Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RIP Lorenzo Charles

Just a warning up front: I'm going to get pretty excited about being a State fan in this post. So, you know. If you're a State fan like me or if you just like the way I write, by all means, continue on. Otherwise, you have been warned.

You've probably seen or read about the death of N.C. State legend Lorenzo Charles this week in a bus accident.

If you went to State, or if you're a basketball fan in general, you know the story of the 1983 Cardiac Pack. Charles caught the last-second heave from Dereck Whittenburg and dunked the ball home as time expired to give the Pack its second national championship (still tied for sixth most all time, by the way, making State one of only 14 schools with two or more national titles).

That team was the first Cinderella. The term "survive and advance," which is so popular now among coaches and analysts originated with Jimmy V during that run. It remains the biggest shot in NCAA tournament history. I will not argue about this. Facts are facts. The dunk, followed by Jimmy V dashing around the court afterward, is one of the most memorable scenes in the history of March Madness.

This post isn't so much about that iconic scene as it is about the feelings and emotions Charles' death brought to the surface.

Let me tell you something about State fans: we are a legit family. We are often the butt of jokes of almost every other school in the ACC, and the result is an almost cult-like protectiveness and intense love of each other. We band together because we have to and because, very often, we have many of the same awful -- and, a bit more rarely, wonderful -- experiences.

My ex-girlfriend used to make fun of me because of the wolfie hand sign State fans make at each other. But it's universal. If I'm out walking around or driving around and I see the Block S or some other State insignia, I know that person gets it. I make the hand sign, and, invariably, the other person smiles and makes it back because he or she knows I get it. It means instant brotherhood.

I spent a few formative years in New Jersey. I didn't move to North Carolina until I was 11. I didn't grow up a fan of any of the North Carolina schools. I sort of liked both UNC and Duke then because they were both successful while I was young, and that's what young kids do. They root for the winners. I knew of State. I knew of Jimmy V, but I didn't really understand what it meant to live in North Carolina and choose one of the three.

I never did, really. Not until college. And even then, I was originally accepted to Wake Forest. I'd told Wake Forest I was going to attend in the fall. I was getting orientation information and welcome phone calls. It wasn't until my old calculus teacher said I should consider State's engineering school because I was really good at calculus.

So I did.

While I didn't stay with engineering for long, I do not regret for one second choosing to attend State. I love everything about my tenure there, and I love how much we love our school.

Here's another thing about being a State fan: it takes work. It's not easy to root for State.

Think about it. How hard can it really be to cheer on Duke or UNC? I live in Maryland now. There's no other school around. How hard can it possibly be to cheer on Maryland? These are the three most successful ACC programs of the past 10 to 15 years.

Oh, poor you. Your team only won 23 games this season. Nothing against fans of these teams (well that's not true. I have a lot against fans of these teams, with a grudging exception for my friends haha), but c'mon.

State has been cursed with mismanagement, bad decisions, sloppy play and terrible luck. But that's OK. I love this team and this school. And I'm 100 percent proud to be a State fan.

ESPNU ran a series of commercials about colleges a few years ago, and this was the essence of State's commercial:

This is not red.
Not light red or dark red.
This is behaving like a pack of wolves.
It's where Torry first went deep and where Lorenzo made the shot.
This is never giving up,
Not ever giving up.
No, this is much more than red.

I get the chills when I read that to this day. Every time. I once wrote a column about it for Technician back in school. I got more feedback about that column than anything else I ever wrote for any newspaper for the simple reason it speaks to State fans.

As I wrote in the column, we always believe. It happened once. It can happen again. Why not now? Why not this game? Why not tonight? I was there for two of those exact scenarios back in 2006: the back-to-back games against Boston College and Florida State. I won't go into detail about them here, but man. Look them up if you need to. Awesome.

The point is the things that make us State fans go much deeper than "oh our team is so good!" Because, frankly, they haven't been very good for quite some time. And for as frustrating as that is now, whenever the teams finally break do through, it will be that much sweeter for us.

But State is responsible for some of the most important and memorable people and moments in the history of college sports -- especially basketball.

We are largely responsible for the formation of the ACC in the first place. Everett Case, who made State the dominant basketball program in the Southern Conference and early ACC, is responsible for many of the traditions schools everywhere still use.

In 1974, David Thompson, the best college basketball player ever, and his team ended the run of eight straight national titles for UCLA in the Final Four before taking the title themselves. And of course, the 1973 team went undefeated, but it was prohibited from tournament play for some terrible reason or another.

Then there's 1983. The original Cinderella team. And Jimmy V. It is impossible to watch his ESPY speech without getting teary-eyed. He died not long after, but his motto, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up," has been a mantra for State fans ever since. So much of what he said that night is valuable life advice.

"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives.
Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day.
Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought.
Number three is you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy.
But think about it. If you laugh, you think and you cry -- that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special."

I like to think I've tried to live like that, especially these past few months where I've really been working on turning things around.

And then of course, the last thing he said that night:

"Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever."

Wow. What else can you say?

Because of how tight-knit we are (and I'm not saying other fan bases aren't like this. I'm just not writing about them.), things like Charles' tragic death hit us hard and bring up these emotions.

I love being a State fan, and I love that we have these common experiences and events in our past that draw us together. It's just hard work sometimes. But man will it be worth it when our time comes.

RIP Lorenzo. Go Pack.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Recovery, Accountability and Affirmation, baby

OK look. I'm not going to say I was on a bender. I think a bender requires a certain negative, down-in-the-dumps mental state. I was decidedly the opposite of that the entire time.

This was entirely a celebration of my birthday and of seeing friends and family I haven't seen in a long time and of just generally being young and alive.

But the nine-day period from Friday, June 17 through Saturday, June 25 -- whew. I do believe that's as close as I'll ever come to a bender.

Two ridiculous nights in Savannah (if you missed it, read all about it in my three-part Savannah story: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.). A night with two old college friends, Tanner and Clark. My birthday with my best friend Jon and his girlfriend, which most decidedly earned a place on the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness. And then a ridiculous Saturday night, partying with one of my newest friends for her birthday (and mine, as she excitedly told almost everyone, leading to many shots [Thanks, Katie haha]). Five nights out of nine were spent drunk. Before last night, I hadn't had more than five or six hours of sleep per night in two weeks. I mean. I didn't even do that in college. It couldn't have been more awesome though.

A quick word about Saturday night before I move on to my fitness update.

Mike is a a friend of Katie's who I met for the first time Saturday night, and he was absolutely raving about this shot combo he loves. You take a shot of Jameson whiskey and chase it with a shot of pickle juice. Yes, you read that right. And yes, it sounds like a nightmare.

