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!

Some Mixed Thoughts On Larger Purpose, Food Technology, Prejudice, And Change…

Nothing new this week.  I’ll have something fresh in 2 weeks.  I wrote the essay below over two years ago.  Little has changed in the collective awareness we have of our food system since I wrote this — and little has changed in the system itself, or how we use it.  Me thinks the train has left the station and the 300,000,000 drivers of the train don’t realize they are the drivers…

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Larger Purpose; Time’s Arrow Slowing Down

Americans are less healthy, less fit, and less discriminating in the choices which comprise our physicality than ever.  We had seen this coming for decades, and we let it in anyway – because letting it in required less work than keeping it out.  And there’s this; the National Institute for Health now suggests an alarming trend that could manifest within a few decades.  Unless serious efforts are met to combat the increasing rate of childhood obesity, for the first time in American history, children born in subsequent decades will have a shorter lifespan than their parents.

It is suggested by critical thinkers like Michael Pollan, and others like him, that we should work our way toward the past, in hope that we change our future to become a healthier food-nation.  Enter, Michael Pollan’s open letter to President Obama.

Inspiring but unrealistic…?

However, from historic human social and technical trends, I see little which has happened in the past to suggest these proposed changes of national bad habits could have a wide-spread effect on the future.  I suggest using the non-wellness related books of Charles S. Maier (Among Empires), Jared Diamond (Collapse), and Andrew J. Bacevich (The Limits Of Power) to further examine the ultimate wellness concern; the ability of a society to identify what needs to be changed, and the willingness of its people to insist on making those changes.

These works of social and political scholarship attempt to demonstrate that human societies are often capable of, but very often unwilling, to learn from their mistakes.  Thus, what we try to think of as advancements, are often just highly devised concessions to a more dangerous road, but one which is more easily traveled.  Increasingly, I am convinced the waters of our advanced food system, and the obesity culture it has created, flow too fast and too wide to be slowed down, let alone altered or reversed.

Perhaps a less fit, less healthy food-culture is just our social and evolutionary destiny – our Manifat Destiny.  And the white elephant in the room might actually be 300 million white elephants, each wondering what went wrong, and why everyone else is so heavy – and what time the drive-thru on the way home from work closes.

Homo-big-gulpus…

Advancement: It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

Modernity is a playground for the unintended consequences of our advanced food system.  Billions of people have contributed to the advancements of our food culture in the past 10,000 years, and billions more have been its victim.  Hunters, gatherers, herders, farmers, and then scientists, engineers, transportation specialists, nutritionists, and consumers have all played a part in paving the road on which we now roll.  We have all benefitted and suffered from these advancements, as we will continue to benefit and suffer from them.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. I mean to us, not to them…

Despite that, this is where we are in our food culture, there is an increasing prejudice from a few toward the many who consume highly processed foods, as well those who have helped to create these products.  I am reminded of my father who wants to move to a new assisted living center; one with fewer old people in it.  That scenario seems both contrarian, and prejudiced.

There are now volumes of books available distilling all the political and economic reasons – the contributing factors of how our food system has evolved into its current state.  Yet there is little credence given to the concept that; it all might have seemed like a good idea at the time…  Be it Diet Coke, Snack Well cookies, or single-serving ravioli in a can, we have often embraced these advancements at their introduction, as meeting the needs of changing human, social, and economic conditions.  But we learn and quickly forget, again and again, that from such good ideas, sometimes comes a whole lot of not-so-good.  It seems the unintended consequences of advancement, might tend to stifle…   advancement?  Or, humanity itself is God’s own Ponzi scheme.

Concepts And Realism

Though the notion of turning back our food system one hundred years seems like an enticing idea on the surface (to me it is a supreme idea), what Mr. Pollan and others like him amay not be accounting for is a lack of willingness on the part of many people to make those necessary changes – individuals and leaders alike.  That is, people can be informed of what needs to be changed and of how those changes can help us, but history shows we’re not very good listeners.  Our best shot at success with the food system may just be to keep on pumping those extra B vitamins into those Ho-Ho’s, and to keep trying to perfect protein infused Gummy Bears and pork rinds.

