On Weight Loss. And Banana Hammocks

So, I recently lost some weight.  Not “oh my god did you have gastric bypass surgery” amounts, but enough that’s its noticeable.  It started after an Easter meal.  Everyone was loosening belts and groaning about how full they were.  This led to the inevitable mutterings of “damn, I’ve got to get in shape/lose a few pounds/get ready for summer”.  Someone joked that they should try to get on that Biggest Loser show.  You can guess what happened next… “hey, why don’t we do one of those biggest loser contests ourselves?!”  Start and end dates are set, entrance fees and weigh-in criteria created, and a winners prize is defined.  A line in the sand is drawn and off we go.

With clothes on, probably nobody would call me fat.  My face gets kinda full and my upper body isn’t quite in proportion with my little toothpick legs.  However, lurking underneath my stylish hipster outfits was a BMI of 27.  Man-boobs drifting towards support-worthy.  A spare tire that actually qualifies as a tire.  I had the consistency of Jell-O or one of those Tempur-Pedic mattresses.  It sorta looks firm, but touch it and it’s surprisingly soft and jiggly.  Are you getting turned on yet?  Never mind, don’t answer that.

Anyway to make a long story short, much of that is gone.  Not completely. There’s still plenty of work to do.  It’s a little disturbing how vain you can get once you start feeling better about yourself.  I don’t leave the house now without just the right pair of skinny jeans, Justin Bieber belt, and enough product in my hair to trap pigeons.  Now that the excess adipose tissue is gone, I’ve discovered that I was born with a shockingly complete lack of muscle tone.  I’ve purchased a Jane Fonda Thighmaster and a ShakeWeight from craigslist and am working on rectifying this genetic injustice.

Completely unrelated to the start of the weight loss contest, I enrolled in a nutrition class.  This, combined with the fact that A) I lost weight, and B) I read the Intranet, makes me extremely qualified to advise you on weight loss strategies.  Here are a few tips from chapter 113 of my upcoming autobiography:

  • Ice cream, pie, soda, and massive piles of steak nachos are not part of any diet.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no magic combination of pills or “toning” exercises that will counteract that number of calories.
  • I ate about 1500 calories a day.  Yes you need to keep track.  Life’s a bitch like that sometimes.
  • There are no “free” days.  It’s simple physics. To lose weight you have to burn more than you take in.  Exceed your calorie target and it will either take you longer to reach your goal or you’ll need to run a marathon to break even.
  • Lots of protein, frightening amounts of steamed vegetables, and saturated fat.
  • Water. Lots of water. Get used to peeing. Often.
  • Exercise. Not just stroll on the treadmill while reading a book “exercise”, but real work.  Like you might barf up a lung levels of work.  Not what you wanted to hear. Sorry ’bout that.
  • Get the ab toning “flex belt” http://www.theflexbelt.com/  It’s a miracle device. Builds abs of steel without working out. Trust me, would I lie?

With an upcoming trip to a Mexican beach, it’s time to go shop for a bathing suit for my newly svelte self.  One last tip guys (apologies to any European friends), unless you’re swimming competitively, a speedo is not ok.  Yo, pasty white British dudes – only about 1% of the male population has the body to legitimately wear a banana hammock. You’re not one of them.  A real man wears jorts.

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Hurtling Down The Mountain

I honestly think I could have won medals in the downhill. Maybe not gold, but I’d definitely have been on the podium.  When it comes to skiing, I am a Norse god. I am the very definition of fluid, harmony, and grace in motion.  That is, as long as I’m on a groomed run named after either a bunny or a Disney character. And, if you squint and ignore the 12 year olds flying past me.  I am the original rock star of the groomed intermediate trails.

If you’ve ever hit the slopes you recognize that coolness factor some people exude.  Those people who have the right gear, not too flashy, simple and comfortable looking.  They never look cold or too hot, smothered in 20 layers of Walmart fleece.  They never slip while slogging through an icy parking lot in ill-fitting boots.  They ski fast and with a simple fluidity, skis close together, with an easy rhythm in any terrain. You hear them talking about runs you’ve never heard of, backcountry excursions, and levels of vertical that are vertigo inducing.

