Friday, February 29, 2008


OK, so I’ve been going to the gym regularly now for three weeks. So far so good. I’ve dropped a few more pounds and generally feel pretty darn accomplished over it. But there is one big problem for me.

Meatheads. (With apologies to Rob Reiner.)

You know who I’m talking about. The musclebound Neanderthals that dominate the free weight section of the gym. No necks. Huge, bulky arms the size of small economies. Stiff movements. All around uncomfortable looking people. You can hear their bulging muscles creak when they walk. Their arms stick out from their body at bizarre angles because of their enormous, overdeveloped chest and back muscles. Grunt is their native tongue..

Yesterday one particular meathead was all decked out in appropriate workout gear. Acid washed jeans. I kid you not. He was also salivating behind me as I worked on the triceps machine just waiting to triple the amount of weight and prove himself to the vast number of nobodys watching.

What is with these guys? Who desires to look like that? And where do these guys go when they’re not at the gym? I don’t recall running into any of them at the grocery store or Powell’s or the corner pub. They must have some commune where they all park their conversion vans on the grassy patch beside the gravel part of the dirt road.


I have a hard enough time being absurdly weak, trying to lift weights (which I hate) to build some semblance of long, lean muscle and I have to do it surrounded by an endless supply of meatheads.

Oh well. The locker room is very nicely appointed. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.


Mouth Sounds and Movie Quotes

I have several friends who can make amazing noises come out of their mouths. I’ve also got a bunch of friends who occasionally live life through the lens of movie quotes or TV quotes.

Why do men do these things?

Many of my friends quote liberally from the Simpsons. Now, I think the Simpsons are funny. But I’ve never found it to be the cultural barometer that my friends have. Just different tastes, I suppose. But I’m guilty of this too. I love to bring out a quote from Fletch or Blues Brothers or Animal House when appropriate. I have stolen words from a variety of people from Robin Williams to Steve Martin to Steven Wright to The Famous Mysterious Actor and adjusted them to make them my own.

One of my friends can make extremely accurate animal sounds; monkeys and even a bear. To see him do this is frightening as the bear sound is very physical. Another friend makes super realistic bird sounds and phone sounds. So much so that when you’re out at a crowded restaurant he’ll send out a ring and people all around check their cell phones. It’s super harmless fun. I, of course, will roar like a Wookiee from time to time. Go figure.

But why do we do these things?

There’s a theory that men and women seek out different things from media: books and movies. The theory goes that women read to discover the dynamics of relationships. How people communicate and relate. The theory also states that men seek out role models and heroes. They’re looking for a guide to life and how to live it.

As I’ve thought about this I don’t disagree with it. Just about every guy I know watches a movie or reads and tries to identify with the character. If they find something appealing in the character they like the book or movie. If they don’t find some redeeming quality then they’ll likely have a poorer opinion, even if the other elements we’re fine.

I think that’s why I struggled with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I did not find anything to absorb from the main character.

But I’m pretty sure it’s why we quote from movies. We want to be that funny guy. That heroic guy. Using their words allows us to live their life, just a little bit.

I’m not sure why we make the sounds, though. Or even why I associate the two.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Day Off

(Disclaimer: a bit about sex in here. May make you blush. May or may not be safe for work.)

I'm not at work today. I took a day off.

There's something very good about being able to grab a day for yourself every now and then. Spend it taking care of the things that you may be neglecting, like laundry, cleaning, projects or even yourself.

When I was growing up my dad never took a day off. Sure, he had summer off but that was different. I remember not really knowing what the term even meant. In old episodes of "Courtship of Eddie's Father" Uncle Norm would often say he was going to do such and such on his "day off". I recall him saying this term a lot, but it's possible it was only in one episode. But the phrase has stayed with me and whenever I think of a day off I think of Uncle Norm from that show.

Of course he wasn't really Eddie's uncle. He was a good friend of Eddie's father. As I was strolling the Overlook neighborhood on a vigorous walk this morning these strings of thought were going through my head; Day Off. Uncle Norm. Men who we refer to as 'Uncle' who, in fact, are not an uncle at all.

