Archive for the ‘Musing’ Category

I’m skipping my eat-whatever-I-want-day… or am I?

November 6, 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This morning I decided not to have an eat-whatever-I-want day this weekend. After all, I’ve had all too many eat-whatever-I-want days lately, the last one as recently as Wednesday. Next weekend I’ll have one, and it will feel great because I will have earned it.

Then I remembered that I have a bag of processed squash in the fridge in addition to the two in the freezer. I needed to make pumpkin pies tonight because it’ll start to ferment before too long. So I decided to have the pie be the one eat-whatever-I-want aspect of my day.

Then I remembered the most important mental distinction I’ve come to see since I started this blog: there is a difference between eating what I want, and eating all I can. I didn’t used to see the difference. Now I do, and in that disparity lies hope. I hope that, with enough work, I can widen the gap so that someday eating what I want doesn’t even resemble eating all I can.

So today was an eat-whatever-I-want day, even though it was just like every other dieting day except for the pie. And it would still have been an eat-whatever-I-want day even if I hadn’t had the pie. I ate what I wanted, and today I wanted to stick to my diet so that, on my next eat-whatever-I-want day, I will enjoy the food to the fullest because I’ll know that I’ve earned it. This is not punishment, and it feels wonderful to know that. This is me choosing what I want so that I can be what I want.


I have enough.

September 17, 2010

Tonight I got lots of extra exercise by helping my friend Don carry his stuff around the corner to his new place in 431 54th Street. I carried boxes up stairs for about three hours, and by the time I was done I’d just about metabolized the beer I’d drunk on the train into Manhattan.

Don got some dips at Kashkaval while I got cleaned up, and we had dinner on the roof with a bottle of Braggot from Atlantic Brewing Company and a bottle of Double Waiing Wench from Middle Ages in Syracuse. We got very silly.

I made a pass by Zaro’s at Grand Central, and boy were those specially-shaped challah loaves enticing. They only make them in that shape for the High Holidays. So of course that voice in me piped up, telling me that I had to buy a loaf of that specially-shaped challah bread and make French toast out of it.

Well, I don’t need to buy a loaf of that speciallly-shaped challah bread and make French toast out of it. It’s a special shape, but it’s the same bread that I can get year-round. I don’t need it any more than I need to pour myself another beer during the train ride home.

I’m grateful for my evening of exercise and drinking with my friend Don. I’m grateful that I’ve already had the luxury of planning an eat-whatever-I-want day full of food and hiking tomorrow. There’s no need to jam in more. I have enough.

Continuing to not eat at Roy Rogers

September 12, 2010
Roy Rogers

Roy Rogers

I know I’ve done Roy Rogers before, but man, any fast food joint that I’ve passed by this many times deserves a repeat.

It’s not that Roy Rogers is good. It’s that it’s hot, and it’s satisfying, and it’s *there*. It’s there on dark, lonely nights when you’re driving for hours on Route 90, and you have to pull over to pee or to get gas or to stay awake. You don’t need to eat a bunch of greasy, salty crap. But you see that inviting red logo miles in advance, and it gets you thinkin’.

As you pull in to the rest area you see the big glowing red sign, and you can’t help but think some more. And as you walk toward the bathroom you smell that deep-fried smell and your pace slows, as though you just passed through a boundary layer into a region of heavier, stickier air. You see the french fries starkly outlined in the glare of the lamps.

Sometimes you don’t make it out of there with your wits intact. Sometimes your legs take you up to that glowing counter, and your hands grab a tray and load it with a foil-wrapped burger and a greasy little cardboard box brimming over with fries. Well, then you have no choice but to pay for it and eat it.

But sometimes you’re strong. That smell still slows you down, and you probably stop for a moment to look longingly at the contents of those gleaming metal chutes — maybe long enough to imagine what it would be like to eat it. But you walk away.

Today I was strong. I’m proud to say that I’ve been strong for over four months now. I hope I can continue to be strong.