I am not one of those people.  My gear never really works.  My skis are of an “old school” vintage.  In the cold my nose runs with a disturbing volume.  I am either cold or sweating like I just ran a marathon.  My legs lack the strength to go down a long run in one shot.  I wear ill-fitting goggles I stole from my wife.  My gloves are from Costco and my jacket was manufactured before the current crop of high schoolers were born.  My poles are so old I honestly don’t remember where I got them.  They may be rentals that never got returned.

When faced with terrain that tips more towards the vertical, my fluid, carving turns instantly become an awkward snow plow.  Bumps and moguls?  Only if you want to see a grown man cry.  Deep powder?  I have lost skis and spent thirty minutes trying to extricate myself from deep holes, only to repeat it fifty yards further down.  Chairlifts?  Yes, I have fallen off.  I have run into trees, trail markers, other skiers, and a chairlift.  I have fallen on flat cat tracks, in front of the lodge, in the parking lot, and while putting my skis on.

Why would I continue to subject myself to such abuse?  Because I love the sport.  I plan on skiing until the doctors tell me I can no longer continue for fear of permanent damage to my ego.  Or until it becomes a risk to my fledgling mountain bike racing career.

12 Things Learned In 2012

Year end and beginning is for lists. I think it’s a rule of some sort. And if nothing else, I am a rule follower. Thusly, my list of twelve things learned in 2012 (Please note the cleverness there – 12 for 12. Genius) :

  1.  I love Cheez-Its. They are pure brain food. 3 grams of protein and 140 calories per 30 crackers. That’s better than your average “healthy” yogurt. And it’s a genuine, simulated, baked cheese product. It doesn’t get much better than that. The downside is a certain, uhm, cheese-breath after effect. There’s also the fact that it’s virtually impossible to limit oneself to just the suggested serving size of thirty. Perhaps I should invent a Pez-like dispenser that holds exactly 30. Perfect for travel!
  2. You need to get rid of your clutter. We put all our stuff in storage and lived in a motorhome for half the year. I didn’t think it would be possible to survive without eighteen dress shirts, toolboxes of “leftover” nuts and bolts, fifteen year old Rollerblades, twenty-three baseball hats, and ten pairs of jeans that I “might” fit into again some day. But I did. And I was perfectly happy.
  3. Politicians are evil. Not just some, all. Our elected representatives have quickly replaced lawyers as the most hated people on the planet. To quote myself, “If you think your representative is looking out for your best interest, you’re a tool. Don’t be a tool.” Boy I’m impressed with myself. That needs to be on a t-shirt.
  4. Academically, I can hang with the big dogs. Well, at least with the twenty-somethings. Also, I don’t like art history. Also, I’m really, really good at art history. It’s an internal conflict that will most likely require therapy sometime in my future.
  5. It’s possible for me to get in really good shape. The inverse of this fitness rule is that I can return to a fairly squishy state in a frighteningly rapid amount of time. Clearly the year for me is split into squishy and non-squishy periods. For the love of humanity and my fellow beach goers, let’s hope that next year the non-squishy state coincides with bikini season.
  6. Gravity + bikes + a complete lack of coordination = broken ribs. That hurts. A lot. Let’s not do that again.
  7. This year taught me that I enjoy photography. I also learned that I have no idea whatsoever what I’m doing. All those darn f numbers, shutter speeds, uncooperative swimsuit models, and tricky apertures… being a photography professional is hard work. I may have to fall back on my art history career prospects.
  8. I seem to have an uncomfortable obsession with cows. Looking back at the year I realize I’ve taken multiple pictures of cows, written an ode to cows, and bought a cow. I’m slightly concerned.
  9. I can’t do drama. Not the theatrical, off-broadway kind of drama. I mean Real Housewives, Jerry Springer, Tom Cruise break-up kind of drama. Life is too short to waste effort thinking about or dealing with drama. Unless, of course, we’re talking about Lindsay Lohan’s pending implosion. That train wreck is too entertaining to miss.
  10. I didn’t die when I got a flu shot. I broke down and got my first flu shot this year. When I informed the tech that I’d never had a flu shot in my life she looked shocked and said “Not ever? Seriously?”  She actually had me wait for thirty minutes afterwards to monitor me “just in case”. Made me slightly concerned about what’s really in it if I had to be monitored. Fears of government tracking devices and UN conspiracies are now filling my dreams at night. Sigh… more therapy needed clearly.
  11. People are idiots. The world is filled with a frightening amount of lemmings and sheep. Other than for entertainment value, I have no more tolerance for stupidity (other than my own). And when things go south, those idiots are going to come looking for your stuff. And when you call 911 and there’s nobody available… well good luck with that. If you know me, then you know I’m talking zombie apocalypse. Be prepared.
  12. The big lesson for 2012 – stop waiting and wishing for what you want. Life is short and we’re only here once (sorry Druids and Hindus – it just isn’t going to happen). As the old saying goes – if you get hit by a cement truck tomorrow, have you done, seen, and accomplished what you wanted?

