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Saturday, September 25, 2010

Physical Fatness

Check this out:




If you're like me, the first thing you noticed was my ragin' pair of man-boobs, or moobs as the kids call them. You know that guy at work that always seems to know when food's around and shows up with a plate and fork? Or the guy that you email when you have half a sandwich left that you don't want to eat, and you don't want to waste, and you know he'll eat it. That's me. I'm the devourer. If there's free food, I'll eat it. Even if it's mediocre at best. And my reward for preventing waste? Moobs. Oh yeah, and that sweet gut.

Here's more evidence...


There was one point on my mission that I thought I was at my fattest. I couldn't believe I weighed over 200 lbs. Looking at pictures now, I think all of the fat was in my face. So my companion and I did slim fast and I lost 25 lbs. I went from this to this.
Sweet hair, right? I thought two hundo was my limit. But, here I am, thirty lbs above my fattest mission weight. I gained most of the extra when Shalene was pregnant with Max. "Sympathy weight" is what the women I work with call it. I'd say also have "sympathy stretch marks," but Sha didn't get any. So I just call them fattle scars. 

We've been on this weird diet this week and I've already lost 10 lbs. I can't really tell the difference when I squeeze into the last hole on my belt still, but once we can start running again it'll get better. I say we, because letting Sha recover from childbirth is my excuse to procrastinate. Nothing is worse than the first two weeks of running. 

But running got me here once:

So it's worth it. So is that mustache. And yes, I used to shave my chest sometimes. Don't judge.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Great Moments in Customer Service

Me: Looks like we declined your debit card application because of some derogatory information on your credit report.
Guy: What's on my credit report that would cause you to reject my debit card application? I get a credit report all of the time since I declared bankruptcy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Local Legends

Peter Steele died the other day. Most people, including me, aren't too familiar with his work. If you haven't heard his band Type O Negative before, just imagine taking a heavy metal song and playing it on a record player at half speed. His voice is that deep, and the songs are pretty slow. Probably the best example is at the beginning of the movie "I Know What you Did Last Summer" when their version of Summer Breeze (yes, that Summer Breeze -- I've always found it odd) plays. You can hear part of it here. Honestly, I wouldn't even know of Peter Steele or Type O Negative if it weren't for a story I heard in 8th grade that I might not even remember accurately.

There was a guy in Craig who was a kind of mythical badass. He was my friend's older brother named Jeremy, and everyone knew who he and was intimidated by him.He was basically known among us as the toughest dude that ever strolled down Yampa Avenue. He was probably 19 or 20 at the time this story supposedly went down. The story goes that he was at a Danzig concert, and hit on some chick. Well, it turns out this wasn't just some chick. She was the girlfriend of one of the guys from the opening band. The opening band? Type O Negative. Violence ensued between Jeremy and his brother and the entire band. As I was hearing this story, my ingrained belief in the Jeremy's badassity lead me to automatically assume he was the victor. To my naive shock, he actually lost quite handily. This was before I knew that Peter Steele was a well-built 6'7" angry metal guy.

I consider myself a reasonably skeptical person, and the thought that some guy from Craig would get in a fight with an entire band for hitting on some random girl at a concert sounds pretty far fetched. But his losing the fight and thus shattering the notion of his invincibility made me buy the whole story.

I talked to Jeremy a few times several years later when he was running the first of several incarnations of a now defunct local record store. Turns out, he's really just a stonerish-type guy that likes heavy metal and could never seem to fill my order for Black Flag's Damaged. I never asked him if the incident really happened as I had heard it. By that point, unbeknownst to him I'm sure, his fabricated legend based on hearsay among younger boys had faded away completely. Peter Steele destroyed it.

While Jeremy's folk-hero status as the baddest mofo in town was thwarted by Type O Negative, Craig and every other town still have their own locally well known people, but not in a famous kind of way. More in the "I can't believe this person exists" or "what the nuts is wrong with that person?" kind of way. And to me, these people are way more interesting. I like to pick these people out wherever I live, even if I'm the only witness to their awesomeness.

Everyone in Craig has had an experience with Crazy Dennis. His unverified story is that he was a bright teenager 30 or 40 years ago, but then he fried his brain with homemade LSD. Now he argues with imaginary friends while walking around town. Someone once told me they saw him get in a fistfight with one of these figments while sitting in the old Little Caesar's restaurant inside Kmart. There's a guy in Mesa called Dizzy who is similar to Crazy Dennis, only friendlier. Everybody that grew up here knows him, or at least knows of him and has seen him in action.