It wasn't long before he was tapping Katie and me on the shoulder and holding Jameson and pickle juice. Well then. Here we go. I have to say, it was not nearly as terrible as I thought it was going to be. The pickle juice immediately canceled out the burn of the Jameson. But then I just tasted pickles for a while afterward. Other drinks cleared that up eventually, but you know. Pickles.

Without question, the best part of the night was the dancing. Ask my cousins or my brother. I was just itching to dance the entire weekend in Savannah, but there was never really an outlet for it. The dueling piano bar was promising, but it just didn't work for me.

Saturday night, however. Man. Let's go. They played a solid mix of hip hop and 80s and terrible pop songs, and it just happened.

I know three things:

1. I almost assuredly make a fool out of myself when I'm dancing.
2. When I get a little drunk, I cannot stop myself from dancing.
3. I care not at all that I look a little foolish.

I have to say, it was awesome. They absolutely had me at "Take Me Home Tonight."

The night ended with me falling asleep on the Metro, and eating a double Quarterpounder and fries from McDonald's at 4 a.m. So, like I said, that night closed out a nine-day span that's as close as I'll ever get to a bender.

But it was a fun, happy bender. So there's that.

Now, after spending three days in Savannah and six days in Charlotte, I was expecting my little weight-loss odyssey to hit a speed bump. I ran exactly once -- the day before I went to Savannah. And I most definitely did NOT really keep track of what I was eating. And then, oh yeah, I drank, like, a million drinks.

After Saturday night, I knew nothing of note was going to happen on Sunday. I ran a few errands that needed running after being out of town for 10 days. I walked to Jersey Mike's (great success!), and then I collapsed on the couch for the remainder of the day, only leaving to take the dog on the second of our twice-daily two-mile walks. It was magnificent after so many days in a row of GO GO GO GO GO.

Today was going to be the day I got back to it. I walked the dog, then I went to the gym to run. I was ready for the run to be rough. Like, really rough. Yes, I run on a treadmill. But that's because it's easy on my knees, and I don't like running in the heat. So whatever. I usually just get on and run 30 or 35 minutes on speed 6, which is a 10-minute mile pace. Nothing crazy.

As soon as I started, I could feel it was going to be a good one. I always start off the run with "The Distance" by Cake. I felt completely energized. I was cruising. I pumped it up to 6.5 around the two-mile mark. At 2.5 miles, "Knights of Cydonia" came on. If there weren't other people in the gym, I would have probably yelled in excitement. It has a perfect, driving drum beat. Just exactly what you want to hear when you're running. So great.

I pushed it up to speed 7.5 for the last half mile because of the song, and I was rolling, man. I made it to 31 minutes straight, and then walked a four-minute cool down. I felt so, so great. I was expecting a day where I ran a mile and a half, walked for a few minutes and then ran another mile and a half or so. This blew me away.

I hadn't weighed myself yet because I was afraid to, honestly. If you were keeping track, before I went to Charlotte and Savannah, I'd made it down to 206 from 227. 21 pounds! I fully expected to see a 210 or a 212 or 214 on the scale today.

I got home from my run, stretched and got ready for my shower. I got on the scale. 205.5!!

What the shit!

I'm fully aware I lost a good bit of water weight running on a treadmill for 35 minutes, but that number still means I did not gain any significant weight over the past 10 days. Color me floored.

So that's where I'm at now. It's almost July, so I'll take some more progress pictures with no intention of posting them publicly just yet. My short-term goal is to be less than 200 pounds by the end of July, but I'm just going to keep on working, and we'll see what happens.

For now, I'm happily standing at 205.5, which has contributed greatly to me being happier than I've been in years. I just need to make sure I get out there soon to dance again. And! Softball game soon! Less than two weeks!

Nick, if you were here, I would pound my chest, yell "MAN LET'S GO" and then chest bump you. Goddamn I feel good.

Let us go.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

It is your birthday.

Well, it's actually my birthday. I turned 29 today. Today is the first birthday I've actively dreaded. I suppose that won't end any time soon now.

I actually really enjoyed 23-26. Those were good birthdays and years, really. Turning 23 was fine because it was still early 20s. And I was able to justify 24-27 as mid-20s.

My 28th birthday made me a little uneasy because it was uncomfortably close to 30, and it is most decidedly late-20s. You can't spin 28. And you for damn sure can't spin 29. I'm now one away.

As the joke goes in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you've got a great career ahead of you. You have, like, four years until you're 30.

How in the world did this happen? Fuckin' a, man. I graduated high school 11 years ago. I started college 11 years ago in August. I graduated from undergrad SEVEN years ago this year. What the shit.

This won't be a sad-bastard post though. I'm not sad, really. I haven't been this happy in just about as long as I can remember. It's been a tough few months up until this point. There were some issues that needed exorcising. The issues were there for years based on things I did and needed to do in untenable situations. I've written about some of these things over the past couple of weeks, and maybe I'll write about more of them more specifically later on.

But right now? I'm 29 fucking years old man. I'm in a better place mentally than I've been for quite some time. Physically, I'm looking and feeling better than I have in years. I'm not all the way back, but I'm getting there. Progress. I has it. I have a little less hair than I'd like, but hey. What can you do? I didn't win the hair genes jackpot. It happens.

I have my health. I have an amazing family. I get along spectacularly well with my parents and brother and sister. I have uncles, aunts and cousins that, no matter how long we've been apart, when we get back together it's like we never left at all. I have friends that would drop everything for me if I needed it, as I would for them. I have the best dog in the history of dogkind.

The Yankees are playing well. The N.C. State basketball irrational hope and optimism express is ramping up again, as it does so often. I just feel good. You know?

I love where I live. There really is nothing like living in the DC area. It's amazing. Plus, there are SO many job opportunities around.

It could be so much worse. I have so much to be thankful for, and I feel so incredibly lucky. Thank you to every one who ever comes to this page and reads my thoughts, however random and unimportant they may be. This is fun for me. I like to write. Sometimes I can be funny, though probably not nearly as often as I think. But I'm having fun writing again.

I got to spend last night with two of my closest friends from the old college newspaper. When you work at a college newspaper, you are in the trenches with these people. You become family. Because everyone hates the college paper. It's always terrible writing, and you can't get shit done because people look down on you as "just a student." Shit's tougher than it looks, man. So these guys are family.