History offers us few good examples of us reversing strong social and technical trends.  We may abandon some social and technical trends in favor of others once we realize they are not working well for us, but we tend to not reverse anything.  Humans are more the walking away type.  It is frequently proven that the next positive advancement in the food system is just as laden with unintended consequences as the advancement we had just abandoned.  It’s official; I have no answers, only questions, and a heart full of concern.  Be well.  rc

I end this diatribe with 2 questions from which I would appreciate your responses to:

1)      Do you believe that our food system will truly be in a better state in 10 years than it is today?

2)      Will this column affect how you think about our food system?

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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…

On Family, Moving, And Regret…

This is an essay which has the potential to offend anyone reading it, including my family.  In writing this, I had never intended to offend anyone.  However, in reading it on completion, I realized it clearly will.  But it is written, and can’t be unwritten.  I want to apologize, in advance, to anyone who might find this condescending or offensive.  It is my hope that you will see true intention of my thoughts.

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On Family

For most of my life I have had no idea what the word family meant.  Even now, I’m not sure I know, but as my middle life unfolds and I face the back 9, I think I’m starting to get it.  It’s just a little too bad, that it’s just a little too late… 

Divorce; It’s What’s For Dinner

I grew up in household with parents who separated multiple times while I was a child.  They would eventually become divorced.  I would grow up to marry a woman who also came from divorced parents.  She and I would have a single child, but would become divorced, and I unequivocally take responsibility for that divorce.  My brother, my only sibling, would also go on to marry, then divorce, and marry again to a woman who came from divorced parents – they are still married and have three adopted children. 

No Place For Too Long

I was born in Massachusetts.  When I was young, my father would move our family west to Colorado for a better life –over 2,000 miles from a grandmother, an aunt, an uncle, and cousins who all lived proximate to our family, and who we saw and interacted with regularly.  I also had aunts, uncles, cousins, and a grandmother in the Deep South.  Growing up in Colorado, none of these felt like family.  I knew of them, but we traded no letters, rarely saw each other, and I thought of them only as often as I thought about performing tree surgery.

In adult life I would live in and out of proximity with my brother, mother, and father, multiple times.  They would move, I would move.  Sometimes closer, sometimes further away.  Sometimes we would be in the same state, but a different city.  Other times we would be in different states altogether.  As a family, we were porous to say the least.

Once I was grown and on my own, I would remain fairly close with my brother, mother, and father, but I have always felt have we lacked the highest form of closeness; the desire to actually be together for more than three days at a time.  Many reading this have said the following from time to time:

 “I love being with my family, but only in small doses.” 

Moving to another city, or seeing them move away, was always a good cure for this.  When my mother lived in Alaska, she couldn’t drop in unexpected.  When she lived down the street from me in Phoenix, she most certainly could – and often did.  Not that this was a bad thing, but it seemed to stifle true adult independence.

Avarice And Acknowledgement

I grew up and lived most of my life thinking, truly believing that most families were just like mine; divorced, dysfunctional, and disjointed – the 3 Ds of the modern American family.  My mantra was that Ozzy and Harriet wasn’t real, and divorce was the standard of modernity.  My own divorced life reflected the lives of more than half of my contemporaries so I thought divorce must be normal, and so too with moving away — it’s just what we do now. 

But as I have gotten older, I have started to take more notice of the other half – of those many families that don’t divorce, that don’t move away, and that they choose to spend time together – regularly, and actually like it.  And I have become jealous of those families, because I know my chance to enjoy what they enjoy has come and gone.

Of late, I have begun to miss living near my brother and his family, to miss living near my mother, and though it kills me to say it, there are days when I miss living near my father too, all of whom live hundreds of miles from me now.  Most of all, I miss living near my daughter who I only had the blessing of living with until she was 10 years old, and it was my choice to leave.

The Damage Done

I’m dug in now.  I own a business.  I live in a great place.  I have a over decade of roots extending a little further with each year, into the networks of friends and social circles that have established themselves as my surrogate families, in a place which is not my real home.  On any given day I may have lunch with a friend, cook for a neighbor, or workout with my workout friends, and I am blessed to do so – I adore and I appreciate my friends. I am blessed to know so many, to have so much, and to live in such beautiful surroundings. I know many people who would gladly accept my life and a thousand lashes, in lieu of their own life and a pot of gold, and I can honestly see why – being Roy is a good gig, for now.