There are two other people in Mesa that really stand out to me, and sadly I was alone when I saw them. The first was this woman that I saw walking around my old neighborhood a couple of times. I was driving on Broadway about to turn up the street to my apartment, and I noticed what I assumed to be a hooker heading the same direction on foot wearing a pink tube top, white miniskirt and clear plastic heels. Though hilarious, not out of the ordinary for my old neighborhood. Only as I got closer did I see the full amazing ridiculousness of this woman. It wasn't the heels, or the tube top, it was the masculine frame behind the tube top. A tranny hooker! By my apartment! And she was turning to walk up my street! I tried to discreetly snap a photo with my cell phone, but it was too dark. But the next afternoon as I was coming home from work I saw a pink tube top in the distance next to a guy by what I consider the world's busiest liquor store on Mesa Drive and Broadway. 'Twas her/him again in all its glory!

The other was a one time encounter that still boggles my mind. I was walking to my car after Church one day, and I saw perhaps the greatest thing witnessed by man. It was an old man, with a long flowing beard, wearing a yamaka, and riding a pink girl's banana seat bike with tassels on the handlebars and a basket. I stood breathless as he crossed my path. I can only compare the experience to my guide in the Costa Rican rain forest that was physically shaking because we saw a very rare bird. "You guys have no idea how lucky you are to have seen that," he said. Indeed. A once in a lifetime experience.

In larger cities, the more ghetto the neighborhood the more likely you are to witness one of these people. And the ghettoest neighborhoods I've ever been in are located in Stockton, California (read about this place, it's pretty rough). So it's no surprise that Stockton is a goldmine for what we used to call "creatures," or legendary figures on the strange side of town. I heard about a few of them before I even made it to the city. Probably my favorite is a woman they called the Hair Beast. I never actually saw her, but apparently she had the most freakishly large untamed afro known to man. From the tales I heard, you wouldn't be surprised to find an eagle's nest or a mummy wrapped up in there. There were others too, like the guy they called the Alien, and the Stockton Stomper. He was a Cambodian guy that would walk around all over the place and always stomped his feet when he walked. It was like he was once a soldier, and his commander shouted "march vigorously!" and then died, having never given this man another order. So from then on he had to take large angry steps everywhere he went. I tried to take a picture of him too, but I missed and shot this instead:

People like these are interesting and fun as part of a local culture, especially when myths prevail about their nature and origin. But just like the legend of Jeremy was sullied by Type O Negative, reality ruins the fun in a lot of these people as well.

Reality has a tendency to do that with a lot of things. Every kid that took Tae Kwon Do when I was growing up believed that their instructor could beat the crap out of anyone they faced. That's the myth of the martial arts world. There's some sort of mystical power in knowing how to kick and punch the air in a particular sequence that somehow translates into the ability take out anybody in a fight. It's the Mr. Miagi effect, and a concept upon which Jean Claude Van Damme's entire career was built.
But then along came Ultimate Fighting Championship and the MMA phenomenon that put some of the best fighters from all sorts of disciplines against each other. Reality, as it turns out, shows that the high school wrestling coach could have whooped on your 5th degree black belt. Suddenly the mystique of Tae Kwon Do felt by every 10 year old in 1990 as a means to win a fight has been replaced with it's actual nature: a boring, disciplined art form that may be good for self defense.

And it's worse for local legends and human creatures. The reality of their situations is often depressing, and makes you feel like a jerk for joking about them. Some speculative realities: Crazy Dennis's story may be true, but living with hallucinations is pretty frightening. The tranny hooker is most likely just an actual woman with an unfortunate body-type, a more unfortunate drug habit, and an extremely unfortunate means to supply said drug habit. But I'll always have my Hasidic Jewish bike rider and the Hair Beast. Because they chose to be legendary.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mesa Midnight Motorcycle Madness

In case you didn't know, I'm a pretty much a hardcore bad mammajamma biker. It's pretty much my favorite thing in the world to do besides hanging with my family. So I look for any excuse I can to take my little Honda out onto the Mesa streets.

One of the reasons I like it so much is that you experience your surroundings in  a way you never could inside the cocoon of a car. It's really a feast for all 5 senses. You feel the cool, wet air as you drive past a pond. You hear women yelling at their kids and music people are listening to at intersections. You see traffic in a whole new (terrifying) way. And sometimes, you pass a drain or dirty canal so foul you can pretty much taste it.
But the most striking and entertaining of the sensory experiences while traveling through the city on a motorcycle is from what I consider our most underrated of the 5 senses. I always love riding at dusk at this time of year because the way blossoming trees smell. Sometimes I inhale so deeply and frequently I have to stop myself before I pass out.

