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…?

111turtle

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.

111l

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

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…

A Fairwell To Legs…

Seventeen years ago next week, I experienced two words that would change my life forever; parachute malfunction.

The Lincoln Sport Parachute Club in Weeping Water, NE. This is where it all went down. And when say, "went down", I mean went down much faster than expected...

During my recovery from the accident I wrote a book entitled, Gravity Works.  It was a summary of the events that lead up to my little mishap in the sky.  I put it  the book on ice because honestly,  it sucks.  That said, here is an excerpt from chapter 7:

“I hit the ground like a just clobbered Floyd Paterson, and rebounded with the approximate coherency of Floyd the barber.  I had two distinct thoughts during my first conscious moment on the ground.  I began picking pieces of the damp soil from between my teeth and my mind focused on an evening news segment I had seen a couple days prior.  It was footage of professional football player, Dennis Byrd, walking with his wife along the rim of their country home outside of Tulsa.”

More of this chapter to follow in next weekend’s column.  And for now, there is this from Shinedown.  Peace… 

Type and be heard…

The Setup

Somewhere in Nebraska there is a meandering two lane road.  The road winds between hills formed from wind-blown sand and held together by wild grasses through the ages.  The road rarely sees traffic; the occasional farm truck, big-rig, or lost tourist.  Its broken shoulders are adorned with heartland rust.  Between two sections of a fading yellow line that divides the road is a weathered aluminum can which has been crushed and re-crushed by countless truck tires.  That can, between those two yellow lines, on that meandering rustic road, might be the only object on earth that doesn’t have its own blog.

Even the can left the road to start ww.canblog.com... Its a joke, don't look for it.

The Future

When I was 8, I thought the future would have flying cars which could turn into a briefcase at the push of a button.  Perhaps I might push a button in my kitchen and a steamed lobster would appear on demand.  Another button still, might be pushed and my dog would be walked for me.  Regardless of my need, in my future, button pushing would be important – the Jetsons told me so.  More on that later. 

My dad promised this would be my future...

The Axiom

“When followers choose to lead, leaders will be forced to follow.” Perhaps the greatest opportunity for the manifestation of this conviction exists in the sum of blogging and reciprocating commentaries.  That’s what makes blogging and social networking so miraculous; that they not only give a voice to the human constituency, but they may just give it a chance. Voices can be shared with other voices, forming stronger voices still.  Awareness spreads, ideas grow, possibilities increase, and change becomes more probable.  Though this also applies to all opposing ideas, opinions, intentions, and declarations, in this age, many more are included in the discourse.

My Little World

I write what I guess would be called a fitness blog.  Really it’s not.  Fitness is the guise I use to share my own opinions, ideas, and intentions, including this one.  I write about everything from faith, to business, to politics, government, and family values – all in the name of squats, broccoli, and a better resting heart-rate.  Even if what I share affects few people, and influences fewer issues, I feel like I have more of a voice and a greater opportunity than ever to be included in the conversation.  That voice spreads further as I participate in the conversations of others who’s blogs allow me the opportunity to respond. 

Frick!!! If only I could shut off my brain...

Social Networking Critics

I’m not suggesting that all blogging and social networking carry some degree of merit.  There is a great deal more crap out there than substance, and I am supremely guilty of feeding the crap machine.  But even that, the sharing with dozens or hundreds of people at a time, which soup I had for lunch, or that I just picked my nose and it was ‘kinda gooey’, is a release for me – and apparently it is a release for tens of millions of others. 

Many suggest this fodder is an enormous waste of time; perhaps it is.  I am suggesting that most of us are just longing to speak, if not be heard.  Social networking allows us the chance to speak, even if nobody is listening.  That we may get a response is a cherry on top of the shout-out.

Blogging Critics

To those who suggest that information blogging isn’t real journalism; take a look around – it is the new journalism and the evolution continues.  As the roots of this kind of information blogging continue to spread, to choke out, and to take market-share away from traditional journalism, I will suggest that the followers have chosen to lead, and the leaders have been forced to follow.

An Unfolding Reality

Our time is one of an unfolding blossom of increased intercommunication and an increased interdependency; individuals rising to what they feel might be a higher purpose with their voices and their finger tips.  Where I once thought blogging and social networking were a bridge to not very much, it now appears to me, they just might be a bridge to anyone and to everywhere. 

 The future is here, and though button pushing  does not turn my car into a breifcase, button pushing is central in this age.  A majority of the button pushing that is done, by a majority of the people it seems, is done on keyboard keys just like these — and for good reason. Be well.  rc