At night though, in my quietest moments, as I lay my head on a pillow alone in my room with no flesh of my flesh, nor blood of my blood anywhere around, I am haunted the by the absence of family. If you read this and are contemplating a divorce, or a move away from family, do what’s best for you please.  But take note of my regret, of my guilt, and of my appreciation for all that I had taken from me, and all that I walked away from.  I don’t know what it’s like to have committed murder.  But I well understand what it’s like to move a family away from family, and what it’s like to dissolve a family, and can only assume those feelings are similar.  Be well. rc         

Comments are closed this week.  Oh, and there is this from Micky Braun.  Enjoy…

Been; gone too long…

Originally written in August of 2010.  Wishing you all peace this day…. ________________________________________________

Been; Gone Too Long

My life has been shaped almost exclusively by physical culture and by music.  Often these two paths intersect, but rarely do they weave together.   Physical culture and music are both deeply rooted in passion.  I will suggest that people who might have an interest in both, often choose one over the other since passion can rarely be divided.  Although I love music very much, when I felt I had to choose between the vintage Gretsch drum kit in my childhood basement, and the weight-set on the other side of the room, the weight-set won and my passion had an outlet that has served me far better than those drums would have.

Still, I greatly admire music and musicians; songwriters in particular.  In an inverse way, music has influenced my perspective on physical culture more than physical culture itself has.  Back in the 1970s and 80s while many of my bodybuilding friends were influenced by other bodybuilders, my workout life was more influenced by song lyrics, intensity in music, as well as the writers, pickers, drummers, and bass players who brought those songs to life.  Earlier this week we lost one – a bass player that is.  Michael Been of the band, The Call died of a heart-attack while mixing and engineering the sound for a concert of his son’s band, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Though The Call is known more as an 80’s keyboard kind of band, Michael Been’s lyrics were as important to me as oxygen and water, and when I needed them most.  Been’s songs were an undiscovered gold mine of hope for me.  Been managed to write the Golden Rule into almost every song, yet they were seamlessly non-preachy.  His lyrics have both reflected, and influenced my life in ways which have often seemed divine to me – literally.   

During the years after my divorce, I would of often find myself sitting by the ocean’s edge and reading the printed lyrics of Been’s songs as I listened to them simultaneously on my MP3 player.  It was a church with plenty of hope and no expectations.   I was repeatedly astonished at how much richness lay beneath the surface of what appeared to be simple pop songs.  I often wondered if he was writing to me, about me, to god, about god, and how he could have known both god and I so well.

In my post-divorce years Been’s lyrics taught me mindfulness above all else; a much needed lesson for me at that time.  The Call was never classified as Christian band.  This was good since I was never classified as a Christian listener.  Still, when one seeks to extract wisdom from lyrics, there are obvious themes relating to the good side of the Christian faith – the side that suggests that though we may often feel all is lost, there is hope if we are simply good to people.

Been was 60 years old when he died.

There are many things which sadden me about Been’s death.  One is that I have found no report of his death from any major news source.  A sad reminder that a man who had so much to offer the world, was largely unknown by it.  Unfortunately The Call’s best work is not available on iTunes, and only scarcely available on youtube in the form of some choppy videos with bad sound. 

If you don’t know The Call, I suggest buying the CDs Red Moon, Let The Day Begin, Modern Romans, and Been’s solo album, On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakthrough.  Through his body of work one can’t help but appreciate the evolution of this man’s heart and soul through the decades.

If I could work in Santa Clause time this evening I would crawl down every chimney in America with a copy of Red Moon, that the nation might be a better place for all the wisdom in its content.  This time two years ago it was David Foster Wallace.  This week it was Michael Been. The two most influential persons in my adult life are now gone.  Mark Cohen, you are number three; please take care of yourself.  Be well.  rc

I Blame Me: A Relationship Story…

Not A Good Year

I’m not lying, this has been the worst year of my entire life; dark, drunk, and trying.  And when I say, “trying”, I don’t mean the year has taken its toll.  I mean I have truly tried.  I have given my all to a relationship which I knew early on could not give back.  Still, I put on my blinders and lowered my shoulder into the future.  With few expectations but irrepressible dreams, I worked hard at it.  She did too.

This year I have been in bed sick far too often.  I have missed too much work.  I have had too much to drink.  I have shed too many years.  I have also turned my back too often on many who care about me.  In short, this year was just like last year, the year before that, and the year before that.  You know, all the years since the day she and I met.

I Blame Me

It started over four years ago when I fell in-love and gave my heart to someone I deemed special beyond words – and she is.  The pedestal I built was not strong enough though, to support the idol I had created in my head.  And there I prayed, every day and most moments of my life, to the woman I placed well above me.  Rarely, I now see in hind-sight, did she ever pray back, or even look down.  

