So Now Then
July 31, 2004
My eyes popped open at 5:20, and the first thought I had was, "Holy crap, in three hours I'll be flying." That same mixture of excitement and dread shot through my veins in quantities enough to rouse me and head into the kitchen to make coffee. As I drank the coffee and checked my email, I thought, "Holy crap, in two and a half hours I'll be flying."
Showering... "Holy crap, in two hours I'll be flying."
I put the countdown timer on hold long enough to pop open my cellphone and call the nationwide 800 number for weather briefings and flight plan filing (1-800-WX-BRIEF), and started rattling off my flight plan to the nice man at the other end. He stopped me after I got past the "departure" section. "Wait, where did you say you were departing?"
"Uhh. One-victor-five? Boulder?"
Los ANGELES flight service? The 800 number should have automatically patched me into the DENVER flight service, see as how I'm no longer calling from Los Angeles, but I am calling from Colorado! From my trusty cellphone!
With the Santa Monica area code!
Oooooohh. Tee-hee! Whoopsy! I described the nature of the error to the briefer, who kindly provided me with a direct number to the Denver FSS, which I subsequently called. Everything went markedly smoother on this attempt, and even better, the weather was just spectacular this morning! Which was a good thing, because... Holy crap, in one hour I'll be flying.
I headed on out to good ol' 1V5, Jimmy Buffett's "Peanut Butter Conspiracy" bopping along on the CD player, and even as I pulled into the parking lot of the flight school, I noticed something very, very, very interesting. I had adrenaline flowing, no doubt about that, and my nerve ends tingled with excitement. But as I searched myself for the dark pits of anxiety that had so plagued my aviation career in the path, I couldn't find any. For the first time that I can remember, I was actually looking forward to flying, and wasn't trembling around, worrying about in which horrible way I would screw up and die today. Some of that may be due to the fact that I'd done quite a bit of studying lately, and really felt like I had my shit down, but if you think that it doesn't mostly have to do with all this wonderful self-administered therapy I've been doing lately, you are absolutely kidding yourself. It's a constant joy to me to continually find other, unforeseen happy consequences of my recent actions, and this was one of the most joyous, because it quelled one of the most paradoxical, frustrating facts about my life, which went, "I love everything about flying except the part where I actually have to do it."
Spent a few minutes chatting with the nice folks at the desk, then grabbed the keys and headed on out to old N64548. Everything looked to be in order, though this being my first time back solo in over a year, I went at a very leisurely pace through my checklists. "Okay, I am now checking the trim tab for tightness. Here I go. [clunk] I have now checked the trim tab for tightness, and will now proceed to the next checklist item! Okay, here I am now checking the elevator for full range of motion! Yes, the elevator does indeed appear to have full range of motion! Why am I talking to myself! With exclamation points!" Etc. Holy crap, in ten minutes, I'll be flying...
For the entirety of the rest of my aviation career (as it were), I was stationed at towered airports. This means that before you move that plane one inch, you have to first have permission from someone, be it ground control or the folks in the tower. And before they'll give you permission, they'll make sure that you've listened on the radio for all of the current procedures and weather information. Then once they give you permission, they will also tell you exactly where to move, and when. I've heard that for people without a lot of anxiety, this was frustrating, as they want to just fire the plane up and get going. For me, though, it was perfect. Tell me what to do. Tell me where to go. Acknowledge my requests, so I feel approval, and feel like I'm doing the right thing.
Boulder is the first non-towered airport I've ever flown out of. The way non-towered airports work is, everyone tunes into a specific radio frequency, and announces what they're going to do. The thing is, though, this announcement is voluntary. Heck, tuning into the frequency in the first place is voluntary. Some of the planes don't even have radios, if you can believe that. It's every pilot for themselves out there.
Because of that, departing Boulder was a lot of fun. Why? Because nobody else was there. It was early enough in the morning that the gliders hadn't started getting pulled up continuously, none of the flight lessons from the schools appeared to have started, so when I fired up the "big fan up front", I represented the entirety of the aviation-related activity at Boulder Municipal. So you know what I said on the radio? Not a goddamn thing!
I just taxied my ass out there to old Runway 8, did my little run-up and pre-takeoff checks, rolled up onto the centerline of the runway, and gunned that baby, all the while feeling like I was getting away with something. In fact, I'd had dreams like this, in the years during which I hadn't been flying. The dreams always took place at a towered airport, and I always remembered how to operate the airplane, but no matter what I did, I had made some mistake on the radio. I'd taxied without clearance. Several times, I'd taken off without clearance (ooooh, how they hated that!) All my problems stemmed from the fact that I hadn't said anything on the radio. And here I was, literally living my dream! As I picked up airspeed, rolling down the concrete, I thought, "Take THAT, you FAA fascists!" Then I thought...
Holy crap, in three seconds, I'll be flying.
Three seconds later, off I went into the wild blue yonder. Today's trip would be an exploratory one, as I hadn't gone too far away from the Boulder area on my checkride, and still didn't know what Colorado looked like "out there". After a while, it became fairly clear that other than the Rocky Mountains, Colorado looks: flat. The downside to this is, of course, "boooring". The upside is, unlike the LA area, there's virtually no way to die in a small aircraft like this, because even if the engine quits entirely, the entire Earth is essentially one big runway out here. "Let's see, which field should I land in today?" Contrast this with Santa Monica, where every square inch is either densely populated, with lots of buildings and other sharp objects, or is a mountain. Go ahead, contrast it. I'll wait here.
The goal of the cross-country trip was to find, and then subsequently land at Fort Morgan airport. Why Fort Morgan? Because on my terminal area chart, it was the one on the other side of the chart from Boulder, that looked like as good a place as any to try to find. When I asked one of the pilots at the front desk what Fort Morgan was like, he offered this glowing review of the town and its aviation facilities: "They have a payphone outside the restrooms." Restrooms! Payphones! What's not to like?
As I approached Fort Morgan, I gave a listen to their automated weather thing, which said, in its disturbingly HAL-9000-esque voice, "Winds 260 at 15. Caution, crosswind." Caution, crosswind? Let's see, I'd be landing on Runway 32, so with the wind coming out of 26 -- oh yeah! That WOULD be quite a front-quartering crosswind, wouldn't it? And such a teeny little runway, too. I dialed up the weather again. Hal said, "Winds 250 at 13. Caution, crosswind." Only 13 now, but out of 25, meaning that now the wind was almost coming directly from the side. That's not good! Is this the thing I really want to test myself out on, my first time up?
I decided to take a "wait and see" approach. I set up in the pattern, and noticed that while on downwind, I was getting blown way to the side, having to essentially fly sideways to go in a straight line. "I ain't doin' this, no way."
I turned base anyhow, just to pretend like I was gonna land. The side-wind became a tail-wind and blew me way past the centerline of the runway. "No way I'm doing this."
Just for shits 'n' giggles, I turned final and lined up with runway 32. Again, having to fly majorly sideways to stay on line. "Screw this! I'm outta here!"
As I crossed the runway threshold, I thought, "No chance I'm putting myself through this, forget it!"
As the left main wheel touched down, "Maybe some other day, when the wind's not as bad."
As I got the plane to stop wiggling around and trying to blow itself off the runway, and then hit the brakes to bring it to a halt, "Yeah, I'll probably give this a miss for today. No reason to-- HEY! What the hell happened?!?!"
Yes, I'd landed in Fort Morgan with double-digit crosswinds, at an airport so small that they (seriously) didn't even have taxiways, and if you wanted to get back to the beginning of the runway for takeoff, you had to just drive backwards on the runway to get there. Which I did, and then took off into that same hard crosswind, a very harrowing takeoff which prompted me to remind myself later to "ask someone how to do crosswind takeoffs". Needless to say, I was happy to be back in the air and back on my way home to Boulder. This is exactly at the point where the following ridiculous thought entered my mind: "You know, that wasn't a particularly good landing."
A quick debate clamored in my head. "Yes!" "NO!" "YES!" "NOOO!!!" "Okay, no." "THANK you." "HA HA!!! I FOOLED YOU! YEEEESSS!!!!"
I turned back onto downwind and announced my intention to slide on into this little deathtrap one more time.
Now THIS landing was pretty sweet. Just kinda greased the left tire down onto the pavement with a little "rrrt!" Thing is, my problems occur after the wheels touch down. Everything's smooth and wonderful until I get all the way back on terra firma, and then the thing be wigglin' back and forth, zig-zagging all over the goddamn place, threatening to spin off into the weeds. I should probably look into getting better at that, eh?
No matter, though. Finally brought it to a stop, and feeling nature's call, putted back to the little parking area, pulled in, shut everything down, and got out for a stroll. Time to check out those restrooms I'd heard so much about! Oh, and I gotta remember to close my flight plan, so I'll need... Aha! There's that payphone! My man sure knew what he was talking about!
Except the payphone was dead. Too bad, too, because I had really heard good things about that payphone, and was very much looking forward to using it. Resigned to using a phone in their office, I took care of my business, and then came out to resume the flight home. But before I did that, I took a picture of the windsock, so you wouldn't think I was lying about that crosswind. I mean, LOOK at that thing, will you? Just look at it!
The takeoff was again horrible, but the remainder of the flight back was quite pleasant. I spent some time dicking around out there, making wild, random maneuvers in an attempt to make myself sick, which I was unable to do, but I only get a chance to do that stuff when I'm solo, because for some reason, passengers do not LIKE it when you be twirling and spinning and climbing and diving around like a maniac. That has been my experience, anyway.
The approach to Boulder was new and exciting, and by this time, the pattern had really heated up, so there was plenty of radio traffic, and I squeezed myself into the flow right between the gliders and another training aircraft, put the sucker on the ground, taxied in, shut it off, and looked at the "Hobbs" meter (the thing that tells you how long the engine was on, which then tells you how much time you can put in your logbook.) Today, I racked up 2.1 hours.
2.1? I flipped open my logbook, looked at the last page, and started counting up total hours... 97... 98... plus 2.1...
Hey hey! A mere 12 years later from my first entry, I was finally and officially a 100-hour pilot! And as the FAA and NTSB investigators are happy to point out to you, that's when we really get dangerous!
July 30, 2004
Welp, I got up, made a "to-do" list, and then did all the things on the to-do list. That's what happened today. Here are the things on the list, if you're genuinely curious:
Yep, that was about it, and it took the whole day. Not a whole lot to expand on in these pages, but after yesterday's shocking and ridiculous revelations, I think we could all use some time to take a few deep breaths, relax, and refocus.
July 29, 2004
The days are shaped like vast oceans of time, dotted with boats. There are two kinds of these boats. The first kind, I call "successes" -- specific incidents which push the boundary of some long-suffered fear, a jaunt into behavioral therapy, a nod to the axiom that "action begets action", and the slightly more paradoxical, "action begets motivation". The second kind are "hits", when a bony, twisted finger reaches down below the waterline to touch a tender nerve, coaxing me to return to the safety of the depressive, anxious little cave I know only so well, and wish only so much to collapse.
The ocean represents, then, "the rest of the day". That huge majority of the time where there are no successes, or hits, but merely life going by. The dishes being washed. Toenails being clipped. Clouds being watched. With depression, the ocean is red, it burns, and any liferaft will do as an escape. It is a wonderful sign of the success I'm having with my self-therapy thusfar that already, for me, the water is not too bad, and although my swimming muscles have been left atrophied a bit, I'm learning to enjoy splashing around in the water anyway.
When I set out for Denver at 8:30 AM to meet with a potential client, I had little reason to believe that the day would include two huge, monumental successes, in which I would face down two of my biggest fears and compulsions, and live to tell about them. Did these successes have to do with the meeting itself, in which I would be on call to flex mental and social skills at the whim of the other members of the meeting? Delightfully, no, as both the ride down to Denver and the meeting itself were surprisingly free from anxiety. Though much of that might be attributable to the fact that I knew I wasn't going to have to speak much, and very little could go wrong, I experienced it as a good sign nonetheless.
Were these successes in the form of grand gestures, approaching strange women in bars, intervening in a streetside scuffle, or setting out my keyboard on Pearl Street and playing for the crowds? No, these successes were far more significant than that, as these dealt with perhaps the two most terrifying activities ever to confront the human soul:
Eating lunch and shopping for books.
Let's start with lunch. I fancy myself a fan -- nay, a connoisseur -- of cheeseburgers. Not just any cheeseburgers, though. I specifically specialize in fast-food cheeseburgers. I do not simply order my Value Meal and shove it down as fast as I can. I consider each fast-food burger a work of art, in its own way, and I enjoy delving into all of the wonders and mysteries that await inside that big, crinkly ball of wax paper. Any town in the nation, any time of day, if you want to see a smile on my face, put a cheeseburger (preferably a double) in front of me. I've been there, I've done that, I've had burgers from every goddamn fast-food place that ever put frozen patty to grill.
I've never been to Sonic. I've heard good things about the chow, have wanted to try it on many occasions, and have had more than ample opportunity to give it a go over the past four years. There's a few of 'em in LA, there's a few of 'em here in Boulder, and hell, in South Carolina, there's practically one on every green of every golf course in the land. But time and time again, I've driven on by. Wanna know why? The answer is, or at least the answer I flippantly gave to others was, "I don't know how it works."
Cognitive therapy teaches us of the existence of automatic thoughts, subconscious things you tell yourself which cause your emotions, and their devious tendency to trigger other automatic thoughts (which tend to get progressively worse in a depressed individual), and that one way of putting paid to these devils is to make them conscious, and write them down. Here then, for you, is a sample of the "automatic thought train" that would tend to roll on through my head every time I passed a Sonic:
Then, to save face, a little rationalization right at the end: "Ehh, burgers ain't good for you anyway. Theirs probably suck anyhow."
This is real stuff, folks. If you've ever felt a wave of anxiety and self-loathing wash over you as you drove past a fast-food restaurant, you know what I'm talking about.
But after arriving home from my business meeting, I started getting a hankerin' for a cheeseburger. "Hey, I've got an idea." I looked for the closest Sonic location -- about 8 miles down the road in Lafayette -- looked myself square in the mirror and said, "Goddammit, you're going to eat a cheeseburger today if it kills you." Faint tingles of anxiety began to find their way to my fingertips as I prepared. Prepared? Yes, I started looking through my wallet and my change cup, trying to assuage the "breaking the $20" fear. All I had were $20's, but I grabbed a handful of change, in the hopes that I could at least make the change an even dollar amount, and maybe she wouldn't be too disgusted with me.