I couldn't be the only one who had a few of my father's friends who were referred to as 'Uncle', could I? The most memorable of mine was Uncle Eddie. Ed Hartzell was something of a mentor to my father. He was a teacher at the Cate school in Ojai, California when my father started there back in the 1950's. They both migrated to the Northwest in the 60's. Ed to Portland and Catlin Gabel and my dad to Tacoma and Charles Wright Academy. In 1971 we moved to Portland and my father started his final career move at Catlin, right alongside Uncle Eddie.

Uncle Eddie was a fantastic, gentle bear of a man. An avid fly-fisherman and old soul. He and his bride, Kim, had a fantastic home up off of Skyline. Kim taught art in the middle school at Catlin and she was one of my favorite teachers of all time. She believed in what she did completely. The idea that art and creativity were a crucial part of a child's development and that each of us were capable of creating beauty with pen, pencil, paint, clay or what not.

But it wasn't just art that she taught us. In 7th grade Catlin used to devote a portion of the curriculum to sex ed. They still might. Not sure. While there were memorable moments like the bowl of colored condoms being passed around the room or Derrick Butler getting the terms menstruation and masturbation confused, the one that I recall was Kim sitting at a table and talking very plainly about sex. She talked about her fears (especially the idea that HE might pee inside her) and about her experiences with sex. It was one of the most frank, open discussions I recall having about the subject. She was willing to put herself out there, vulnerable, in an attempt to allow a bunch of 13 year olds to ask the questions that otherwise would've been too embarrassing to reveal. It was a brilliant teaching moment. Memorable.

Kim died a few years ago and Uncle Eddie died a few months later. I last saw him shortly after Kim died and he had a sadness to him that I still remember to this day. But I take some solace in the knowledge that the two of them lived grand lives. They touched countless souls and were a true force of humanity. Their daughter was at my father's birthday party a month ago and we shared some smiles and some tears as I told her stories of her mother and father.

So, it turns out I'm having a pretty good day off.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Next Book...

Several days ago I asked my readers to pick a number between one and eight. I received six entries with an average of 4.33. That rounds to four for our use here.
I inserted a small card with numbers ranging from one to eight inside the cover of each of the remaining books. These were randomized and I had no knowledge of which book contained which number until just now.

Book number four is....

A History Of The World In 10 1/2 Chapters by Julian Barnes. Recommended by Trask.

I'll continue to do this until I've read all the books on the list. I may choose to insert one of my own from time to time (see Steve Martin) but I hope to complete all eight before too many months conclude.

Happy reading.


Best First Dates

I’ve been in the shallow end of the dating pool for a long time now. Water wings on my arms. Clinging to the walls a bit too afraid of the deeper water.

But, as with many things, I’m about ready to take the risk. Dive in. Sure, the water’s deeper. It may be colder sometimes. But, overall, it’s the place to be for locating the old harmony and fulfillment.

I have had lots of friends declare to me over the past several years that they can’t believe I’m not involved with someone. Statements like this are very complimentary but also very awkward for me. There were/are always reasons for someone taking themselves out of the pool for a period of time.

Mine are many, and I don’t need to share all of them. But, primarily speaking, I wasn’t in a good place to get involved. I wasn’t ready to let anyone beyond the surface of who I am.

I think I’m over that.

So, as I am exploring the possibility of connecting with someone new I’m wondering what to do on a first date in 2008?

I’ve never been a fan of movies for early dates. Movies are enjoyable and all but unless you’re an ass (and who wants to be an ass on the FIRST date) you can’t talk with your date for two hours. And, if the movie sucked, then you’re stuck with discussing something that sucked for the remainder of the evening. Not fun.

Dinner is nice, we all need to eat.

Casual drinks allows for good conversation.

Concerts take on the same conversational issues as a movie, but do carry a high energy quotient and the opportunity to dance and move and groove.

Art walk on First Thursday can be fun but also super crowded.

So, as I contemplate this I offer to you, the readers, a chance to chime in on good and unique date options. Let’s make a list.

