Writing With My Lips…

Transitions:  Hand To Mouth…

I’m typing an essay once again.  It feels good.  It’s been a while…

I’m currently looking through the window from seat 9A on Southwest Airlines flight 1045 with service to Denver and Charleston.  I’m stopping in Denver.  It’s been nearly a year since I’ve flown and almost as long since I have typed an essay, though I have written nearly 30 in the past 12-months. It was last May when I began dictating most of my essays, blogs, and social media posts into my smartphone, rather than type them on my laptop.

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The process was frustrating at first, but that frustration didn’t last long.  The learning curve was quick, and adjustments came daily.  Voice-activated technology has come a long way.  Within a matter of weeks, I was writing daily, by speaking essays into my phone and doing so seamlessly.

Speak Slowly And Clearly, Please…

In the age of the answering machines and later with voice mail, my father’s message was loud, distinct, and always the same…

“This is Al Cohen.  Please speak slowly and clearly at the tone…”

That was his voice message from 1975 until the time of his death in 2013.  In writing this, I realize that message is the memory I most associate with my father.  To hear it, one felt a responsibility to speak slowly and clearly.  Those two lessons, learned from my father’s answering machine when I was a kid, ensured a smooth transition from typing my thoughts to dictating them. Even from the grave my father is telling me what to do, but it works so I’m grateful.

  • Speak slowly
  • Speak clearly
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Diego: A purebred North Korean Shepard…

In most of my dictations, background noise and other voices notwithstanding, if I speak slowly and clearly, my smartphone lives up to its name.  That said, proofreading before posting or publishing is more important than ever.  Words like our can turn into are and been can turn into men easily.  My smartphone makes little distinction between do and dew, though better recognizing context has been a part of every software revision.  Also, shizzle can easily turn into drizzle, though that one doesn’t come up often.

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While the lion sleeps tonight…

Probably the most important lesson I have learned in this transition, is the lesson of decorum – of when to type and when to speak.  Writing from my laptop has always been restricted to the location of my laptop – my bed, my desk, my front porch, and my sofa. These are places of absolute privacy.  By talking into my phone, I can now write just about anywhere – the park, the coffee shop, waiting in my car while my mother shops, and even in a fast-moving jet headed to Denver – or maybe not.  In a crowd like this, I prefer typing, which is what brought this essay on.

When I took seat 9A this morning, with service to Denver and Charleston, I began talking into my phone — an essay on another topic.  The woman in the seat next to me began to stare. I immediately realized it would be inappropriate to dictate an essay in such close proximity and this essay, on talking rather than typing, was suddenly born.

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With Ease Comes Guilt, Always…

There has been an inescapable guilt though – the guilt of a thousand Jewish mothers, that I still use term writing when speaking is how my essays come about.

“What are doing, Son…?” my mother asked when she saw me talking to the center of my hand one day.

Me:  I’m writing an essay….

“Oh” she said, “writing.  I see…” She rolled her eyes as she turned away.  I had just lied to my mother.  I was speaking an essay, not writing one.

Let’s say this essay goes viral and ends up in the hands of a well-connected editor or publisher.  He sees the fruit in my wisdom and the art in my imagination and offers me the opportunity to write for a broader platform; would I be a writer or a speaker…?

If asked about my craft, I can’t imagine telling a person beside me in a café that I’m speaking an essay or worse yet, that I’m speaking my first novel.  So, I feel guilty in calling myself a writer since I have always viewed writing as an action of the hands.  But that extends the question further – since typing onto a keyboard has been the mechanism for most writers, going back many decades, has anyone using a keyboard truly been a writer…?  I ask myself again, is writing an action of the hands or of the head…?

I’d like to introduce you to a fine typist, Mr. Norman Mailer – that just doesn’t seem to flow as sweetly.

The Future…

My track record predicting the future isn’t that good. I can scarcely predict the past.  I can say with certainty though, that dictating my thoughts into my phone is far more efficient than typing them into my laptop – this essay notwithstanding.  Going forward, a majority of my writing will continue to be done via my lips and will be dependent on the ever-improving voice-activated technology.