And then tonight, I'm going out with my best friend and his girlfriend. This guy man. We've known each other for 17 years now. We have been through some shit. It goes beyond friend with him. He's a brother to me. So we'll probably go through some more shit tonight. Like you do. Debauchery. Party of three.

So you know what? Yeah. I'm 29. I feel good. I'm looking better. I'm approaching the best shape I've ever been in. I'm healthy, safe and happy. I've shaken off the doldrums that plagued me for the past several years. Life is good, man!

Today felt like a good day to look back at how things have gone and where I have them going. It's a real benefit to having a birthday almost exactly halfway through the year. Plus, with turning 29 and with all the changes that have been going on lately, I have felt even more nostalgic than the usual "a lot." Thanks again for reading.

I'm heading back up north tomorrow, so I'll be back writing on Monday!

As for today, happy birthday to me! LET'S GO!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ohhhh Savannah Part 3

My Weekend in Savannah; Or Why You Shouldn't Send a Text Saying "I'm at a Hospital" after Midnight Part 3

When my cousin Kris got married in September of 2009, it was the first time the whole family had really gotten together when we were all above drinking age. My dad and his brothers and their families and us got together a few times for huge vacations, but the cousins were always younger. I think I was 18 on our last big all-inclusive vacation.

So this wedding was absolutely insane. Best wedding I've ever been to, and I don't anticipate that changing any time soon. They had a live band playing 80s and oldies, and trust me when I say that's the most efficient way to get the maximum amount of bodies on the dance floor.

Well, it was a big family wedding with an open bar. The drinks were flowing, starting at around 3 p.m., ending around 10 p.m.

Let me tell you something else about me. When I get a couple of drinks in me, I have the propensity to dance. As my friends from softball can attest, what happens once we get two or three beers down? I start to jam in my seat.

The wedding was no different, except instead of three or four drinks, it was 13 or 14 drinks. And the band was playing 80s music. I'm sorry, but if they're going to play "Billie Jean" I am compelled to dance. I am, of course, making no claims about being any good at it. It just happens, and I have a hell of a lot of fun.

What does this have to do with Savannah? Uncle Steven apparently began referring to me as the "funky cousin" based on my performance at the wedding. So his girlfriend Kim and Lindsey's friends Nicole and Laura knew me as the funky cousin before I arrived. I believe his exact words were "I've never known a Jew with rhythm until you, but I suppose that's because you're only half Jewish." I mean. I'll take it. Gladly.

Much to Kim's great delight, it took exactly two bourbon sweet teas at Bernie's on Friday before I was jamming gleefully in my seat and saying things like, "This is most definitely my jam," and "I can't dance to this, man, play something else."

So there you go. This guy: funky cousin. Nice to meet you.

Back to the haunted zombie tour! After the guy's camera battery jumped out, the girls and I were all sufficiently creeped out. I'm sure there is a perfectly logical and reasonable explanation for the battery jumping out. Of course there is. But even if the hatch pops open, there's usually something holding the battery in, right? At this point, after all the drinking and ghost stories, and it's close to midnight or after midnight -- the mood had been set, and we were perfectly happy believing in the not-so-logical explanation. It was more fun anyway.

The tour continued to other cemeteries and houses with creepy pasts. And, of course, no haunted tour is complete without a stop by an abandoned hospital. Unfortunately, we couldn't go inside, much to my dismay. They were in the process of "getting clearance" to go inside, whatever that means. But it wouldn't be possible until August, and even then, it would cost $100 to go on that tour. Oh well.

As I mentioned back in part two, Matt and Jeb's constant texting was a theme for the night. Still, I wasn't any less drunk than before, and it wasn't any less dark outside. I got another text from my brother, "Hey where are you? We want to come meet you."

Yes, I understand that. I still don't know where I am, so I gave them the only descriptor I could.

"OK, well I'm at a hospital."

Right. At the time, it didn't occur to me at all what a text saying I was at a hospital would mean, especially with it being nearly 1 a.m. and following 12 hours of drinking.

The texts stopped and the phone calls started picking up at that point. I excused myself around a corner and explained I was not, in fact, injured, suffering from alcohol poisoning or in an actual hospital. Haunted tour. Abandoned hospital. Relax. And no, I still don't know how to tell you to get here.

The tour finally ended at a bar called McDonough's at around 1:30 a.m. One of the girls wanted to keep hanging out, the other admitted they were driving to Chicago at 7 a.m. (where they're from), and it's a 16-hour drive, which meant they'd be waking up in four or five hours. Not really conducive to continued hanging out, unfortunately, so we said our goodbyes.

However, I finally had a legit landmark to give Jeb and Matt. They arrived 15 or 20 minutes later, and we went into the bar for a handful more drinks. I think I had two more drinks in there to bring my total for Friday to the following:

4 bourbon sweet teas
8 beers
2 lemon drop shots
1 Washington apple shot
1 cider


The bars don't close until 4 a.m., but I had no interest at all in closing down the bar. Around 3 or so, I recognized the importance of getting some food in me since we didn't actually eat dinner, and all I'd had to eat all day was a chicken wrap at around 12:30 p.m. Someone in the bar suggested a place across the street called Parker's, which turned out to be a gas station with a breakfast hot bar inside that was open 24 hours. Like you do.

Needless to say, Matt and I went. Jeb stayed behind for a bunch more drinks and closed the bar. I ended up eating two sausage, egg and cheese biscuits, some cheese grits and a little fried chicken. Matt had a similar spread. It was amazing. Well, no. It was gross, I'm sure. But it was exactly what we needed.

We found a table out front of the gas station and hung out for, like, two more hours. Jeb stumbled over around 4:30 and went inside for some food. He came out with two huge take-out boxes of food. Apparently, he asked a rather large man for suggestions, and he ended up just asking for what the big man got.

One of the boxes contained only a foot-long piece of fried fish. I don't know what kind of fish. I had a bite of it, and then we ended up giving the fish to a homeless guy. The other box contained cheese grits, scrambled eggs, hash browns, sausage and bacon. And, oh by the way, sitting there in the middle of the cheese grits was a kielbasa. Of course.

We had a great time just sitting out front of the gas station at our table. Talking to all the drunk guys and girls that stumbled by. We had a group of about five girls that sat with us for about 30 or 45 minutes while they ate their drunk food.

I never could have imagined when I woke up to drive to Savannah on Friday morning that the night was going to end nearly nearly 23 hours later with eating breakfast food from a gas station. Luckily, it turned out our hotel was only a few blocks away. We stumbled back and fell into bed around 5:30 a.m.

What. A. Night.