Also, if anyone knows a smart woman in a short skirt with a good sense of direction, feel free to send her my way.


Monday, February 25, 2008

Spring Cleaning

The last weekend in February ended up being absolutely gorgeous weather. While always appreciated, I think I got more accomplished this weekend than even I could’ve hoped for.

I’ve written previously about being a slob. Clutter city. Well, I’m improving. My car has gone two weeks now with no accumulation of clutter. I even chauffeured some friends around on Saturday night in comfort and style. Yay for me!

My bedroom is also on the rise. Yesterday I rearranged the CD and DVD shelves which, in turn, provided two whole vacant bookshelves which meant that some items that had taken up residence on the floor now have a permanent home. It’s the trickle down effect. There is actual square footage to be seen on the floor and the rug.

As I was changing the sheets on my bed I had a spontaneous urge to burn my comforter and start over. Now, I’m no Martha Stewart. Far from. But even I can recognize when something has outlived its usefulness and is no longer fashionable. My comforter is such an item. It’s burgundy with gilded swirly, formal looking fleur de lis type items. It might look regal on someone else’s bed but on mine it looks like an afterthought.

So, I decided that I would update the old bed. I found an inexpensive not-down comforter and a stately seersucker cover for it. It’s white and tan and totally changes the mood of my bedroom. I got some new pillows too as my others had gotten very, very tired.

Living in a house that’s not entirely finished poses some compromises. I still have two windows that don’t have curtains or even curtain rods installed. The bathroom mirror didn’t exist until this weekend. There’s no medicine cabinet or shelves in the bathroom. But, we’re making progress on all fronts. Curtain rods arrived yesterday and we should have the curtains completed soon. The mirror just needs to be measured and hung.

I’ve been patient with all of this as I came in with full knowledge of the house’s condition. It’s a beautiful house. Great features, natural light, etc. My bathroom floor is heated for goodness sake. So, I take the good with the bad. But, I will be very happy when I have curtains and have full privacy and can be shrouded in complete darkness. It will also be nice to shave in front of a full mirror instead of a travel size made for a munchkin.

But even with a bedroom that’s short of perfect I love living in this house and in the city. It has been a tremendous boost for me.

And, last night, in these new covers and with new pillows and with some semblance of peace of mind, I slept awesome. For the first time in a long, long time.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

That's No Moon. That's A Space Station!

Big moon this morning. Peeking in my window. Watching over me.

Why does the moon, massive in the sky, make me wonder things? I stare at it and dream some little dreams. Sometimes big dreams. It makes me feel small, but never insignificant. More like an inspiration. A muse. What a rock!

I ventured out into the night on Saturday and attended a Year of The Rat party at a friend’s place and then met up with a large group of Timbers Army folks for a gathering at a local bar, “Plan B”.

It’s always fun, these gatherings, but last night’s was different for me. I had several conversations with several different people about this blog and my approach to it. Why do I write and why do I write what I write? And, what’s really ironic is that I had that same conversation with myself yesterday afternoon, that, in turn, prompted the redesign, and the poll question you find to the right. Over there. No, your other right.

While some of my inspiration gets to remain a mystery, what drives the blog is a need to communicate. A need to form ideas. Something creative. Something small. Something that I care about. And then, in the final business of self-exploration, throw it to the world to see and to judge.

Being judged has always been something that I loathed. When I used to draw I hated displaying my artwork, as I never wanted to be judged. But almost everyone who saw my work complimented me on it. So maybe the judgment wasn’t the thing. I just might not take compliments well.

But that’s not it either. I got a lot of compliments last night. And I'd like to think I took them well. In fact, they fed my ego a bit, which, it turns out, was pretty hungry. Nice. But I also found out something I didn’t expect. And that’s that not only are people reading this and finding some entertainment, but some people are being fed something too by the blog. A combination of inspiration and optimism and understanding. A deeper connection to me that I wasn’t expecting. Wow. Well call it inspioptimundism, OK?

It’s not always easy to strip yourself bare in public. But it is almost always therapeutic. So, to my friends who chatted me up last night, thank you for the kind words. A lot.