As I got to Lafayette, I didn't immediately spot it at the place I thought it was. Equal portions of relief and disappointment, then. But I turned the corner onto Public Rd., and... there it is, that big yellow arrow. Here we go...
I'll not make you suffer through exacting descriptions of the process of ordering and eating a cheeseburger. However, let me say that I DID roll up there, I DID figure out how it worked, I DID just give the girl the $20, not even reaching for the change (though it was very difficult to get myself to do this), and she DID NOT have the right money to give me change with (OH NO!), and she DID go get it, and she was NOT irritated at me, and people did NOT laugh and stare at me while I ate lunch. I WAS INDEED able to eat a cheeseburger (Supersonic #2) without dying of embarrassment. Thank you, thank you. I'll be signing autographs after the show.
That was the first success. Now, here comes the good one.
If you've been following the BBS lately, you know that I'm going to try delving into a little game programming on my own time, to bolster my technical skills and do something I've wanted to do for quite some time. But I needed a new book to teach me the technology that I'll be using, so I headed to Barnes & Noble to buy one. I stood in the computer aisle for a very long time, checking out nearly all of the books on the subject I was interested in, looking for just the right one. A smart book shopper. And while many of the books had about 80% of what I wanted, I couldn't seem to find one that had everything I was looking for. Finally, though, at the end of this exhaustive search, I did find one that seemed to fit the bill, and it wasn't outrageously expensive, either, so I grabbed a copy and prepared to mosey on to the checkout counter, when I noticed...
Uh oh. On the back, right-hand, bottom corner of the book, in an area that a nickel would cover up completely, a few of the pages had been slightly bent back.
Perhaps you know someone (or maybe you do this yourself from time to time) who, when they go to buy a newspaper from a newspaper rack, they'll avoid the top copy, reach underneath, and grab the second or third one. Over the years, I have developed this particular obsessive/compulsive practice to an art form. I don't wash my hands continuously, or have to count to four before leaving a room, but if you put me in the middle of a bookstore, I can find the most perfect copy of any book they have, quicker than you can say "what the hell is that guy doing?" You know why I'm so good at it? Because I have to have the most perfect copy. An unperfect book is simply not worth reading. The content contained within the cover is rendered useless, pointless, and invalid, if the cover has been scuffed or bent in any way, or if a page inside has somehow developed a small crease. Might as well burn it, I'd say.
I have so many tricks for doing this, to keep anyone else from seeing me and realizing what a freak I am, that it's not funny. Or it's hilarious, I can't figure out which. The old "reconsider" trick, where you put the first copy you pick up back on the shelf, as if deciding that it's just not for you, waiting a bit, and then going back, after having decided that you really did want that book -- except this time, you grab a different copy of it. The "two-fer" trick, where you pick up the first copy, put it in your shopping cart (or in your stack you're carrying), wait a while so everyone forgets you took it, then pick up the second copy, as if picking it up for the first time, then surreptitiously replace it with the first copy, so to the bystander, it appears you just looked at the book and decided not to buy it. I did the same thing with software boxes, too, except it used to be a lot easier back in the day where stuff was sold in different formats (CD vs. floppy, etc.), because you could just pretend you were looking at the system requirements and seeing if this was the right version of the software. Little did they know, I just couldn't bear to purchase the copy that had the little dent in the corner of the box.
This has gone on, in one form or another, since I was a tiny little kid. The absolute zenith of this disorder came when I was 16 years old, and shopping at Montgomery Mall, in Rockville, MD. This mall (as with most back in that day) featured two different bookstores (B. Dalton & Waldenbooks) in different wings of the mall. I started at Waldenbooks, and found a new sci-fi book that seemed interesting (had a pretty cover, etc.), and of course made sure to pick out the most pristine, perfect copy of it, took it to the checkout, and bought it.
Then I looked down at it, and noticed that Waldenbooks, at that time, put price stickers on the backs of all the books. Big, ugly price stickers which most definitely interfered with the Platonic purity of the thing.
Can you guess what I did? I bet you can. I walked all the way to the other end of the mall, went into the B. Dalton, found the exact same book, naturally picked out the most perfect copy that they had, and switched it with the one in my Waldenbooks bag. I swear this happened, and I always wondered what became of that mysterious copy, the confused looks on the faces of the employees if anyone ever picked it out and brought it up to the counter.
I never read the book, naturally. I rarely read any of the books I bought. I think I was more entranced with the simple purity and perfection of the things than with any dumb ol' story that the words within might impart.
But back to our story. Uh oh. A bend in the paper. And there were three more copies of the book, each no doubt more perfect than the last, probably begging me to take this defective copy away from them so they would no longer feel sullied by their ugly stepbrother. I reflexively gave a glance around to make sure nobody was watching, and began reaching for Copy #2, when I said hold it. Just hold it right there. We just ate a Sonic burger, is it possible we can also purchase an imperfect book without completely flipping out?
I stood there for quite some time (really), having this little discussion with myself. At the end of it, I grabbed hold of my imperfect copy with both hands, and started slowly walking away (to the self-help section, naturally). Even then, my heart rate was elevating, my muscles tensing, breath coming shorter. You never know what it feels like to "not count to four" until you try it. The walls of the store began to close in around me.
I quickly picked up a copy of Feeling Good (see the BBS for a review), made my way over to the counter, paid for my two books, hurried out of the store, and, freed from the shrinking prison inside, let out a huge sigh of relief.
While I was walking around in the store, grasping my imperfect book, there was one thought which came to me, which I liked, and which helped me get through it, and perhaps cure me of this compulsion forever. Much of the therapy for relieving depression and anxiety is the concept of acceptance, the antithesis of perfectionism, of being able to understand that one is not perfect, and one will make mistakes. I do not think before that I was able to accept imperfections in myself, and thus channeled that intolerance to the things around me. Books, software, furniture, etc. I tried turning that around, and tried thinking, if I can accept imperfections in myself, I can also accept them -- maybe even embrace them, in other things! I flirted briefly with the whimsical notion of starting to look for the least perfect copy of books from now on, and picking them out like a would-be owner coming to the rescue of the poor little puppy with one eye, sitting out in the rain. I didn't do this while I was picking out Feeling Good, but at least I did stick with the first one I picked up.
There ya go. Lunch, and some books. A tremendous day, and it wasn't even 2 PM.
There were also some hits associated with the day, mainly associated with social anxiety, which amazingly has not just magically vanished in the three weeks I've been diagnosing and treating myself. A neighbor passes by, and I force myself to say hello, and she says "what?" back, and then another Negative Thought Train rolls on through (which naturally ends in "What a hopeless, pathetic loser..." -- most of them do) leaving me shaken and stirred. Realizing that the social anxiety bit might take a little extra effort, like squirting Shout onto a stain before putting it in the wash, I headed to the library to find a decent book about it, which I did.
Then I spent most of the rest of the day reading my various books, and swimming around, tenuously but playfully, in the warming, clearing oceans of another day.
July 28, 2004 -- "Squeeze Play"
I hit the road at 7 AM for my first ever attempt to grapple with Denver's rush hour traffic, and I gotta say, at least at that time of day, not too shabby. A few slowdowns here and there on I-25, no doubt, but having lived and commuted in DC and LA, I gotta give ol' Denver rush hour the big thumbs up! Plus, you get to pass a Six Flags and look at all the pretty roller coasters along the way, so the scenery's nice, too.
I arrived at the offices of New You Plastic Surgery a few minutes early, and got started filling out paperwork. Most of the questions were about previous or current diseases or abnormal physical characteristics I might have had, all of which I answered no to, except for the question "Do you drink alcohol, and how much?" to which I responded, "Not anymore, and heavily!" and then the next question, "Could you be pregnant?" to which I responded, "Doubtful." Always start with a joke, that's what they tell you when you're filling out forms in preparation for cosmetic surgery.
After a few minutes, I was called into an examining room, and -- well, heck, let's just lay the scoreboard out for you right here, so there's no confusion:
The upshot of the entire thing is: It's on, and it's on for the morning of Thursday, August 12. Wish me luck. And send me money.
On the way back, I stopped by Target to pick up some "business casual" clothes for a "business meeting" that I have on Thursday in "business Denver", for which of course I will not be getting paid, and for a purpose I am not entirely sure what it is, but at least I've got some smart new duds to traipse around in.
After arriving home, I ate quite a bit of fruit, and then sat down, opened up Microsoft Excel and whipped together a budget spreadsheet for Rich, since I have to do everything for him, as his idea of "fiscal responsibility" is running through the crevices of his couch with a lint roller to see if it picks up any coins (or other small items which might be used for barter.)
Then, as I'd missed my chance in the morning, I put in some time at the fitness room, careful to give it a little extra "oomph", knowing that after August 12, it might be a little while before I'm able to do such things as work out, or feed myself, or perhaps even complete a sentence without drooling. Those vagaries of post-operative life sinking in, and knowing I was going to need a ride to and from the surgical center, I did the most logical thing, which was to call my mother in South Carolina and see if she wanted to fly out in a couple of weeks and take care of her poor widdle baby!! And maybe write a big check to him while she's at it! She was most agreeable to all of the above, and so I hooked her up with a roundtrip ticket while she was on the phone, and got that all squared away.
I spent the remainder of the evening pounding down ghormeh sabzi and chamomile tea as fast as I can, because you're not supposed to eat chamomile or fenugreek within two weeks of surgery. So I got like 24 hours to put away all these leftovers.
Can't write. Eating.
July 27, 2004 -- "The Call"
Before we get to the day's events, perhaps you'd like to kick it on over to our Bulletin Board System and join the fun! There's lots of good stuff going on there, particularly as a supplement to the self-help-related material found sprinkled among these very updates here. And you'll probably want to visit it soon, before the deluge of trolling idiots over at Jolt Country, our enemy website, begins infecting and infesting our own private sanctuary of decent, wholesome conversation.
Now, let's move onto July 27th, which I think we can all agree was definitely the day immediately following July 26th. Except I don't remember what happened. Again, lots of stuff happened, but it's not coming to me here at 6:02 AM. Perhaps if I backtrack, do the maze backwards, it'll be easier for me to piece together the events of the day.
At 9:30, after watching a little Iron Chef, I went to sleep. Before that, I played a little keyboard. Before that, I did a bunch of reading, finishing up my latest self-help book on cognitive therapy (check out the BBS for a book review!) Before that, I went to the fitness room for about a half hour.
Now, let's see. Before that, I believe I printed out some maps and instructions for getting to a few meetings/appointments I've got coming up this week. Immediately before that, I plugged the printer in.
Before that, I did some more reading, polishing off the latest issue of Flight Training magazine. But that was after spending some time at the library across the street, browsing for more cognitive therapy books, one of which I found, read for a bit there, then checked out and brought home. In keeping with the "self-help" theme, I tried using the self-checkout thing for the first time. Outstanding! I want to know why the library checkout machine can pick out who you are, and what the book is you're checking out within one second (seriously), but at King Soopers, I gotta be swiping a bag of grapes past that damn thing, smooshing it up against the window, grapes popping and bleeding juice all over the eggs and diet sodas, for like three minutes before getting that little satisfying "beep". That's what I wanna know. I'm gonna start taking my groceries over to the library and checking 'em out there from now on.
Let's seeeee, before that, I think I talked with moms on the phone for awhile, after catching up on some email and sending out birthday wishes to my grandmother in Arizona (84!) Before that, I had a few nibbles for lunch and got a little back-and-forth going with my man Clash.
Before that, the phone rang.
One very noticeable symptom of what had been a steadily worsening state of depression and avoidance was that I had stopped answering the phone unless I knew both who it was, and why they were calling, and was certain that nothing bad could possibly come from the conversation. If I'd arranged to have lunch with Rich, and it was my understanding that he would call me at 11:30 and let me know when he'd be at the restaurant, okay, I'd probably answer that one. And I'd usually answer moms' calls, cuz it would give me a chance to gloat about my Jumble score for the day.
But as my depression dissipates, so too has that defeatist routine. So when the phone rang at about 11:30, from a phone number I didn't recognize, for a purpose I couldn't fathom, I went ahead and (are you ready for this? are you sitting down?) answered it.
"Hi, Ben, this is Jennifer from Dr. Goldstein's office, how are you?" Ohhh, fine thanks! What's up? "Well, Dr. Goldstein has had a cancellation, so if you'd prefer not to wait until August 25th for a consultation, he can see you tomorrow morning at 8:30."
Wh- whaaa? "O... Okay, uh... okay, yeah! That'd be great! Sure! 8:30! Got it! See you there!" Two thoughts immediately raced through my mind. 1) "Wow! This thing looks like it might actually happen, after all these years! How exciting and also slightly scary at the same time!" 2) "8:30 AM! Jesus Christ, looks like I picked the right time to start getting up at quarter-to-six." I'll of course update you tomorrow on how the consultation went, including such details as how long I had to stand there with my shirt off, and if I had to do it in front of a female nurse or anything.
Before that, I put together a budget in Excel, which was the very first thing I had promised myself I'd do after I left my steady, full-time job last September. So, it's only coming in ten months late. Like you've never put a simple, fifteen-minute task off for ten months. Get off your high horse.
Before that, I played a bunch more keyboards, had a little breakfast, went to the fitness room for a half hour, wrote this update, had some coffee, put away the bedding, opened the blinds, shut the alarm clock, got up, lied on the couch for fifteen minutes cursing the alarm clock and refusing to get up, and then woke up.
July 26, 2004 -- "My Favorite Thunderstorm"
Here we go! Today's the big day! The day when Superpilot Ben returns, after over a year of absence, to his rightful place among the clouds and the wind and the turbulence and the lightning and the wings falling off and plummeting to the ground and we're all gonna DIEIEEEEIEEIEEEEeeEeeeee!!
I've always been nervous before a flight. And not a fun, adrenaline-pumpin' rush kind of nervous, either. A gnarled, twisted knot of fear and apprehension, that's what kind of nervous I'm talking about. I've always secretly hoped that the weather would turn sour right before a flight so I wouldn't have to -- check that, wouldn't get to (oh darn!) -- subject myself to certain doom. Today was no different, as I set out to the airport at 7:30 AM.
Thing is, I now realize that these feelings were due to utterly irrational and false senses of inadequacy lying beneath the quivering, sweaty surface of my conscious mind. Using my newfound cognitive therapy techniques, I was able to intercept those thoughts, interfere with them, and then reinterpret them before they translated into a negative mood. Here are the thoughts I used instead:
You are nervous about this, and that's okay. Remember what your instructor said right before your first solo, "You should be nervous!" But you have never failed at this before, and have always come through with flying colors. And if you're going to make mistakes, that's good too, because you'll be with an instructor whose purpose is to teach you and correct your mistakes. You are supposed to make mistakes! So we know that the best thing you can do today is to be nervous, screw up a lot, and then you'll both learn stuff, and get better at flying, and then at the end of the day -- well, you know how good it feels to complete a flight, I don't have to tell you that.