There you go.  An award-winning, incredibly insightful look back at lessons of 2012. Next up, resolutions for 2013. Or not. I may go out and just enjoy the day instead.

Voting Rights And Dr Laura

We recently completed a 12 hour multi-state drive to see family for the holidays.  A mostly uneventful trip. Wake up at the crack of dawn, curse that you didn’t pack the night before, drink approximately six quarts of coffee to ensure you have to stop twenty minutes up the road, start driving, turn around because you forgot something, turn around again because you can’t remember if you locked the front door, and then hit the open road.  Much of the route we take is across some of the most desolate country imaginable. Hundreds of miles without towns or the ability to get a venti no whip mochafrappalattechino (with an extra shot). Brutal.

My normal approach to this sort of drive is a two-step attempt to drive my wife insane. First, I find a semi-truck. Then I drive behind it for hours. I don’t like passing on two-lane roads and I don’t like expensive tickets so I’m happy to just set the cruise control and, well… cruise.  For my wife, god put other cars on the road simply so you’d have something to pass. What’s the point of having a gas pedal if you’re not going to pass people?  Step two of my plan to push her over the brink is my music playlist. A bizarre collection of ’70’s funk, Rage Against the Machine, reggae, electronica/techno dance tunes (the 27 minute remix), and Johnny Cash. Somewhere around hour six she’ll have developed a frightening zombie look as she announces “If you’d like to continue living you’ll pass this f*&%ing truck, and it’s time to listen to something else”.

I’m all about self-preservation, so we commence scanning the satellite radio dial for talk shows. Eventually we stumbled upon the Dr. Laura show.  I’d listened to her briefly several times in the past, but this was my first concentrated dose of the original model for Dr. Phil. I must say, it left me… frightened.  All those people calling in? It’s truly a horrible thought to realize that they are out there, walking around amongst us freely – without supervision and in the wild.

“Dr. Laura? Thank you so much for taking my call. You’re my mentor and it’s such an honor to talk to you. My question? Oh, yes… Well, see it started when my mother-in-law accused me of stealing mail out of her mailbox. I told her she was crazy and then I tried to make my husband go talk to her but he didn’t. It’s been eight months now and I’m not speaking to her ’cause I deserve an apology. My question? Oh, well, see the thing is we’re hav’n a party for my nephew who’s gett’n out of rehab and I don’t want to invite her on account of it being all awkward and all. My husband says I have to invite her. So, what should I do? Shouldn’t she apologize to me before she gets to go to the party?”

The global energy gap, fiscal cliffs, John Kerry as Secretary of State, impoverished children without iPhones – there are so many real crises in this world and this woman is worried about in-law party etiquette? It went on. Caller after caller. Imagined insults. Husbands treating wives like doormats but she really does love him. I spent all $9,000 of our savings on powerball tickets and now my wife is pissed. I have unresolved issues because my sister wouldn’t sit next to me on the bus twenty years ago.

These people are walking around amongst us, pretending to be functioning adults. Even worse – they’re voters. Ultimately these are the people who are voting on pretty complex issues that impact the economy, my pocketbook, and whether or not we’ll use federal funds to build the New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Memorial statue and Walmart tribute center.

It’s clearly time we establish some voter qualifications in this country. I propose the following simple requirements you must meet in order to receive your voter identification card:

  • You must either own property or have purchased a vehicle (of at least $5k in value) in the last five years AND be current on all payments.
  • You must have a job working a minimum of 30 hours a week, or have sufficient savings and/or retirement funds to support yourself and family.
  • Students must be paying for their own tuition or through the military.
  • You must be able to identify the number of zeros in a billion (multiple choice).
  • You must be able to identify the current vice president, speaker of the house, and senate majority leader.
  • Lawyers, people who own more than one cat, and drivers of those tiny little roller-skate looking electric cars are automatically disqualified.