Bear With Me, Part 1: Theology and Spirituality

September 12, 2010

Bear with me. This will eventually relate to my diet. Yeah, I was surprised my own self.

The following is a slightly edited version of a response I made to a cousin in a Facebook discussion about this video. It contains the core of my philosophy.

When the average man ejaculates, somewhere around 100 million sperm are released. Because of genetic recombination each sperm is unique. Each human being is the result of the meeting between one egg, and one sperm out of all the millions of sperm that could have reached it. Picture the moment of my conception as a single branch on a probability tree: a branch with 100 million twigs.

Now expand your perspective to consider the whole tree. It is a large tree, with many branches, each one bearing 100 million twigs. How many twigs are there in total? WikiAnswers says that a man produces about 400 billion sperm during his lifetime. Let’s go with that, since my thinking wouldn’t change even if that number was off by several orders of magnitude.

So that’s 400 billion twigs during my father’s lifetime. Multiply this by the number of eggs that my mother produced in her lifetime: one million on the conservative side. We are left with the number 400,000,000,000,000,000 or four hundred quadrillion. Since the only possible event that could have brought me into being was the meeting of one particular sperm and one particular egg, the odds against me being conceived during my father’s lifetime were approximately four hundred quadrillion to one.

Expand your perspective further to include my grandfather. Keep going. Go back through all the generations of humans who have ever lived. Each branching represents another crap shoot with odds against of about four hundred quadrillion to one. With each successive generation you are adding around seventeen zeroes to the number representing the odds against me ever being conceived.

So I am drawn inescapably to the conclusion that the odds against me ever existing were effectively infinite. I beat infinite odds. Out of all those people who never had a chance to be conceived, l alone made it. Out of an infinitude of potentiality, I alone am the reality. I gained the unspeakably wondrous boon of drawing breath. I alone can wiggle my toes in the mud. I alone can feel the breeze on my cheek. Only I can smile at the sight and feeling of sunlight filtering through a leaf.

Since I am the only one who made it, I have a responsibility to all those nonexistent folks to make the most of my existence. I have a responsibility to leave the world a better place than it would have been had I not been here, using up one of those infinitely precious slots. I have a responsibility not to hurt any of the other miracles walking around on the planet. I must make the most of the chance I’ve been given. And I must not sully the gift by asking for more. That is why I feel no need to worry about what will happen after my body stops. To do so would be a slap in the face of the universe: an act of infinite ingratitude.

I say all this only to make two points.

First, I’m the last person you need to feel sorry for. Throughout my life I’ve consistently been one of the happiest people I know of. And I don’t believe that happiness is the ultimate goal. I’m driven to constantly improve myself and to have a positive influence on the people and the world around me. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that “unaccountable” and “cop-out” are the last words they would think of when they think of me.

The second point is that I came up with this system of personal belief and morality simply by making an arbitrary and obscure observation about the world around me. Presumably there is an effectively infinite number of potential belief systems out there waiting; not all of them have been thought of yet, but I would imagine that those that have been conceived number in the trillions, depending on how finely you separate one from another. A belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ is only one of many intellectual constructs that can – but does not always – result in a moral human being. It is not necessary for the formation of a good and moral homo sapien any more than is one of those others.


September 11, 2010

Here’s me burning the pile of junk food that I accumulated during my last weeks at Goldman Sachs.

Flashback: Blindsided

September 11, 2010
New line of taps at Screamen Eagle

New line of taps at Screamen Eagle

Taps at Screamen Eagle

Taps at Screamen Eagle

Last Sunday, while Grace went to find an Inlet police officer who could sign the piece of paper to verify that we’d gotten the light over the license plate fixed, I went to Screamen Eagle for some curly fries. The sign out front said “20 BEERS ON TAP” and I said to myself “Huh? That’s new… no way they had more than a few before.” I walked in, and… well, take a look at the pictures and you can just begin to imagine my reaction.