There. Let me put this art on the wall.

Hey! Where’d the moon go?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I got bored with the old look. So. Here's a new look for the blog. There are a few new elements available in blogger and over the course of time I'll continue to change things.

I want to thank everyone who reads and comments and gives me great feedback. If you want to be kept informed of when I post you can subscribe to the feed via email through the link at the bottom of the page. Or here.

An RSS Feed is also available although not directly supported by Blogspot on the page. You probably have an icon for Feeds (it's orange and white, looks like a radio transmission) in your browser's toolbar.

Friday, February 22, 2008

BORN STANDING UP by Steve Martin

I love Steve Martin. He was a significant influence on me as a kid. He had a strange, goofy style wrapped up in a clean white gabardine suit. He was all about the contradiction like that. He was one of the first comedians where I heard curse words that were funny rather than said in anger. Somehow that made them more acceptable.

I’ve just finished his (auto)biography. He doesn’t refer to it as a true autobiography because he perceives his stand-up persona as someone else. Someone he outgrew. The book is all about the growth of his act. The dedication to it. The work. The fears. The highs and the lows. What made him want to be a magician, then a comic, then an actor.

It doesn’t involve his acting and writing career much at all, its focus is on his stand up career. Which, both directly and indirectly, is about his father.

The book is a quick read at 204 not very cluttered pages. It’s funny and nostalgic and made me feel good while it also allowed me to feel Martin’s pain. Especially the final chapters about his parents. The book itself is structured like a good joke. Set up, set up, set up and then the punchline. Except the punchline isn’t funny. It’s poignant and compelling.

Because of this the book is uneven at first read. But knowing the revelations at the end I imagine that a second read will provide greater understanding of Steve Martin the man, as well as the comic.

I highly recommend this book for anybody who has or had a father. Um. That means you.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Carolyn Hax

Anybody else enjoy Carolyn Hax's advice column? (It's The Washington Post and you'll need to register.)

The Oregonian started running her column a few years ago, three times a week. I instantly became a fan. I used to read the column aloud to a small gathering at work every Tuesday and Thursday to plenty of laughter and smiles.

She's got attitude. Sass. But she talks straight. Plus, she's a dynamite writer. Unlike other advice columnists of the past who avoided confrontation and conflict at all costs, she's a proponent of communication, no matter what the difficult conversation might be. Now, she's not heartless. She acknowledges times when you should just keep your mouth shut, but it's almost always because you were being selfish in the first place. Nice.

I encourage everyone to check her out. She tackles just about everything that comes her way with wit, humor and intelligence. I wish I could do that.


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fly, Fly away!

Dave Niehaus has been elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
My. Oh My.

I've stayed away from most sports on this blog as I've got other outlets for that but I couldn't pass on this topic. There are three voices that covered sports that influenced me in my not entirely failed attempt to become a radio play-by-play announcer.

Bill Schonely of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Vin Scully of the Brooklyn/Los Angeles Dodgers.

And Dave Niehaus of the Seattle Mariners.

Schonely made me love Trail Blazers basketball. With my very soul.

Scully gave a poetry reading every time he set up a game or a pitching matchup. His grasp of language was unparalleled in the industry.

Niehaus has THE voice. I have fond memories of listening to Mariners games as a kid with my dad and admired his skill at describing the game as well as his boundless enthusiasm for a perennial cellar dweller.

So, Dave Niehaus deserves this honor and I am happy to see him receive it.

My. Oh My.


Fat Fashion

Monday I bought a new pair of Levi’s. Pre-shrunk classic 501s. A slightly roomy 38 waist.

Now this is rather monumental. Fat people have a hard time fitting into jeans. The slimmer the fit the less likely we are to go near them. It’s just one of the tradeoffs of being fat, if not one of the tricks.

501s are the holy grail of jeans for me. Button fly. Straight leg. They scream rock n’ roll. I remember back in college when I split a pair of too tight 501s (waist size 33, I believe) from the crotch all the way to the ankle. At a party. Dancing with the prettiest girl there. At least I was wearing boxers. The walk back to change was a different kind of walk of shame. That’s for sure.