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Tesla. A very good girl…

In taking it all in though, I wonder if mind-activated software isn’t around the corner.  If so, will I be thinking my essays and possibly thinking a novel before I die…?  How efficient might that technology be…?  And how about the editing process be…?  Will there be an algorithm so efficient that it will know drizzle from shizzle before I ever think it…?  I hope so.  It could be a big time saver…  Jhciacb

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If you have not already, please roll up and subscribe to this blog. And please check back in couple weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Steve Gibbons Band. Enjoy…!

Daughter And Delight: A Path Out Of Depression…

It Always Passes…

Little twists of fate can turn the best possible day into be the worst, or so it can seem. We have all experienced this. Conversely, sometimes those twists can turn the worst possible day into the very best, and do so in a matter of seconds.

Yesterday morning I was battling a profound depression. Issues with my business, with a couple of clients, and within the generally chaotic fiber of my life had me at a boiling point by noon. That’s when my car died — on the freeway — on a 90° day — 15-miles from my home. Yup, my day was going that well.

Choosing not to jump into traffic, which was the obvious choice, I coaxed my car home slowly and got it to my mechanic. From there, after being told it might cost more to repair it than I have available, I walked home and prepared to take on the rest of my day, fully believing that it had the potential to still get worse.

If nothing else, I was hoping to sneak in a bike ride to help clear my head and center my racing mind, if only for a while. As I was about to get on my bike, my daughter’s name came up on my caller ID.

I have few hard and fast rules in my life, but at the top of that list is that I never let my daughter’s calls go to voicemail — ever. If I’m being honest though, I was bummed because I knew in taking that call I wasn’t going to get on my bike.

It was small talk mostly, and I silently wished I was peddling. She’s currently participating in an archaeological dig — three ships from 18th century being excavated in Alexandria, Virginia. I told her how proud I was of her for working in her field. At that, she chuckled which I thought was odd.

Daughter:  “I can extend it out a little further if you would like…” she suggested.

Me:  Huh…?

Daughter:  “The proud thing. I can make you prouder, but only if you want me to…”

Me:  What the hell you talking about…?

That’s when she told me she had been accepted into a PhD program at the University of Pennsylvania — Ivy League.

She has accepted a five-year proposal that will pay her a generous stipend and allow her to achieve a PhD in nautical archaeology in exchange for teaching entry level classes in anthropology and archaeology, as well as for doing research in her field on behalf of the school.

Holding back tears ain’t my forte, but I kept it together as best I could.  She asked me once if I was crying. No, I said, I’m just cutting off one of my toes with a Swiss Army knife. She chuckled.

Yesterday morning I wanted to jump into traffic because I was so upset about the course of my day.  And yes, I really wanted to do it.  But as I always do during difficult times, I worked hard to remember that it always passes.  Within An hour, an unexpected twist of fate had me jumping for joy, and all I had to do was wait out the bad stuff.

Hearing that news of my daughter’s success will forever remain the brightest moment of my life. I know she will have other successes — many, but those who know my daughter know that she has been pursuing this goal since she was in 8th grade. I guess it skips a generation.

And to that point, I cannot speak about this without applauding the masterful job my daughter’s mother did in providing the structure in which she has flourished. She is the finest mother, and the finest human being I have ever known.

The bad stuff always passes. Wait out the bad stuff. It passes. It always passes… Jhciacb

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Spectrum Or Rainbow…

I might listen to an audiobook 10, 20, or even 30 times. That’s no exaggeration.

There are times when I’ll cup my hands, place them over my dog’s head, then ask him a question and hope for an answer – telepathically. I’ve actually done that, though he’s never given me any response other than a quizzical look.

I recall and remember clearly, many conversations I’ve had on the school bus, at the swimming pool of my youth, or on dates I had when I was 16 — and I recycle those conversations in my head repeatedly.

Walking in nature each day, as birds, squirrels, and rabbits cross my path, I might say good morning to them, and introduce myself…

“Hello, Mr. Rabbit! I’m Roy, and this is my dog, Stroodle. We live just off Main Street. God bless you, and have a good day…!” I actually do that.

