and failed with a few others. I will continue to reach out.

Not More Than I Can Handle…

I enjoy staying connected with, and supporting my friends as much as I am able. It seems though, that I am less able these days, and I often feel guilty about this. Between new virtual friends, reconnecting virtually with analog friends from the past, and my in-person social relationships, there is less of me to go around these days as there are more you.

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Friends who don’t like to be seen above the knees…

I want you to know this, and to believe it, please: If you don’t hear from me – if I don’t like a status, comment, if I don’t return a text, a call, or an email immediately, it doesn’t mean I love you any less. It means there are more of you to love, and that is the greatest of blessings.

I want to end this by simply saying, thank you very much, for knowing me and liking me anyway.

Sincerely,

roy

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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 Sam Smith.  Enjoy…

Hear Here: A Tale Of Jaw Cardio

Work-out Kryptonite…

For the better part of 20 years I have been able to work-out alone in my basement gyms, garage gym, or in the fitness studios I have owned. Occasionally I have had partners, but for the most part it has been me. Alone. Solo. Smile.

One of the better garages  have had...

Royland, 2003:  One of the better garages have had…

Through the years I have been able to avoid intermingling with lunks throwing weights, unnecessarily grunting, and messing up the place with traces of blood after prying their acne covered simian roid-backs off of the bench press.

I have also been able to avoid clueless cardio bunnies dressed like porn stars, with their ponytails fishing lures swinging back and forth as they stare aimlessly at CNN in front of them, all the while not really knowing where Libya is – and such.

"Like, I know how to make toast..." "Shut up!  I know how to make toast too...!"

Girl on right:  “Like, I know how to make toast…”
Girl on left:  “Shut up! I know how to make toast too…!”

And best of all, I have not had to navigate through the sea of old men in striped warmup suits taking up space as they read the Sunday Times in-between sets of the only exercise they know, triceps pushdown, as they loudly exchange ideas amongst and between them about how to save the world.

Yup, for 20 years I trained in my underwear if I wanted to, listened to audio books, lectures on physics or religion, and only occasionally loud music. My best training partner was the clock on the wall, there was no monthly auto-draft, and the gym was always open – to me.

I have though, maintained memberships pubic gyms – just in case. I have used them sparingly, only on those days when I needed to get out of my own studio for reasons of sanity, or to join my friend Marshal for our lunch time pre-burrito StepMill sessions.

When have ventured into public gyms, I have always aimed my head at the ground, kept earbuds plugged in, and I made eye contact with nobody. All of this to avoid the one person I knew could ruin my work-out, and subsequently my day; Jaw Cardio Guy. You know, that one guy who could carry on a 20 minute conversation about nothing, all by himself, and still hold me captive, all the while keeping me away from my precious deadlifts. I hate that guy.

A face I hope to never see again; Jaw Cardio Guy...

A face I hope to never see again; Jaw Cardio Guy…

On those occasions when Jaw Cardio Guy would be so insistent that we speak, that he could break me from my trance and get me to take out my earbuds just to appease him I would, in very clear terms, make him aware that my time is precious, my work-out is necessary, and his conversation was kryptonite. I’m just not nice in those scenarios.

He-man Of The People…

I’m now working out in a public gym regularly for the first time since 1995. This gym is also where I have the proprietary interest for my fitness training business. Since each person working out there is a potential student, being a dick is not an option. Each conversation I have may augment my livelihood. Notwithstanding, this is my community now and being philanthropic with my time and my expertise is the right way to be.

Still, there remains my desire to be deep in focus, lost in my meat during my sets since strength training is the methadone of my existence. Despite this, if I am going to be the man in this town, I must be a man of the people and find middle ground.

For about a month now I have been assimilating myself into the local gym. I have already met some nice people and a few of them have become students. I have also been dragged into conversations that two years ago I would want or have no part of. Now I see these conversations as human, and am learning how to appreciate them and engage in them without losing the rhythm of my work-out.

This I Have Already Learned…

To let go a bar after a completed set and take a few minutes to answer a gentleman’s question about which exercises might help offset his sciatica, is not the end of the world. He will probably never be a student, but I enjoy watching him fulfill my suggestions, and can see that it’s already helping him.

Telling someone, “no, I’m not using that bench – go ahead” while I’m mid-set of a fairly heavy squat did not cause me to drop the bar, stop the set, cause my legs to shrink, or cause me to get fat. It simply caused me to smile and take an extra breath.