Simple solutions that will get us back on the right track. Time for me to go watch Dr. Phil. I understand he has on some guy who talks to his mailbox because he believes it’s really a portal for him to speak to his brother who went missing twenty years ago.  It’s gunna be a good one!

On Giving Thanks. And Zombies.

Thanksgiving is an odd holiday.  It’s fake.  At least in its current form in the U.S., it’s a manufactured holiday.  Roosevelt went so far as to move the date in an attempt to help the economy by increasing the number of shopping days before Christmas.  It has nothing in common with the original harvest festivals of our forefathers… otherwise we’d be having a yummy dinner of fresh water eel and corn.  Even with all that, it’s still my favorite holiday.

If you can strip out all the commercialism, there’s just something about sitting down with family and friends for no purpose other than enjoying good food and giving thanks.  The Christmas/Holiday season? Hate it. Always have. It’s phony, fake, driven by marketing and the 2,735 holiday commercials per minute we’re bombarded with.  I lay in bed at night, stressed that I haven’t purchased the iNog EggNog maker for someone and for yet another year failed to get holiday newsletters out.  What in the hell am I going to get Aunt Sophie for a grab-bag gift?  The woman does nothing but watch approximately 22 hours a day of Judge Judy re-runs.  The fifty-four pound box of Pepperidge Farm sausage seemed reasonable to me, but my wife thinks otherwise.  Sigh…  The pressure is unbearable.

Ah, but Thanksgiving.  The only requirement is to relax, cook, and sit down with the people most important to you and eat.  And talk.  Share stories.  Drink too many adult beverages and thank the deity of your choice that you’re at an age where you’re longer stuck at that rickety card table with the kids.  And wallow in the knowledge that you have a free pass to eat an obscene amount of food.  The calories don’t count on Thanksgiving.  Extra gravy.  That ridiculous yam dish with the marshmallows – on what other day of the year could you serve something covered in marshmallows and get away with it?

But most importantly, to give thanks.  At some point during the dinner, sit back and just watch.  Watch your family and friends eating, enjoying, talking, arguing over politics and sports.  Simply being together.  And give thanks that through an accident of birth you happen to be in a position to live where you do.  That you don’t live in Sudan, or Somalia, or Afghanistan, or the poorest parts of India or China.  That you do have food on your table, clothes on your back, and that Uncle Bob is free to slur his words and lament that those damn commie democrats won the election.

Because not everyone has this gift.  But we do.  So ignore for at least one day the looming commercialism of the “holiday” season, politics, the media, and all those cute cat videos on Facebook.  Enjoy and be thankful for what you have – because as down and out as you might be, you’re not living in a mud hut in Ethiopia wondering where your next meal will come from.

And besides… we’re only a month away from the Mayan doomsday.  And you know what that means, right?  The coming zombie apocalypse.  There’ll be no enjoying canned cranberries or Frenches green been casserole when fighting off the zombie hoards.  I watch the Walking Dead, I know what’s coming.  I don’t know about you, but I’m stockpiling fancy Jell-O molds in my bunker.  And guns.  Lots and lots of guns.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!

20 Years, A Love Story

Twenty years ago we elected Bill Clinton and we saw the Rodney King riots.  Stamps (remember those?) were .29¢ and compact disks became more popular than cassette tapes.  The Silence of the Lambs won the Oscar for best picture and a text-based browser was made available to the public for the first time to try something called the world-wide web.  Johnny Carson hosted his last Tonight Show and Bush and Yeltsin formally declared the end of the cold war.  That was also the year we married.

Twenty years ago today.  Hard to believe that much time has gone by.  I still remember our wedding day like it was yesterday.  Hot soup being served in unstable gourds (what could possibly go wrong?).  Discovering your mom had changed the wedding cake you picked out.  Those crazy makeup guys chasing me around the hallway trying to get me to wear make up.  All the Halloween jokes.  Remembering how beautiful you looked in your dress.  Ordering pizza in our room at 2 am because we never got a chance to eat at the reception.

We were certainly the rebels of the families.  We’ve picked up and moved to three different states (two of ’em twice!).  Two apartments, one townhouse, one rental house (frogs in the bed, oh my!), five purchased houses, and nearly a year in a motor home.  Whew, we’ve traveled!  We’ve had nine different vehicles in that time… and one Volkswagen bus that never quite made it out of the driveway.