But that’s not her fault, she had other things to occupy her prayers and her eyes; two daughters.  Though her girls would never come to accept me, I can’t blame her for that either.  I soon knew though, that the interest of her daughters would be the critical weakness in our relationship.  She convinced me it would not be.  I leapt.

What does it say about me, or about the ideal of love, that just a few months in, when I first recognized a potential weakness in the relationship, one which I knew we would not likely survive, that I still charged it full steam, for years…?  Again, that’s on me.  She’s a good person with a good heart and fairytale eyes, but I knew better.  Second families rarely work, and her family would be second to no one.

Everyone Needs A Hobby

I do many things wrong, but I think I do partnership pretty well.  I may be a hard person to love, but at the end of the day I give plenty of reasons to hang on tight.  I always thought that would be enough – to be emotionally present, with no expectation of an equal return.  But she couldn’t be as present, her hands were tied.  She did the best she could under the circumstances, but the immense gravity of this conflicted dynamic pulled her into the event horizon.

My Own Daughter

In all of this, what most saddens me is the effort, time, and money diverted away from what should have been my biggest priority – my own daughter.  This is not to suggest that I woke up one day after falling in love, placed my daughter on an iceberg, and clipped a note clipped to her collar reading, “If found, handle with care”, and pushed her out to sea.  But I did leave a large helping of woulda shoulda coulda on the table during the course of this now failed relationship.

When I look back at potential moments lost, I shudder.  I could have been so much better as a father.  My daughter is better than me though.  She’ll learn from my mistakes even if I might not.  My daughter often referred to my would-be marriage as, “the epic fail”, but she always supported it, and did so sincerely.

The Point Of Friendships

I wouldn’t know many of my Facebook friends if they bit me on the ass and called me Jew-boy.  Nor would they know me as much.  But I will bet that if I asked many of them to be there for me in a time of need, and if it were within their grasp to do so, they would accommodate.  And I like to think the same is true in reverse.    

My partner of four years was there for me when she could be, but it was scarcely at best.  When I needed her most though, at critical times to stand up for us and help stake our claim to our future, she was silent.  One lesson learned is that in my next love, if there is a next love, at the first sound of such silence, I will tuck my tail between my legs, back away slowly with one eye looking forward and one eye back, and just keep stepping. 

At Best, At Worst

At best, I am a hopeful romantic and as my friend Robert says, probably too nice a guy. I believe in love, marriage, and I don’t want to grow old alone.  I don’t always have high expectations of romance, and I’m not looking for someone to save me from myself.  But there are times, like many, I want to hit my next relationship out of the park.

At worst, I’m the kind of guy who is willing to just keep hitting his head on the door-jam – over and over again, hoping there is something meaningful on the other side.  Next time out, I will hope to remember the door-jam is almost always too low, and what’s on the other side is seldom enough.  Be well.  rc

Comments are closed this week.

Please check back in two weeks for whatever happens next when I push the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there it this from Micky Braun of Micky And The Motor Cars.  Enjoy…

I Am Not A Doctor…

I Was Wrong

I crossed a line with her I had no business crossing.  It was painful – an emotional disembowelment for each.  I didn’t realize how severe my blunder was until she began crying, left the room and got in her car to drive away.  Following her, not wanting her to leave, I dropped to my knees beside her sports car and begged her through the closed window to come back inside and talk things out. Voices escalated.  I began crying, she still crying.  Through the glass for nearly 10 minutes we would exchange strong opinions about what just went wrong.  Outsiders in the area began to look on. 

The relationship seemed to be over and it was over and it was my fault.  I kept asking her to come back inside to discuss how we could fix this.   In a moment of weakness she obliged me, exited the car, and followed me back inside where we would survive a raw discussion.  No, this was not a girlfriend.  This was a client, and a dear one at that.  In one escalated moment, I saw my entire business flash before my eyes.  But it was the friendship I wanted to salvage.

What Went Wrong; Ideals, Opinions, And Ethics

I teach exercise in a very specific way, from a narrow but sturdy value set, with an absolute belief that done properly and consistently, strength training is great medicine for nearly any ailment – even those that might push one away from the idea of strength training.  She had an injury.  I was trying to help.  I recommended a doctor to her.  Our fight began when I disagreed with the lack of diagnosis and lack of remedies prescribed by the very doctor I had recommended.