The first tap handle that caught my attention was for Rogue Dead Guy Ale. Rogue is a top-tier microbrewery, so if any bar has Rogue on tap it gets an automatic thumbs-up from me. Any bar. A bar in Manhattan would get a thumbs-up. A bar in Inlet with Rogue on tap gets a big cartoon “Ahh-OOOOgah!!!” airhorn sound as my eyeballs pop out of my head, become as large as saucers, and hover there, trembling, for a moment.

Then my eye swept over the rest of that magnificent row of taps. Dogfish Head. Dogfish Head? Dogfish Head!! In Inlet!! CascaZilla, an entirely worthy hoppy ale from Ithaca. Sam Adams Octoberfest, one of the better festbiers out there. Pumking, an “Imperial Pumpkin Ale” from Souther Tier which is great fun, if rather gimmicky.

I continued past this new vision from a dream, wanting to see what was on the old, smaller row of taps at the middle of the bar. I was thrilled to see a Tröegs tap handle, although the Dead Reckoning Porter is not my favorite of their brews. If it had been Tröegs Hopback Amber, that might have done me in right there. As it was, the only handle from that row that seriously tempted me was the Lake Placid Honey Rye. Good stuff. Good stuff that I can’t get outside the Adirondacks.

After ordering my curly fries, I sat down in front of that first big row of taps. Then I saw that the Dogfish Head tap didn’t say 60 Minute IPA, as I expected. It said 90 Minute. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA in Inlet, New York!

Well, it took about all I had not to order a beer. I thought of how great it would feel to be down near my target weight when I go hiking in Acadia in three weeks. I thought of how wonderful it will feel after I reach my target weight, when I’ll be able to have a beer whenever I want — as long as I’m below that line.

I walked out with only my curly fries, feeling very proud of myself. If I’d known going into the situation that those beers would be there, it wouldn’t have been such a close-run thing. But being blindsided like that by Rogue Dead Guy, Lake Placid Honey Rye, and Dogfish Head 90 was nearly enough to make me stop caring that drinking beer outside of my weight benchmark celebrations would have been a major diet breach.

I met Grace just outside, and we walked over and sat down at a park bench. As we were eating the fries, I said to Grace “Do you know what I just walked away from?” and proceeded to tell her about my epic struggle. She said “Well, you can get those anywhere,” which made me feel deflated and irritated. Seeing my reaction, she said “I was trying to make you feel better by pointing out that you can get those beers at other places.”

Well, that brought me up short. My perspective suddenly shifted and I saw what I couldn’t see a moment before: of course she was trying to make me feel better; and of course I can get those same beers elsewhere.

Suddenly my reaction to the bar seemed conspicuous and puzzling. Why had I seen it as a unique opportunity that would be agonizing to pass up? The answer was simple, and revealing of my pathology: it wasn’t just the beer; it was the combination of the beer and the place.

Good times with loved ones make an enormous impression on me. Likewise, my memory suffuses special places with a magical glow. Put the special people in the special places, and I get a particularly potent nostalgia. It’s the one exception to the rule that I have a terrible memory: I can remember conversations with friends at camp from 1993.

The Adirondacks, and my family’s camp in particular, has always been my favorite place. For decades, as I’ve shared it with the people I love, my reservoir of happy experiences there has swollen. Camp is my primary nostalgia capacitor.

So when I walked into Screamen Eagle and saw those taps, two powerful forces intersected: my love of beer, and my nostalgia for camp. Here was a bouquet of excellent craft brews, one of them a paragon of the brewer’s art, popping up like magic in a cherished place where I never expected to see them. My reaction seemed so perfectly natural, so obvious, that in retrospect it seems inexplicable. But here’s me, trying to explain it anyway.

I felt like I wanted to celebrate. I felt like I had to celebrate. This intersection of delights obviously trumped any rules I’d set up. Right?