We traveled to islands, Europe, Mexico, Canada, and plenty of US states.  We got to see the Olympics in Atlanta (just left the square before the bombing), and Yellowstone by snowmobile.  Countless trips in the motor home.  Lots of skiing, some backpacking, hiking and biking.  An epic meltdown while snowshoeing.  Made it to the top of Mt Whitney and Mt Lassen.  Oh, and you bravely got your scuba certification because you knew I enjoyed diving.

Lots of good times.  Some difficult times too of course.  We’ve been through the loss of family members and friends.  We’ve enjoyed the full life cycle of two crazy, wonderful dogs and mourned their passing.  A few rough patches here and there.  Nobody can hold a grudge like me when a favorite t-shirt is thrown away.  A couple of medical scares that, while they ended being nothing, make you think.

Before we’d met I couldn’t fathom how you could spend that much time with someone.  What the heck would you talk about after twenty years?  It still amazes me that after all these years, there isn’t anyone I’d rather spend my time with.  I look forward to going out to dinner and chatting just as much today as when we met.  I love that we still hold hands when we walk downtown.  The fact that when we first met and ended up spending all night parked in your parents driveway talking, was a sign.  I think we both knew within a few weeks that this was it… and that feeling has never left me.

I love that we’ve never been content to just sit and let life pass us by.  These last few years have been full of change – moving and a new house, and leaving jobs.  The fact that you tolerate, encourage, and trust me to pursue a new career at this age is a commitment to our embracing life together.  I don’t know what the future holds.  What I do know is that it really doesn’t matter as long as we’re together.  Like it or not, you’re stuck with me for the next twenty.

The day I said “I do” was the best decision I ever made and one I’d do again in a heartbeat.  I hope I’ve lived up to my end of the deal. I don’t know how else to phrase it, other than to simply say “I love you now, and forever”.

Bad Karma

Karma is a concept of deeds and acts found in Hinduism that deal with creating one’s destiny. If one sows goodness, one reaps goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. A theistic view of karma is expressed by the following: “God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is very fair and gives you exactly what you deserve”. There was a bunch more on Wikipedia but my attention wandered and I got sidetracked watching a video of cats playing tether ball.

What got me thinking about this (karma, not funny cat videos) is people with ill intent. Bad people. Mean people. People who take advantage because they can. I don’t understand people like that. You seem to find them in business most often. Probably because that’s the most common place people have power over others – your job. Everyone has run into one of these asshats at some point or another.  The boss who makes you do something simply because he can. A coworker who intentionally throws you under the bus for no apparent reason. The guy who decides microwaving three-day old fish in the break-room is a good idea. What goes through these folks heads? Why do some people treat others in a way they wouldn’t want to be treated?

One of my favorite quotes semi-related to this topic is from Johann Wofgang von Goethe, a German poet in the 1800’s. Paraphrasing: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”  I also like this one from J.C. Watts (OU Sooners!) “Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”  This one’s a gem as well from Capt. Ramsey of the USS Alabama: “The training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards. It’s a simple matter of voltage.”

Ok, that last one is fiction but it does give me ideas of what I’d like to do to a few of these not so nice people. Why does it seem that these folks often succeed in business? Do you really have to be a butt-head to get ahead in life? I hope not. I’m not a saint by any stretch of imagination but I hope that overall my balance sheet shows more good than bad. At least I tell myself it does… because it’s going to be the big bummer dudesky if at the end you find out it didn’t matter.

It has to matter. Otherwise what was the point of most Clint Eastwood movies? Or those slighty creepy values.com commercials from evangelical Philip Anschutz? I don’t want to risk bad juju. I’ll just keep on trying to do the right thing. But… given the opportunity to turn the tables on one of those bad folks would I do it? As Clint Eastwood Said in Gran Torino, “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have f’ed with? That’s me.” (don’t you love how easy it is to be a badass from the safety of the Internet?)

Twinkies And Gray Hair

I’m heading to a Mexican beach in about nine weeks. This is a good thing. It also means going shirtless. That is a slightly uncomfortable thing. As a guy I’m not particularly vain, but I’ve never been very fond of how I look between the neck and the knees. I’m happy with my calves. I guess the ankles too. The rest not so much. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly fat. Just sort of… squishy around the middle.