But there are a lot of other olfactory experiences to be had, and the later in the night that I go out, the more diverse the smells get. Here are the most consistent late night Mesa smells:

  • Tacos
  • Freshly mowed golf course grass
  • Marijuana
  • Flowers
  • Garbage
  • Exhaust from an '89 Chevy Silverado
Last night, in one trip, I smelled gasoline, cheeseburgers, weed (every time I ride at night), dirty mexican food, and firecrackers.  At least I hope it was firecrackers and not the aftermath of a driveby shooting...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Goalage

I know a secret. Self-help experts write books about achieving your dreams and blah blah blah. People spend billions of dollars on these things, so I'll break it all down for you and hopefully save you time and money. For the most part, the purpose of these books is to find ways to inspire people to make goals and achieve them. So if you don't lack inspiration, here is the formula for achieving everything in life:

1. Figure out what you want in life and remember that some things are more important than others.
2. Make a plan to attain what you want.
3. Execute the plan. Recognize if it isn't working, make a new plan and execute it.
4. Enjoy your achievement.

That's it. Everything in life is ours to be had if we "go for it" or "shoot for the stars" or some other vague inspirational quote that goes on your boss's cube wall. So, like CIV says "I work hard for goals that I've set."

Some people only make goals that are long-term or difficult or have some sort of major weight or meaning in their life. Which is cool and all, but let's say out of ten of these goals you are only able to achieve one. That could be hard on your self-esteem. A guy I used to work with one time told me about "slumpbusters." For him, this was a less than attractive girl that he would hook up with if he was in a dry spell. Keep in mind that men are pigs. But while his bump and run approach with the girl probably hurt her significantly, his idea was that it would give him a little self-esteem boost so he could hook up with other chicks. A pig, as I said. But he's on to something.

I like to feel good about myself, don't you? Why not make a pointless goal that's fairly easy to achieve? A few years ago I accomplished a slumpbuster goal that I'm still very proud of. Did you know I'm published at ESPN.com? It's true, sort of. I made a goal that I would get my name referenced in a Tuesday Morning Quarterback column. I don't know enough about football or space or holiday shopping habits to email him something that would be interesting enough to post in his column. But I do know how to look up otherwise useless information online. Which means I can nominate a cheerleader of the week. And so the goal became to nominate a cheerleader of the week from the Broncos every week until I saw my name on Tuesday. So the first week, I nominated the most interesting cheerleader they had. by sending an email that said:
Hi Gregg,
I just wanted to nominate Terita of the Broncos for cheerleader of the week. She's working on her PhD in Counseling and has some rippin' abs.
Thanks for all of your insight on football and all things cosmically intriguing.

And with the first email, IT HAPPENED!!! Not only did he use my pick and cite my name, he included my reasoning for the nomination. It seems stupid, but it made my day. And the next day, and every other day that I google myself (I'm a narcissist) and I see it on the list. So slumpbusters are a good thing.

When I was a kid we sometimes would write goals as a family, and most of the time they were fairly attainable. My parents used to hang up a goal sheet in our basement and we'd mark stuff off as we finished it. I don't have a basement, but I do have goals and keyboard. So here are a few of my goals.

• Pay off our house long before the mortgage is scheduled to be paid
• Be on a game show, in this order of preference: 1. Who wants to be a Millionaire...2. Wheel of Fortune...3. Family Feud...4. Wipeout...5. Deal or No Deal...10000. Maury Povich's Who's the Daddy Challenge
• Learn to fly an airplane/helicopter
• Let Shalene quit her job because I'm making fat stacks
• Have my face drawn in the Wall Street Journal
• Learn to play creepy songs on an organ

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Person of Interest: LZ Granderson

For the last few years, I have been intrigued by matters of race relations and attitudes. Like a lot of young white college students, I went through a phase when I naively thought by simply condemning racist behavior whenever it was apparent made me somehow totally non-racist. While I still think racism is obviously bad, and discrimination is wrong, self-examination and reflection has revealed that I harbor sometimes racist tendencies. And I'm not alone.

Minorities notice bigotry below the suface in whitey all of the time, but we white people don't want to believe that it's true. The funny thing is, the more we wax racially philosophical and talk about how non-racist we are, the more we are revealed to be racist. The website http://www.blackpeopleloveus.com/ demonstrates this to an awesomely hilarious degree. And how about Chris Matthews? After Pres. Obama gave the State of the Union address, he said "He is post-racial, by all appearances. You know, I forgot he was black tonight for an hour." Just by mentioning race at all, Matthews is revealed to have some framework of inequality in his noggin regarding non-whites. And the second part of this quote pretty much backs that up. What does his being black have to do with the State of the Union address? Nothing, unless somewhere in the back of your mind you think it is a hinderance.