The next day was much more low key. Fortunately, I continued my lifelong streak of waking up without a hangover. GREAT SUCCESS. Once I had some water, I was good to go.

We found a restaurant for lunch that served oysters and margaritas. I had three margaritas, and then we wandered around Savannah in daylight (for a change) for several hours. We managed to stumble across the very first haunted house from the night before -- the one with the camera battery incident. It was less frightening during the day.

We ate some dinner, and then hung out at a dueling piano bar for a few hours. No real crazy stories at that point.

I'd never been to a piano bar before, and I was told this one was a little disappointing. They played a few too many songs I didn't care about at all. But there were a few that got me out of my seat and into my "funky cousin" suit. Faaantastic.

Like I said, it was a more low-key night. We got back to the hotel and into bed around 2:30 a.m. The final tally for Saturday was:

3 margaritas
2 beers (one was a to-go beer, while walking around a park!)
3 jack and cokes at the piano bar

Got up the next day, ate some breakfast and drove back. All the weekend did for me was reinforce the need for drunken cousin debauchery way more often.

I would go back to Savannah tonight for a repeat performance. After everything that has gone on the past several weeks and months, I needed this more than I can even explain. All in all, on a scale of 1 to 10, the weekend in Savannah gets a 73.

Check out part one of the story here and part two of the story here!

So! In other news, tomorrow is my birthday. It's the first birthday I haven't been excited about. I'd like to post again tomorrow because I'm heading back home on Friday and likely won't write anything after spending, what I can only imagine will be, the whole day in the car. And then I'm heading out for a softball friend's birthday on Saturday night! Hey-oh! I'm a busy guy these days.

That's all I've got for now. LET'S GO!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ohhhh Savannah Part 2

My Weekend in Savannah; Or Why You Shouldn't Send a Text Saying "I'm at a Hospital" after Midnight Part 2

Here's the thing about me. I'm not a heavy drinker. At all. Every once in a while, I throw a ridiculous night in there. But for the most part, if I'm out drinking with friends, I feel a pretty good buzz after maybe four drinks. It doesn't take much.

By the time we got back to the hotel after the second bar on Friday afternoon to prepare for our haunted pub crawl, I was at least 10 or 11 drinks deep. So it's around 7:30 p.m. I think, and I'm gone.

I remember getting into a cab to get to the starting point of the pub crawl, a bar called Moon River. I have absolutely no recollection of the cab ride there. Apparently, my brother, my cousin Lindsey and Lindsey's two friends joined me in the cab, and there was a lively discussion about tattoos and possibly getting some later on? (We didn't, apparently.)

I don't know.

My memory catches back up when I'm standing at the bar with Lindsey's two friends (Laura and Nicole), ordering a water before we head down to the basement for the start of the haunted tour. The water definitely helped, as I remember everything else the rest of the night.

On the whole, the haunted pub crawl was only OK. It was pretty cool to walk around downtown Savannah and near River Street and just kind of hang out.

The first stop was the best, with some pretty cool stories of people seeing things and strange happenings. I'm afraid the alcohol has robbed me of the details of the stories. So we're downstairs in the basement of the first bar, and I'm talking to Jeb and we notice these two girls standing reasonably near us.

I start chatting them up as we're going through the tour, just talking and hanging out. We go upstairs to the bar to get a to-go drink (no open container laws for the win! We brought drinks from the previous bar to each new bar all weekend).

The girls and I walk outside because the tour is getting ready to leave. We get to the next bar when I look around and see Uncle Steven, his girlfriend Kim and...none of the rest of our party.

Matt, Jeb, Lindsey, Nicole and Laura are just gone. We couldn't even make it past the first bar without losing 60 percent of our party. Sigh.

I start getting texts from Matt and Jeb, which ends up being a theme of the night, except I'm in the middle of a city I've never been and, oh yeah, drunk. I have no idea where I am, which also ends up being a theme of the night.

As I said, the tour was unremarkable, but the bars were pretty cool. We're in the second bar on the couch just relaxing before we leave for the next stop when the tour guide gathers everyone outside to leave. Uncle Steven came up to me to say he and Kim were calling it a night because it was like 9:30ish at that point. I, obviously, was not ready to head back just yet.

So the party of eight we left the hotel with to go on the tour was now down to just me after only the second stop on the haunted pub crawl.

There were two more stops on the tour. I bought the girls a drink at the third stop, some kind of cider. Pretty tasty, I think. But I have to be honest, I don't really remember what anything tasted like at that point.

Matt and Jeb kept texting me to find out where I was, but I had nothing. My only directions were "we turned left at a light, and then right down an alley." So, yeah. Not very helpful.

At the last stop on the tour, the three of us get one more round of drinks, and the girls ask me if I want to join them on the midnight zombie tour they have next. Yes I do. Yes. I do. The tour actually did sound pretty awesome -- going around cemeteries and haunted houses, etc.

One small problem. They didn't know where the tour was supposed to start. Obviously I did not either. So we just kind of wandered around Savannah, trying to find a group of people on a tour. We walked and walked. Turned down this street and that street. They called their hotel (where they booked the tour), and the hotel said it was starting at some bar called Cleary's I think? We finally find Cleary's, and we get there right at the meeting time for the tour. There are no people. Of course there aren't. We do the only thing we can do and keep wandering.

There are squares all over the city with parks in them. We turned a corner and saw there was a square with a cemetery in it. This looked promising. We made our way to the other side of the cemetery, and there's the tour! We'd somehow only missed the introductions.

The wandering around, however, did nothing to help my bearings or sense of where I was in the city. So Matt and Jeb kept texting, and I kept saying things like:

"I don't know where I am."
"I've never been to this city before. I'm drunk. It's pitch black. It's after midnight. What makes you think I can answer these questions?"
"There are houses around. Does that help?"
"You keep asking for locations, but I don't know what to tell you. Houses don't have signs."

So on the tour we go.

There's a house in Savannah that no one wants to own. Hasn't been lived in for more than a hundred years. The house has no electricity -- it doesn't even have a power box to make it capable of having electricity. Allegedly, a girl was found tied up in a chair in the window in the late 1800s. Dead, naturally. If you take a picture of the window, you're supposed to be able to see funny green orb-like lights in the window where she was found.

Of course, I forgot my camera. Like you do. But! One guy tried to take a picture, but the battery jumped out of his camera and hit the ground as he tried to snap the photo. So. That happened.