That's the idea with this stuff. Start telling yourself the truth, rather than the lies you're so accustomed to dishing out ("You suck, everyone's gonna think you're stupid if you make a mistake, you'll probably kill yourself and the instructor, and if not, the wings will snap off in a sudden gust of wind anyway. Moron.") The amazing thing is, this actually works. Not "like a charm", and not all at once, but in this particular case, it worked well enough that when I showed up at Dakota Ridge Aviation, and my instructor showed up along with her other student which had been scheduled for the same time due to a bookkeeping mixup, I actually think I felt just the tiniest pang of disappointment. (And a less tiny pang of annoyance.)
Rather than reschedule there, I decided to head down the road to the other school on the field ("Aviation Services"), a much larger, shinier, more professional looking place, which I had noticed after I'd scheduled my original checkride with Dakota Ridge. Well, this place was more like it! A friendly staff, plenty of snacks in the vending machine, fresh coffee steamin' out of the pot. I chatted with the amiable chap at the front desk for a while, during which he told me that Les, the grandfatherly old chief flight instructor would be free around noon if I wanted to schedule with him. I said, "Heck yeah!" and got my name on the list.
How To Pick a Flight Instructor, by Ben Parrish: The instructor who had double-booked me at Dakota Ridge was a fairly attractive, if noticeably giggly and ditzy-sounding young blonde chick. The instructor at Aviation Services was a gray, wrinkled old prune of a man with a wispy comb-over and a scraggly white beard. If given this choice, which would you choose? The correct answer is, of course, go with Grandpa. ALWAYS go with grandpa, and here is the primary reason: Young flight instructors are generally only doing it to fulfill a requirement before they move on and try to get a job with the airlines. This is an epidemic in the flight instruction community. They are there to "log hours", and are likely counting down the seconds until they can get the hell out of that dingy old rat trap. They'll give you very "by-the-book" training, ensuring that they fulfill all the requirements of Part 141 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, and then they'll send you on your way. You'll likely pass your checkride and get your certificate. But what will you have really learned about flyiing? Grandpa, however, has been an instructor his whole life, and Grandpa is doing it because he loves to do it. He'd spend all day in the air teaching flying if he could. And when faced with the prospect of doling out a little "secret tip" based on his countless years of experience, his eyes positively light up. You'll get your Part 141 stuff done, sure, but it'll be like you got invited as a guest to a "members only" club, a speakeasy where they throw stories about "how planes REALLY fly" back and forth, and the only coffee they like is the kind that's been sitting in the pot since last Thursday and has turned to a viscous glue. Always go with grandpa.
So at noon, I went with grandpa. We sat down for a while, did some basic paperwork, did a little "weight & balance" problem to make sure that with our fat asses in the seats, the plane was actually going to make it off the ground, he showed me some of the local traffic pattern idiosyncracies (most of which are done because the pricks who live near the airport continually complain to the city about the noise -- hey dipshits, if you don't like the sounds of airplanes, here's an idea: don't move next to a goddamn airport, maybe), then sent me out to pre-flight the airplane. (This one, if you're curious.)
Now, let me explain to you how a checkride normally goes. Well, first, lemme explain what a checkride is. You might have passed your examination and gotten your private pilot license, but that doesn't mean you can just go to any airport in the land and they'll give you the keys. No, they want to make sure that you're not going to bend up one of their precious babies, and cause them all the extra paperwork and then the labor involved with getting the bloodstains out of the seats and the little bits of brain out of the flight instruments. So they'll send you up with one of their guys for an hour or two, have him put you through the ringer, and then, if you did okay, they'll give you the keys.
So, let me explain to you how a checkride normally goes. First, you take off. Then, if you're unfamiliar with the area, the guy will instruct you to fly this way and that, so he can show you the lay of the land, and "see that big tower out there? Yeah, don't run into that", and whatnot. Then we begin the exercises...
The first exercise is "slow flight", where you pull the throttle nearly all the way out, and get the thing so if an old lady in a walker was right there beside you at 7,000 feet, she'd probably win a time trial race. I hate slow flight. Slow is BAD in an airplane, and even though I know there's an instructor there, and the plane isn't just going to fall out of the sky, that stall warning horn is blaring, and the controls are all mushy, and we're right on the edge of out of control, and... I hate slow flight. Then dude is like, "Oh, you can get it slower than that! Put the power all the way in and pitch up!" And we did, and the airspeed indicator went further down... 45 knots... 40 knots... 35 knots... 30 knots?? Then the little dial thingy (technical pilot term) went past 30 and basically came to a rest on the peg, off the goddamn chart. According to the airspeed indicator, we'd essentially parked the plane in the sky. But it was still flying! It was the damndest thing I'd ever seen. THAT'S why you go with grandpa. But I still don't like slow flight, so I'm always anxious to get that over with. Oh, except, you can never just stop there, then he wants you to make turns while you're flying zero miles per hour. Very gradual, very tenuous turns. I hate slow flight turns.
After that, it's time for steep banked turns, turns where you bank the plane over 45 degrees and do a quick 360 without losing any altitude. I hate steep banked turns. Not as much as slow flight, but the G forces imparted during a steep turn make it feel like you're continually at the bottom of the first hill on a rollercoaster, and your heart and your lungs and your spleen and your breakfast are all just getting pulled down to your feet, while you fight the desire to barf up your morning coffee all over the cockpit. I hate steep turns, but at least they're over quickly.
Then comes the stalls. Stalls, boys and girls, are what happen when you put the airplane in such a situation where it literally cannot fly anymore, and actually does start to fall out of the sky. I hate stalls. A lot of students and instructors alike will tell you they think stalls are "fun". I do not think stalls are fun. You know, given the choice, if I'm in an airplane, yeah, I think I'd rather the plane was flying rather than dropping like a rock towards the hard, punishing Earth below. But they always make you do 'em. So here I am pulling the power out, and pulling back on the stick, and there goes the stall warning horn ("EEEYEAAAEAEEAEAYYAEAEAEAAAA"), and hold it, hold it, hold it, BAM, the plane starts falling to the ground like those frogs in Magnolia. A quick recovery and then... "Okay, do another one with the power on", which is when you put the pedal to the metal, and aim the plane WAY up high into the air, and then wait for it to stop flying that way. I hate stalls.
Upon completing stalls, then we practice an engine failure scenario, where the guy pulls the power all the way off, and you gotta set up like you're going to land in a field. I hate practicing engine failure scenarios. The whole subject gives me the willies to begin with, and the guy always carries the thing just a little too far, making me think "wait, are we actually going to put this thing down in a corn field?" I did all the stuff I was supposed to do, found a nice dirt road to glide onto, and... and... and kept gliding down, and kept gliding down, my hand reflexively inching closer and closer to the throttle, waiting for the word, waiting... waiti-- CAN I TURN THE FUCKING ENGINE BACK ON YET OLD MAN!?!? Finally, I got the nod, and sped on out of there.
At that point, I realized, based on grandpa's comments, as well as my own knowledge of what it means to pilot an airplane, that I had been failing my "cognitive cheerleader" in a very specific, plainly evident way: I wasn't making any mistakes. It had been over a year since I was at the controls, but goddamn if I wasn't nailing every altitude, every heading, doing these exercises probably with more expertise and precision than I'd ever done before. He never wanted me to do any of them over again, he just kepy replying "Excellent!" to every damn thing I did. Save for the white-knuckled Vulcan Death Grip (see: nervousness and anxiety) I had on the yoke, things could not have gone smoother.
Then the thunderstorm showed up. Here in Boulder, during the summer, they show up (or maybe it's just the same one who keeps coming back) at 2:00 PM on the dot every single day. I glanced at my watch: 1:50 PM. And, oh, lookie there, to the west, heading toward the airport. There's big black clouds! There's a bunch of rain! Oooh, there's a flash of lightning! "We should probably head back." - Grandpa.
Normally, at the end of a checkride, you are asked to perform a number of landings. Landings take time. Time is money. As with everything checkride-related, the quicker and better you do 'em, the less the thing's going to cost you. You want to get out of the plane as soon as possible, in other words.
"Weeeell, with that storm in the area, if you can just gimme one good landing, I'll give you the keys."
My favorite thunderstorm.
Except this was no easy landing. First of all, the whole approach, he's telling me "now, see those ponds in front? Those can pull you down in a hurry, so best to come in with no flaps on this one", and now the winds from the storm are showing up, and they're showing up as a nearly direct crosswind of over 10 knots. This is not the kind of landing you want as your first and only shot at passing a checkride after not having landed anything bigger than a shotglass for 13 months. I shot back a nervous reply, "Heh, you know what a good landing is, right?" (The old airman's joke goes, a "good" landing is one you can walk away from, and a "great" landing is one where the next guy will be able to use the airplane.) I stayed pretty silent from that point on.
What followed was perhaps the greatest crosswind landing I've pulled off in the history of my 98 hour (and 12 year) aviation career. We were both kind of amazed, I think. Where that came from, I'll never know. But that was enough for him. We pulled in, parked the airplane, I finally released the yoke and shook out some of the lactic acid built up in my left hand, he signed me off, and I went on my way. The entire checkride, from start to finish, came in at 0.7 hours, and including the instructor fee, the entire experience came in at just under $100. That is probably the first and only checkride I'll ever do that didn't push through three digits. Thank you, Dakota Ridge, for screwing up my appointment, I owe you one.
After that, the rest of the day was relatively serene, as you might imagine. Oh, except I put up this webpage as a blatant exercise in self-congratulation. Visit it often, won't you?
July 25, 2004
Well, if yesterday was an "innie", today was definitely an "outie"! The gray and the drab and the dank finally receded from the front range, leaving a remarkably dry, comfortable warmth behind -- just the perfect kind of day to spent outdoors! So that's what I did.
At 10:30, two lovelies -- Jo, and Rich's Girlfriend Darlene -- arrived at my place, at which point we headed out to El Dorado State Park and went hiking! Or rather, went power-strolling, as our unfamiliarity with the area and general sense of awe at the beauty we beheld unto nature in the canyons and crevices of the park reduced our gait to a rather leisurely pace, to put it politely. At one point we were passed by a ground including a six year old child, and a 78 year old woman.
After a few hours of that, we headed back to P297, where Jo bid us adieu, and Rich came over to take her place. Following this was a grand escapade through Boulder and its neighboring villages, where we first went to a Starbucks to leisurely sip coffee, then to a Mexican restaurant, to leisurely notice that it was closed on Sunday and then leisurely hurl expletives at the absent owners of the establishment. Then it was time to bowl, which was notable both because the alley we found was probably the fanciest bowling alley I've ever been to, with high-tech graphics on the automatic scoreboard and swivelling chairs along with all the other comforts of home, and also because it was probably the worst three games I've thrown in succession since I was approximately 12 years old. I mean, Rich even beat me one game. Rich beat me! I know, can you believe it?
We finished up our games, then sulked (well, they walked, I sulked) back out to the car, which we took back to my neck of the woods and parked in the parking lot of the Indian restaurant across the street, where we ate. It was excellent. I'm still amazed that an Indian restaurant located in a shopping center next to a King Soopers can be any good, but it continues to be much better than any good, and probably the only place within fifty miles of here that can make better Indian food than I can. However, I don't charge their exhorbitant prices, so I'd still have to give the nod to Ben's House of Juice Bar and Indian Grille and Big Couch You Can Sit On for an overall superior dining experience.
I'd like to tell you more about my day yesterday, but if you'll excuse me, I have to prepare to fly an airplane. Also, I have to prepare an english muffin.
July 24, 2004
A remarkable day, if only for the fact that I was busy from start to finish, and yet didn't actually do anything useful. When I wo--- COGNITIVE THERAPY ALERT ***** COGNITIVE THERAPY ALERT ***** PLEASE STAND BY *****
What do you mean you didn't do anything "useful"?A remarkable day, if only for the fact that I was busy from start to finish, doing extremely useful activities like cooking, writing/playing music, programming, reading, working out, cleaning up, writing, playing games, and basically doing every other goddamn thing I like to do on a gray, cold, stay-inside-and-do-your-own-thing kind of day! I did it, and it felt good to do! That's right, it felt good, I tell you!!
"I wanted to do that. It felt good to do what I wanted to do." - Claudia Wilson Gator
July 23, 2004 -- "Antiques & Robots"
Some people's shopping lists generally read like an instruction sheet, or an inventory listing for a small business. Lots of items, all sticking to a general theme. Like, "eggs, coffee, butter, milk, apples." Or "paper, paper clips, printer toner, scissors." Or even "nylon stockings, .38 snubnose revolver, big canvas sack with dollar sign on it". This knowledge caused me just the smallest moment of self-consciousness as I set out at 10 AM on my shopping trip with the following list:
(By the way, you'll notice I've skipped the part of the morning between 5:30 and 10:00, when I generally get all the mundane stuff out of the way like getting up, eating breakfast, working out, calling my flight instructor to confirm that, yes, the flight was cancelled for today and so will be rescheduled for Monday morning, washing dishes, etc. Until something else notable happens in the early mornings, I think it'll save us both time if I just quit talking about it. Which I'm going to do as soon as I finish this paragraph, which should be at any moment now. However, knowing how I tend to drag things out a little longer than they might have otherwise dragged, you can never be too sure. For instance, I could just sit here banging away at this paragraph for another two hours, which would be just fine because I've got the TV on, tuned to the Tour de France, so I can just type away and type away, one eye on the lookout for typos, one eye on the U.S. Postal team chuggin' up that hill, and by the time you know it, I've used up my disk quota on the iPowerWeb hosting service I use, because this paragraph has grown to such a gargantuan extent that it's bringing down their servers. I'm of a considerate bent, though, so I won't put you through that ordeal, and will instead put a most definite halt to this paragraph right now. Well, after this sentence, anyway; you gotta ease out of these things. Okay, this is definitely the end of the paragraph. Oh, except I forgot that I started the whole thing with a parenthesis, so now I both have to end the paragraph with a period, but also rememeber to close the parenthesis. Here I go, right... NOW! (Alright, one more little sentence. (There we go.)))