The problem is food. I love to eat. Be forwarned – don’t get between me and good BBQ. Or cheese. I’ve seen plenty of Bruce Lee movies and can scare the hell out of you with my Jeet Kune Do warrior yell. The only thing that saves me from being four hundred pounds with cankles is that I’m pretty darn active. Between daily mountain biking, running, and wicked Gears of War battles on the XBox, I burn a ton of calories. Unfortunately all that does is let me maintain my sexy Stay-Puft abs. I never actually get less squishy (de-squishy?).

I figure I need to drop fifteen pounds to not feel like I need to wear a support garment. That means roughly two pounds a week. I’ll need to burn 5,800 calories a week. Just under 900 a day. That seems do-able. The problem will be limiting the calories needed for basic sustenance to just the minimum. Probably somewhere around 1,800-2,000.

Which brings me to Twinkies. 160 calories and a shelf life that doesn’t expire. I figured I could eat ten a day. And coffee. Can’t live without coffee. 1600 calories and plenty of sugar to keep me fueled. I was just about to head to Costco to pick up a pallet when I saw on snopes.com that it’s a myth. Twinkies only have a shelf life of 25 days. What a cruel joke! My pallet-load would go bad before I could consume all that sweet goodness. If I’m already going to have to go to the grocery store more frequently, I might as well buy vegetables or something. Sigh.

This is going to be a struggle. Worth it though – who doesn’t like to see a middle-aged guy strutting around the pool convinced everyone thinks he’s twenty years younger? I did discover a new batch of gray hair the other day. Going to have to deal with that. Grecian-Formula for Men and we’re practically John Travolta. Wait, that’s a hairpiece, so bad example. I’m sure you get the point.

I’ll start the diet tomorrow. Or maybe on Monday. Never start a diet on the weekend. I should probably find that swim-shirt just in case.

Goodbye, California

Been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. Tomorrow I pack up my stuff and leave California. I won’t say I’m leaving forever – I already left once and never thought I’d come back, but this time the odds are not in the formerly golden states favor. Why? Two reasons; cost of living and lifestyle. For 2011 the ACCRA cost of living index has my city, San Jose, as the 6th most expensive place to live in the country. A very average 30+ year old track home in a decent school district goes for north of $700k. Property tax is 1.25%, so it’s not unusual to be paying $8-10 thousand dollars a year just in tax. Sales tax is 8.25% and projected to increase in 2012. San Jose has experienced a decade of budget deficits with no real hope of turning that around. Analysts put the overall California budget deficit for 2012 at $13 billion. 17 of the top 25 most expensive cities for gas prices are in California (thank you special-blend gasoline!). It’s a grim picture that’s only going to get worse. The state and cities have only one real option to increase revenue – raise every possible tax and fee they can get away with.

Money is certainly not the only reason to leave. Basic quality of life plays a huge role… and more so the older I get. The irony of living in the bay area is that, on paper, it offers everything you could want. An hour to the beach or the culture of San Francisco. Four hours to the mountains and fantastic skiing or hiking in Tahoe. Marin is the birthplace of mountain biking. Beautiful weather. So what’s the problem? People. Lots and lots of people. My work commute was routinely an hour-plus of stop-and-go, bumper to bumper traffic to go less than 20 miles. Leave for Tahoe on a Friday any later than 3pm and your four-hour drive becomes an eight-hour traffic nightmare. Don’t even think of heading to the beach on a sunny weekend day unless you want to leave super early in the morning to have a chance at finding parking, etc… Enjoy camping? State park reservations sell out six months to a year in advance.

As for mountain biking, bureaucracy, lawsuits, and powerful hiking lobbies rule the roost. In my local area there are, count-em, five different park agencies that control the trails. Each with different rules, regulations, and parking fees. Many popular trails sport rangers with radar guns who give tickets for exceeding trail speed limits. California, land of legislation.

Even with all the negative, it’s still hard to go. It is a beautiful place. Leaving family and friends is hard. Social media makes it much easier to stay in touch these days, but it’s certainly not the same as popping in for a weekend barbecue or bike ride with friends. I was born here. My roots are here. I remember when much of the Santa Clara valley was still apricot orchards. I remember surfing at the ‘hook before they put the concrete access stairs in. I remember $21 lift tickets at Sierra Ski Ranch and Kirkwood. Sleeping in my car in the parking lot to get first tracks in the morning. I’ve lived in 10+ places in the valley and watched them all change. Change that’s neither good nor bad – just different. Let’s just say that in many of those places, english is no longer the primary language. It’s the nature of our world these days. My sister the teacher would probably argue that my garbled prose barely qualifies as english, so I guess it all works out.

