The First Taste

My brother and I must have been about eleven and ten, respectively, when we were allowed to try our first sip of beer. It was summer vacation, and it was time for our yearly trip to Cape Cod. Usually we stayed at a little cottage in Chatham at the end of the street, but this one year it was occupied, and we stayed the first night or two at Hotel El Dumpo out on the highway a little.

The cottage was a story in itself. It was just a teeny thing, as the word ‘cottage’ implies, and it didn’t even have walls that went up to the ceiling, which meant that I spent a lot of my time proving I could climb over the top into the next bedroom.

Hardly broke anything.

There was a collection of authentic record albums there-so ancient was the place-and that is where I discovered ‘The First Family’. Comedians imitating presidents is as old as the hills, but it offered me a hilarious, behind the scenes glimpse into Camelot-the Kennedy administration. Check it out on Spotify.

I loved that place; I’m guessing we all did. My brother and I had room to mess around outside, and our parents could relax inside in the twelve minutes per day when we weren’t bothering them. The beach was only a short bike ride away, and we made the most of every summer there. I don’t even want to guess how many fiddler crabs I tortured, or remember my first horrible sunburn, which I also got there.

All of that is nice, except for, um, all of it, but the real story of the cottage predates our first visits there. It goes way, way back in time, before Kennedy, even, to a time when most people had no idea what the Cape was, except for the lucky ones who lived there.

My grandfather used to go down there every now and then-I picture him being kind of a trailblazer since most of the Cape wasn’t developed yet. He knew his way around eastern Massachusetts, and played golf on most of the courses there. One of the things he didn’t know his way around, however, was a business opportunity.

It all seems so simple now. All he had to do was scrounge up a few thousand dollars, buy some land, and wait. He would’ve easily been a millionaire. In reality, there was no money to scrounge. First the Depression happened, then the war, then came the house in Brockton, which he had to pay for on one income.

Looking back though, it’s hard not to wonder if he hadn’t, in fact, let the “big one” slip away. It was hard, growing up in our house, inside a cauldron of negativity, not to believe that our family was always doomed to let the big one slip away.

So there we were in Hotel El Dumpo, playing hearts (a great game the aforementioned grandfather taught us at an early age) and waiting for the night to pass, so we could move into the cottage. My Dad was pounding back his usual allotment of beer, my Mom was working through…whatever it was she was drinking, and I suddenly piped up and asked if we could try some.

My Dad said yes.

Talk about a can of worms.

We were only allowed to fill half a Dixie cup full of the stuff, but it didn’t matter-there’s no way either of us were getting it down. But we were excited. We couldn’t stop giggling. I had to go into the bathroom and try and drink it there, since my Dad was making us both laugh in the main part of the room. After about 83 tries, a million nervous snickers, and 250 attempts at chiding myself into being more of a serious man, I finally gave up and gave the now-very-warm cup to my father, who downed it quickly.

My brother had also failed miserably, and that was the end of our alcohol consumption.

Ha ha.

What happened between that day and the next twenty years or so? At which point did alcohol become more than some taboo adult pick-me-up and more of an issue? How did it manage to play such a prominent role in our lives and health?

It’s ridiculous of me to say that things would’ve been different if Dad had said no that day. If it wasn’t then it would’ve been a different occasion. But somehow a part of me is forced to wonder what if? Would our futures have turned out differently? Would we have been healthier and happier? Would my father still be around? Would this specter not continue to haunt our subconsciousness day in and day out?

Would we have been able to finally nail the big one?

The Woes Me See In OCD

Yeah this article is going to have a humorous bent to it, so if you’re suffering from this condition and you are sensitive about it maybe it’s best to, I don’t know, go put on a comely sweater, argyle socks and the Bee Gees “Massachusetts” (I Will Remember Massachusetts 4X), where the Australian-born singer who was born in Massachusetts leaves his home state to go to San Francisco and then comes back because, apparently, he forgot to turn on the lights?

I reserve the right to make fun of OCD because I suffer from its symptoms, as my loving wife and supportive daughters remind me of at freakish regularity. Although I have been and will probably be reprimanded for making light of it and and not publicly treating it as “no laughing matter”, it is very difficult for me not to do so, since the jokes come so easily just thinking about it.