I’ve been looking forward to buying a pair of 501s since I started the weight loss venture. So I’m pretty happy about this, even if my thighs are still huge.

Over the last ten years, as I’ve been on my growth spurt, I migrated from 501s to 550s and 555s. From the slim, classic fit of 501s to the Relaxed Fit or Baggy Fit of 550s or 555s. None of those jeans are complimentary to any shape, fat or otherwise. But they are comfortable and, when you get big, comfort is a major factor.

That’s one of the reasons why fat people wear larger, baggier clothes. In my experience, I was pretty ashamed of the shape of my body (especially my chest and belly) and believed that roomier clothes would hide the flaws. Well they do, but they also accentuate your overall size. So they are a tradeoff of flaws which, in the end, serves nobody’s interest. But bigger clothes also provided more room to move which was a kind of freedom that was otherwise lacking.

Fat people (meaning me) also have a few other tricks that they use to attempt to conceal flaws and provide comfort.

I used to never tuck my shirt in. It would accentuate the belly. Plus it was less than comfortable as I’d always cinch the belt a bit more in an attempt to keep things together. So, instead, what you’d end up with was a loose bottomed shirt and a pair of super baggy pants. I would look like a life size version of one of the seven dwarves, with no Snow White in sight.. I LOVE being able to tuck in a shirt now even if Snow White is still MIA.

Another trick of fat fashion is shorts. The fat wear shorts (or kilts – oh the comfort!). Whenever we can. One of the issues with being heavy is the extra stress on joints and discomfort that comes from that. When I would wear jeans or khakis I would not be able to sit still for more than 30 minutes at a time as I could never get my knees to find a comfort zone. Wearing shorts alleviated some of this. Flying on an airplane was especially brutal. None of my shorts fit me anymore. If I don’t cinch a belt super tight they fall right off of my ass. It’s funny and it makes me happy to see it. Even as the butt of the joke.

As I’ve been going through the major changes to reduce my body I’m pretty pleased with what I’ve been able to do as far as clothes. Smaller sizes. Slimmer fit. I’ve still got some physical imperfections but they are greatly diminished. At the gym they have mirrors everywhere and I’m still surprised at the face that looks back at me. I’d like to fadeup the fadeaway chin but I still look dramatically different. I’ve still got 2-4 inches that I can reasonably lose from my waist. A 34 waist would give me a kind of satisfaction that I have not known in a long time.

I still have a long way to go but I will get there.

But, I will still wear shorts whenever I can. Because that is part of who I am.


PS – Those are the fat fashion tricks from my experience. Do you have any to share?

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

It’s been a long time since I wrote any sort of book review/book report. I’m currently procrastinating between exercising and cleaning the house so how better to justify such delay than by writing and being productive in some fashion.

Plus, I finished the book this morning about 6:30am so it’s still fresh in my mind.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is an adventure in writing if not always in reading. It’s translated from Japanese so some of its oddities might be a function of that but it maintains an ethereal quality. The words float through their existence on the page. Many reviewers describe it as dreamlike and that’s not an unacceptable term, but it may not be the best description.

I liked this novel. It’s not a typical story, that’s for sure. The hero, if you can call him that, Toru Okada is at a crossroads in his life. He’s unemployed. His marriage is about to surprisingly fail. His cat is missing. When the story starts to unfold it gets murky among a cast of unusual, mysterious people and influences on Okada. I wanted to like Okada, but he’s not a hero in the classical sense. He allows far too much to happen to him, never exerting control or his own influence. So, I had a hard time finding sympathy for him or even any level of genuine interest. So, I have to say this part of the novel left me wanting.

But the weave of plots (or lack of plots), historical perspectives on war, mystery of dreams and the nature of existence are worth the read. This is where Murakami hits it. It’s a decent sized novel at over 600 pages and by the time you are 100 pages in you have no idea what is real and what is fantasy. And that appears to be the real point of the book: perspective, power, dreams, reality, pain, loss and shame. The topics that sit beneath the story are more compelling than the characters.