I have a thing for stereotypes. Stereotypes cause us to assume that members of a large group of people that share just one trait (race, religion, etc), must therefore share behaviors and attitudes. Some are downright incorrect, but some stereotypical behavior may be reinforced by pressures within their related communities. An obvious example is the idea of mocking an "uncle Tom" in the black community. Growing up, I used to watch "In Living Color" all of the time. They had a recurring skit about Tom and Tom, two black brothers that dressed, spoke, and acted like a couple of white guys. As a 12 year old white kid in Craig, Colorado, I didn't really get it beyond "black people don't do that, so it's funny because these guys are black." But the power behind the skit is the idea that blacks that act like whites are somehow betraying their community. So, there is pressure within the black community to "not act white." It is exemplified by this skit. In brief: be a stereotypical black person or be mocked.


Defining what white people and black people are "supposed to act like" is really a racist thing to do, isn't it? So I've always loved it when I see people that "are supposed to" behave or believe a certain way based on stereotypes do the exact opposite. I'm fascinated by black conservatives, Islamic feminists, Jewish athletes, Whole Wheat Bread, and the Tongans that have been showing up on "The Biggest Loser." Tongans getting skinny? Whaaaaa? I guess it makes me happy to see people doing what they feel is best regardless of what their peers and the rest of us think or say about it.

When I started working with my friend Sam, he kept sending me articles about sports that were posted on ESPN.com's Page 2. I like sports, but I'm no superfan. But Page 2 is not just sports. It's sports with jokes, and sports with social commentary. I started reading it every day, and in 2006 I read this article by LZ Granderson about his son learning to play hockey, a sport he loves. LZ Granderson loves hockey. LZ Granderson is black? Awesome! I guess it makes sense, though. He's a sports writer, which means he has a passion for competitive games. Plus, he grew up in Detroit, nicknamed Hockeytown for good reason. Nevertheless, because hockey is viewed by the black community as, in the words of LZ's sister, "for white people," he interested me.

I always read his columns after that, and they were always dead-on and thought-provoking. A topic that he wrote about frequently was homosexuality and athletics. I didn’t think too much about it, until I read this. LZ Granderson loves hockey. LZ Granderson is black. LZ Granderson is gay. This man is an anti-stereotypes triple threat!  Let's recap the stereotypes and pressures he has put up with: hockey is for white people, gays and sports don't mix, and according to Prop 8 voter demographics and this guy "Black America...will always reject...homosexuality."

So I salute you, LZ Granderson, for having the stones to be your own man regardless of all the pressure to be someone else. You're a great role model for anyone who recognizes their individuality.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Goodbye, Facebook


Marijuana, the St. Louis of illegal drugs 
I don't remember much from D.A.R.E. in the 6th grade, mostly because I spent that class time staring at the class fish tank and worrying that the girl I sat next could smell the gas that I kept passing (I found out from her little brother a couple years letter that she could).  But I do remember the description of marijuana as a "gateway drug." They said smoking pot would lead into the harder drugs that we learned about, like crack, heroin, barbiturates, acid, and this newer, cheaply made drug called crystal meth. It made sense at the time, and over the next 10 years I saw a lot of people move on from smoking weed to some pretty nasty crap. You get used to being baked, and after a while, you start wondering what other drugs do. 
Maybe the guy you buy your weed from wants to a have a "rockstar party" where everyone stays up all night drinking and snorting coke. "Dude, I heard pure coke's no worse for you than drinking coffee." No big deal. And rockstar+party=good times, right? Harmless fun. Maybe that same guy gets high with you, and he likes his weed laced with a little PCP. "Dude, it's just at little bit." It always starts as a little bit, no big deal, but I bet the guy in this picture said "dude it's just a hit of meth, no biggy" one time, too. Now, he's probably getting in fights because he's trying to steal the disgusting meth crystals a fellow rehab patient picked out of the open sore on his arm so he can eat them. 
  
In 6th grade they made it seem like a foregone conclusion that you'd become a crackhead after smoking pot. But it doesn't always work that way. Most of the time, self control and sound judgment prevent people from heading down the slippery-slope to meth-headery. But that doesn't mean weed alone is harmless. I think the best description I've heard of why marijuana is non-advisable in a secular sense was from Randy Marsh on South Park: 

"The truth is, marijuana probably isn't going to make you kill people. It most likely isn't going to fund terrorists. But pot makes you feel fine with being bored, and it's when you're bored that you should be learning a new skill or some new science or being creative. If you smoke pot, you may grow up to find out that you're not good at anything."