I also don’t like double negatives.

At least it’s easy to tell whose coffee is whose…

Consider the two cups on the left. A normal person would see two cups of coffee and be done with his/her thoughts on the matter. I however, wonder why I wrote that the cups are on the left and not on the right, and why the cup on the right (left) was made slightly more oval than the left (right) one. What was wrong with the porcelain… um…blower? the day he made the cup? It bothers me, and I very much disapprove of such lapses in the porcelainic arts, but am strangely unirked by the same crimes when writing. Like when I create words like ‘porcelainic’ and ‘unirked’.

Come to think of it, I am bothered by it, since these words now appear on my screen marked with an eye-catching red dotted line underneath that is stretched taut and sawing away on my composure like this (be patient and hardy-you must watch until the horrifying end to know how I truly feel (but OK if you’re fainthearted DO NOT watch this (I could be mean and tell you to watch it anyway but I’m a good guy (OMG I’m trapped in an endless loop of parentheses, being crushed into ever smaller thought portions (remember that Trash Room (?!) in the first Star Wars? I don’t.), with no hope of escape!)))).

I escaped. But seriously, all kidding aside, how can you not laugh at my thought process in the paragraph above. Not being able to laugh at sick thoughts like that is not being able to laugh at Trump, which, technically, is no laughing matter, since he is the President and Great Exalted Leader of our increasingly mediocre country.

I am also bothered by the whole left/right thing up there, since it does not look neat.

There are some of you who would argue that the right (left) cup is round- not oval at all-and I am glad for you, since your eyes are unable to waste their time noticing such peculiarities. But we persons of keener eyesight beg to differ. We notice slight differences and spend, unfortunately, too much time dealing with these differences. I do not believe living this way is normal or healthy, unless one is white, in which case it is acceptable and should be encouraged, since alternatives, like mass murder and child pornography, are less harmless.

That would be a cool name for a character in an OCD crime novel I probably won’t write: ‘Les Harmless’. Since no one in their right minds would buy it. Here I go again. Those two sentences don’t fit well together, like the cups in the example above-there’s a disharmony of intent, whatever the fuc- that is. ‘Disharmony of Intent’ sounds like a rotten Hip Hop band, one that would cover the Bee Gees hit “Massachusetts”, until it was totally dead with scratches, overdubs, underdubs, and, dare I say, a tuba.

Why did the lights go out in Massachusetts? And what’s to remember about it? The power outages we had growing up, usually snow-induced, were unusual, but sort of like having power only dimmer. No need to sing about it.

Doing the “research” for this article, I stumbled upon a website that sells Trump merchandise. What do they sell there? What kind of person points to a Trump merchandise and says, “I want that!” And then spends his hard-earned money on it? I digress, but it’s almost impossible to stay away from the topic, the way I find it impossible not to joke about OCD:

Are you down with OCD?
Yeah! You know me!

With humble apologies to Naughty by Nature.

But this idea (I mean that one five paragraphs ago, remember?) begs further analysis. You know, that it’s OK for white people to have this disorder. I have read in some medical circles that OCD is a medical issue for persons of every race and color, which is, like, race.

I do not want to argue with anyone in the medical community because I have, like, no facts or anything, but can you picture ANY person of color fussing over trash the way I do. And maybe, yes, there are individuals who have color on their skin but still have the same symptoms that lead me to save the small plastic bags in order to better pack paper and plastic wrappers into a tidy, room-saving bundle. To which I respond (to myself) “Is Mike Tirico really black?” Are you really a woman if you stand by and watch Trump prey on other women? Is Bruce Jenner really a man? Gee these questions are getting confusing now…

Having a culture and an identity is cool. What’s cool about OCD? Now there’s a challenge: write a book/ do a show about someone cool with OCD.