My client suggested the course of non-action recommended by the doctor might be best.  I disagreed.  I’m not a doctor and I never attempt to act as one with my clients.  That’s not true.  Every week of my life I utter this phrase;

“My non medical opinion is…” 

And though I may feel I’m always right in my rightness, I am always wrong to contradict a doctor because being a doctor is a legitimate profession.  Being a fitness trainer is a novelty career at best.  I mean, trainers are all just gymopotamuses who don’t want to get real jobs, yes…?

I believe there are many doctors who are strangers to the gym.  Those who might be gym savvy, might not be as savvy as they think.  My experience has been that many physicians equate technique in exercises such as squats, lunges, leg extensions and leg presses, to the typical gym rat trying to push too hard, too heavy and do too much.  Because of this mind-set, I have experienced a tendency for physicians to tell patients to avoid such movements with regard to knee injuries.

In somewhat of a renaissance, a new breed of physician and physical therapist tend to embrace the afore mentioned movements more, suggesting that done properly and not pushed they might, if not help the injury,  serve to strengthen the area around the injury and offer it more support to the joint.  That of course is relative to what the injury might be, and its severity.  But even at the highest levels of medicine, there is no shortage of conflicting ideas, opinions, and agenda. 

Brand Loyalty

Ironically, the client in question provided me with a pivotal perspective on my business last year.  We were on the topic of other trainers when she used the term “brand loyalty” in the context of me.  Though I am unique in how I approach and teach strength training, as well in how I conduct relationships with my clients, I had never thought of myself as a brand before.  That meant a great deal to me.  I had come to appreciate her more for appreciating me in that context.  Since that time I have walked a little taller.

In truth, I have always felt infallible in this.  I teach strength training safely and I construct workouts sensibly.  I have often been quick to tell clients that, one-on-one, I’m the best trainer I have ever known.  Not the most knowledgeable. Not the best built trainer.  But I’m the best I’ve seen at teaching form, and the best communicator of how and of why – and I stand with that. 

One Man’s Passion; Doh!

If I see utility in something, I can’t imagine anyone else not seeing it.  But life isn’t like that.  Throughout my fitness career I have always believed I could teach people to see and appreciate the utility of my brand of exercise.  That’s where I have been wrong.  I will learn to accept it – that my passion is my passion.  Even if my passion can be transported, it might not be received.  This will take some humility and learning on my part, but it will be a priority in the future of my business psyche.  Also, I will learn to accept that at the end of the day, I have an ethical responsibility to always say the doctor is right, even when I believe he is not. 

To the client in question; I thank you for giving me a chance to earn back your trust.  I will open my ears as well as my mind a little wider, and consider myself better for the lesson learned.  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from the short-lived Chicago based band, Piglet.  Enjoy…

A Personal Discourse On Fitness…

I wrote this three years ago and it has been resonating in my head this week.  In this holiday season,  food is a huge topic of discussion — for all it’s enjoyment, all that accompanies its ritual, and all the collateral damage it does.  Fitness bloggers and pundits in particular have very strong opinions here.  I’m not one of them. 

Yes, in life we should strive to be healthy and work to be fit.  At the end of the day, it’s all about moments — and relationships. 

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Who Is The Fit One

My daughter was 9 years old.  Chelsea had swimming pool hair, golden skin, and she had a best friend named Holly.  We lived down the street from Holly, on a greenbelt loaded with greenbelt things; swings, slides, those rocky-horse things on thick springs, tennis courts and more.  Chelsea loved the green belt, and often asked when I walked her home from school, if we could stop and play there.  I don’t ever recall saying “no”, because I loved the greenbelt too.

On occasion, we would walk home from school with her friend Holly, and Holly’s father Derek.  Holly was like Chelsea, young, full of energy, and always ready to play.  Derek – not as much.  He was perhaps 100 lbs. overweight, and though he was a few years younger than me, he was doing well just to walk his daughter home from school without sweating excessively.

One afternoon while Derek and I navigated the girls through the greenbelt, amidst the sea of red ceramic roof tops, we decided to stop and let the girls play at the playground for a while – and they did.  Derek and I sat on a bench beside the jungle gym and watched while Chelsea and Holly participated in a kids’ life.  Eventually, I was called upon to participate as a swing pusher.  Pushing swings soon merged into playing on the jungle gym and I thought nothing of it.  I was willing, I was able, and I was having fun.