Where I once wouldn't be caught dead talking in the gym, I'm now likely to be found dead-talking...

Where I once wouldn’t be caught dead talking in the gym, I’m now likely to be found dead-talking…

If a political discussion comes my way while I’m doing dumbbell flies it won’t deter from completing my set, any more than it will persuade me to change my world view mid-rep, though it might help me better read the pulse of my community. I will eternally though, label an asshole an asshole if he or she uses the term, “nigger president” as happened so frequently in my last community.

Mostly, I have learned that talking, being friendly – being outright social in the gym can be a very human experience, enrich my day, and will not cause me to lose my gains. Along with work, human relationships are what we are here for. How blessed am I that I get to combine both on a daily basis… Be well… rc

If you enjoyed this, please scroll back to the top and rate it. 

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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 Reunion.  Forty years later I still nailed it word for word.  Enjoy…

Stroodle Gets A Steward…

Who’s on first…

These are the first words I speak each day,

“Thank you for being my light, my beacon, and my truth.  Thank you for guiding me, teaching me, reminding me, and forgiving me.” It may sound as though I’m praying to a god with those words, but I’m not.  I continue, “Thank you for being my best friend.  Thank you for letting me be your human, and your steward.  May the lord bless you and keep you this day my Baby Boy.” These words are spoken to my dog, Stroodle.

I have been Stroodle’s human, and his steward for nearly 7 years. In truth, I didn’t want Stroodle at the time he arrived in my life.  I was caught up in a very selfish lifestyle.  I lived in condo with no yard.  I worked long days.  When I wasn’t working I was working out.  I didn’t want to be bothered.  Besides, I already had Pumpkin, a low maintenance Shi Tzu/Pug mix.  Blind in her only eye, and nearly deaf, Pumpkin was the Helen Keller of dogs.  However, my daughter and her mother thought I could provide a good home to Stroodle, and his presence might do both Pumpkin and I some good.

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days...

Pumpkin and Stroodle; the salad days…

Stroodle had likely been abused as a puppy.  He was just under a year old when he arrived.  His left rear hip was damaged, and despite two surgeries after I got him, he still uses that leg for balance only.  After I took him in I immediately hired a couple of neighborhood girls to walk Pumpkin and Stroodle each afternoon while I was working.  At night the three of us would sit on the living room sofa, and watch ESPN until bedtime.

Mr. Misty…

I have belonged to a household with at least one dog since the day of my birth.  I am a dog person.  I come from a long line of dog persons.  In truth, I was always a minor contributor with the upkeep of the dogs I had growing up.  Most of their care came from my older brother, and my parents.  I loved, and appreciated dogs, but I could rarely be found with a brush in my hand.  I had better things to do. Misty, a male collie who was named by my brother after Dairy Queen’s Mr. Misty drink, accompanied my family throughout most of my childhood.  He probably deserved a better home, but he was loved and appreciated, if not well groomed.

One day when I was 16, I walked into the house and gave Misty a hug.  I was surprised when underneath his un-brushed fur, his stomach was the size of a basketball.  I had discovered a tumor that he had likely been carrying for a while.  I was the only one home. It was snowing, and my car wouldn’t start.  I began walking Misty through the snow about a mile to the local veterinary clinic.  When Misty could no longer walk, I picked him up and carried him in spurts.

Eventually we arrived, I checked him in, and I guess without giving it too much thought, I left him there in trusted hands and contacted my mother and father to let them know what happened. The following day Misty passed.  I believe he was 13.  Though I was sad when told of his passing, in hindsight I can say I was more neglectful of Misty, than I was an advocate for him through the course of his life.  What did I know…?  I was just a kid.

 On stewardship…

As I have gotten older, perhaps due to the influence imbalanced human relationships have had on my life, I have come to realize that despite my life long appreciation of animals, I’m only now learning to appreciate the value of animals in the human experience. Some values which are often associated with our pets:

– Unconditional love

– Living in the moment

– Truth

– Devotion

Some values which may go less noticed:

– Dignity

– Elegance

– Humor

– Playfulness

 Back to Stroodle…

I had always depended on Pumpkin and Stroodle to be there for each other.  I was simply providing them a safe home, some love, some kibble, and lap time at the end of my workday.   Some time back Pumpkin passed away, and Stroodle was alone.  This, this is when I discovered what it truly means to be a dog person.  After Pumpkin’s passing I made a promise to Stroodle that I would be the best human he could hope to have.  I made it a priority to be his steward, and his advocate, not his owner.