Surfing at SanO one day a few years ago, as I was sitting outside the lineup watching other surfers and dolphins fare much better than I was that day, caught myself repeating a name over and over again — Alex Cora. I have no idea why I was doing it, but I just kept saying audibly Alex Cora… Alex Cora… Alex Cora… over and over again. Wasn’t much of a Dodgers fan and I think he is a crappy analyst, but for some reason that day I just kept repeating his name.

At moments like these – those times when I’m queuing up a book for the 30th time, talking to a passing bird, or inexplicably repeating the same word over and over, I wonder where I am on the spectrum.

Maybe it’s more a rainbow than a spectrum – just a happy place where I need to be to keep my sanity. Or more succinctly, perhaps being a little crazy keeps me sane. Maybe. Others though, who I see with similar quirks as my own, have one thing in common — a diagnosis.

That’s a heavy confession for an April Fool’s week, but it’s no joke. I don’t see too much wrong with any of my quirks and idiosyncrasies, but because there are so many of them and they sort of form the core of my personality, I often wonder if I live with an undiagnosed form of autism, Asperger’s, or just a new kind of crazy altogether, that hasn’t yet been discovered.

Perhaps I am need of a kind of therapy which hasn’t been invented yet. Maybe.

Maybe I’m just another eccentric though, in a town full of eccentrics. I dunno.

By the way, I’m not looking for any feedback here. Just sharing my thoughts at 6:00am —my compulsion to wake early, to write, and to share. Quirks, oddities, colors of the spectrum. No, colors of the rainbow… Jhciacb

If you have not already, please scroll up and subscribe to this blog. Please check back in a couple weeks see what happens when I push the STOP  button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from The Kills. Enjoy…!

Chimp With A Smartphone Part III…

Chimp With A Smartphone…

My daughter, now 27, is responsible for that monicker. Several years ago, I sent her a black-and-white picture of some broken pier pilings behind the Oceanographic Institute at Moss Landing. I had taken that picture with an iPhone 5 set to ‘mono’. I did only a few minor adjustments with the lighting, and was immediately overwhelmed with how good a picture from a smartphone can be. I remain very proud of that picture (below)

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This was my daughter’s response…

“Dude, it’s a nice picture but your not Ansel Adams. You’re a chimp with a smartphone…”

I still chuckle when I think about it.   No nickname has better suited me.  Since that declaration,  I’ve taken thousands, possibly tens of thousands of pictures — all on my iPhones; an iPhone 5, an iPhone 6, and my current phone/camera an iPhone 7.

Smartphone photography suits me. There is less thinking and processing involved, and that supports my Chimpism. Smartphones are much more portable than a camera, a bag, and all the lenses and accessories that go with them. Truth is, a few years ago a friend gave me a very nice camera, and I don’t even know where it is.

Yesterday I took the mammal for a stroll at the abandoned San Luis Rey golf course in nearby Bonsall. Late last year a fire swept through the area, known as the Lilac Fire. It did a great deal of damage, but the local and regional fire fighting authorities did a masterful job containing the the fire. It could have been much worse.

Damage to the San Luis Rey golf club was minimal also, since it ceased being a golf club several years ago, and is destined to become houses and school grounds in the near future.

Further down the street, is the San Luis Rey Downs.  That horse training facility lost more than 50 horses in the Lilac Fire. I just didn’t have it in me yesterday to check out that area, but I probably will this weekend.

A few random things that I’ve learned about smartphone photography over the last few years:

  • The best time to take pictures is just after the sunrises or just before it sets, but you already knew that.
  • Smartphones do much better with the micro than with the macro. Close-ups of flowers, bugs, and even burnt golf balls do much better than with landscapes and portraits.
  •  I might adjust colors minimally after the fact, but I have more fun — and get more results from adjusting light, contrast, and shadows.

Here’s a few pictures from yesterday’s chimp-stroll at the corner golf course. Excuse me now, while I reach for banana… Jhciacb.