Just found this: www.healthboards.com/…/301836-ocd-cool.html, a page on the internet that apparently talks about OCD. I wanted to link you to an article they have about it being cool now to have OCD but every time I try to get to the article, I am informed that my IP address has been banned. At the top of the page is another message that says I haven’t signed in yet, and I should ‘click here’ to do so. When I do, I get to that same page again and am still banned. I tried to sign in with the ‘sign in’ button, but I only return to the same page again where I’m banned. How do they know? #spooky…

I have now perused several different media outlets, mostly from experts in their field, at least I’m led to the impression that they are, and two things come to mind when leafing through their mountains of information. 1.), Nobody seems to know what causes OCD. Gee, but isn’t OCD a pesky little bugger? And 2.), A whole lot of information about OCD is delivered in a very serious manner, and many articles go into great detail when discussing OCD horror stories, implying that having to turn the lights on and off five times-because the number 5 is “good”-is the first step down the road to epic, total, and very painful annihilation. Ouch!

I’m sure, first of all, that these insinuations are exactly what OCD sufferers need to set their mind at ease. OCD is all about anxieties; the fears one has about this or that are magnified, and a sufferer performs this task or engages in that behavior to alleviate these issues. How is drawing more attention to these issues and magnifying their significance going to help?

I hope one can at least see now why I choose to poke fun at my issues, since they are not to be respected as normal, desirable behavior anyway. Which brings me to the other point.

No one knows what causes OCD. If that doesn’t sound like a crock of shit I don’t know what does. Ask a person of color if the powers that be are lousy at locating things they deem despicable. There’s terrorists around the world about whom we can say with the utmost certainty, thanks to superior American technological wizardry made in Taiwan, that they stand and crinkle, or squat and fold, or sit and crinkle, etc.

I understand. It’s great for business if the customers are scared. If you haven’t learned this yet I feel sorry for you. Anyway, if you’re scared about OCD and its affects on your life, and the doctors and pharmacists advise you to pump yourself up with Prozac and Zoloft, what are you going to do? How is the cause supposed to be addressed if you’re zonked on Zoloft? O…oh yeah, nobody knows what causes it. How convenient.

I am the last person to tell people not to listen to doctors or medical professionals, mainly because of the lawsuits that might follow, but, and, as I say, I have no medical training whatsoever, you may use my advice or not as you see fit-if you suffer from OCD you are in DESPERATE need a nice fat doobie.

Thanks to Alexas_Fotos on Pixabay for this inspiring and possibly racist image.

I would like to see the statistics on the relationship between people with OCD and being high strung. I know many people with OCD, and many who are high strung, and they all have the same address. Wait that joke didn’t work. But you get my drift. I hope.

I think we can all agree that stress and being high strung is not healthy-why not try something that really works? Is it so hard to go with the flow? To be laid back? Are you afraid to miss something?

Try to be high strung when you’re high. Try to obsess and fuss when you’re high. If you are or can you’re not high enough. Or have a real problem (try Zoloft!). Or both!

The point I’m trying to make which will be so picked apart, destroyed, ignored, deflected, and distracted from by the powers that be, since the drugs THEY sell mean big business, as do the therapies, is that your health is your own responsibility. Not some psychiatrist’s, not Johnson & Johnson’s, Roche’s, or Bayer’s, not even some Manic Preacher‘s.

Finally, it would be remiss not to address trauma here. OCD would never be able to gain a foothold in one’s subconsciousness without trauma, usually emotional. Like for example your parents divorce when you were ten, or Tyree’s Helmut Catch.

If you’ve gone through trauma and not busied yourself with it to put it behind you, assuming you’re an adult, shame on you. If you think you can remain unaffected by trauma, dream on.

As part of our intense analysis of the disorder, please watch the following, starting at 8:23-8:27:

This legendary 2003 Swedish film, one of the only ones that has made its way into the virtually impregnable American fortress of “culture” (with the possible exception of Owe, if that was Swedish), features a character played by something called Fares Fares, who cannot leave a car without beeping thrice, twice with a hand and once with his head. It becomes so compulsive (or obsessive?) he even returns to his cracked up car, despite being on the run from the police directly behind him, to beep again. In minutes 103:03 to 103:30:

This example will also be on the midterm, in the section entitled Scandinavian Movies of 2003 Containing Characters With OCD And One Who Does…This.