This is getting pretty long again. Part three coming soon, with the exciting conclusion and why my family refers to me as the funky cousin. Yes, really. Holla.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Ohhhh Savannah Part 1

Sorry for missing my Wednesday and Friday posts last week. This whole driving to Charlotte and then to Savannah thing really threw me off. Anyway, I've got some stories from the weekend, and I'll share them here. I'll probably break it up into at least two parts so you aren't faced with too much of a ridiculous post. Anyway, here's part one!

My Weekend in Savannah; Or Why You Shouldn't Send a Text Saying "I'm at a Hospital" after Midnight Part 1

Let me tell you something about Savannah: It is awesome. Like, for real.

As you know, I drove from DC to Charlotte on Wednesday, and then from Charlotte to Savannah on Friday morning.

Two of my cousins had been planning this trip for a couple months, and they were trying to get everyone down there to have a little fun together. We always have such a ridiculously great time together, and we absolutely need to do this more often than just weddings. Yearly, etc. And the great thing, as observed by my uncle, is it doesn't matter how long we've been apart, or how long it's been since we've seen each other. We get together, and it's like we hang out and talk to each other every day. It's never awkward; it's never weird or strained. We just get together, and we know we're having a great time.

I really wanted to do this trip from the first I heard about it, but I always just kind of figured I wouldn't be able to go because of everything going on with the job thing, and it's an insane drive from DC to Savannah, etc. Just seemed like it wouldn't work out. Well, things have changed over the past several weeks, and I suddenly was overwhelmed with the desire to go out and drink and participate in general debauchery (the sorts of things at which my cousins are quite good).

My cousin Jeb messaged me on Facebook chat on Tuesday in a last ditch effort to get me to come. I'd already resigned myself to missing it. With the dog, it just was a lot of logistics to work out.

Then I started thinking. Matty is in Charlotte. Charlotte ended up being less than a four-hour drive from Savannah. My dad travels around a lot for work, and I knew my mom was going to be in Florida watching my sister's dog because she was going to be in Chicago hanging out alone for back-to-back NKOTBSB concerts. I know. Long story. But! It turned out my dad was coming back to Charlotte early on Friday. If I could get myself to Charlotte, the logistics behind the drive became much more palatable.

So I just said, in so many words, "fuck it." I told Jeb I was in. I called home and told them I was driving home the next day, and we were going to do it. Spontaneity has never been a strength of mine. I've always been a go-with-the-flow kind of guy. Take it as it comes. Just kind of hanging out and seeing what happens. Well I figured I would change it up a little, stop thinking and planning and just do it.

I packed a bag and left the next day.

My brother and I left at 8 a.m. on Friday. I knew we'd have to come home on Sunday, so I wanted to get there as early as possible to maximize our time in Savannah.

I should have known how things would go when I called my cousin Jeb around noon to let him know we were close, and he was still in bed because of the night out before. Turns out he, his sister Lindsey and Lindsey's two friends were out until 5:30 a.m.

We grabbed some lunch at a cafe around the corner and walked down to River Street. The car stayed parked at the hotel the whole weekend, which was fantastic. We were close enough to walk everywhere we needed to go.

Once we got to River Street, Jeb was complaining because we'd been there for an hour and hadn't had a drink yet. So Jeb, Lindsey, my brother and I found a place called Bernie's Oyster House. I was drawn in by a sign promising sweet tea with bourbon in it. As I said on Facebook that afternoon, it's like they knew I was coming.

Oh boy were they fantastic. It was just after 1 p.m., and things went progressively downhill from there.

The bourbon sweet teas were like silk. I told the bartender it didn't even taste like there was any alcohol in it, and he responded by saying he put in a lot more the usual because he liked our group. Great success.

Well I had four of those bourbon sweet teas. And, as I recorded on Facebook, the first shot of the weekend occurred at 2:34 p.m. I believe it was a Washington apple. Two lemon drops followed not too long after.

We ended up staying at Bernie's until around 5 p.m., just hanging out and drinking a lot. One of Lindsey's friends met up with us there, and so did my uncle and his girlfriend. From there, we went to another bar, but I was most definitely drunk by that point -- along with my cousins and brother -- and have no idea what that bar was. It was pretty wide open, with some pool tables and bottles of Sweetwater Blue -- a great beer that tastes like blueberry muffins. If you've been to the World Beer Festival in Raleigh (well I'm sure it's in many place, but I went to the Raleigh beer fest), you may have tasted this beer. So good.

I think I had two or three. Honestly, this is the point in the evening where things get a little fuzzy. We walked back to our hotel, and Jeb and I hung out in the courtyard area outside with another beer or two while we waited for everyone to get ready to go to our haunted pub crawl.

The pub crawl is where things really got interesting. Part 2 to come!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Accountability and Affirmation, Baby!

First the sake of consistency, I'm picking April 17 as the start date for my weight-loss extravaganza.

That was around the day I weighed in at 227 and almost broke my 20-year vomitless streak out of disgust. Since then, I've made wholesale changes in my life -- many of which I outlined a week ago.

Look, it doesn't matter if you're working out if you're not eating right. You'll just completely sabotage yourself. So I've cut out a lot of the bullshit. No more Five Guys; no more Taco Bell; no more Papa John's. I'm allowing myself Chipotle once every two weeks, and I'm allowing Jersey Mike's once a week, if only because I need my sweet tea. But I probably won't go that often anyway.

That's the key, really. If you cut out everything you'll drive yourself crazy. A cheat meal here and there, when combined with a kick-ass day in the gym or as a reward for something is perfectly fine. And from my experience it helps stave off those cheat weeks or cheat months. I'm less likely to stuff myself on pizza if I know I've got a Chipotle burrito coming up.

Otherwise, lots of fruit and vegetables (I must have bought, like, a dozen peaches and plums this week). Chicken breast. Tuna. I've grown fond of the Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers frozen dinners and the Green Giant Veggie Steamers. A relatively cost-effective (and tasty) method for making sure I'm getting enough veggies. Plus, the meals are generally packed with protein.

I could definitely do better. There's always room for improvement. I could eat more fresh vegetables and more fruit. Less cheese (although I'm already eating, like, 1,000 percent less cheese than I did before). But, all in all, compared to how I was eating prior to April 17, I'm very proud of where I am.

As far as physical fitness goes, I've worked my way up to going to the gym six days a week. Three days of running and three days of lifting, plus resting on Sunday. I'm still walking Allie four miles every day though.

I've had to be careful with the running because I hurt my hamstring last year around this time, and it LITERALLY was still bothering me last month when I first started with softball. Knock on wood, I ran three days last week and felt no discomfort for the first time in a long time. Great success.