See, I needed the chair so I'd have some place to sit while I played my keyboard. And I needed the compressed air because I wanted to try to fix the overheating problem the laptop's been experiencing, by blowing the crap out of the vents, hoping to dislodge some dust, butter, honey, or whatever's clogging up the works. I drove to neighboring Lafayette, Colorado to hunt for the chair at the "Acres O' Garbage" flea market. I found several chairs there, none of which would be reduced in quality a single iota were they covered in gasoline and set ablaze. I did, however, find hundreds of quality, old, empty soda and beer bottles! So, if you're on the lookout for things that would generally be better served finding their way to a recycling bin, be sure to check out downtown Lafayette, Colorodo.
I then made my way over to Broomfield, to get the compressed air from Best Buy. While there, I also picked up a "cooling mat", on which the laptop sits, which has small fans humming away to suck the heat away from the laptop. Since blasting the computer with the compressed air, and setting it on the mat, I've noticed that the problem has, so far, been largely eradicated. Though perhaps it was when the laptop fell three feet from the armrest of my couch and slammed into the ground that whatever was gunking up the tubes was knocked loose. Credit to Dell that the computer didn't seem to mind being significantly knocked around from a fall that high. Credit to me for not letting loose with a long, loud string of brutal obscenities when I saw the thing slam onto the floor.
Oh, and I bought a small folding chair from Target on the way back.
The rest of the day was spent in Ben World. I just let my whims carry me where they may, providing that they did not carry me outside the door of P297, because ugh, what a miserable day! If you thought 7/22 was bleak (which you did), you ain't seen nothing till you've seen 7/23. Rained all day long, and often heavy, and often accompanied by frequent lightning and the flashing and the banging and the hurt me. In fact, the only time I left the apartment was to run down to the mailbox. On the way, however, a young lady who I'd seen around was leaving her apartment, preparing to do a little bicycling in a small weather window of opportunity. I'm determined to be more friendly to people I pass by lately, so I gave her a smile and a perky, "Good morning!", to which she responded, "Morning!" and then launched into the following statement, which I'm going to present as verbatim as I can possibly recall. Keep in mind, this is the first time we'd ever crossed paths or spoken one word to each other:
"Earlier there was a bird here [pointing to the concrete step right outside the front door] and I thought it was dead, but then it moved, and I thought I'd get Willow out here to bother it, but I don't know."
Huh! Well, isn't that interesting! (I went ahead and made the assumption that Willow was some sort of pet, and not a developmentally challenged child whose interests include eating bodily functions and bothering dead birds.) I made some comment about the birds being friendly 'round these parts (not entirely untrue, as I also had a bird (of the live variety) hanging out on my porch the other day) and made my way to the mailbox, making sure to classify this as the Surreal Conversation of the Day (and, as it would turn out, the Only Conversation of the Day.)
The rest of the day was a blurry mix of playing music, studying/practicing some programming stuff, and, mostly, purchasing and playing Flatspace, the aforementioned space trading game.
For those of you unfamiliar with how space trading games work, here's the general idea: Without fail, they are said to take place in a "cold, unforgiving sector of space" where ne'er-do-wells will gladly shoot a man just for snoring too loud. The universe is usually populated with a mixture of space stations (where goods can be traded and starships can be bought and upgraded), pirates (bad guys), asteroids, lots of things exploding, and a bunch of random other ships, going about their daily business. Generally, at the beginning of the game, you can choose your "profession". Standard professions include "trader", "mercenary", "pirate", etc. A mercenary might profit by hunting down bad guys, or ferrying passengers to their destinations, or generally doing anything for a buck. Pirates might leech off the toil of others, stealing from the rich and giving to themselves.
In these types of games, I always choose "trader", because, hey, that's the kind of guy I'd like to be, up there in cold, unforgiving space. It's a peaceful life, and (usually) nobody bothers me, as I go about my business of carrying goods back and forth between space stations, picking up a steady profit for myself. I'm a lover, not a fighter, and so I'm more than happy to avoid conflict, stay out of people's business, and just run my little trade routes until I can buy and sell your sorry ass ten times over. (BTW, if I were to become a space trader in real life, I would begin drinking again. Just saying.)
So I don't end up repeating the same stuff for people who follow my "work" on other websites, here is a link to a thread on Jolt Country BBS, in which I posted at about 11:30 PM last night, expressing my thoughts on Flatspace, after nearly a full day of playing. However, I can sum it all up by briefly recounting my experience the last (and likely final) time I played the game:
I started as I normally do, by gingerly stepping about the galaxy, taking note of potentially profitable trade routes. Once tired of that, I begin running small trade routes between a few of the stations I'd sought out earlier. At first, with very little money, I can only ferry some of the lower-priced items such as "fruit/vegetables" and "books". The profit margin begins to snowball, though, packing my coffers and gradually allowing me to trade the high ticket items. Once wealthy enough to start dealing in those premium products, the real money starts coming in. The trouble is, in this game, there appear to be only two high ticket items, "antiques" and "robots".
So for what seemed like (and actually probably was) hours, there I was taking antiques to station A, and taking robots to station B. Antiques and robots, antiques and robots. Antiques. Robots. Probably even a few antique robots in there for good measure.
If this seems like an intolerably dull, mind-numbing, tedious way to spend time (or even read about), I have little I can offer in retort, other than to proudly boast, "Hey, but I was making lots of FAKE MONEY doing it! Money that I used to upgrade to a better FAKE SPACESHIP and outfit with FAKE SHIELDS and FAKE LASERS and shit!"
At a quarter to midnight, three hours worth of antiques and robots traded away to my heart's content, a pirate guy came onto the screen, fired one missile, and two seconds later, my ship blew up and I was unceremonious shown those two fateful words: "GAME OVER". The entire exercise has been a futile, useless waste of time, as well as pushing me two hours past my bedtime, fortelling a rueful slippage of schedule the followoing day. I'd even missed Iron Chef.
This was a hell of a long update to describe a day when essentially nothing happened, wasn't it?
July 22, 2004
And on Thursday, He rested...
Yeah, I really didn't do much of anything today. Such a dreary day! Thunderstorms rolled in at around 10 AM, and pretty much stayed directly over apartment P297 for the rest of the day. I went out briefly in the morning to go to the fitness room and then to the King Soopers to get breakfast fixins (see below), but that was at about 7 AM, and I didn't leave the apartment the rest of the day. Just, blecch.
But how about that breakfast, huh? Ben's Famous Southern-Style Biscuits & Sausage Gravy! For some reason, B&G seems to be the one thing that absolutely no restaurant can seem to get right, and I don't understand it, because it's got like, what, three ingredients? Here, I'll show you the recipe, and you tell me if you can figure out why neither IHOP, nor Denny's, nor the Mandalay Bay Hotel/Casino can figure out how to do this properly:
Whoa-hoaa! Stand back, baby! That's high cuisine there! That's some Masaharu Morimoto stuff right there! But nobody can get it right. If you DO manage to get it right, I like to squirt a little Tabasco over the entire thing, and at that point, you're staring at maybe the most delicious breakfast this side of leftover pepperoni pizza.
Getting back to the dreary day, though. Most of it was spent on one of the following two activities: 1) studying aviation stuff, in preparation for my Friday flight (which was looking more and more unlikely, the worse the weather got, and sitting here at 6:24 AM on Friday, it ain't getting any better, but that's for tomorrow's update, so quit peeking ahead), and 2) downloading and playing more games. Highlights of my gaming experience include the aforementioned Samurai, an amazing action/puzzle game called Gish, featuring a large, pliable ball of tar which you have to use actual physics to navigate through a number of levels, and various space trading games, in which you ferry high-tech, science fiction-type material (like "bananas") from one planet to another to make money. Lowlights included the fact that any game more taxing to the computer than Freecell seems to cause this laptop more and more trouble as time goes on. The CPU heats up, the fan keeps blowing, but still the games will pause and jerk relentlessly as the game goes on longer. It's very frustrating, and ruins most of the experience. I need a new computer. But that's an awful lot of money to spend when you're also saving up for a major surgical procedure, and also when you don't, technically, have a job. Ah well. At least Freecell works.
That was about it, actually. Didn't go anywhere, didn't shop for anything, didn't see anybody. Didn't even get a chance to say hi to Samantha upstairs, and ask her who the hell that guy was that she left with two nights ago!?!? A rather nothing day, from start to finish. I'll try to make Friday a little more enticing for you. Maybe I'll use chorizo for the sausage gravy...
July 21, 2004
Let's just blow right through this one, right, cuz I got about 24 hours to study and re-learn about five years worth of flight training before my escapade tomorrow. Plus, I got one of those vertically-aligned splits in my lower lip, and it hurts like a mofo and is distracting me from writing the very best possible update I can write, which isn't fair to either of us.
Got up at 5:30, did all the usual morning stuff, then spent some time studying software documentation for a short programming contract I might be doing here in the near future. That's bad, because work, echh right? But that's also good, because now that I'm getting back into hobbies like aviation and plastic surgery, a little money is probably going to come in handy.
After giving it my all for about an hour, I somehow got coerced into playing shareware computer games for a while, something I haven't done in years. One of them was Flatspace, a 2-dimensional, real time space trading/exploration/combat game, which seems fun, but which I barely scratched the surface of because I tended to die every three minutes. The other game was Samurai, a truly excellent boardgame adaptation which is as simple and fun to play as it is deep in strategy. If you like "coffee-break games", this would appear to be one of the very best. Check it out, if that's your thing. If your thing is going to the zoo with a deck of cards and making the monkeys go insane by playing Three Card Monty with them, then perhaps you should do that instead.
Then a quick phone meeting with the would-be boss of the work project, and then I got a call back from the plastic surgery office, where I was able to speak in-depth and in embarrassingly frank terms about gynecomastia with the nice lady. Of all the conversations I've ever had with anyone during my entire life, this one definitely featured the most occurrences of the words "fatty breast tissue". I asked a few "warm-up" questions about recovery periods, effects on weight training, etc., stalling for a while before I could ask the only question I really cared about, which was: "How the hell much is this going to cost?"
Ballpark? $4500, she said, without a trace of sympathy. So, again, any way you can help, well gosh I'd sure appreciate it. Maybe if there's nine of you, you can each send in $500! And $500 seems like an awfully small price to make your favorite web author happy by appeasing his own vanity, doesn't it? I'll even send you hand-written letters every month detailing my progress. If you don't do it for me, just think of the children. What of the children, I ask you! What of the children.
The next step in this process is the "consultation" with the doctor, a few weeks after which would be the actual procedure. The nice lady asked me when I wanted to come in for this consultation. I said, "Hmm, well, tomorrow's free for me, or Monday, if tomorrow's no good." The nice lady's tone changed dramatically as she informed me that, well, the very first opening in the good doctor's schedule would be August 25th at 9:00 AM. I begrudgingly agreed to that, and hung up the phone. So the good news is, this thing (or things, if you want to get technical) looks like it's actually going to happen. The bad news is, it ain't going to happen for a while. Ain't that just the way, though? I wait over two years to sign up to have this done, and now I'm frustrated that I have to wait another month and a half. But I wanted it nowwwww!!
Seeking to wipe all of that unpleasantry from my mind, I then took a drive out to the airport, checked out one of the other pilot shops and picked up a Terminal Area Chart, so that once I left the runway, I'd have some idea, you know, where I was, and how to get back. A good pilot is always thinking ahead like that!
The day really started to pick up, though, when I returned back home and got a message from Rich letting me know that I'd been invited over for dinner to his and Darlene's place this evening, and that Darlene would be cooking steak au poivre for us! NOW we're talkin'! I, of course, enthusiastically agreed! Soon after that, I went back over to the gym for the second time in the day to put in another extra 30 minutes on the stationary bike, to prepare for the grand feast! Steak au poivre, ohboyohboyohboy!!
After the gym, I simply bounded into my car and hit the road up to Longmont. As it was rush hour, the drive was much longer and slower (50 minutes!) than it would normally have been, but I didn't care, because I knew that at the end of the taxing, arduous journey, I had a magnificent, succulent gourmet creation waiting for me!
Upon arriving at their apartment complex, I quickly pulled into the closest parking spot available, jumped out, ran down the pathway to their building, lept up the stairway two steps at a time, gave a polite "warning knock" to let them know I was coming in, and then swung the door open with a flourish and jumped into the apartment, to find Darlene putting the finishing touches to a tuna fish sandwich, then turning to me and asking, without irony, the following question:
"You weren't expecting dinner, were you?"
Hmmm. Weeeell, I guess if I'm going to be totally honest with you (as the self-help book strongly advises), I'd have to say, "Yes, actually, I was expecting dinner. What with, you know, being invited over for dinner not two hours previous. Generally, that's how it works, right? You invite someone over for dinner, and then you provide said dinner to them. I'm no grand socialite by any means, but I do recall that that's how it generally works."
Fury began to well up in her eyes, as she yelled into the adjoining room, "Rich!!!??!?" Rich gingerly and bashfully lumbered out to the living room and said, essentially, "DUUURRRRRRRR."
Ah well, these mixups happen, you know! We all decided to put the ugliness behind us (or in Rich and Darlene's case, put it behind us until after I had left for the evening, when the recriminations and castigations could be thrown around in full force) and head down to one of the local Thai places, where we were fairly mistreated (just not a good day to eat dinner in this town!), then said our goodbyes and went on our separate ways. FOREVER!!! (No, not forever. Somebody's gotta drive me to the surgery center.)
July 20, 2004
You know the old saying that goes, "You can catch more flies with honeyed, buttered, toasted english muffins than you can with vinegar"? Well, darned if it doesn't turn out to be true, because this place is positively buzzing (get it? cuz they're flies?) with the little bastards! One of them, no lie, was waiting for me this morning on the exact spot on the counter where I generally eat breakfast. Like, "Hey heeeey, buddy! Mornin', nice to see ya! How's about firin' up that Lightwave of yours and slappin' down a few muffins for us, chief!" Look, I said it before, I'll say it again, one patient at a time, please.
But you didn't come here to read about flies, you came here to find out what time I woke up in the morning! (5:30 again.)
After the regular morning activities, I sat around being annoyed that I couldn't open my door, because every Tuesday morning, the grounds crew comes and mows and weedwhacks the entire apartment complex, but apparently the tallest grass and the nastiest, thickest weeds must all congregate right outside P297, because for about two hours straight, there was either a riding mower, a leafblower or a weedwhacker blasting at about 150 db ten feet away. I like having my door open. For one, since this apartment only opens from the front, to get any ventilation, I need the biggest "hole" in the front that I can manage. And for two, it gives me a great opportunity to meet my neighbors! Like that black guy! And Samantha, the cute college girl living upstairs! Yes, I do believe I'll leave the door open, thank you very much.