Eventually, even a guy in good shape has to concede to the exceptional fitness level of 9-year old girls, and I did that also, exhaustedly rejoining Derek on the park bench.  As I approached him, I saw a small tear run from one of his eyes, and heard a sniffle accompany the tear. That’s when I recognized the impact of what I had just done – that I could do with Derek’s daughter what he could not do; physically play. 

No words were spoke between Derek and I when I sat back down beside him, nothing could really be said.  I had it, and he wanted what I had; physical ability. For me, the moment  was humbling and gratifying – simultaneously.  Humbling that my friend was not fit enough to slide down a slide with his own daughter.  Gratifying, that I was.  How does one reconcile such a moment?  Internally. 

If the story ended there it would be a great example of the value of exercise and living a fit life – a testament to the virtues of discipline in regular exercise and healthy eating. A man cries because he’s unable to play with his own child, but an older man is fit enough for the job.  Hooray, fitness wins!!!

But the story does not end there.  Later that evening, Chelsea and I settled in to our evening routine together – she doing her homework, me exercising in our garage gym.   When I came in from the workout, she asked me why Derek had been crying on the park  bench that afternoon.

Pretentiously, I explained to her that Derek had been saddened by seeing me playing and enjoying moments on the jungle gym with his daughter – something he could not do, though his heart clearly desired to participate.  I told her that seeing this made me sad too, but also made me feel good about my ability to be a participant dad.

Astute to a fault even at the age of 9, Chelsea immediately asked me if I ever cried –  when she’s with Holly and Derek at Baskin Robins or Hometown Buffet, enjoying wonderful treats and the laughter and the moments that go with them,  Moments, she reminded me, that I was never willing to participate in.  She knew that in my heart I wanted to share such moments, but I regularly chose not to participate in them due to my fitness values.

And that is where this story really ends; at the point where I was reminded by a 9-year old that there are two sides to every story – even the story of fitness.  I have not been able to wholly embrace the concept, nor even the term fitness since that moment.

Fitness is my livelihood.  I regularly attempt to make the case that living fit, and eating healthy are important for every man, woman, and child in America.  Still, I reflect on that moment daily – and the moment still haunts me; the day fitness was exposed to me as just another sacrifice in the name of non-sacrifice. It’s been 12 years since Chelsea asked me that question, and I still wonder what fitness is or, if it even is. 

I might die tomorrow.  If I do, what moments will I have missed of sharing ice cream and cake with a side order of smiles?  What flavors and accompanying moments might I have I passed upon, in favor of a cardio-session or a plate of broccoli in the name of living well and looking good?  Like questions of politics, philosophy, and faith, there are no clear answers here.  But there should be some thought, a bit of discourse, some compromise and some understanding – in my case anyway.

In hind-sight I reflect that on that day, Derek had shed tears for his inability to play with his daughter on the jungle gym.  In further exploration, I reflect that I had never shed a tear for my unwillingness to enjoy a cake or a buffet with my daughter.  For that, I am ashamed.  So now tell me, who the fit one is…?  Be well.  rc

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That’s it.  I’m out till next year.  Enjoy the holidays.  It matters much more what you eat between New Years and Thanksgiving, than what you eat between Thanksgiving and New Years.  Peace to you all.

Oh, and there is this little nugget from Puddle Of Mudd.  Enjoy…

The Long Shadow Of War…

The Convoy

My fitness studio faces onto East Mission Road, in Fallbrook, California.  At one end of Fallbrook, lies the back gate of Camp Pendleton; a Marine Base where Marines train to, among other things, blow things up and to kill.  I’m actually ok with that – the training of how to properly blow up and kill, we need that – just in case.  The actual acts of blowing up and killing, I have mixed feelings on, but I’m not so naïve as to deny the utility of force.

About 90 minutes from Fallbrook is Twentynine Palms, California where there is another base, and another area where Marines train to blow things up and to kill.  From the vantage point of my studio windows, all day long I see Marines transporting their artillery, mobile weapons, vehicles and tanks of all sizes, from Fallbrook to Twentynine Palms and back for training exercises.  Like good Marines, they do it convoy style.