I first left California eighteen years or so ago, positive we’d never come back. A couple of states and six years later we found our way back. Fast forward twelve years and it’s time to head for greener pastures and new adventures. I’ll save the where for future postings. Suffice it to say that I leave with mixed emotions. Sad and happy at the same time. Nervous about the new direction and adventure, but brimming with excitement as well.

One thing I do know – you only go around in this life once and I’m not going to wait around dreaming of what could be. There’s no guarantee of a tomorrow in our contracts!

On Feeling Young. And Tacos.

I don’t know what it is about street food that makes it so good. Grills and pans take on a certain patina when they’re not exactly cleaned spotless each night. Lard tastes better than heart healthy sunflower oil. (write this one down kids… fat = flavor) Maybe it’s the thrill of taking a chance on salmonella or hepatitis. Regardless, Anthony Bourdain has it right – you’re more likely to get sick from the hotel breakfast buffet than a street vendor. Accordingly, a friend and I took a chance on a serious dive, hole-in-the-wall, side of the road taqueria the other day.

I had a couple of pork chili verde tacos. Two small homemade tortillas, pork, onions and cilantro, hot oil dripping down my fingers. Simple. Heaven. Makes me ashamed of the American contribution to Mexican culinary history – the Chalupa Nacho Cheese (si, queso!), beef or upgraded to authentic carne asada. Oh, and Cinco de Mayo. Truly sorry about that one. Since I’m apologizing I may as well throw in blended margaritas. If you feel that you must drink your alcohol like a Jamba Juice smoothie, please have the decency to not call it a margarita. Ice cubes (Cubes DAMMIT!), Cointreau, good 100% blue agave tequila, salt. A lime if you must. Anything else and it’s no longer the beautiful drink Don Carlos Orozco gifted us with.

Since we’re talking tequila, we should probably mention a certain Jose Cervo-fueled night when I was in my twenties. Or not. Let’s just say that livestock, downtown high-rise hotels, and base jumping rarely ends well. What is worth talking about is that feeling you have in your youth.  Joints don’t hurt and backs don’t ache. There’s no such thing as stretching and warming up before you do something. There’s no hesitation when it comes to running, jumping, or climbing things. You just do it. Afterwards muscles aren’t sore. Sleep often comes easy. You don’t blink an eye at starting your evening at 11pm. Roll in as the sun is rising, go to work and repeat it the next evening.

Sitting here at an age that’s probably closer to the end than the beginning (holy crap, that’s a depressing thought), I wonder where those feelings of youth went? Well, not exactly true – in my head I still “feel” like I’m late twenties. I still listen to loud, obnoxious music that doesn’t fit my age. I feel ridiculous the few times I need to wear a tie or a suit, like I’m pretending to be an adult. The thought of going on a cruise just feels claustrophobic and something grandparents do. I like speed and thrills – skiing, mountain biking, motorcycles. I don’t think twice about going on crazy long hikes or trail runs in the backcountry. Unfortunately most of my activities usually culminate in ibuprofen, ice, and being too sore to walk the next day. I am constantly surprised when I can’t do something that I used to be able to do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up in the morning in pain and been honestly puzzled why I hurt? I never used to have to stretch my hamstrings and calves before spending an afternoon pulling weeds in the garden.

The lesson is that while you can’t stop the physical aging process, there’s no need to grow old mentally. The older I get the less interested I am in becoming a “grown up”. I don’t want to stop riding bikes, going for hikes, or listening to ridiculous gangster rap and 1970’s funk at eardrum damaging volumes. Everyone should resolve to do something youthful this week. Go watch a three stooges film festival. Go-cart racing. Sign up for climbing lessons at the local climbing gym. Wear a baseball hat and flip-flops. Take a spur of the moment trip without planning. Stay up past 10pm. It doesn’t matter what it is… just go do something to prove to yourself that you’re not an old fuddy-duddy.

And resolve to skip a chain restaurant this week in favor of street food. Preferably not in the best part of town. Take a chance. Have a real taco.