In closing, I’d like to remind OCD sufferers that I am one of you. That’s me spending way too much time “organizing” the trash. That’s also me at the beach wasting energy trying to get ALL of the sand off of his towel. If you’re wondering why someone driving by you on the highway just beeped driving under the bridge-that was me. Someone told me once as a joke it’s good luck to do that, and even if it was a joke I’m not going to be the one to ignore the free chance of acquiring good luck, or, God forbid, cause bad luck to bring misfortune, pestilence, and oval coffee cups into my life.

I hope I’ve at least managed to entertain you. Being able to laugh at yourself is important, because it teaches you that you have a future in comedy and should quit your day job immediately. A sense of humor about this condition is the first step in healing, since it’s impossible to laugh at OCD and not consider your behavior silly, WHICH IT IS! The tricky part is that, once you’re able to laugh at the symptoms of OCD, it’s time to address the causes. That can be messy.

To Be Allergic, or…Not?

I remember my first few allergy attacks way back around 1980-81. I was in sixth grade, and I was in music class for one of them, and I just couldn’t stop sneezing. My eyes started to itch, and that was the part that would really cost me so much misery over the next 20 years or so.

Allergy attacks can really only be understood by people who go through them themselves. I’ve told people before that I want to scratch my own eyes out, and it doesn’t make any real impression. Perhaps they were curious-you know, there’s something you don’t see every day…hmmm….

Yes the attacks were bad from then until the end of 1989. But starting in 1990, when I was stationed in Germany, they became intolerable. Starting around January 7th every year, I would have between 5-10 attacks every day where I was unable to do anything else (bad if you’re in the infantry), all the way through until the end of June.

One captain, who once told me he caused a Russian fighter jet to crash by throwing his helmet up into the air, ordered me on one occasion to stop rubbing my eyes. Tee-hee.

So I was sent to the ‘hospital’, where soldiers are trained to perform, like, medical stuff, to be tested for allergies. Fortunately, I had a real doctor to perform the test, and he informed me that I was allergic to ALL European tree pollen. At least I knew what was what.

He started me on Desensitization Therapy, where you’re injected small doses of the pollens you’re allergic too and thereby acclimated to that which causes so much misery. Thinking back on it now, it seems kind of odd that this therapy was supposed to work by exposing the patient to MORE of what clearly harms him, but, to be fair, the procedure did lead to a mild lessening of my woes.

The problem was that the injections are (or, were) administered daily, and before the season. That’s OK if you have a job where you’re doing nothing all day, like soldiering (I can say that since I was one), but after I left the Army, I got a job in Germany where the last two week before Christmas were the busiest workdays of the year, and there was no way I could make the appointments.

What now?

Many of you allergentlemen and -women out there will already know what next.

Cortisone.

Cortisone is a wonderful medicine that walloped those allergies into submission after only one injection! Swell! With barely any side effects. Kinda.

I’m not going to go into any details here except to say that it is advisable to consider other options before injecting it once, and repeated usage is at best unwise. I tried my best-with positive thinking-to fight my way through my allergy season for the first few years in Germany, but after several weeks (usually 2, tops), I would collapse in an eye-rubbing, sneezing wheezing mess, and make my way to my next cortisone injection.

Somewhere near the end of the 90’s I was sitting at the dinner table with my in-laws, when my father-in-law mentioned that changing my diet would help me get my allergies under control. Two things about him: 1.), Mr. Pork is the last person who should be giving any nutritional advice to anyone, and 2.), my father-in-law always has to be right (and usually is).

Over the next couple of years, my wife and I talked about it more frequently, even more so after she went vegetarian. Also over the next couple of years-I intensified my love for the double cheeseburger, especially those flame-broiled ones from Burger Thing. Yeesh.

Around 2004 I had had enough. My allergies had the upper hand every year from January 7th until July, and ragweed had arrived in Germany. “An allergogenic time-bomb” was how the newspaper put it. It was. We had moved to the edge of town where the only thing between our property and the farmer’s fields were a long long line of ragweed bushes? plants? In short, August now became an allergy month.