I thought today would be a good day to tend to various little tasks which I'd let fall through the cracks the last few months. One task was to send in a change-of-address form to the FAA to let them know where to send me those obnoxious little green flyers that never have anything useful on them and which I throw away immediately upon receipt. Problem was, I had no way to print out the form! So, what's the natural thing to do at that point? Go to a Kinkos and have them print it out! I'm not much for the "natural" thing, though, so instead I went to Target and bought a Lexmark 515 color inkjet ($34.99). I went to Best Buy first, but when I got there, there were no cars there and the front door was locked. I couldn't figure out why, until it dawned on me -- LOL! It's too early! They don't even open for another hour!! Lazy bastards, what are they doing, sleeping in until seven or something?
This is the first printer I've ever bought. The reason for that is, I hate printers. I hate them because they take up space. I hate them because they use up paper, our most natural of resources. But mostly I hate them because they never work. I was delighted, then, to see that setting up and installing the Lexmark proved to be a breeze, and not the daunting task it was the last time I set up a printer, which was about 15 years ago. I was less thrilled to discover, upon printing a test page, that the black cartridge was only printing the bottom half of every letter. Printers never work, I swear. However, I am a brilliant technical engineer, so I was able to fix the black cartridge with the time-tested technique of taking it into the bathroom and wiping the ink nozzle with toilet paper. Then I printed the FAA form.
The FAA form is one of those things where it's its own envelope. You fold the paper up right, then tape up the sides, and it's already got the mailing address square in the middle, ready to go. So, then the problem became that I didn't have tape. It's always somethin', I tell ya. Sooo, out the door again I went, to stroll across to the King Soopers and hit the school supplies aisle (17).
On the sidewalk, twenty feet outside my door, I found four $1 bills, just lying there, begging to be blown away by the mounting breeze. I took a 360 look around, to see if anyone was closeby who might have dropped it. No one was. I picked the bills up and look at 'em, checking for strings (I've been burned by that before, you see). No strings. I looked around again. Nobody. Alright, finders keepers, right? I slipped the $4 into my pocket.
A little further down the path, I saw that waaaay over in the distance, by the dumpster, one of the grounds crew was throwing something away, and then started digging into his pocket, apparently looking for something he was missing. I paused. What to do? Well, I could go ask him if he lost $4. But he might be the scheming type to lie about it, just to get my hard-found $4! And plus, the dumpster really is way over there. And hey, I have to listen to those damn weedwhackers going on all morning, why shouldn't I get a little something for my trouble!?
I kept walking. As I approached the King Soopers, I was attacked by pangs of guilt. This, strangely, was a welcome relief. A relief from all of the confrontations with shame I've been provoking lately. You see, guilt is better than shame. Much, much better. Guilt says, "I did something wrong," something that can be fixed, atoned for, or at the very least, avoided next time. Shame says, "I am something wrong," and there's no way to make restitution for that. Wearing my guilt like a badge, I strolled into Soops and bought the tape with the money.
When a got home, finally, three hours, a new printer, and one showdown with guilt later, I mailed the FAA letter away. Then I went onto the website of a Denver plastic surgeon and filled out the form requesting a consultation for gynecomastia surgery. I've done a fairly quick flip-flop on the idea of the surgery since starting my self-help kick. There's certainly no part of my body I'm more ashamed of than my pendulous, cartoon-sized breasts, but after discovering shame as my inner demon, my thinking became, "Well, once we solve the shame business, it won't matter any more." That was the flip. The flop was, hey, now that I'm gaining a little self-esteem, I wanna look as good as I can! And there's no way to look as good as I can without having this procedure done. So I'ma do it. Please send money. It costs at least $3000. Do you have $3000 I can borrow? Can I have $3000 please?
Empowered by this forceful decision making, it was time to keep the train a-rollin', so I drove out to Boulder Municipal Airport and signed my damn self up for some flight training on Friday. I've cleared out all my credit cards, so it's time to start fillin' 'em up again, and there ain't no better way to fill 'em up than by cheating death, that's what I say.
After that, things kinda slowed down. Studied some software documentation for a two-month job which I may or may not be starting some time in the near future, and then -- OH!! Right! I added, with very kind assistance from Rich, the brand new So Now Then Forums BBS, which it's early yet, but so far it promises to be the very best BBS I've ever had since the last one I started that nobody ever used! C'mon! Get over there! JOIN THE FUN, you goddamn ANTI-SOCIAL LOSERS!! THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU!?!?!?
Then I made dinner, messed around on the internet, watched Iron Chef, and went to sleep to the soothing buzz of about a dozen flies.
July 19, 2004
"This is getting out of control. - Clash.
The preceding quote was in response to learning that I had woken up and gotten my day started not at 6:30, not at 6:00, but at the rather ludicrous, inconceivable 5:30 AM, and I find it awfully hard to disagree with him. I guess it's true what they say, when you quit one addiction, you put another in its place. I've simply sublimated my urge to drink seven beers and five shots of rum with a burning desire to keep setting the alarm clock back 30 minutes! I need help!! This is getting out of control.
Ah, but so much to do today! I needed that extra time! (See how the true addict denies and rationalizes his own behavior?) After the standard routines of coffee/update/fitness, I was to try something I had never before attempted in the history of my life: Playing golf before 9:00 AM. I arrived at the club at about 8:30, hooked myself up for an 8:54 tee time, and bingo, mission accomplished!
I was a bit concerned if my muscles would even know how to coordinate that early in the day, so I approached the first tee with some reticence. The first hole at Indian Peaks is a par 5 with a severe dogleg to the left after the first shot. In fact, the dogleg comes so quickly, that if a longer player were to boom a drive, the ball would doubtless sail past the fairway, past the bunkers, past the cart path, past the drink girl, past everything. I knew that, not having warmed up yet, and never having swung a club this early, the chances of that were essentially zero, but not wanting to look like a total pussy, I downclubbed to the 3 wood for my tee shot. A coiling backswing, a mighty rip, and... WOW! Straight down the fairway! Maybe the cleanest 3 wood I'd ever hit! And now my playing partners start going, "Whoa... sit... WHOA!!" and my delight over myself turns to concern, as even with my meager little 3 wood, I might have given it too much juice. I join the chorus, "Sit! Whoa! SIT!!" and fortunately, knowing not to mess with me, the ball came to rest past the fairway, but a couple feet before going in the bunker. The hole was parred, and I decided I liked morning golf!
What followed were six more holes of many of the genuinely the best golf swings I can put together. After taking a couple months off, somehow I seem to have come back to the game with a more precise rhythm, a smoother, more repeatable action. None of the shots were perfect, but none of them were really "off", either. It was a joy.
What was less of a joy was my tee shot on the par 3 8th hole, which I skulled badly, causing the club to snap back in my hand, which in turn caused a muscle in my left hand, the same muscle I'd ripped up the previous week and had thought had healed, to just unravel. I announced to my playing partners, "I think I'm done for the day," to which they laughed, thinking it a comic response to my horrible tee shot. But no, I actually picked up my ball and got driven back to the clubhouse by a ranger (named, no lie, "Rick" -- Ranger Rick), getting a raincheck for the 9 holes I didn't use up.
On the subject of physical pain, let me back up a bit. I have a habit of always forgetting something when I play golf. Usually, it's the pitch mark fixer, the green fixer, whatever you call it. Sometimes it's tees. Or a ball mark. Occasionally I'll even forget to change into my golf shoes. But it's always something. So today, before leaving the house, I made sure to do a full inventory before leaving. Green fixer thing, CHECK. Tees, CHECK. Balls, CHECK. Ball mark (guitar pick, really), CHECK. Everything else, CHECK! Alright! Set to go! It was nice to finally be confident, stepping onto a course, that you had all your ducks in a row.
It was at about the fairway of the third hole when I began getting the sense that my entire head was on fire, and then realized what I'd forgotten on this day. The goddamn cap. And the sun, up in these parts? It's HOT. And it's BRIGHT. And it's about five thousand feet CLOSER to you than you're used to if you live on the coasts. So, writing this update, I've got pain all around. The top of my head is still bright red and tender, and my left hand aches every time I have to press a key on the left side of the keyboard. Good thing I rarely use the word "watercress" in these things.
That was way more than I wanted to say about golf, so I'll speed things up now. After golf, I went down to Pearl street, bought a copy of "Drinking: A Love Story" to own for my very own, and then tried out a different sushi place ("Japango"). Japango is much better than the place I'd tried the week before, and the best sushi I've had since I left California. Best of all, my sushi chef, an amiable Asiatic-lookin' dude, was named Ben. And Ben can whip up some top notch sushi, yes he can.
After that, I made my way to the DMV to get my car registered.
Let me tell you what a paralyzing effect an unconscious, toxic ball of shame can have on a person. Dig this. Last November, as I was driving cross-country, I remember thinking, "Oh dear, my registration is about to expire! I'll have to remember to do that once I get to South Carolina." Then one day in February, during a rare moment of clarity, a little spark went off, "Oh shit! I forgot the registration! I better do that!" Of course, I did not, as I was far too busy not waking up in the morning, and playing golf. Plus, the cops hadn't given me any trouble. I still had it vaguely on my to-do list, but echhh, who wants to go to the DMV, sit around for two hours, get shuffled around by hostile, miserable DMV workers, and then end up having to pay for the privilege at the end. March went by, then April, then May. At that point, the excuse became "Well, I'm moving to Colorado anyway, I'll just get it registered there." So naturally, once arriving in Colorado in May, I did not get the car registered. Paralyzed. Unable to accomplish even the simplest of (albeit boring, unpleasant, time-wasting) tasks.
June went by. July... Alright, I'm doing it now. I'm energized. The shame is being eradicated. I am going to effect myself upon this world. No matter how unpleasant, no matter how nasty everyone is, no matter how long I have to wait, no matter how utterly dehumanizing, depressing, and morally taxing the task, I am going to get my goddamn car registered.
I walked into the DMV office at precisely 12:42 PM.
At 12:55 PM, I walked out with new license plates, registration and title in hand.
Thirteen minutes. An eight-month wait for a thirteen-minute procedure. And the lady at the DMV could not have been nicer. I actually began complaining to her after we'd completed the transaction, "But this is the DMV! I am supposed to wait here for an hour, and you are supposed to send me away because I don't have the right paperwork, and..." Her response was just perfect...
She said, "This is Boulder, Colorado."
Now, if you check out the above, you're saying to yourself, "Wow, that's a full day right there!" But the problem was, by the time I got home from my adventures, it was still only 1:30 in the afternoon! NOW what? I didn't know. I rented some movies, and watched one of them, then dicked around on the internet a bit, then ate a piece cheese, then bought some grapes, then stared out the window, then flipped through the TV channels, then tried to read a little bit... But nothing was happening. Added to that a growing sense of fatigue from the early wake-up, and I was just feeling a bit... blah.
And that's when my constant vigilance slipped, that vigilance I spoke of earlier, required at all times to maintain the healthy outlook I've worked to construct, to coddle and nurture the budding, yet still very tender and tenuous, sense of self-esteem and self-respecet required for a happy life. It slipped, and just the tiniest little bit. One teeny little bad thought made it through the barrier. And as the system of human emotions is like an unsecured computer network, that one little slip spread like a virus over the next couple hours, until I nearly (but not quite) felt like I was back fully in the clutches of the fear which had bound and controlled my life for so many years, so many years.
Part of me was thinking, "Okay, let's get myself out of this. Let's get back on the horse." The other part was simply questioning, "How the hell did I live like this all these years?"
Then I glanced down at the small bag of empty Dale's Pale Ales left from the previous weekend, and was reminded of the answer.
July 18, 2004
Six o'clock in the morning. SIX! Can you believe it? A scant three or four hours after I'd normally be falling asleep, and there I was, bam, up and about, carpeing the diem. On a Sunday, no less. Absurd, I tell you. Simply absurd.
The absurdity continues as I rattled through my nascent morning rituals. Make coffee, write update, wash dishes, go to fitness center, eat those delectable honeyed buttered english muffins, then I'd... what the hell?
See, rather than continue to complain about how I can't remember what I did the day before while I'm writing these things, I've started to scribble out little notes in a notepad before I settle in for the night on any particular day, scratching out an outline of what the next update is going to look like. The problem is, I have yet to devise a language with which I can communicate to myself over the boundary of sleep. For instance, it took me a while to write "honeyed buttered english muffins" up there, because I was looking at a note on my notepad which said "BEAST". Beast? What does that have to do with my morning rituals? Do I have any large, exotic pets that I needed to feed? Hmm, no. Did I set aside time to grieve for Marlon Brando in my own personal way? Hmm, no. Beast. Ohhh, BREAKFAST!! It wasn't an "e", it was an "F": "BFAST". Aaaahhhh.
So now I'm looking at a note that says "LOST". I don't particularly remember getting lost on the way to or from the fitness center, and this is a one-room, studio apartment, so it's fairly difficult to find yourself disoriented within the confined of ol' P297, so... I dunno. I think I meant, "even though I am writing this down during the evening of the same day I am describing, there are parts of the morning which, even a scant 14 hours later, I cannot seem to recall. These times are 'lost' to me, it would seem. Sorry, bud!" Yeah, "sorry". That doesn't do me much good when I'm trying to entertain my readers, pounding out these updates, man! Morning guy hates nighttime guy!
Now the next note says "STUFF". So apparently, I also did stuff.
Then it was off to Target, to purchase a toaster oven! Yes, if I'm going to be treating myself to english muffins in the morning, it will not do to continually have to fire up the big oven, wait 10 minutes for it to preheat, then another 10 for the heat molecules to gradually mosey there way around the cavernous appliance into the muffins themselves, so I simply must have a toaster oven, always at the ready, like a small, hyperactive dog, yipping and yapping away, just begging to be used to toast something.
When buying small, infrequently used appliances from Target, I have a fairly fool-proof method of shopping, which is: "Buy the cheapest one." My blender? Cheapest one. Coffee maker? Cheapest. Bookcase? El cheaperino. True to form, I made my way to the toaster oven aisle, spotted ol' Cheapy Cheapster over there on the far left side of the shelf, and went to grab it, when I stopped...
Since I have begun undertaking my quest to find some peace and happiness in this life, I have been through a lot. Don't let anybody fool you, this self-help business is hard work. As I've described earlier, every passing moment requires awareness of thought and action, analysis of past reactions and active modification of future ones. Plus all of the reading and studying itself, not to mention the very regular bouts of difficult, often painful recollections of personal history, searching for clues, hunting for that next little bit of insight that promises to right old wrongs and divert the path of my life to a brighter, more hopeful course. Hard, hard work, and often more than a little wearying, mentally and emotionally. Doesn't someone working this hard deserve a reward for all those efforts?