 

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A Cold Bender…

Cold Bender…

It’s time to confess. For the last couple months I’ve been going on a bender nearly every night, and they often last deep into the night. Can’t say that I’m ashamed, or that I’m even concerned. It’s not like I’m missing work or fouling up any relationships. I just can’t seem to stop.

I’ve been using once again, and using heavily. Cold Chisel that is…

I first learned of the band Cold Chisel from KAZY radio in Denver in 1978 or 1979. On Sunday from 10:00pm-Midnight a free-form rock show was hosted by an Australian DJ. I think his name was Walter, but I’m not sure. I’ll never forget though, the first time he played Cold Chisel, and how he built them up before he played the song Khe Sanh.

I was immediately hooked on Cold Chisel, Australia’s hardest working and hardest fighting rock band.

In the pantheon of my rock-band gods there are, in no particular order…

The Call
Los Lobos
The Waterboys
Steely Dan
and Cold Chisel

Of course there are many other bands and many solo artists that have inspired me, touched me, and that I have obsessed on. However, these are the bands that have moved and touched me in ways that others never could. Each, for very different reasons.

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When I look at my love and appreciation for these bands now, I realize the biggest draw isn’t so much in the musicianship, in the personalities, or even in the production, though they are all great . The gravity that draws me in is for songs with well-crafted lyrics.

The lyrics to Khe Sanh (Don Walker) might be the most well-crafted lyric I’ve ever heard.

In the last few weeks I’ve completed two books written by Jimmy Barnes, Cold Chisel’s lead singer. I can’t recommend these two books enough — Working Class Boy and Working Class Man. They’re written in very linear fashion, very difficult to read due to their content, very grounding, and well illuminate what launched the fireball of Jimmy Barnes out of that rock and roll cannon so many years ago, to become one of music’s most notorious and dangerous frontmen. Jimmy is alive and doing fine these days, and has become a great story teller.

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Over the last couple of months I have watched virtually every YouTube video available on the band, including interviews, solo performances, a six-part documentary series about the history of the band, and every music video they’ve ever made. Some have moved me to tears.

When I think about music – – bands in particular, I first think about magic. Magic is what happens when unlikely ingredients come together to form the perfect whole, if only for a few minutes, a few years, or for a few concert tours.

Please take seven minutes watch this from beginning to end if you have a chance. It brought me to absolute tears the first time I saw it, and I still watch it regularly. An incredible performance by Don Walker and Ian Moss, Cold Chisel’s keyboard player and guitar player respectively.

 

 

If you’ve ever wondered where magic comes from, I’ll say it again… Magic is what happens when unlikely ingredients come together to form the perfect whole. Cold Chisel was/is the perfect whole, if only for a few minutes, a few concert tours, or for few years — which have now turned into four decades.

Like a lot of bands that have fallen to hit the ground, bounced back up, hit the ground again, only to bounce back up again over and over, Cold Chisel has known adversity –– in spades, including the death of drummer Steve Prestwich in 2011. Still, the band and its remaining members are still active today, occasionally together, but mostly involving other projects.

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Yes, I’m using Cold Chisel again, often late into the night, and I make no apology… Jhciacb

If you’re not currently a subscriber, please scroll up and do so. Please check back in a couple weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and here’s one more from Cold Chisel singer Jimmy Barnes, written by the late Steve Prestwich. Enjoy… 

 

Spicy, Part II…

Spicy…

It’s been dry here this year. Our measurable rain thus far has been a fraction of what we had hoped for, and far below normal.

Last night though, a weak front came through and gave us a steady overnight shower. Rather than get on my bike as I do most Sunday mornings, I chose to amble through the woods with my phone and my mammal.

There was moisture everywhere, lingering and showing off. It’s as though the rain wanted a round of applause for all it gave us, however temporary that performance might have been.

The scents were fresh and spicy. The coastal rosemary, the sage, the Sycamore, the grasses and other constituents conspired to smell like a cache of potpourri, warmed and wafting.

It was a good meander. Quiet. Fresh. Inviting. Now, onto the bike… Jhciacb

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If you haven’t already, please scroll up and subscribe. And 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 Rev. Al Green. Enjoy…!