I took one last loving look at a flame-broiled double cheeseburger from Burger Thing, brushed the hair out of its sesame seeds, dabbed the grease from its ‘cheeks’, (best part of a cow!!), and said with quavering voice goodbye. We haven’t spoken since then. I hear she’s married to a dentist from Minnesota.

I went vegetarian around 2004, sick of having no control over the itching of my eyes, the running of my nose, and all of that sneezing. As the season began in 2005, I was nervous. Who said this is really going to work? I wondered. So many people enjoy meat, and I know hardly any with allergies. Cancer and heart disease, yes, but no allergies. Then it was the middle of January. The end of January. February. And no bad attacks.

Sure they came around, but more of a cordial visit, like: “How’ve you been?” “Oh, my shingles are acting up but..” “My son just took a spelling test, and the only word he spelled right was ‘illiterate'” -kind of thing. My eyes tickled, but itched for no length of time, my nose ran a little but it was winter. I sneezed. By June I’d say my allergies were about 75-80% better and, more importantly, I did not need any Cortisone.

Did I take some allergy medications? Yes, but they also hadn’t helped in years prior. 2005 was a revelation. It breaks down like this: everything happens for a reason. If you’ve got bad allergies, there’s a reason for that, and getting jacked to fight an all-out war with lasers, phasers, and a mace against your symptoms means you’ve whupped the symptoms (if you win), but the problem is still there in Stealth Mode.

There must have been something that caused the body’s incorrect reaction to pollen. Trees have been around for a gazillion years, we’ve been around for, what 2 or 3 million years-why have these allergies just suddenly ‘appeared’ over the last 100 years or so. Well, because I don’t want to piss off the wrong consumer groups, I’ll just say you are what you eat.

Your body needs a change, is how African shamans would put it.

Fast forward to 2020. It is now February 2nd. Groundhogs Day. I haven’t had a cortisone shot since 2004. I haven’t taken an allergy pill in ten years or so. I’ve even gone (93%) Vegan, and reaped countless benefits in the overall health and endurance fronts, so much so that I started to compete in Triathlons in 2009 and am now the ultimate ultra marathon runner. Ultimate here meaning “wicked gung-ho” and not, like, good. Although I have surprised myself.

I recently ran 96 Km in an event in Asia, during allergy season, without one hint of a reaction. If you think I’d consider going back to meat now, you’re nuts.

Coincidentally, for those of you new to this topic or kind of on the fence, I recommend the great new documentary “Gamechangers” on Netflix.

Unimportant Stuff Made Sexy

Feb 23-24, 2018

OK we’re going to shift gears a little here and talk less about training and more about the in between stuff that’s only discussed by extreme nerds, like me. Stuff like Nutrition. Mental Preparation. Sexy running underwear, that kind of thing. Last week (Feb. 10th-17th) we were in Andalusia – beautiful Southwest Spain – with a handful of customers of ours to do some body-weight training and to show them if not how to eat right then at least how to eat a little better.

We decided we’d sacrifice our strict nutrition plan for the greater good – so we wouldn’t drive them off, maybe? – and go vegetarian with fish. Lots of veggies. Wholegrain products. A delicious paella, et cetera.

For us it was very difficult to take a step backward, but we didn’t let on and braved these for most non-existent but for us very real nutritional roadblocks. We try to stay vegan and gluten-free. No eggs. No milk. No bread, for those who don’t know, and, obviously, UNFORTUNATELY, no beer. Crying emoji.

Suffice to say we hardly got off the toilet once we got back, but it was our decision so we tried to put a good face on. We planned our next cleanse.

Since we’ve been back we’ve been very consistent with our nutrition, so much so that by Wednesday I was feeling really good about myself. Lighter, cleaner, clearer in my head. We stayed vegan and gluten-free until Friday when, after another long, hard day (week!) of work we capitulated and ordered pizza. No meat and no fish, but cheese and glutens as far as the eye could see.

On Saturday I got up and visited Deucelsdorf. After the Saturday morning course, two hours later, I paid another visit and painted the town brown. Halfway through my four-hour run afterwards I had to enter a restaurant and paint again.