My brother from another mother...

My brother from another mother…

Each morning I hold him because I believe no dog should go a day without a human touch.  They deserve to feel love through hands of another being.  Many times throughout the day though, it’s more selfish than that.  I hold him because I’m the one who needs to feel love through the touch of another being.  As the chaotic world around me unfolds through my 17” computer screen; babies dying, shootings in schools, wars and politics rage on, my dog never questions my need to touch him.  He simply provides me with comfort – willingly.

A house is not a home…

I believe children should be exposed to pets at an early age.  My daughter was born into a house with two dogs, and we added as she got older.  By the time she was 13, the dogs she knew as a child had passed. Though there is certainly sadness, and heartache that comes from the loss of a pet, there is also a perspective, and context which can be applied to life.

If we are fortunate enough to love an animal, and be a steward for him, we are blessed in many ways. Not the least of which is learning a superior context we can apply to apply to the duration of a life. When we are born our parents are already older. We never really know them in their youth. If we are fortunate enough to have children, we know them in their youth, and perhaps even into middle age. However, most never see their children live deep into old age. Having a pet gives us a different perspective on this. Horse, dog, hedgehog, or cat, we often get our pets at an early age, and are often able to see them live a complete life.

When I stop to consider this, it reminds me that we have so much to learn about the seasons of life from our pets. The fragility of spring. The restlessness of summer. The calm of autumn. The perspective of winter. Watching these seasons unfold through the animals I have loved, helps me better understand my life, and the lives of others.  Be well…  rc

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey...

Stroodle, and his cousins-in-law; Luna, Peaches, and Posey…

The only truth I will ever know, is looking into the eyes of a dog.

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from Wooden Shjips.  Enjoy…

Words can’t express…

Two month’s notice…

That day finally showed up last Thursday.  The day I knew had been coming for several months now, but hoped never would.  George, a client of many years, and a friend for precisely as long, explained that he would be leaving Fallbrook in mid-January, and relocating to a senior living community in Orange County.  George is 74, and lives with Parkinson’s disease.

On George…

George stepped into my studio for the first time years ago.  He was in his 60s, and was scarcely into his retirement from his career as an executive with an energy company.  George wanted to begin a fitness regimen to augment his twice per week golf schedule.  George also wanted to lose a few pounds around his waist, and improve his overall shape.  If functional strength training might help his golf game, peripheral weight loss would be a cherry on top.

George was focused with his workouts, and made progress quickly.  His balance improved.  His flexibility improved.  His endurance improved.  His strength improved – to a point where he could leg press several hundred pounds, and do so safely in proper form.  His golf even improved.  He even dropped a few pounds through the years here and there, occasionally joking that Nabisco wasn’t going to get anymore of his money.

Though our workouts have always been results focused, conversations of life, politics, family, and sports are always present within the fiber of our exercise sessions.  In fact, those conversations have been at the heart of this friendship.  My conversations with George, even when of a serious nature, always had a positive tone.  Nobody ever asked us to, but if challenged, George and I are prepared to save the world.

Witchcraft in the wind…

Maybe 5 years ago, George was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The pragmatic engineer in him accepted that affliction with no resistance. He approached it with a resolve to wake up each day, and address Parkinson’s in the best way he could; stoically, and with a strong faith in western medicine.  Though there is no cure for Parkinson’s at this time, his neurologist has excelled at helping George use medications to treat his symptoms.  George’s wife, Judy, has been a supreme support system.  He often refers to her as, The Project Manager.

In the years since his diagnosis, George’s physicality has suffered some, but not disappeared entirely.  This is partially due to the disease itself, and partially due to the medications he uses to offset Parkinson’s.  He still plays golf twice weekly, continues to exercise regularly, mows weeds, and periodically hunts for gophers, and squirrels on his property.   His attitude and acceptance of the cards life has dealt him have been exceptional.  We should all be so graceful under these circumstances.

A couple of years back he entered my studio one day, and I asked him how his golf outing went the day prior.  This was his response:

“It was great!”

He continued,

“I didn’t play too well, but the turkey sandwich was excellent, and my friends and I laughed a lot.”

I was as humbled by his attitude, as I was by the sincere smile on his face as he spoke.  George and I often talk about how fortunate we both are, to the point of silliness, both grateful that we each seem to have won the lottery of birth.