I had a GREAT week in the gym last week. On Friday, I was able to run three miles straight without stopping or slowing down for the first time since I ran a 5K back in September. And I had another great running day today -- finished all three miles (3.1, to be exact) in just more than 30 minutes.

Yes, it was on the treadmill, but it's been 1,000 degrees outside (today's awesome weather notwithstanding) and the treadmill doesn't make my knees throb for hours afterward. It's better than nothing, and it'll have to do. It may not sound like much, but this is significant progress considering I couldn't finish two miles without stopping for a rest or feeling discomfort just a few weeks ago.

At this point, I'm walking 28 miles per week and running nine miles per week. I figure another week or so of running three miles a day and I'll bump it up to 3.5 or maybe four. Or maybe I'll jump to running four days a week instead of three. We'll have to see how it goes.

Now, because I'd been trying to fake my way through weight-training with 25-pound dumbbells for a couple years, my stats on the weights in the gym are embarrassing, so I will not share them here right now. But we're making progress, and that's what really matters.

Now for the really important part (which, naturally, is at the bottom of the post. Writing 101 fail, folks). How am I looking and feeling?

I'm feeling better than I have since I ran my half-marathon a year and a half ago. I think I look thinner, but I see myself every day so it's hard to tell. I do know I am comfortably wearing shirts I haven't been able to wear in more than a year. And I'm using a belt hole I haven't seen since the half-marathon as well. GREAT success!

I don't have any idea what my body fat percentage is. I need to get something to measure that. But as of right now, no idea. I'll have to check on that this week.

I weighed in this morning at 206 (!), for a loss of 21 (!!) pounds over the past eight weeks. My goal, as I mentioned earlier, is to get to 180 pounds. But weight is just an arbitrary number -- for guys especially. What's more important is how you look, how you feel, how your clothes fit, how strong you are, etc. So if I feel accomplished and happy at 185 or 190 or 170 -- whatever it may be -- I'm fine with that.

So that's where I'm at right now. Back with another post on Wednesday. LET'S GO!


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Streak

Have you seen the Seinfeld episode "The Dinner Party?"

It's the one where George gets the ridiculous gore-tex coat. And Jerry and Elaine go to the bakery to get the chocolate bobka, and Jerry gets a black-and-white cookie, etc. Well during that episode, Jerry mentions that he has a vomit-less streak of 14 years that ends up breaking because of a bad black-and-white cookie.

I happen to have my own streak, though I'm unsure of the exact start date. I remember the scenario and setting of the last time very well.

We still lived in New Jersey, which puts the streak at AT LEAST 18 years. I think I was around 9 or 10 years old, which puts the streak, really, closer to 19 or 20 years (which, ironically, makes me want to vomit).

I remember being asleep on the top bunk of the bunk beds in my room and having really weird, vividly gory dreams -- strange for a 10-year-old, I think we'll all agree. I don't remember what I ate that night, and I'm damn sure I didn't watch any weird movies or TV shows. But I do remember waking up and seeing my mom walking up the stairs after she got home from work late that night.

I watched her through my open door as she came up the stairs, carrying a to-go box of food from some restaurant. When she reached the top of the steps, I poked my head over the top of the guard rail...and proceeded to, well, cover some ground. I'll say it that way.

I don't remember anything after that. But I am 99.99 percent sure that's the last time I vomited -- at LEAST 18 years ago and probably closer to 19 or even 20 years ago. That's a hell of a streak. Jerry's got nothing on me.

But because of this streak, I'm now pretty much afraid of throwing up. It hasn't happened in so long, the thought just freaks me out.

There were three close calls that I can remember.

The first was on one of our infamous Wednesday night parties in the Fall semester of 2004. Erik, me and the rest of the usual group doing what we did on those nights. Drinking ourselves silly and then who the hell knows. I must have had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-12 beers (oh to be 22 again...well, maybe not), and, at the time, I was a relative lightweight at drinking. That semester was the first time I'd ever even been drunk; so taking down a case by myself was ridiculous.

At some point during that night, all of the seating was, for reasons unknown to me, removed from my room. There were no chairs. I sprawled out on the floor face-down and waited for it to come. It did not. The floor was cool, and that probably helped. I made it to bed and woke up the next day, and that was that.

The next time was on June 23, 2008 -- my 26th birthday. The night started at Mitch's Tavern, where I met a bunch of friends and started off with about five or six beers. Then we moved on to East Village. I don't care what anyone says; I love East Village. I have too many fun memories there. I just love the place.

Let me tell you something about EV. They have this shot there called a blue crush. It is, of course, blue, and it tastes exactly like Sunkist orange soda. It is the best-tasting shot I've ever had.

At EV, Erik and a few other friends showed up. I mention Erik specifically because he was THE king of peer pressure. He could get you to do anything. From what I can remember, he took charge of basically funneling blue crushes down my throat. At this point, I'd already had around six beers. I'm not exactly a heavy drinker, and a high tolerance isn't usually one of my strong points.

I must have had 10 blue crushes that night. EV closed at 2, and the decision was made to go back to Erik's apartment for some Rock Band and more drinking. This is where it got dicey for me.

There were speed bumps and turns involved in the drive. I was not driving, clearly; but I do remember very sternly asking the driver to "turn slower" and "please god no more speed bumps. Find another way." There wasn't another way.

I was convinced it would happen either during the drive there or as soon as I got out of the car. Thankfully, it did not. I was belligerently excited to play Rock Band drunk, like you do, but I immediately passed out on Erik's couch. I have no recollection of anything after that -- did I wake up while we were there? How long we were there? Please god say I didn't drink anything else? How did I get home? When did I get home? How did I manage to remember setting my alarm to wake up and feed the dog?

Mysteries at the time. The next thing I remember is waking up at 8 a.m. to feed and walk Allie. My investigation the next day helped me conclude we were at Erik's for about two hours. I did not wake up, drink anything or vomit while we were there (Great success). I got home around 4:30 a.m. apparently and set my alarm before being propped up on my side in bed with some assistance.

I faced no significant threats to The Streak again until November 1, 2009. You may remember, that's the day I ran in the Raleigh half-marathon. I ran every step of the race, and finished in 2:19:51. It was a very hilly course. I remember around mile marker 8 feeling a little queasy. I'd just run eight miles and I still had more than four miles to go. That thought didn't help calm my stomach. As I was coming up a hill toward a drinking station I felt reasonably confident it was going to happen -- and soon.

I paused for a small cup of water, and I took some Gatorade with me as I left. Most of the Gatorade ended up on my shirt, seeing as how it's difficult to drink from a cup while you're running. But the water helped, and the queasiness abated.