Don't I deserve to own the coolest goddamn toaster oven around!? YES, of course I do! And, after lugging home the new Lightwave 6-Slice Toaster-Oven-Broiler, that bitch is mine! See, it cooks with light! Nobody knows how it does this, but it does the hell out of it! No preheat time at all, either! You set that thing to "Vaporize", hit START, and whammo, it's 800 degrees instantaneously. I haven't even used it to heat up any food products yet, I just love watchin' that thing go! It's like I have a little piece of the sun, right there in my kitchen. Lightwave, baby!
Now some more barely legible notes I'll have to interpret for you. Oh yeah, then I went to the store to buy fixins for Ghormeh Sabzi, which I hadn't made in, what, weeks! Then I cooked that. Then I spent nearly the entire rest of the day finishing up the book I was reading.
The book in question was "Drinking: A Love Story", by Caroline Knapp, and damned if that broad didn't nail it. The book describes, in very readable, literary style, her own experiences as an alcoholic, and no doubt like any alcoholic who's read the book, I responded to more of it than not with a knowing nod and a feeling of, "Yeah, that's me, man." Some of these recognitions are humorous (sneaking out to the recycling bin, bags all a-clinking, having to close one eye to be able to read a phone number), but more incisive and relevant to me, I think, is the concept that alcohol (when used in the way that us alkies do) stunts emotional growth, in no uncertain terms. You can't grow up, because you never face any of the difficult decisions and experiences which facilitate the growth in the first place.
I feel exactly the same way that I felt when I was 18, and that is no accident.
Reading the book made me feel the same way that reading the Shame/Self-Respect book made me feel. On the one hand, hopeful and energized for the future, finally given an insight into why I am the way I am, and what I can do about it. And on the other hand, a little wince of pain, knowing how long it took me find out, followed by lots of other little winces as I delve through my past, and come to a greater understanding of countless little moments I can remember, things I've done, and now, being able to view myself through an observation room window, feeling how it could have been better.
Oh well, onward and upward.
July 17, 2004
What a difference a week makes, eh? Last weekend, Rich, Darlene and I had planned to go to the Rennaissance fair, about 30 miles south of Denver proper. We originally planned to go on Saturday, but unfortunately were unable to because I was hungover like a sonofabitch, and didn't get up until way too late. So we put it off until Sunday, when we were also unable to go, because one or both of them was hungover like a sonofabitch, and didn't get up until way too late. So we re-planned to go again today, a week later.
This time, I was up and about, a full six hours before they even got here to pick me up! I do more before Rennaissance fairs than most people do all day! Let's get right to it, yes?
Got up at 6:30 again, which continues to amaze both myself and all my neighbors who never knew I existed before this, because by the time they'd always left for work/church/pagan sacrifice rituals, I was still piled up in a corner of unit P297, snoring and drooling as feverishly as I could. Then followed the standard morning stuff. Coffee, update, fitness, movie, book, clean, movie, insulin, movie. Oh, and I introduced a new element to the morning, which is breakfast. In that realm, I have created what is perhaps the greatest food item in culinary history! I call them "Buttered, Honeyed English Muffins". Here is the recipe:
If you follow my simple step-by-step instructions, you cannot help but enjoy a delicious, healthy breakfast full of energy!
Then I sat around reading until R/D showed up, and then off we went... to the Rennaissance fair! I will review the fair below, in the famous "Good/Bad Format", which I am making up as I go along:
Good! The drive down to the fair, full of much raucous hilarity involving Peeps (TM) and purchasing small children at liquor stores. Not necessarily at the same time. (But not necessarily not!)
Good! Ha ha! Look at all the wacky people dressed up in they wacky costumes, talking funny! And look at all the cute little shops!
Good! They had a maze there, which Rich and I eventually made our way through, and at the end of the maze was the Super Happy Fun Slide you get to go down to get back onto terra firma!
Good! Finally getting our group back together, so we could head down to Yee Olde Fyood Cyouryt.
Good! Turkey leg!
Good! It finally did.
Good! Finally making it to the car, driving back, and then joining R/D for dinner at the Mexican place across the street from me, which I had yet to try out.
Everyone had pretty much had it by that point, so they headed home, while I watched a little Iron Chef, chatted on the internet a bit, and then read for an hour before calling it a day.
As an aside, last night was the first time since I finished that last Dale's Pale Ale last Sunday that I really started to feel it. The desire, the longing, the need. It was all I could do to keep myself from sprinting across the street to Pettyjohn's Wine & Liquor and buying up the entire Rum aisle. I was able to sublimate these urges, slightly anyway, by reading a book written by (and about) an alcoholic, a book which provokes the conflicting responses of "See how bad it is?" and "DAMN could I use a drink right about now." Maybe not the best book to read before drifting to sleep...
I dreamt about beer.
July 16, 2004
You'd think that after quitting sucking down a tenth (that's a "half of a fifth") of rum every night, it would be easier to recall what transpired the previous day. However, this has not been my experience thusfar. Though this would seem to fly in the face of cause-and-effect, it makes a little sense only when you consider that my days have gotten a lot longer. I mean, I was generally good for about 10 or 11 hours in bed, either sleeping or just lying, palm poised over the "snooze" button like an anxious game show contestant, waiting for the thing to go off. That's been cut to a maximum of about seven, so there's 3 or 4 more hours I gotta remember.
Now let's move to the evening hours, when on any given day I was good for at least four or five hours doing little else than throwing down beer and rum, watching Nick @ Nite, dicking around on the internet, surfing for porn, and generally trying to get the world to just settle down for one goddamn minute. Well, the booze is out, which makes Nick @ Nite far less appealing, so my TV watching has been curtailed to one hour for Iron Chef. So there's another four hours or so of "found" time. Four and four, that sounds like eight to me. That's a full workday of previously unrecorded time that I have to account for. Another full third of an entire day! That's nearly two updates per update. I demand a raise!
Well, let's see what I can do to recall what happened Friday. If I miss a few spots, I'll just make some shit up and throw it in there.
Got up at SIX THIRTY. In the MORNING. That's about as early as I think I'm gonna go, though. I always wanted to be one of those people who got up before seven. But not much before seven. It's all weird that early! The sky can't quite decide whether it wants to be bright, or still wants to be dark, and shrouds of fog cover the tips of the Rocky Mountains (which I can see just staring out my window, thank you very much). And it turns out that 6:30 - 7:30 is the "Hot Chicks Walking Their Dogs Hour", which I can also see just staring out my window. It's quite the lovely window, I must tell you. If this window were a movie, I would give it three and a half stars. If this window was an employee, I would give it a raise. If this window was a double-cheeseburger, I would eat it.
Normal morning stuff, then. Coffee, write update, go to fitness room, clean dishes... oh, then I gave myself a haircut. Then I cleaned all the cut hair from where it had fallen all over the place in the bathroom. Blah blah blah.
At 11, I left the house to go get an emissions test for my car, so I can finally register it and quit driving through my rear-view mirror like a NASCAR driver on the last lap of the Brickyard 400 looking for cops, since my car hasn't technically been registered since about two states ago.
Up to Longmont, then, for lunch with Rich and Rich's Girlfriend Darlene, who were to introduce me to a local "Japanese restaurant", which excited me greatly! Sushi-time! Awww, yeah. I was somewhat disheartened, then, to discover as I arrived that it was actually not a "Japanese restaurant", but billed itself as a "Japanese cafe", which is apparently code for "Arby's with Teriyaki sauce", as the customer must choose from a big white board of numbered selections, including things with names like "BEEF BOWL", then pay at the register, and then wait for the fry cooks in back to thumb through their Japanese-English dictionaries to figure out what "hoisin sauce" is. I ordered the number 70, "sashimi", in an attempt to at least simulate the experience of a real sushi joint. Let's just say that the highlight of the lunch was getting to spend good, quality time with my two best Colorado buddies!
On the way home, Darlene and I stopped by the local dairy, where I purchased cheese, hot sauce, and honey.
Upon arriving home, I tasted the cheese, hot sauce, and honey, then watched a few movies which needed to be returned to the store, "Donnie Darko" (**1/2) and "Roger & Me" (***1/2). Then I walked to the store to return them, when I was approached by a fairly wild-eyed gentleman with a scraggly beard who informed me that, there, over there by the bus stop, there's a guy who's really sick and "I don't wanna call the cops and end up lookin' like an idiot but he's over there, and he's got his ass and his dick all hangin' out, and there's children over there man, but I don't know what... I mean... His ass is hangin' all out and I don't know man..." I thanked the man for the valuable information, and assured him that I would go check that situation out, as a concerned citizen, right after I returned the videos to the video store. He thanked me for my conscienscious cooperation, I bid him a lovely afternoon, and then I ran away real fast! I mean, what the hell is he telling me this for? What am I going to do about it? Do I look like an officer of the Guys With Asses & Dicks Hanging All Out Police?
Anyway, then I bought more fruit.
Some other stuff happened after that, but I've strained the limits of both my memory, and your patience, as far as they'll go, so let me just wrap this up by saying: Jesus Christ, I'm already done writing the update, and it's still only 7:30 AM here. There's no WAY I'll remember what happens today.
July 15, 2004
What a nice day this was! Now if only I can bring myself to remember what the hell happened. See, since using my new sleep techniques (working, by the way!) I'm getting up a lot earlier in the morning, and thus have a lot more time to kill, so I've started writing these updates the following day rather than the evening of. Now, a lot of you may have no trouble at all remembering what went on 24 hours ago, but whoo, it's like a foggy mystery to me! I'll get the "improve your memory" self-help book next.
One thing I do remember is getting up at 7:00 AM sharp. Of all the tips and techniques the sleep book gave me, the following is the most useful: When you get up, get up. Don't lie there for a half hour, or an hour, or (if you were me any time in the last, say, 20 years) three hours, or whatever. So now when the alarm goes off, bam, I'm on my feet and headed to the coffee machine. Now, some of you might guess that this method of getting started might be somewhat unpleasant. Allow me to dispell your misconceptions, though: It is excruciatingly painful. Praying for death is not an uncommon notion during this tenuous moment on the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness. Amazingly, though, once you keep at it for a few days, the duration of the pain begins to shorten significantly. For instance, on this particular day, by about 7:05, I no longer considered wrapping my head in tinfoil and sticking it in the microwave oven for 20 minutes on "high"!
Coffee, then, and writing the update, and oh, that's right, the British Open was on, so in a somewhat surreal scene, I was able to tune into live golf featuring a live Tiger Woods, right there on my couch in the wee hours of the morning. I've curtailed my television watching significantly lately, but I let the reins loose on this one.
Then I spent some time receiving emails and instant messages from various people all asking me "Hey, what's wrong with Tiger? He sucks anymore! It's that girlfriend! Why can't he win anymore? What's wrong with Tiger? HUhuhhuUhhuhUhh." They write me this stuff, because they know what a huge fan I am, and want to get me going, rile me up, make me crazy. The striking levels of insecurity they are betraying about themselves with this sort of behavior is certainly fodder for future updates, but let's deal with one patient at a time, let's. And, the current leaderboard shows him tied at 20th, four shots back of the lead. Are any of you tied for 20th at the British Open? I'd like to see you people get a golf club in your hand and try playing professional golf with all the cameras and attention on you while people are QUESTIONING YOUR EVERY MOVE AND QUIT BUGGING MY BELOVED TIGER WOODS YOU BASTARDS ILL KILL YOU GODDAMMNIT ILL FUCKJUIONG KLII GYIEIYfg977
Ah! Ahem. Well, let's move on, shall we?
After spending the morning doing various things such as grocery shopping, going to the fitness room, washing dishes, and other stuff I don't remember, I ran several errands, including having lunch with Rich up in Longmont which was delightful, breaking into Rich's apartment to steal back my keyboard, which was heavy, returning and checking out books from the library, which was quiet, and going to Starbucks to buy a pound of ground coffee, which was free due to the gift card that my Aunt Shirley so kindly purchased for me while I was visiting family in Arizona. Thanks Aunt Shirley! There ya go, free plug for Shirley.
Upon arriving home, I found myself with little else on the agenda. Hmm. What to do. Well, coverage of the British Open was over, so I couldn't watch golf. Too bad, too, I was really getting into watching the golf. Love the golf! I used to actually pick up the sticks and whack the ol' pill around myself once and a while, did you know? Sure did. Lots of fun, too!
What to do, what to do... Well, I just can't think of anyth- HEY WAIT! GOLF!!
Not two seconds later, I was headed out the door and down the road to the closest public course to my new home here, Coal Creek. Not having been there before, let me give you my initial reactions: Excellent! Friendly staff, good shape, very pretty, nice location. What a find! I signed up for 18, and was sent off by myself, which I always enjoy, particularly when I haven't picked up the clubs for a couple months. But lo and behold, I parred the first hole with relative ease! It's amazing how taking time off from something can actually help you improve at it. Well, for a few minutes, anyway. Things got progressively worse, and I was in real danger of missing the cut when I caught up to the guy ahead of me at the fifth hole, where we teamed up.
A nice enough chap, Brian and I kicked the ball around for the next hour and a half, when we got to the 13th hole. Several things happened on the 13th hole which convinced me to discontinue my round. They were, in order: 1. Hitting the longest drive of my life (approx. 310 yards, though helped by a stiff wind and hard turf) leaving me about 60 yards to the green. 2. Taking three shots from there to get on said green, the first a wedge which went completely under the ball, moving it about 15 yards, then a wedge sailing clear over to the back of the green under a tree, then a half-hearted whack at it to get it on the putting surface. 3. Feeling at least seven of the bones in my left hand splinter into powder on one of the aforementioned wedge shots. 4. Hearing the clap of distant thunder as a brooding storm creeped its way over the Flatirons and headed our way (and the first few raindrops beginning to splat on the bill of our caps). 5. I wanted to go home and eat!
With that, I bid adieu to Brian and the Coal Creek Golf Club and headed on home, where I ate, watched Happy Gilmore for the first time (a movie which I originally didn't like too much, but after sleeping on it and thinking about it a little more, I've decided that it's absolutely horrible), dicked around on the internet, watched Iron Chef, chatted with a drunk Rich's Girlfriend Darlene on instant messenger for awhile, then went to sleep!
See what a nice day this was?
July 14, 2004
I think all of this psychological self-help is turning me into a crazy person!