The inevitable…

George no longer leg presses several hundred pounds.  Most of George’s workouts take place with a broom stick for resistance, and some 3 and 5 pound weights in his weathered hands.  We work largely on balance, and with a secondary goal to minimize muscle wasting.  He still gets pissed off when he misses a step on one particular balance exercise we do.  He rests more during the sessions these days, and the conversation extends more as the exercise have been scaled back, but the time is still useful for us both – for us both.

There is no way to quantify how George’s functional strength workouts have helped offset his fight with Parkinson’s, or whether they have made a difference at all.  The exercises themselves are quantifiable, but there are many variables involved with determining success; aging, medications, sleep, nutrition, etc. We both just agree, as does his neurologist, that he just keep moving.  I have seen no data source which suggests people with Parkinson’s avoid exercise.

George, and I last week.  George is the one wearing eye glasses...

George, and I last week. George is the one wearing eye glasses…

Of functionality, and fulfillment…

At a time when I struggle walking the line between the utility of functional exercise and the personal fulfillment of more intense exercise, George’s presence in my life has been a grounding factor.  If I don’t hit a PR in the deadlift, I’m good with it.  If i have trouble walking up stairs, I take notice.

George has paid me well for my time and resources through the years.  As time has gone on, I ruminate more and more over all I have learned from George – about how to address aging, disease, and the perspective he applies to both.  I have wondered increasingly, who should have been paying who all these years.

Passing of the torch…

The community George will be living has an onsite exercise facility, and a trainer to help facilitate exercise for the residents.  He and I calculated that he would have roughly 20 training sessions left, and we both want to maximize them.  I offered to capture some of our upcoming workouts onto video to share with his new trainer, and George agreed this was a good idea. This will not be about instructing the new trainer on how to work with George.  Rather, this will be done so the trainer can more easily assess George’s limitations, and abilities.

I have great faith that the trainers there will help George continue on his path of most resistance.  I can only hope they will appreciate his good nature, intellect, and wit, and warmth.  I have worked with many clients of varying ages, and for varying reasons through the years – hundreds.  It is an honor that George is the first person I induct into the Contemplative Fitness hall of fame.

Footnote…

My own father lived with Parkinson’s disease.  He also died with it.  Thoughts of the physical deterioration associated with this affliction resonate with me daily.  Though the data is incomplete as to whether or not there is a genetic lineage, I somewhat expect it at some point.   We’re not much for curing great diseases in recent years.  Maybe we’re not supposed to.  Perhaps the best we can do is to take care of ourselves well enough that we avoid disease, in hopes research will help us treat the symptoms as best we can should we ever become afflicted.

I have been writing this blog for many years now.  I have done so strictly as a hobby.  I have never asked that it be supported by donations, nor have I sought sponsorship.  I ask today, one time only, if you have found value in reading this essay, please make even a small donation to the Davis Phinney Foundation, or a similar organization.  Thank you, and be well…  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this by The Kingston Trio.  Enjoy…

 

The Rhythm Method…

My friend…

Monserate Hill has been many things to me through many years.  It has been a workout, a release, a sanctuary, a hiding place, a passion, and a medicine.  It has been a place to cultivate friendships, old and new, to regain perspective on the complexities of life, and a place to learn a little more each week about the inner me.  It’s a place that has made me whole in times when I have felt broken.  In short, Monserate has been my friend.

Time And Time Again…

This hill rises just about 1,200 feet from its base beside Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, CA.  The most direct trail to the summit is 1.6 miles.  If my math skills serve me well, 1.6 miles over 1,200 feet comes out to an average grade of about 23%.  It’s steep.  I try and get to the hill at least a couple of times per week, but will go every day if the circumstances provide for that.  On the weekends it’s not unusual for me to hike it 3 or 4 times in 48 hours.

With my brother, Mark Jhciacb Cohen...

With my brother, Mark Jhciacb Cohen…

On the short route there are essentially 4 steep and challenging sections, and 2 flat sections.  None of the challenging sections are any less difficult than another.  The sections differ only in landscape, trail surface, and view. Steep is steep, and effort is effort.  As for the flat sections, a friend recently pointed out to me that they really aren’t flat at all, only less steep.

When time is tight I take the short trail which gets me up, down, and out of there in 45 minutes or so.  When I have less going on, I take the long route which is a 5 ½ mile round trip.  This takes me about an hour and 15 minutes.  The long route offers some extra credit as far as the cardio goes, but also offers extra credit with even more beautiful views.