I crossed the finish line, got my medal and screamed my lungs out in my car due to excitement. It did not happen!

So there you go. Those are really the only close calls.

As I mentioned briefly earlier, the downside to having this nearly 20-year streak is I'm now completely terrified of throwing up. It is very likely bordering on phobic. It can't be that big of a deal. People do it all the time, and, from what I understand, they often feel better afterward if a lot of drinking preceded it.

But I can't. The thought alone gives me the creeps and makes me shiver. And I plan to dedicate my life to extending this streak as long as I can.

Sorry this was kind of a gross topic. I tried to minimize the grossness as much as I could.

Anyway, check back next week! I plan to do a weekly "Accountability and Affirmation, baby!" update on the weight-loss extravaganza.

As for the weekend? Tonight, walking to a nice douchebag-less alcohol establishment with a couple friends, drinking inexpensive-but-tasty beer and watching old people dance (before I inevitably join them after a few drinks). Tomorrow? Redneck golf and a cooler of beer with said friends. If you're in the area, hit me up and come join us!


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

USC and the 2004 National Title

If you'll permit me a quasi-sports column for a few minutes...

Earlier this week, the BCS stripped Southern Cal of it's 2004 national championship. The action stems from the Reggie Bush mess. The NCAA found him ineligible for the 2004 season because of benefits he accepted from boosters, which led to Bush and the school giving back the Heisman trophy he won that season.

All of that is fine and good. I get why this "matters." But does anyone truly care?

USC destroyed Oklahoma in that title game, 55-19. The fans who were at that game more than SIX YEARS ago saw their team win a national title. They celebrated that night and in the days that followed.

The ruling is a formality. It means USC can't display the BCS trophy. Plus, the Associated Press isn't going to strip USC of the AP national title, so what is really accomplished here?

I started thinking about this during the Auburn title run this year. I'm sure you remember. Plenty of people were saying Auburn was just going to have vacate the title anyway because of the hoopla surrounding Cam Newton and the alleged money demands of his father during the recruitment process.

But those Auburn fans still celebrated winning a national title that night. They'll have those memories forever regardless of whether or not the BCS decides to take it away later. You can't erase that night from their memories.

I tried to think about this as an N.C. State fan. If we were ever to win a national title (HA! but go with me for a second) and it were taken away later. I'm not sure I'd care that much. Presumably, if I wasn't at the game, I would have watched it. I would have seen the win and celebrated accordingly.

Nothing any governing body would do could take that away from me. It doesn't unmake the shirts and hats. It doesn't undo the parties.

Newton and Bush were accused of or found guilty of things that happen at every major sports program in the country. I don't mean that to be an excuse, but if everyone knows it to be true, then maybe something should be done about it.

Picking and choosing the programs to investigate and punish is seemingly arbitrary. Or the NCAA waits until they have no choice but to investigate. I'm sure Ohio State and Jim Tressell did nothing with Terrelle Pryor it didn't do with other big-time recruits and players before him. But because stories surfaced, they had to step in and investigate this time.

In the end, it doesn't matter. USC fans still celebrated a national title in 2004 the same way Auburn fans celebrated this season.

So I guess my question to you is this: If you could have your team win a national championship, but the NCAA would take it away more than half a decade later, would you take it?

I think I would.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Music Post -- Guitar Edition!

In this edition, songs I'm into right now because I can play them on the guitar. When I was a sophomore in college, I decided I wanted to get a guitar. There was a very specific reason for this desire: I wanted to learn how to play Reel Big Fish's version of "Take on Me." Naturally.

This needs to be clear: I am not very good at the guitar. I never took lessons. I can't do solos. I learned by looking up guitar tabs for songs I wanted to play. That led to a decent proficiency in playing power chords -- three- and four-finger chords found mostly in pop-punk music because they can't play any better than I can.

That doesn't make them any less fun though.

The very first song I learned to play was Bush's "Glycerine." It is LITERALLY the same four power chords over and over again. Very easy to pick up.

So! Here is a collection of songs I can play on the guitar. It is not a completely collection. I can play more songs than this. And I make no claims as to how WELL I can play them. Just that I can play them, and they are, at least to me, recognizable. You'll notice, I think, a preponderance of power chords.

Oh, and yes, I did learn to play "Take on Me." Not the solo, of course. And the ska off-beat strokes are rough, but they are there!

The Beatles - "In My Life"

This is my favorite Beatles' song by a long shot. Originally, I thought I'd only be capable of playing the little intro hook at the beginning. It's easy enough. Then I looked up the chords, and it seemed manageable.

It was the fall of 2004, and I imagine Erik was sitting close-by behind me, messing with my drum practice pad. I just played this song over and over again, and sooner or later, it clicked.

For some reason, this is one of, like, four songs I have the ability to sing and play at the same time. Normally, I can't even think about talking while I'm playing (drums or guitar) without botching the words I'm trying to say or playing like Marty McFly when he forgets how to play because his parents' relationship is in jeopardy during the Enchantment Under the Sea dance. But this song I can do. I don't know either.

So there you go.

The Beatles - "Day Tripper"

I stumbled onto this one accidentally. I strummed an open low E, and I thought, "Damn that sounds familiar." Fortunately, "Day Tripper" came on my Winamp (yes, Winamp. It WAS the early 00s after all.) not long after that, and I connected the dots. I looked up the tab for the song and learned the riff. And it is a killer riff. Love it. The rest of the song can be accomplished with power chords (except for the solo, which I, of course, cannot play).

Weezer - "Buddy Holly"

Pure power chord fun. This song reminds me of the 90s. And if you know me at all, you know that's a sure way to my heart. I actually just looked this one up in the past few days. I'd never tried it before, but it's easy enough, sounds awesome and is super fun to play. Win!

Reel Big Fish - "Take on Me"

Ah yes. My favorite song by my favorite band, and the reason I wanted to get a guitar in the first place. Such a fun song to play AND sing. Every single one of you has tried your hand at the falsetto "in a day or twoooooo." Don't even try to deny it. Ska stroke patterns are super hard for me because, as I mentioned, I'm not very good at the guitar. But I try! And it sounds enough like the song that I'm satisfied with it.

Smashing Pumpkins - "Today"

Another one where I figured I could handle the intro hook. I was right; it's easy enough. But the rest of the song is power chords! Success!

My biggest guitar pet peeve is when I find the tabs for a song I want to play, but it requires retuning the guitar -- either all the strings one half-step down, or the low E string a full step down to D. Look, that's way more effort than I want to put into this. I know how to tune it. I can pretty much tune the guitar by ear now, but just give me songs in standard tuning please.