With essentially one road in and out of Fallbrook, getting caught in or behind a convoy might make for some grumpy commuters, though nobody complains too much about it – there is great deal of respect for our Marines here.  I’ll suggest these days that folks caught in one of these convoys are probably more humbled than frustrated.  There is always a good bit of honking, waving, and offering of the thumbs-up sign to show support for our troops.

A New Toy For Uncle Hulka

One type of vehicle which I have seen going back and forth a lot lately is the LAV25 (Light Assault Vehicle).  The LAV25 is piloted by an exposed driver behind a small windshield at the lower front of the vehicle.  Several other crewmen also ride exposed, stationed at the top of the vehicle, with several more inside.  The new Chevy Camaro be damned, the LAV25 looks to me to be “the most powerful convertible on the road”.

LAV25

It must be a great relief to the crewmen to ride on one of these through the gorgeous aesthetic of the Fallbrook hills, and be in a place of peace.  A far cry I reckon, from the stress of turning a corner in Iraq or Afghanistan, and not knowing what apocalyptic mayhem might be waiting on the other side.  Though I enjoy watching these vehicles and these men travel back and forth, it forces me daily to take a moment and contemplate the sacrifices they and their families have made – regardless of my feelings on imperial war.

I often marvel at these vehicles as well as the larger, scarier killing machines for their size, their power, their rugged off road capabilities, and of course, their ability to destroy.  But in a moment this morning that “marvel” turned to fright as I remembered that these aren’t just training vehicles and weapons.  These vehicles have been beyond Fallbrook and Twentynine Palms – far beyond.  That at some point, most of these vehicles I see from day to day have probably been used in war – to kill and to blow things up, and that men might have died on or in the very vehicles that I marvel at as they drive by my gym.

I wondered as I watched several pass by this morning, was there once human blood and guts and body parts strewn across the camouflage surface, and subsequently squeegeed away with some soap and water from the very deck I was looking at…? Where there shots fired by those very men stationed at the top of that vehicle, into a crowd of combatants, or worse yet – into a crowd of civilians…?  These vehicles began to cast a shadow on me and my gym door – the shadow of a war reaching 8,000 miles away.

Something’s In The Air, And Over The Hill Too

It happens when I look up too; the instruments of war appear.  In addition to the convoys rumbling through town, Fallbrook locals see attack, survey, and supply helicopters flying overhead all day long.  We hear explosions from the heavy artillery firing range on the other side of the hills concuss to the point of rattling the windows and even shaking pictures on the walls – sometimes for hours at a time, and into the night.  It’s like living in a war zone but we locals all wear the immunity necklace.

Tanks on the roads.  Choppers in the air.  Explosions heard into the night.  I’m lucky, I live in a beautiful area, surrounded by good people, and I have plenty of anything – including freedom, and with no fear for my safety when I see the machines of war.  These machines though, they have seen other streets and other airspace, where the people who have seen them have feared them, and for good reason.  The people who have seen these machines on their streets and over their air 8,000 miles away just hoped for the best – or dropped to their knees and prayed.  And at the end of the day, I know these machines have closed their ears to those hopes and to those prayers, and just done their job.

It’s hard to live in Fallbrook without seeing – without feeling the shadow of war cast over our town – it’s everywhere we look.  I wonder on this day, what machines out there will ever cast a shadow of peace…?  Be well.  rc

Oh, and there is this from Daniel Lanois.  Enjoy…

The Times They Began A Changin’…

A mid-week tease for my upcoming column on modern word processing, the US Coast Guard, and the suicide of a shipmate — how they influenced my direction.  Please check back next week for the completed column.  In the meantime, here is an excerpt:

A Twist Of Fate

I was deckhand on the Coast guard Cutter Acushnet in the mid-1980’s.  I didn’t want to be a deckhand.  I applied to be the Yeoman Striker in the ships’ administrative office; an apprentice Yeoman. To my surprise, and to the shame of the Coast Guard, my request to strike for Yeoman was actually approved.  I would then work my days, not on deck chipping paint under the hot Caribbean sun, but in the ship’s air conditioned office under the tutelage of the Yeoman First Class. 

My administrative abilities would be cultivated and I would become a pusher of papers, an organizer, and a correspondent. This was in the early days of personal computing, pre-Microsoft.  The Convergent Technologies C3 word processor and data storage unit was the technology which the Coast Guard implemented system-wide. 

The C3 had a13” monitor with a green LED display, and inside the CPU was a slick combination of voodoo, witchcraft and a floppy disk-drive that enabled the manipulation of words.  I was able to cut, paste, and re-form my paragraphs as well as my thoughts, in ways which I could never do on a legal pad or with a typewriter – it was like magic at my fingertips.   