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There are times when I take on this hill full-on.  Be it alone, or with a partner, the goal is to get to the top as quickly as possible.  This pace tests the conditioning of the mind, as well as the body.  This is when Monserate is my workout, and can be daunting when the pace is that aggressive.  I have even run it, bottom to top on occasion, but there is no joy in doing so.

Other times the pace may be fast, but not all out.  Then there are just those days when a long walk with a good friend is in order.  Pace means nothing, and fellowship is the order of the day.  After all, Monserate is a church not made by hands.

Regardless of the goal, and the pace, never do I get to the top without pausing for at least a moment to honor the gif of the view.  To the east lays Palomar Mountain which can be dusted with snow in winter.  That aesthetic is always striking since there are citrus orchards, palm farms, and avocado groves in the foreground.  To the west is the town of Fallbrook, where I live.  On a clear day one can see the ocean nearly 20 miles away.

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Ocean view, 20 miles in the distance...

Ocean view, 20 miles in the distance…

The Fires…

In October of 2007 this area was decimated by fires.  In Fallbrook alone, over 500 homes were lost.  Those fires reworked the Monserate landscape into a different level of beauty.  This allowed me to see the hill from the perspectives of fragility, and strength in recovery.  Gone was the overgrown brush, and exposed was the hidden terrain from which the growth once reached.  The growth would return, and that served as a reminder to me of the cyclical nature of existence.

Each week through that winter after the fires I watched the scenery evolve, and turn from charred black remains on red clay, into purple flowers, yellow blossoms, and rich green hues.  As the growth returned so too did the smells.  If Monserate has a secret weapon for seduction, then it’s the confluence of scents of the varying plants which inhabit the area.

In the early mornings, when the marine layer is just right, and as the fog slowly flows over, and around the hills in the area, the scents of sage, citrus, and eucalyptus among others waft, and blend.

Above the clouds…

When I find Monserate to be most inspiring, most meditative, and most transformative is early on a Sunday morning when the fog is heavy.  On those days, little can be seen beyond 20 yards, sometimes less.  Then, after about 800’ or so of climbing, I emerge from the fog only to look down upon the top of it.  The triangular peaks of the distant hills peek through the clouds, and it appears as though the whole world is just a cauldron of soup made from clouds, and hilltops.  Above, the sky is an untouched blue.

In these moments when no roads, no structures, no anything can be seen, I feel alone in the universe.  Then, I’ll hear a hawk, see a rabbit, a lizard, or even a coyote scamper, and nature becomes larger than man, and I am the outsider.

Cloud soup...

Cloud soup…

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The rhythm method…

I may suck at running, but I climb hills as well as anyone I know, and I enjoy doing it.  Due to the steep grade of the trail, each stride is more a lunge than a step.  I land flat-footed, and push off from the heel with every stride – years of lunges have trained me to do this with efficiency.  I have strong legs, powerful hips, and a low center of gravity.  Jhciacb does hills.  Rarely do even my partners pass me, and if they do they don’t stay in front for very long.

Step.  Step.  Step.  The climb itself is a rhythm, but it’s a slow rhythm.  Heart-rate increases and breathing expands.   Time begins to slow, and the transformative state begins.  Step.  Step.  Step.  This is the metronome which keeps the physical me in tune, and in step with the thinking me.  The chaos of the day dissolves as the music of physicality gets louder.  Step.  Step.  Step.

Lunge is served...

Lunge is served…

As I advance, I begin to forget about those who half-wittingly toss out their opinions about the idiot in the white house, corporate greed, or why I’m so wrong about so many things.  As the news of stolen babies, raped altar boys, school shootings, and genocide swirl about my brain with the chaos of the day, and as my head feels like it’s going to explode from these, I simply put one foot in front of the other, and establish a rhythm with my body.  As the rhythm of my body increases, the rhythm of my mind slows to a tolerable level, if only for a while.  Step.  Step.  Step…  Be well.  Rc

Money shot at sunset from a hike this past Saturday...

Money shot at sunset from a hike this past Saturday…

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If you are a San Diego local, and have an interest in hiking Monserate, but would prefer to do it for the first time with an experienced guide, please contact me here.  I would be glad to show the way.  My fee for the hike is a Greek salad, and a pitcher of iced tea from the Main Street Café here in Fallbrook.

Please stop back in two weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there is this from, Little Hurricane.  Enjoy..