Potheads, man. Have you ever known a productive pothead? Again, smoking weed doesn't always turn you into a pothead, but it can. Like the kind of guy who started smoking it when he was 16, and now lives in his mom's basement at 35, and gets high and plays Bases Loaded on his original NES all day long. He doesn't work, and he complains about things that "totally bum me out." When you choose to smoke weed rather than go to work or school to make your life better, you're a pothead.

So why would you expose yourself to this? Why risk ending up a wrecked addict or a total loser for the frivolity of plant in a pipe? Beats me.

And so that's why I'm deactivating my Facebook profile. Got it? Maybe you don't. Lemme splain. 


Facebook is digital marijuana in both the gateway and pothead sense. It may not be a gateway in the same direct manner, like being on Facebook will probably not take you down some dark path into "harder" social networking sites that will steal your soul and turn you into a criminal. Rather, it's a gateway into extramarital relationships that can destroy the life and happiness you now have. "Dude, it's just a friend request from that chick I made out with in '97, no biggy..." Next thing you know, you're pissed at yourself and regretting jammin' on this same chick after a Facebook-arranged meeting at Jack in the Box somehow escalated to steamy car windows. It's another slippery slope.

A brother-in-law of my friend was the Bishop of a congregation in another state. This is a calling that consists of constantly helping other people with spiritual matters. A Bishop falling into dark temptation is the spiritual equivalent of a financial planner filing for bankruptcy. Still, he got himself involved in elicit online relationship with some woman, betraying his God and his family. I'm not sure if his family will make out of this in tact, all I know is that this has caused a whole lot of suffering for him, his wife, and his children. I'm guessing when this all started he wasn't thinking "I'm totally going to have cybersex with this chick and destroy my happiness. It'll be horrible! I can't wait!" But it happened. And it happened to a person this is perceivably least likely to affect. So if it can happen to him, it can happen to me.

Before Shalene and I got married she brought this issue up with me. I used to be on Myspace too, but I never used either network to find or connect with chicks. At the time, I just thought she was being paranoid because I've never had any intentions of online escapades. But then she brought up the hypothetical example of one of her married-with-children brothers "friending" some girl he knew in high school. Even though it would not be with the intent rekindling something from the past, and most likely not lead to anything at all, it just looks bad. Shalene's question was, "what's the point? Why do you even want to stay in contact with people you haven't seen in years, and probably never will see again. It's not like this makes your life any better." And it doesn't. I love my family, especially my wife. I don't want jeopardize my family for anything at all, let alone the capability to write "those must be space pants, because your butt's looking out of this world" to Ian in a manner in which everyone I've ever met can read it. I cancelled my Myspace account then, yet my Facebook remained because I still wanted to maintain a connection to people via the web. Honestly though, the longer I have these connections the more frivolous they reveal themselves to be. And this is why Facebook users are like potheads.

Potheads get high and waste time. Facebook junkies sit on their computer for hours at a time chatting, looking at pictures of their high-school classmate's trip to Tennessee, taking surveys, playing simple video games, and writing mundane "status updates" that resemble the tweets on Conan's Twitter Tracker. Seriously, Facebook makes you like a pothead because you'd rather do this useless, empty crap than something productive, like fostering meaningful relationships with human beings in their physical state. I stay in contact with my real friends outside of social networking. Most of my Facebook "friends" are acquaintances from old jobs, classes, home, or church that I will probably never see again. And the fact that I have made this electronic connection to them has little to no impact on my life whatsoever. Does it really matter if some dude from my freshman Economics class can read that I'm "so sick of this weather," or if he can see how clever I am when I say "Mariah Carey sure has some Golden Globes"? If I would have held out in 2005 and not signed up for Facebook like I said I would at the time, nothing would be different for me.

So, if you're reading this as one of my Facebook acquaintances, I mean not to offend. But if you'll probably never see me again, and if that fact doesn't somehow make your life hollow, there's really no reason to be sad that useless information about me is no longer posted in an easily accessible place. Just send me an email and I'll tell you all the boring and retarded details of life that you don't really care about anyway. Or better yet, you can read it here. I bet you won't, though. 


So, to recap, no real concrete upside, and a huge potential downside. Goodbye, digital weed. I'll miss you, but probably not for very long.