The thing is, before the tenets of happiness and serenity become second-nature, and the concept of "self-respect" is an accurate reflection of reality, instead of a known, but still far-off oasis on the path, this process requires constant vigilance of both thought and action as the day's events (sometimes as significant as tying my shoes) unfold. Every passing second is another opportunity for blunder and regression.
The Book indicates that one must become a friend to one's self, rather than the enemy who has been beating us down all these years. First, though, it seems you must become both a caring parent and teacher. Heading off the constant barrage of negative thought and torrents of self-defeating emotions, this parent/teacher must picture the self as a well-meaning but confused child walking through a minefield, or perhaps flailing about in an ocean, barely able to keep his head above water. The job of the parent is to instill comfort, understanding, and warmth, while the teacher educates the child on where the mines are. In fact, that's not a good analogy. A better one is a teacher who follows the child around, and when he steps on a mine and blows himself up, the teacher is there to explain to him that the mine was not really there at all.
"I don't want to write the update today..."
As a result, lately I've been spending all day talking to myself.
It happens any time that I used to (and was used to) explaining to myself how inadequate and horrible a person I was. Which was: all the time. Waking up in the morning. Showering. Going to work (heh!) Playing golf. Going to the grocery store. Staring out the window. Being alive. So, in the space of only one short week, I've gone from being a miserable person to an insane person. Progress!
Woke up at the unbelievable hour of 7:45 AM, and simply bounded out of bed/couch, not so much because I felt like it, but one of the most forceful suggestions of the sleep book I'm reading is: don't lie around in bed after you wake up. The reasons for this are easy enough to explain, but I don't feel like it. Here, though, are some very interesting tips/information from the sleep book that I will share with you:
After getting up, I... Hmm. What the hell did I do yesterday? I don't quite remember the morning. I think I read a little, and wrote the update, and went to the fitness center for a half hour, and then--- oh yeah! Then for lunch, I went down to Boulder and went to a sushi joint. This is not remarkable except for the fact that it's the first sushi I've had since I left Los Angeles, and the good folks down at Isshin! Let me just say this about sushi, folks: Damn.
Upon returning from lunch, I did some other stuff which I also don't quite remember. More reading, probably. Oh yeah, then I went back to the library, where I picked up a book on alcoholism, and also began giggling to myself as I entertained thoughts like the following:
What if I checked out three books at the same time:
Then at around 4, I headed back to the fitness center, where I met the woman I'm am going to marry! She seemed to be pretty much into me, too, as evidenced by the following conversation (confidently started by me, thank you very much): "Have a good evening." "See ya." Awwww, yeah.
Dinner and a movie then, followed by a little Iron Chef (the 9 PM showing these days), and then more reading, a little Go, and then I drifted off to sleep, the teacher giving way to the parent, tucking me in and singing lullabies.
Oh well. I'd rather be happy than sane anyway.
July 13, 2004
Seriously, we need a new format. This is just horrible. Terrible. -- SNT, 7/12/04Do you see? Do you see what a sickness this is? Notice how, rather than risking rejection or criticism of my website, I habitually and reflexively beat you to the punch, by calling it a piece of shit first. My "self-deprecating humor", which casual acquaintances find so charming (and why not? If I'm worse, they're better) becomes more maddening and pitiable the closer you get to me. Gayle (who I've never mentioned before on this website, but let's just call her the one and only "success" story, when defined by physical penetration, I've ever had on an internet dating website), as we parted, commented that I had such a... sadness about me. I didn't know what the hell she was talking about at the time. Whaddya mean, sadness? I'm the life of the party, baby! I'm a joker! I'm a smoker! I'm a midnight toker!
That Gayle, she hit it right on the fucking keppi. Way to go, sweetheart. And quit smoking, for god's sake.
A sickness, is what it is, of which the above quote is just one of a thousand symptoms. So, forget it. I'll change the format whenever the Christ I want to, and that day is definitely not today, so sit back, cuz I'm gonna talk about getting up, and making coffee, and having lunch, and all sorts of other stuff like that, and you're going to read it, and you're going to like it and if you don't, I don't give a flying pig one way or the other. (Well, I do, but I'm getting better.)
I awoke spontaneously at 8:15 AM! The earliest I've been up in ages, and it didn't even take an alarm clock's help. Maybe it was the renewed sense of energy I feel as I confront my long-lingering psychological problems head on! Or maybe it was the grating, gravelly whine of the weedwhacker going to town about five feet outside my front door. What the hell kind of apartment place does landscaping at 8:15 in the morning? There are unemployed people trying to sleep here, goddammit!
Yes, that was when I made coffee. Write it down, if it will help you remember.
The rest of the day was filled primarily with reading, and if ever a form of sitting on a couch all day could be considered "momentum", then this was definitely it.
Nearing completion of the Michael P. Nichols, Ph.D. book "No Place To Hide", I decided to head to not one, but two local libraries to look for other books to attack next. Libraries, man! Have you seen these places? I'd never been in 'em before, but check this out: They've got books there, and you can just... take 'em! For free! I tell ya, I don't know how these places stay in business, but I just walked in there, got a couple books from the "You Are Fucked Up" section (dewey decimal: 616.5822), and headed out the door! I told the lady at the front desk, "Uh, yeah, I'm just gonna... I'm just taking these, without paying for them," and she smiled and nodded, "Have a nice day, sir!" What a bunch of chumps! Anyway, if you've got any of these places in your home town, go there and look for yourself. You won't believe it.
More reading. More reading. Then, in a further expression of self-betterment, checked out the community's fitness room for the first time. No, not the pool yet. Baby steps. A decent fitness room, for a community like this, which also gave me a chance to practice not disintegrating into a quivering pile of shame and self-loathing as I struggled to get my key to unlock the door, while all the buff sweaty people inside looked out, and (though the door is tinted from the outside, so I couldn't confirm this) pointed at me and laughed. When you're me, and you're alone, every little task is an ordeal. It's difficult to describe.
Finally, one of the people took pity and opened the door for me. Having not done any actual "exercise" or "physical exertion stronger than filling the coffee machine" for the past several months, I started slow, putting in 20 minutes on the stationary bike. That was enough. I got out of there, but first stood at the door, got my key out, and worked with the lock until I got it to open. See if they point and laugh at me again.
After a light meal, I watched the movie "Pollock", which is not an altogether great movie, but at least mildly entertaining, if you have any interest in the subject matter. Then, at around 9:30, to try to get to sleep early, I started reading one of the books I'd gotten from the library earlier -- a book on curing sleep disorders. Isn't that cute? Reading a book about sleep to try to get to sleep? After an hour of that (10:30), I turned off the lights. At about 12:15 AM, I realized that it wasn't working, so I fired the computer back up, logging into the Kiseido Go server and flipped on a Go match to watch. I was out within 5 minutes.
We'll see if the sleep book mentions internet Go servers. If not, I'm returning it to the library for a full refund.
July 12, 2004
Welp, haven't gotten any new format suggestions yet, so we're all still stuck listening to routine retellings of my stupid days. I can wait as long as you can for some decent content, so you're fooling nobody but yourself.
Bit of a later start than I'd like (due primarily to the beers I worked so hard on finishing up the previous evening), so 10:30 AM saw me finally trudging off the couch. I actually have an air mattress here, but I've decided that the couch is actually more comfortable. Or perhaps since I spent a significant portion of my youth, as well as last October, sleeping on a couch, I feel more emotionally cozy on them. Or perhaps it's just easier to see the TV from the couch.
A lot of "puttering" in the morning hours. Cleaned the kitchen. Packed away the air mattress. Did the laundry. Brushed my teeth. All that jazz (foreshadowing!) brought us up to lunchtime, which prompted me to hit the King Soopers and buy some corn and more chicken. Having a craving for corn, I broiled two ears and wolfed 'em down with a little salt for lunch. VERY satisfying. Anything better than good sweet corn? Whew. I also started prepping the chicken to make fried chicken again, trying to adjust the recipe a little and correct my few mistakes from last night. Once the chicken was in the marinade and everything else had been taken care of, I sat down to read more of my book.
If you're following along at home, I've finally reached Part II of the book, where we find out who's fault it is that I'm such a basket case. And lemme tell you, I'm only a few chapters into Part II, but if you're reading this, chances are: YOU ARE ON THE LIST. If the book named you by name, it would have made it only slightly more obvious. I've said it before, but it bears repeating at this point: I will get you for this. Your time is coming. Sleep well, sweethearts... if you can.
Sufficiently depressed by my hour or two of reading, I cooked the chicken. Leaving the oil at a slightly lower temperature proved to be the key, as the color of the surface became an accurate timer for when the inside was fully cooked. I only had a couple pieces, though, because I wanted to save room for a few bites of the Ben & Jerry's I'd picked up earlier in the day, a concoction called: "Karamel Sutra". This is half caramel-vanilla and half chocoloate-chocolate-chip, but with a dime-sized cylinder of soft caramel shoved directly into the center of the pint, longitudinally from top to bottom.
In honor of Ken Jenning, I'll do this in Jeopardy form: The answer is: "The greatest goddamn ice cream in the history of food." The question is: "What the hell is Karamel Sutra??" Wow. Holy moly.
Then the UPS guy showed up at the door and delivered to me my smart new AOPA leather pilot's jacket, which I won in a drawing I don't even remember entering, and which qualifies me for an entry into the REAL drawing, the winner of which will receive a brand new twin-engine airplane. Which would be funny, because I'm not even rated to fly multi-engine planes, so I'd likely immediately sell it off and spend another few years not working. C'mon, brand new twin-engine airplane!
Satisfied with my newfound wardrobe, I sat down and watched Chicago, a right entertaining film.
Now here we are.
Seriously, we need a new format. This is just horrible. Terrible.
July 11, 2004
The morning was spent putting the pieces back together from the previous evening, during which I dedicated myself to polishing off the rest of the Bacardi and enough of the beers so I was confident I could finish everything up today and have an empty refrigerator for the "work" week. During this cleanup period, I decided that my "week off/weekend on" thing is not going to hack it, primarily because I found myself not even enjoying it. It was boring at best, and irritating at worst, for the following reason:
When I was struggling with problems that I couldn't quite put my finger on, and wasn't making an progress toward solving the problems, alcohol was fun. An escape. That it seemed to increase my self-confidence on the outside did nothing to dissuade me from the idea that pounding beers was an excellent idea, and a valuable use of time/money. However, now that I feel like I'm getting close to at least figuring out what the problem is, alcohol became a distraction. Look, goddammit, I want to solve the problem, and this greenish-white haze of Bacardi and Dale's Pale Ale is clouding both the goal and the path to it. Like a court jester jumping up and down in front of you while you're trying to finish a Gannt chart in Microsoft Project, it ended up being nothing but a hindrance, and a mentally debilitating one at that.
So, you know what? I think I'm done with the whole heavy-drinking thing. We had a good run there, but it's just gotten boring, gotten cliche, gotten a bit hackneyed, moldy and stale. I think from here on in, we'll keep it to a beer or two with buddies, or a glass of wine with dinner, but I don't wanna do the blotto thing anymore. At least not while I'm trying to make some progress on my life.
But, back to my day. Actually, until something interesting happens to talk about, this format is starting to feel awfully stale. Who cares if I got up, cleaned up the apartment, watched some TV, then went to the store and bought some chicken? It's boring. So I'm looking for a little change of pace, and if you've got some ideas about what else I can do with this website, please send me an email with your brilliant idea. If I use your idea, you will receive, with my appreciation, an assurance that if I snap and travel around the country on a killing spree, I'll seriously consider bypassing your home, and the homes of your closest relatives.
Where was I? Oh yes. Well, I got up, cleaned up the apartment, watched some TV, then went to the store and bought some chicken. Chicken, because I'd been invited over to Rich and Rich's Girlfriend Darlene's place for dinner, providing that I showed up with the food that would become dinner, and then subsequently cooked the dinner. More than happy to oblige, I decided to cook the one thing which is probably the simplest, most traditional possible meal one can enjoy, but somehow I had yet to make, in my historied, colorful culinary history: Fried chicken! What could be better than having within your repertoire the ability to whip up some good ol' fashioned suthun frahd chickin? Well, perhaps having a sense of self-worth and maybe a girlfriend, and also having ten million dollars in the bank, but I figure fried chicken comes in at #4 on the list.
After beginning the preparation for the chicken, I sat down to watch the NASCAR race and start finishing up those Dale's Pale Ales. The very despicable, immature, and idiotic Tony Stewart won, which I was happy to see, because we got to hear 100,000-plus rednecks booing drunkenly when Tony got out of his car to accept his trophy. Take that, you dope!
Race finished, it was time to head on over to Longmont for dinner! The chicken-frying went fairly smoothly, and for a first try, I'd say it came out pretty darn good. Rich was quoted, in fact, as saying "this is the best fried chicken I've ever had", which was nice to hear, though knowing that Rich's only other experience with fried chicken is from the King Soopers grocery store across the street, where most of the chicken in the bin actually began as hot dogs which sat in the adjoining bin long enough to gain sentience, grow opposable appendages, crawl into the chicken bin and evolve adaptation techniques allowing them to masquerade, chameleon-like, as fried chicken thighs, I tempered my pride accordingly.
Here now, is the recipe I used:
Ben's Famous Fried Chicken
After dinner, I made Rich watch Fargo, which he has yet to express an appropriate amount of admiratioin for, but seeing as how his favorite movie of all time is Weekend at Bernie's II, I'm finding it hard to take it personally.
Time to head home, then, where I finished the Dale's, took some Tylenol PM, and drifted to sleep.
Like I said, I need a new format.
July 10, 2004
Right! Well, I think that should just about wrap up my on-again relationship with binge drinking. By about 11 PM, I realized I wasn't enjoying it as much as I used to. By 2 AM, I realized that it wasn't getting any better, no matter how much I drank. By 4 AM, I realized that I was unable to operate any of my more useful extremities.
At 10:30 AM, upon waking, I realized that ughghhhghhhhhghh...
The morning, needless to say, went fairly slowly. Much of it was spent idly flipping channels on the television, until I landed on a rerun of the horrible movie Outbreak. I swear, never has so much acting talent gone into making such a lousy-ass movie. Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, Cuba Gooding Jr., Rene Russo and Donald Sutherland all coming together to blast out a giant, runny, green stream of projectile diarrhea. But, I remember there being something interesting about the movie, something which had once prompted me to tie a little string around my mental finger to say "If Outbreak ever comes on, watch it!" I couldn't quite remember why I was supposed to watch it, though.