Well, I’m proud to say that the answer was “No.” I got out of there with my rules unbroken, because the rules are more important to me right now than they’ve ever been. Besides, my rules include allowances for celebrations, so the “imperative” for an impromptu celebration screamed of doublethink. Thankfully I was able to see through my own desperate rationalization enough to refuse it.

Back at camp, I got talking to Grace about my need to turn happy occurrences into celebrations. This led to thoughts about celebrations as revelment. We talked about how, in midwinter celebrations, people would use up a portion of their precious stores: they responded to privation with profligacy! This led me to wonder if celebration is always self-destructive, and finally to the big question: “What is a celebration, anyway?”

Grace pointed out that people often spent exorbitant amounts of money on weddings. She thinks that they do this at least partly in hopes that the expense will come back to them in some way. I hadn’t thought of that, but it makes sense, and it adds another dimension to the concept of celebration.

Maybe celebration is a constellation of the pagan, the selfish, and the giving: we receive privation and death, and we chortle in the face of the reaper; we receive prosperity, and we show it off and hope for reciprocation; we receive joy, and we want to share, amplify and extend the moment.

The purpose of all this musing was to examine my tendency to turn any unusual confluence of gustatory factors into a celebration. I am glad that it is in my nature to be joyous. But in the face of a universe which holds so much to be joyous about, I slip into revelment the way an iron filing in a magnetic field quivers toward a pole. This is a perversion of my joyous nature, and one that bears monitoring.

Goodbye Corporate America

September 10, 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Goodbye Corporate America. It’s been… well, it’s been.

I’ll leave you with two songs.

Pink Houses” by John Cougar Mellencamp

There’s a black man with a black cat livin’ in a black neighborhood
He’s got an interstate runnin’ through his front yard
You know he thinks that he’s got it so good
And there’s a woman in the kitchen cleanin’ up the evenin’ slop
And he looks at her and says, “Hey darlin’, I can remember when
you could stop a clock.”

Oh but ain’t that America for you and me
Ain’t that America somethin’ to see baby
Ain’t that America home of the free
Little pink houses for you and me

There’s a young man in a t-shirt
Listenin’ to a rockin’ rollin’ station
He’s got greasy hair, greasy smile
He says, “Lord this must be my destination.”
‘Cause they told me when I was younger
“Boy you’re gonna be president.”
But just like everything else those old crazy dreams
Just kinda came and went

Oh but ain’t that America…

Well there’s people and more people
What do they know know know
Go to work in some high rise
And vacation down at the Gulf of Mexico
Ooh yeah
And ther’s winners and there’s losers
But they ain’t no big deal
‘Cause the simple man baby pays for the thrills, the bills,
the pills that kill

Oh but ain’t that America…

Little Black Train” by Woodie Guthrie, as sung by Freakwater

There’s a little black train that’s coming, coming down the track
You gotta ride that little black train
And it ain’t gonna bring you back

You may be a barroom gambler, cheat your way through life
You can’t cheat that little black train
Or beat this final ride

You silken barroom ladies, dressed in your worldly pride
You gotta ride that little black train
And it’s coming in tonight

Your million dollar fortune, mansion glittering white
You can’t take it with you
When the train rolls in to- night

Get ready for your savior, fix your business right
You gotta ride that little black train
That’s coming in to- night

There’s a little black train that’s coming, coming down the track
You gotta ride that little black train
And it ain’t gonna bring you back

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

September 3, 2010
Hi there!

Hi there!

Well hello there!

Yeah, I’m talkin’ to you! I look at my blog stats so I know you’re there, reading but not commenting. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m just as pleased as a big pleased thing to know that you’re taking the time to read this. But won’t you consider making yourself known?

I’m asking this because the other night Jay left a comment that not only made me grin from ear to ear, but got me a little choked up. See, it was more than I ever expected. I started this blog as a desperate attempt to extract myself from a hole. The most I ever hoped for was to use the public eye to enforce my focus and discipline. I never seriously thought I’d inspire anyone, yet here was a reader telling me I’d inspired him.