Monotheology…

My Road…

For the things that have mattered to me most; hobbies, interests, business practices, and even in matters of personal fulfillment, I have always preferred the path of being self-taught. That is, I’m at my best when I work within my own structure and on my own schedule.

Translation: I have an authority problem…

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For nearly 2 decades I’ve been attempting to create and adhere to a personal theology. My own beliefs, practiced within my own structure, and within my own timeframe and schedule. During the last couple of years, I feel I have made significant progress in this area.

The beliefs I value, the rituals I practice, and the sermons I create and study on my own behalf, have become an integral part of my daily life. And I can say with great certainty that they have made me a better person.

Though this Religion Of One is something I am quite proud of, some part of me has always questioned whether it’s the correct path. In a world full of ornate houses of worship — great and small, paint by numbers acts of ritual and obedience, and volumes of scripture which everyone has read but nobody has written, to state that I have carved out my own theology can seem lofty, ignorant, and selfish – – even to myself.

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Though I have mostly embraced my personal theology, I have also been skeptical of it.

This past Sunday I attended a structured house of worship for the first time in many years. It was with a small congregation in the small town where I live. Everything about it was cordial, charming, and peaceful. That is, I found the experience to be everything that is right with religion. It was pleasant.

As I took it all in though, that skepticism I’ve had of my own theology slowly and steadily began to flake off and fall from my skin. Though I greatly appreciated all that was taking place around me; the observance, the reverence, and the community, I felt uncomfortable and out of place. I was longing to be back out in the woods, conversing with my maker and contemplating my place in this vast and complex world.

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Leaving that service last Sunday, and stepping back into my own rituals, my own forms of charity and community, and on my own schedule of observance, I felt for the very first time that my Religion Of One is not a path of blasphemy or guilt, but the most available and the most direct road to where I’m going. So I will just keep stepping – – left, right, left, right, left, right, down the center of my own little path, with the absolute belief that this is just right for me…. Jhciacb

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If you have not already, please scroll up and  hit the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner. Please check back in a couple weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP  button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Shiny Ribs. Enjoy….

Digital Postcards…

Digital Postcards…

At a different time in my life, when I traveled to exotic, beautiful, or unusual places, I would send postcards of my destinations to the folks back home. I might scribble something on the back – – just a few words attempting to capture the essence of what I was enjoying and why. I always ended them with “Having a wonderful time. I wish you were here…” I probably always meant that too.

Postcards, like payphones, are almost nonexistent today. The technology behind them has morphed and taken a different trajectory. The very smartphones that eliminated the payphone, have also served to squeeze the postcard into near extinction.

The intentions behind postcards though, have actually increased. We can now capture the images of our travels and text them or share them with somebody within seconds. Minus the $.43 stamp, and thanks to social media platforms, we can have unlimited recipients as well.

Today we don’t even have to be traveling to send a postcard. We just need to be somewhere exotic, beautiful, or unusual.

Or not.

We can send postcards of half eaten pancakes, a cigarette butt on found out of place on a running track, or even of dog excrement in the shape of the Eiffel Tower if we are so inclined — and so immature. For better or for worse, there’s no limit to the postcards we can send.

If you’re reading this, then you’ve been getting postcards from me for a while now — roughly a decade, and almost daily. It’s not an overstatement to suggest that I love sending digital postcards.

Whether it’s by text, social media, or other digital platforms, I think that’s a good way to look at the way we increasingly share pictures of the day-to-day – – as digital postcards.

Despite the ill-conceived perception that we’re all just a bunch of mindless zombies staring into our phones as we walk into stop signs, hit our heads on trees branches, and step into potholes as we step and scroll, we are actually perpetual travelers with a desire to share. We regularly reach out to the folks back home because we want to share that which offers bewilderment, fascination, or amuses us.

What makes this so cool to me, if not slightly miraculous, is that we no longer have to accept and purchase somebody else’s pictures and captions to send to the folks back home. We have ownership in our postcards, and in the words that accompany them. Pretty cool.