It was about the time that the military personnel carriers rumbled down Main Street, past Curley's, past the Valley Grocery, and past the Palace, that I remembered what it was. Ferndale! "Cedar Creek", the small California town which gets infected with the virus and everyone dies, is Ferndale! So I sat there giggling to myself, yelping to the TV, "There's the bank!! There's the post office! There's the place that guy passed out on the sidewalk! There's the cemetary that Clash and I walked through on mushrooms! There's the bed & breakfast that Clash and I walked past on mushrooms! There's the theater where I hid in the box office one night! On mushrooms!" Like I said, Outbreak is the best movie in history! TEN STARS!
After awhile, though, the absolute horridity of the movie forced me to turn it off, even in the midst of my nostalgia party. Sparked by the film to mentally relive some of those crazy times, I loaded up this very website and started re-reading the earlier episodes. Man, there's some really great stuff in there, if you haven't read it already. I'd much rather be reading the early stuff than this stuff. I'd much rather be reading the early stuff than writing this stuff. Actually, I'd rather be sitting around memorizing pi than writing this stuff, but I'm stuck now.
After an hour or so of that, I mustered enough strength to head out on the town. Seeking a little hair of the dog, I sauntered (or rather, sloughed) across the street and visited the local brewery/restaurant, the "Southern Sun" (if you read the menu, or "Mountain Sun" if you read the taps), for the first time. Can you believe it? Here over a month, and I hadn't yet visited the brewery that is a five minute walk from my front door! Crazy!
Lunch proved that I had had good judgement in putting it off as long as I did. It wasn't so much that they have a big bar, but no televisions. It wasn't so much that the brews were among the most tasteless, least impressive "craft beers" I've ever had. It wasn't so much the "burrito" I ordered was filled with healthy, tasteless things like slices of tomatoes and a few grains of rice, instead of things like greasy roast pork and melted double-fat cheese, like a burrito should. It wasn't so much the bartender ("Berly", a young lady who couldn't have had a more appropriate first name) who insisted on singing along, loudly, to whatever David Bowie song was playing over the PA at the time. It wasn't so much that it turns out they don't take credit cards, so I had to use their in-house ATM to get cash, paying that ridiculous "additional fee". Actually, no, it was all of those things. I do not think you shall see me at the Southern Mountain Sun again, no I do not. (Nice building, though. Too bad.)
I swung by the grocery store on the way back to load up on fruit. I'm just on a major fruit kick lately, what can I say? It's good for you, you know. The fruit. Then I got home and watched Road to Perdition, a well-made, yet dreary and unpleasant gangster movie. Then I made up a recipe (a spicy Mexican-style beef stew/chili concoction) and went back to the store to buy the ingredients. Then I came back and made the dinner. Then I ate the dinner.
Then I wrote this stupid update, which, as I said, is not nearly as good as the earlier ones, which you should all go read right now.
July 9, 2004
Hi there! I'm writing this update relatively early in the day (5:39 PM), because, having reached 5:01 PM on Friday night, the beginning of the "drinking section" of the week, I realize that a few hours from now, if everything goes as planned, I'll be unable to properly craft an update! And I'm pretty sure how the rest of this evening's going to go anyway, so you're unlikely to miss out on any unforeseen surprises.
After watching a particularly excellent episode of the 1 AM showing of Iron Chef the previous night, in which a doting, grandmotherly "home-cooking" type absolutely took the quaint, hand-quilted hammer to Chen Kenichi, I slept until a quarter to nine, and then admitted that even without the drinking, I wasn't particularly thrilled about the idea of waking up. But since I've started sleeping on the couch, instead of the air mattress, and the alarm clock is all the way over on the other side of the room, I have little choice but to get up and blearily wander over to the coffee maker and get the party started. That's when I realized "Hey! It's Friday! A mere 9 hours from now, I'll be able to taste the sweet, sweet nectar of eight beers and a half liter of rum! Woohoo!" That woke me up just fine.
The morning consisted of a continuation of the chess-teaching I mentioned in the previous update. Sure, I probably could have spent the time more productively, but lord help me, I do love the chess. As noon rolled around, I contacted Rich and suggested we lunch together up in Longmont, at an establishment called "Woody's Pizza", which, as you could probably guess from the name, is famous for its wide variety of draught beer.
We met up, and, health benefits of hot peppers still in the forefront of my mind, I ordered the "Diablo" pizza, layered thick with fresh jalapenos, and a healthy dose of "habanero powder", an insanely hot condiment to be sure, while Rich hit the "pizza bar", a buffet-style offering of the standard favorites, returning with a Radar O'Reilly sized monolithic mound of pepperoni pizza which made it difficult to talk with him because our views of each other were blocked by dripping mozzarella and congealed pepperoni grease. Rich's Girlfriend Darlene then sauntered in, Mayberry-style, and sat down with us while Rich cheated the Pizza Bar system and grabbed her one. (Slice of pizza, I mean.)
Lunch schmunch, though, it was time to hit Vino's Liquor Store and do a little shopping for later in the evening during which I was looking forward to drinking heavily and getting extremely nauseous causing me to throw up the previously eaten Diablo pizza and then scream in agony as the fermented habanero powder came rushing back up the sensitive esophagus nerves which have probably already taken enough abuse if you stop to think about it. But as it's only circa 6 PM, we'll just have to look forward to that.
After packing the car up with the twelver of Dale's Pale Ale and Bacardi, I headed back to Boulder, stocked the fridge, then went over to the shopping center to rent some movies and buy some diet sodas. Aren't you glad I'm writing these things again? Movies and diet sodas, I tell you!! Oh, and some peaches. I do seem to have a problem with impulse fruit purchases lately, don't I? It's just like they say, you give up one addiction and just end up replacing it with another.
The time between whenever the above happened and 5:01 was spent doing various things. Some more chess teaching. Some watching Seinfeld. Some emptying the dishwasher. Some staring at the clock and counting down the seconds until 5:01. Some visiting this website to see what naughty outfit my favorite internet cam-whore has decided to wear this week. Some taking pictures of the beer and rum so I could post it in this update. Some eating peaches! Mmmm-MM! Is there anyone on this Earth who doesn't love a nice peach? Particularly when they're on sale for 69 cents a pound?
Then 5:01 rolled around, and, well, it's on. That's all I got to say. It's fuckin' on right about now. The rest of the evening will be spent doing more of the same, and then watching movies, and then maybe that throwing up pizza thing. I'll play it by ear.
A few words now on the state of My Illness (TM). The outpouring of emotion and caring counseling from my friends since I first announced my Voyage of Healing and intent to use all resources at my disposal to make my life better has just been overwhelming, and I just want to publicly thank them all for statements like the following, which are direct quotes:
"Self-help books? You know those things don't work, right?"
Yes, thank you all! With support like this, I cannot help but succeed! Self-help, I mean!
Now, if you'll excuse me, those 11 remaining Dale's Pale Ales are not going to drink half of themselves and then spill the rest of themselves all over the coffee table.
July 8, 2004
As of the beginning of this week, one little "self-betterment" project I've started is yet another in a long line of tricks and dastardly schemes to curtail my rather exorbitant drinking habits. This new one is an attempt to more closely resemble a regular working man, who struggles at his long, hard job all day long during the week, with Friday night, and the weekends being his only opportunity to grab the 1.75 liter bottle of cheap vodka with both hands and go to town like a mother (mine, specifically), playing host to his innate survival instincts in an attempt to dull his senses and decay his physical coordination to the point where he is unable to follow his natural tendency to find the .38 stashed at the bottom of his hidden box of pornography and give the ol' double-tap to the skulls of his wife, his three bratty, filthy little children, and then finally, gratefully and gloriously, his own. Long, impossible-to-decipher run-on sentence short, I've given up the "sauce" on Mondays through Thursdays, and Fridays before 5:01 PM. It is currently, as I write this, 11:01 PM on Thursday. Or as I call it, "D minus 18 hours." And counting.
This weekday respite has had the usual positive effects. I'm not spending an extra $10 a day. I get to eat more, and still lose weight. And even though I'm still staying up until 2 AM (the Food Network shows the Iron Chef reruns at the ungodly hour of 1 AM out here), when the alarm goes off at 8:45, I'm actually ready to throw the clock-radio across the room, pop the laptop open, do the Jumble, check my email, and get on with the day's events! No sir, no more sleeping off hangovers until 1:30 in the afternoon and waking up to stumble across the street to the Quizno's before they shut down the lunch shift. Well, until Saturday.
After whipping up a pot of coffee, I spent the first couple hours today polishing up the ol' girl, gettin' that website index thing back up, putting all the old entries into the new format, and slapping the obligatory links to myself and Rich's BBS up there! All this effort has truly paid off, as more content has appeared here in the last two days than had appeared in the previous... Jesus, six months. Also, I've received quite a few compliments on the new look, particularly the serene scene depicted in the top banner! Here's a little bit of SNT trivia for ya: That banner was crafted from an actual photograph which I took at a 4th of July BBQ last weekend! Isn't it nice? Isn't it beautiful? Doesn't it make you feel relaxed and joyous and hopeful for the future of the world? That's because I cropped out the part at the bottom which showed a brutal fight that had just broken out between some of the guys playing volleyball at the BBQ, during which one rather portly gentleman was stabbed six times with a plastic fork attained from the potato salad table. The man was subsequently rushed to the hospital and treated for blood loss and shock. The fork was taken into policy custody as evidence. The potato salad was delicious!
Noontime rolled around, so I microwaved a bit of the leftover faux-paella I'd sort of whimsically concocted the night before, a recipe I will not reprint for you here because while it was good, it was not excellent, and I don't actually remember what all went into it anyway. There was rice, and some spices, and, like, a chicken, or some sausage... I think a fish was involved as well. Ah, hell if I know. Right spicy, though! I'd just gotten finished reading an article in the aforementioned Chile Pepper magazine which talked about all the wonderful health benefits of capsaicin, the substance which makes peppers hot, so I felt justified in both loading this dish up with as much blisteringly hot stuff I could find, and then pounding it down until my spleen was screaming in agony over the pressure being exerted onto it by my distended, extra-spicy stomach. I have a sneaking suspicion that they put that article in every single issue, in order to increase profits of both the magazine itself, and also their sponsors. Double-Bacon Butter-Stuffed Cheeseburger Monthly once tried the same thing.
Then it was time to head down to Target and do some shopping. My intent was to purchase a pair of swim trunks, in preparation for facing one of my greatest fears (going to a public pool), a notepad (for jotting down daily notes so I could start these updates up again in force), and a mechanical pencil (to jot with). What I left with was: A pair of swim trunks, a notepad, a mechanical pencil, a maple-colored entertainment center, and a bookcase. Oh, and a cantaloupe. In my own defense, I was eventually planning on buying an entertainment center and a bookcase, and they just happened to have some decent ones, cheap. The cantaloupe, however, was a complete impulse buy.
The rest of the afternoon was spent putting the furniture together, then realizing that I had missed a step which would require taking it back apart, saying "Fuck!", taking the furniture back apart, doing the step I missed, then putting it back together again. Then I ate the cantaloupe.
The next few hours were spent doing something completely ridiculous, which was teaching people on Rich's BBS how to play chess, by conducting simultaneous teaching games with them. "Why is that ridiculous?" absolutely nobody out there is asking. "I mean, chess is a game rich in tradition, and an awful lot of fun! What's so ridiculous about teaching other people how to play? Sounds like a very noble, philanthr-- OWW!! I just got bit by a BEE!!!" Well, it's ridiculous because (and don't tell any of my "students" this) I suck really, really bad at chess. I've played since I was 5, and didn't progress, talent-wise, after I reached about 8. I've read (or at least, glanced through) all the famousest chess books over all these years, and when I go onto the internet chess room, there is nobody for me to play with, because they'll only let you play with similarly ranked players. The ranks, the last time I checked, went, in order: Grandmaster, International Master, Expert, Intermediate, Beginner-Intermediate, Beginner, Dumb Beginner, Retarded Six-Year-Old, Feral Gorilla, Dead Houseplant, Ben. And now I'm teaching the game. Oh, grand irony of life, how you amuse me!
After that, I whipped up a brand new recipe that I made up on the spot, called "Ghormeh Sabzi Pita". Here is the recipe:
1 part leftover Ghormeh Sabzi
Quick, easy, and delicious! Highly recommended.
At that point, I realized I hadn't spent any time dwelling over my deep psychological illness, so I engaged in a thoughtful discussion about it over Instant Messenger with Rich's Girlfriend Darlene. Several times in said discussion, she called me a wonderful person. Dude, she totally wants it. Don't tell Rich, though.
Then I sat back to read more of my Shame/Self-Respect book. This thing has got it down. Every concept maps to every other concept, and it's easy to find roads on that map that lead directly to not only vague feelings that I've let haunt me for years, but also specific actions which are the result of those feelings (which are a result of something else, which is a result of something else, etc.) It's like a guidebook to human suffering. I will be disappointed if I find out that it's actually all bullshit. Fortunately, I won't be able to find that out until the end, so I'll still, with full intellectual loyalty, get to read the next section, which is about who's fault it is. Yeah! Now we're talkin'! Who can I blame?!
I'm putting you all on notice. Don't leave town, because if your name pops up, we're gonna have a few things to... discuss.
July 7, 2004
Hey, welcome back, folks! Where the hell have you been, anyway? You've missed like three entire months of Ben Parrish-related excitement which I realize I didn't actually write about, but certainly upon visiting this website, you would have felt some of the energy emanating from my presence in the universe. For those of you who lack this mythical "fifth sense", let me catch you up on all the latest that's been happening with me since, what was it, March 15? Here we go! Strap in! Strap on! Strap up! Hey. You know, "strap" is one of those words that starts to look funny if you stare at it long enough. It is also "parts" backward, but let's focus on one thing at a time.
Hahaha! No, no, just kidding. In fact, I think for this incarnation, I'll go back to writing about my day, every day. Now that I'm finally reasonably settled into a place I like, and am actually considering doing something other than playing golf and drinking all day, there is a possibility, however meager, that I'll actually start having things to write about again. If not, I'll put that two-column table together, and we can get started filling in the boxes.
As an example, I'll post here a few messages I've recently posted on Rich's bulletin board system pertaining to a few things I've been doing the last couple days. This is very personal stuff, which is why I've chosen to post it to the only two websites I know where the combined readership barely pushes the two-digit envelope.
7/6 --So, how about that? Isn't that interesting? I'm like the guy in the PG-13 everyone's really hoping makes it happen! Further updates may also include such items as puppy dogs, and also ice cream!
Well, that's enough for today. Join us tomorrow, where, Jesus, Buddha and David Koresh-willing, you'll get to hear me say:
Something. For god's sake, anything...