I’m not fishing for complements — honestly, one story like Jay’s was enough to satisfy me for a long time. It’s just that I’d love to hear from you. Because if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance that what I’m saying resonates with you. Maybe you feel like I did a few months ago: depressed and confused, wondering why I was unable to act upon what I knew was good for my body and spirit.

Neil gave me a little nudge that magically started this ball rolling. The blog stats give me another little nudge by letting me know that there are people reading at all. Reader feedback gives a magical nudge, because then I can feel us helping each other: I gave Jay a little nudge, and by telling me his story he nudged me right back, and that gave me more energy, which I then shared with my readers… you get the picture.

So give me a nudge. I promise you I’ll return it, and some of my other readers probably will too. Heck, maybe we can have a little group of nudgers. And if you’re sitting there thinking that you can’t do what I did… well, I gotta tell ya, I’d just about given up hope myself.

And then someone gave me a nudge.


September 2, 2010

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

That’s one exclamation point for each bunny I’ve seen today.

Today when my phone started vibrating at 5:30 there was no way I was staying in bed. Last night two people left some fantastic feedback on this blog, and I got a pretty good night’s sleep. I am psyched as all get-out. And I got out! Hee!

So here are two of the four bunnies I saw grazing on the grass along Orienta Avenue. They’re skittish little fellas; I can’t get too close without them hopping away. And my little phone camera doesn’t deal well with such low light, so the vaguely rabbit-shaped blobs you see are the best I can do today. But you get the point: my Honey loves bunnies, so thinking of her smiling at bunnies makes me smile; and the thought that I wouldn’t have seen them if I hadn’t gotten up early makes me smile wider.

A few minutes after I saw the bunnies, I passed along the far edge of the golf course, walking through the middle of a flock of Canada geese that was bisected by the road. Their honking pleased me: I don’t know whether it was my good mood, the unhurried and infrequent tempo of the honking, or a genuine good will in the hearts of the geese, but as far as goose honking can sound amiable, it did.

As I left the honking behind I heard the shrill, screeching call of a bird hidden somewhere in the trees ahead. One of these days I need to learn some bird calls.

Now I’m home, and I’ve already got those stories under my belt at a time of day when I’d otherwise just be blearily rising. Next time I think about turning off the alarm and going back to bed, I’ll tell myself those stories.

Avatar flashback

August 30, 2010

Tonight I went to see “Avatar” at the IMAX theater on Columbus and 68th, just up from Lincoln Center. As I took my seat and toyed with my 3-D glasses, I had a flashback.

On January 8th, during Avatar’s first run, Grace and I went to see it in the IMAX theater in New Rochelle. Before going in, I went to the grocery store next door to get a bag of Smartfood for us to smuggle into the theater. The store happened to have six-packs of Tröegs Hopback Amber on the shelves. Then Hugh got an idea. An awful idea. Hugh got a wonderful, *awful* idea.

I couldn’t resist the Hopback Amber. But how would I chill it? A bag of ice would be a bit much to smuggle in, especially on top of the Smartfood and the six-pack. So I grabbed a few extra plastic grocery bags and scrounged some snow from outside.

It was a great plan, and it worked well… except for one thing. I was already as big as a house by that time. I knew that I had no business having the hilariously-named Smartfood, let alone the three bottles of beer I drank. But I wasn’t in control. Knowing full well that I shouldn’t have it, I went ahead and had it anyway. The part of me that revelled in the experience trampled the part of me that wondered what the hell I was doing a little deeper into the mud.

Tonight I wouldn’t have seriously considered drinking beer. Tonight I smiled as I thought of another six-pack of Tröegs Hopback Amber: the one that I put in my fridge yesterday, and which I won’t be touching until I reach 200 pounds.

I’m reaching out one hand and touching the me of January 8th, while keeping the other on the me of tonight. It feels quietly glorious. I’m banged up and my head still ain’t on exactly straight. But not only am I standing, I know that I’m walking in the right direction. And that’s a damned sight better than I was.