This song is in standard tuning! That was just an unrelated rant that came to mind right then. A great example of a song that's not too terribly difficult to play, but it sounds awesome when you do.

Everclear - "Santa Monica"

Man I loved this song when I was in high school. It was one of the first songs I looked up when I got my fingers used to forming the chords and jumping around the neck of the guitar. It sounded like power chords, and it was.

I have nothing else to say here. Just a fun song to play.

Look at that! Two posts in a handful of days! I think I will try to stick to a MWF pattern of posting. LET'S GO!


Friday, June 3, 2011

Beware: Lots of Words Ahead

It's been a rough few months for a variety of reasons. I won't go into those reasons here because, well, that's not the point of this post.

Suffice it to say, things that usually go my way haven't for a few months. And that's OK. I'm the first to admit throughout my life, I've had exceptionally good luck. Some of that is because I work hard to put myself in position to take advantage of those opportunities, but some of it is just that I've had good luck in my life.

I understand it can't always go my way, and that's fine. What hasn't gone my way lately isn't as important as the effect it had on me for too long.

For a period of about four months starting in late January through mid-April, I got a little emo and depressed. If you know me at all, you know I'm generally a happy-go-lucky, stress-free guy who is -- probably -- painfully positive about almost everything (except N.C. State sports, but let's be honest, that's warranted). Well for the better part of the winter and early spring, I was decidedly the opposite of that.

So why write this? Because I don't know how else to deal with things, and these are things that need some serious exorcising.

What happened? I shut down. Hardly left my apartment. Became a little too anti-social for my liking. I became entirely too sedentary and gained way too much weight. At the middle of April, I recorded my highest weight ever -- a disgustingly embarrassing 227 pounds.

These things were exacerbated by a few others.

The Internet is a blessing and a curse. Because of the Internet, I had all my closest friends at my fingertips all day, every day (That's what she said?). I could talk to them whenever I wanted to, which is awesome. At the same time, it also never made me feel like I was alone. I've lived in the DC area for two years now, but I hadn't put down any roots. There wasn't anyone I could pop out for drinks with or anything like that.

In a nutshell, some change was long overdue. I was treading on dangerously thin ice, not far from falling into a far-too-unhealthy lifestyle not suitable for long-term happiness.

Ugh...end of the unhappy portion of this post already. I am not unhappy. I have snapped out of the rut I was in for too long.

First, and perhaps the thing that excites me entirely too much, I've joined a softball team! And not just any softball team. I play for the N.C. State alumni softball team in the Capital Alumni Network. If you follow me on Twitter and Facebook (as you should!) you've seen pictures I've posted of our playing fields. Which are on the National Mall. Never gets old. It just doesn't. Standing on home plate, and, oh yeah, there's the Washington Monument in the outfield.

It's an enormous league. There are 72 college teams from all across the country with alumni filling out the rosters. I get to wear State shirts and hats, and we have a dorky "GO PACK!" cheer before and after games. It, LITERALLY, makes it a million times cooler than any other softball team would be.

It is SO great. My teammates are incredibly fun people. We have a ridiculous amount of fun at the game, and then at the bar after the game. It is so comforting to be surrounded by MY shade of red for the first time in too long. No offense to anyone, but you know. I'm N.C. State. I don't play well with others.

And yes, being the huge baseball nerd I am, I am keeping track of all my statistics in a spreadsheet. Of course I am. So far, through three games, I am hitting .833 on 5-for-6 hitting, with one walk and one sac fly. I've got three singles, a double, a triple, two runs scored and four RBI. I've got a .750 on-base percentage and a 1.333 slugging percentage for a robust 2.083 OPS.

Man, LET'S. GO. And what's up this weekend? A MARATHON TOURNEY! We're playing three games on Saturday in a Big Four Round-Robin. Yes, we'll play UNC, Duke and Wake Forest tomorrow, with a break for some grilling and drinking. Now THAT'S how you spend a late-spring afternoon.

So yes! There's that. What else? Oh yes, I've lost 15 pounds since mid-April. Again, I repeat, LET'S GO. I weighed in at 212 this morning. My goal weight is 180, which I haven't seen in about five years. Fail.

What have I done? Well, I've had to back off on the running thing. My hamstring is acting up again. I pulled it pretty bad last year while training for a half-marathon, and I still feel a twinge in it when I try to run. And since I'd rather save my running for the softball field, I'm holding off on recreational running for now. Instead, I walk Allie four miles every day.

I've also started actually physically going to the gym again. For too, too long, I relied on the excuse of having a set of 25-pound dumbbells as justification for not going to the gym. C'mon man.

So back to the gym several times a week, with real weights and machines and equipment. Let's actually do some work to see some results. And I have seen some small results so far, but this is still the very beginning of a long process. While at the gym, I'm working in the bike and elliptical to see if those can take the place of running and ease the tension on my hamstring. So far, so good on that front.

But really, the most important thing is diet. If you're not eating right, it doesn't matter what you're doing as far as exercise goes. I'm using a website called On the site, you plug in your current weight, goal weight and time frame. It then tells you how many calories (and other things) you should consume and how many calories-per-week need to be burned to reach the goal in that time frame. It's free to join, and it has a huge database of foods with the ability to manually enter your own items as well. Super helpful.

I've also been reading up on intermittent fasting. It's basically what I do anyway. You fast for 16 hours, consuming absolutely no calories in that time frame. You do all your eating in the remaining eight hours. In other words, what I do is I don't eat until sometime between noon and 2 p.m. And I absolutely do not eat after 8 to 10 p.m. The key is foods low in fat and high in protein. And portion control.

My biggest tip: ask for a to-go box with your meal at restaurants and immediately put half the food on the plate in the box for another meal.

So there you go. See? This started out kinda sad, but it turns out to be good!

Six weeks in, and I'm down 15 pounds. I have taken before pictures, but I dare not post them in public yet. As I make progress, if there are visible results, maybe I'll post them. For now, you'll have to take my word for it.

I'm also writing a lot more, working on stories that probably no one else but me will read. I'm playing the guitar every day, even though I'm not any good. I play power chords. Loudly. Boom. With the odd song I'm capable of actually playing pretty well, like Beatles' tunes "In My Life" and "Day Tripper." I don't know how or why I can play them, but they come out.

All in all, it could be worse. Just need the outstanding issues that contributed to the initial malaise to be settled.

As I have said far too infrequently lately, LIFE IS GOOD.