All week I had great training sessions and was glad at how I was pro-gressing. But on Saturday, instead of a four-hour run, I made only 2:51, and I only made that because I had a banana with me.

No matter what nutritional guidelines you follow, you had better be sure you are optimizing them and following them consistently. My body is very sensitive to change and therefore it’s very easy to pinpoint the moment I went wrong. If you’re body isn’t that sensitive you’d better start paying more attention to this “in between stuff” before it bites you in the ass:

-Ask yourself if the food you eat is really doing you good.

-Ask yourself if you’ve been sticking to your plan – or if you have one!

-Ask yourself if you’ve got a positive mindset.

-Are you taking enough breaks and using those breaks to regenerate?

-Ask yourself if and why you have to cheat your diet or training.

-Are you enjoying the process, or do you take shortcuts?

-Plus sexy underwear..

Needle in a Haystack

My daughter Josephine, Mama Sarah, and my wife Kay

We did not enjoy our time in Sri Lanka at all. All three of us are very sensitive and there was a very ugly, negative energy stuck on everyone and everything we came into contact with. In addition, all of our much-coveted vegetables were sprayed with enough pesticide to kill dragons. We ate and ate and were never satisfied; in short: the food was devoid of all nutrition.

It was a country not at peace with itself, probably still trying to adjust to the awful realities of this post-tsunami world. As nightmarish as our stay was, we had the unimaginable good fortune to become acquainted with a very special person. Mama Sarah from Sicily had taken it upon herself to do her best and try and change something in this world for the better.

No matter where you go in this world, be it imprisoned in the endless expanse of utter solitude, or the cauldron of jealous, angry humanity, there is always someone or something there to help you on your way, if you only keep the faith.

Thank you, Mama Sarah, for making our time in Sri Lanka bearable, and for showing us how much good we can really do in a very bad place. Let the hopeless be damned! All the best to you!

Shaving

            Or lack thereof.  I’ve begun to not shave my beard, as many of my favorite athletes don’t, until I’ve completed my special race. My favorite athletes, whose names I can’t remember but whose beards I strangely can, won’t shave their beards until they don’t win an important playoff series. For those of you just tuning in, that special race for me is the Ultratrail Mt. Fuji, all 168km (about 100 miles) and over 7000 meters (almost 23,000 feet) of elevation gain of her.  I even got a tattoo of that very special mountain, drawn by yours truly, on my back. 

            I haven’t shaved my beard in weeks?  months?  Here it is:

Manly, but civilized. Rugged, yet somewhat kempt.

What’s disappointing is that it looks considerably less cool than those wild beasts said athletes are draping their faces with.  Studies have shown that my beard’s cool quotient is a whopping 4.2% lower than the grubby face-varmints I’ve seen those millionaires wear.  All that hard work not remembering to cut and mow my mutant stubble for a result like this is just unsatisfactory.  If only I could ascertain the reason for this truly unfair discrepancy I could repair whatever atrocities I‘ve comitted to my mouth-marmot and maybe my wife would look at me again.

            I’m sure there’s pros somewhere who, for a shamelessly exorbitant price, would primp and prune my disshevelled jaw-disaster into a comely, more attractive version of whatever is now adorning the southside of my face, but those pros cost a pretty penny, so how’re poor guys like me and those millionaire athletes supposed to afford that?

            Wait, maybe instead of combing it and cementing it under eight pounds of beard wax, I should try a more battle-worn, frontiersy look:

Wild; feedom-loving patriotic beard. Or “rusted brillo pad” look..

Eurasia!  I’ve got it!  My wife’ll love it!

One other thing, though:  all this not working with my wretched monster-pelt better pay off!  I’m not spending all this time and effort not caring for my close-shaven face just to lose because other athletes do. Do they only play for the right to shave first? If I don’t win this race there’ll be hell to pay!

            Hmmm…hell….

            Maybe I’ll set fire to it if I lose.

            A..and maybe I’ll ask my wife what she thinks about me not washing myself until after the race..