EM2 Linder

Petty Officer Jim Linder was and Electrician’s Mate 2nd Class on the Acushnet.  He was from El Paso, Texas and of Native American ancestry.  Jim was diminutive, quiet during working hours, and generous to a fault.  I have no memory of ever speaking with, or even seeing Jim when he was not smiling – not one.

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Please check back next week for the completed column.  Oh, and there is this from Rusted Root.  Enjoy…

I Would Rather Suck A Pig’s Ass…

This is Part I of my 3-part series on life without electronic information, electronic entertainment, and electronic media.  I will be posting Parts II and III in the coming weeks.  Please check back in 2 weeks for Part II; The Joy Of Word Processing, Blogging, and Books on i-Tunes.

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The Vice Boomerang

You might have been a smoker.  Perhaps you drank too much.  Maybe it was a tendency to eat too much junk food.  Upon the realization that these things might have done your moments good, but done poorly for your health and your body, you decided to quit them – and you had success in quitting. 

But then that moment came – life got hard, push met shove and a pack of cigarettes was needed, a pint of whiskey was sought, or a carton of ice cream could make the difference between a good moment and a good cry.  A puff, a sip, a spoonful, and all would be good with the world again, so you broke down and let in the poison.

But your body had changed in the absence of these poisons.  For however long it had been, your body was likely doing much better.  And you would be quick to find that reintegrating that substance would not give you the moment you sought.  Rather, it made you ill – stole a moment rather than heightened one, and caused you regret.  A clean system weakens more easily, and the poison is quickly felt.

Information And Technology As Vices

So I gave them up for a while; information media, information technologies, and social media.  For 30 days I refrained from email, Facebook, blogging, texting (well, almost), even word processing, and best of all, TV news.  Despite their utility, they had all become vices to me, and though they could be useful, they could also be poisons in my life – especially TV news.

It had been weighing on me for a long time – years actually, that some of these vices had done little to raise my life up, and had drained a great deal of time from things better suited to growing my mind, my soul, and keeping my life intact.  Reading, working, cleaning, gardening, and much more had given way the lure of useless information.  Even my precious exercise time had begun to take a back seat to my early morning blogging, Facebooking, and TV news time. 

What Now, What Next

Without these technologies, my life was enhanced – in the most literal interpretation of that word.  More on that in 2 weeks.

Throughout the 30 days without these liabilities in my life, I frequently contemplated whether or not I would go back to any of these technologies, and if I did, which ones I would return to, and which ones, if any, might be let go for keeps.  In this contemplation, I made no decisions, and promised myself not to make any such decisions until my 30 days had expired.  And even then, I promised myself to let it go wherever my core beliefs would take me.

A Clean System Weakens More Easily

And what did I do on the morning when my 30 days had expired…?  I turned on the coffee maker, let the dogs out, and clicked on CNN…

…that first moment of TV news was like a pack of cigarettes, a bottle of whiskey, and a pile of junk food all at once – I was immediately sickened.  My system was just not ready for it.  Still, I watched for a few minutes and realized that, though I had truly changed some in 30 days, American culture was still in the toilet – at least as far as its most watched news source was concerned.

Now this is not a reflection on CNN at all.  It could have been FOX, Bloomberg, MSNBC, CNBC, local news, whatever.  The point is, that my mind had been clean of this poison for 30 days, and it only took my first serving to confirm that I will never watch television news again, never – I would rather suck a pig’s ass, and I mean that literally.

In that first moment, as the poison of TV news entered my body, it occurred to me that TV news little more than entertainment, amusement, even a sick sort of vice; witnessing the misery of the human condition for the pleasure of knowing, that’s not me, but its utility is inconsequential for meWhat happens in Kandahar, Alabama, or who is going to Rikers Island has little bearing on my day.  I will argue that there is nothing, NOTHING redeeming about TV news – from any source, that enhances ones moment, day, or life.  The knowing of most of these things is useless for most people — I genuinely believe that.

Still, like cigarettes, alcohol, and junk food, we buy into TV news because it makes us…

…feel good?

Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks for Part II; The Joy Of Word Processing, Blogging, and books on i-Tunes. Thank you. 

Oh, and there is this from Chris Bailey and The Saints.  Enjoy…