So when you get my postcards, there’s a couple things I want you to know…

One: I very much see you as being part of the ‘folks back home’.

Two: I’m having a wonderful time, and I wish you were here.

Here are some postcards from yesterday… Jhciacb

 

 

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

Road Transitions…

I have written down nearly every workout I’ve taken for 43 years. Every weight lifted, every repetition performed, and every set completed has been documented in handheld spiral notebooks since I was a kid.

A pen to spiral binder is a crude form of data collection, but it’s information nonetheless. Information to be studied. Information to be drawn from. Information to be used to make future decisions in pursuit of ongoing improvement.

After all these years though, I know how much I should be squatting with on a given night, or how much weight I should load on the bar for some skull-crushers. The putting the pen to paper at this point, is about more than gathering information. Above all things, it is about ritual, and for me, it is a sacred ritual at that.

This documenting of my actions with these crude tools, helps connect me to what I’m doing — to my purpose in the gym. It’s a necessary part of the workout, and a necessary part of my spirituality. In one sense, I’m writing down my actions and storing information for later use. In another sense though, I’m taking inventory of my beliefs.

By etching these letters and numbers which have accounted for so much of my life, I am in a sense, taking sacrament at the altar. It is this dogmatic process which transcends the workout itself, taking it to a much more spiritual level. That means much more to me than the gathering of information to be used later.

Another part of that ritual, is to close one spiral binder after several months, and begin another, which I did last night. Another mile-marker along the never ending road that I’ve been on since I was 13-years old, and I will follow so long as I am alive.

I don’t know where this road is taking me, and I don’t know when it will end, but I have enjoyed, and I have found great meaning in documenting the journey…. Jhciacb

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Unfinished Business…

I think that most aging athletes are little balls of unfinished business. I am, anyway. I always feel like there’s a little more to be done — that there is no endpoint. Death, perhaps.

I stepped into the weight room for the first time nearly 43 years ago. Although there have been some workouts skipped, a few weeks taken off here and there to rest, and a couple years missed after s skydiving accident in 1993 when I could not work out at all, I have stepped into the weight room nearly 13,500 times.

Do anything 13,500 times, and you’re bound to struggle with motivation on occasion. I’m going through a very unmotivated phase these days. I’ve been unmotivated before, so I know it will pass, but this one seems to be lingering — to the point where it has me questioning why I am still doing this after 43 years…? It takes less than a minute each evening, as I step into my weight room, for the lyrics of the Eagles song, After The Thrill Is Gone, to start doing gymnastics in my head…

“You don’t like winning, but you don’t want to lose, after the thrill is gone…”

As recently as August, I was enjoying a motivated uptick with my training. I had been training hard, and messing with my diet too. My physique was filling out a little bit, and I had been getting a little leaner. Though I had no aspirations to step on a bodybuilding stage anytime soon, I always feel like I’m six weeks away from being in the best shape of my life. And in the summer of 2017, I felt like I was approaching the best shape of my life, yet again.

Then, on August 2nd, I came off my bike at nearly 25 mph. I suffered one small fracture in my upper left temple, another one on my left jaw, and the third one on my left collarbone. Despite these, I only missed a half-dozen or so workouts, and I was on my bike again within a week. But the workouts were more stressful than meditative, due to the negotiations between any kind of movement at all, and the pain in my collarbone.

The wave of momentum I was riding prior to my accident disappeared beneath my feet. I haven’t seen it since. Though I have stepped into the weight room approximately 120 times since my accident in August, my workouts have been less than inspired. I don’t like winning, but I don’t want to lose…

My eating…? I feel more like the late comedian, John Pinette, than an athlete making a personal comeback. Still, I keep stepping back into the weight room at night, and getting on my bike each morning, for that feeling of unfinished business…

Certain things you retire from, recreational bodybuilding — fitness, whatever you want to call it, has no end point. So long as I am living, it will be a work in progress – – unfinished business.

So I will ride out this wave of unmotivation, in hopes I get my mojo back. Motivation lacks, but I have unfinished business. Same dances in them same old shoes… Jhciacb

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