Part of this is that we get very little into the actual motivations of the characters. Their actions don’t always coincide with what we do know of them. It is probably my own predisposition for character driven stories that makes me want more here. But too many mysteries are left unexplained or even unexplored. That’s too bad, because I think there are interesting stories there. The few details that we do get of the strange cast of characters are fascinating bits but they are just too short and fleeting.

Regardless, I can recommend this novel. I think Murakami achieves what he wanted and, in the end, that’s the reason for him to write it. Some people will love it (and do love it) and others, like me, will appreciate a good portion of it but wish there were a few more answers rather than so many remaining questions.


"Hello Insomnia, Can't Say I'm Pleased To Meet You."

I can’t sleep.

I’ve never been an eight-hours a night kind of guy. I function pretty well on six hours or so. But, and this has been ongoing for a good long time, I can’t seem to sleep more than three or four hours straight anymore. Maybe I’m too light of a sleeper. Maybe I snore and wake myself up. Not sure. But it’s just past 2:00 am, rest seems distant, net-surfing has left me cold, my iPod is circling through Matthew Sweet, XTC, Elliott Smith, Bob Mould and The Who, and I’m now up reading.


I’m almost done with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I still don’t know what to make of it. Comparisons to Pynchon (I’ve read one or two of his works) seem pretty accurate. There’s a detachment from reality that pervades the majority of this novel. It’s referred to as dream like but that’s too simple a term. It’s bizarre without being off-putting. I’m not convinced that anything in this is meant to be real. It has fleetingly interesting characters. But it’s not a page turner. It doesn’t make me leap to the next chapter wondering what is going to happen to our hero next. Well, because he’s no hero. He barely exists. Maybe that’s the point.

Regardless, reading is a good thing. I think it helps my writing. It certainly gives my mind plenty to think about and work through. This actually may not be good for the insomnia. Might have to re-think that. It’s a good thing I don’t have to work tomorrow/today.

But, what this really means is that I’ll need to start on a new book. This one has taken me much longer to complete than I originally expected, but it’s the second longest of the books on the list. The next should go quicker. Unless it’s that gigantic sci-fi tome on the shelf. Why are sci-fi and fantasy books almost always 900-plus pages? And my brother wonders why I don’t choose to read those…

So, dear readers, I need each of you to comment on this post with a number from 1-8. This will help determine which book is next.

It’s up to you.


Sunday, February 17, 2008

Getting Nimble Digitally

So my laptop has been getting a bit overused and overtaxed recently. So it was time for some upgrades and some changes to our computer use.
For starters, I finally signed up for our own DSL service. I've been a bit of a pirate, grabbling the signal from the crap public wifi or one of our neighbors. But now we've got dedicated wifi, secure, within the home. This makes me more mobile as I can now get wifi in the kitchen or living room instead of only upstairs. Hopefully I'll be less of a hermit but still as connected.

Friday I did a bit of retail therapy and bought a 160GB portable hard drive. It's shiny cherry chrome red. Pretty, actually. I've moved over half of the items from the laptop to the drive which has resulted in the laptop moving a bit quicker.

This morning I decided that I needed more RAM. I was trying to open a very involved webpage and I couldn't do it, even with the stronger wifi signal. So, Staples and their Easy button provided me 1GB of RAM for a song. I installed it correctly. Nothing exploded.

So, I'm pleased as punch with my laptop. It's behaving like it's brand new except I know how to use it. That gives me a slight advantage if we were keeping score. Aw hell, why don't we?

Bruce 2 Laptop 0

The next goal in getting nimble is to burn some copies of my favorite CDs, plant them in a big wallet carrier and use them in my car instead of the original discs. It should allow me to keep the car more organized as well as the homestead. But it will take some time to put it together.

Have any of you recently done some similar upgrades? If so, what have you done and did it work out as you had hoped?


Saturday, February 16, 2008

Strange Brew Live!

No, it's not the Broadway production of The McKenzie brother's Film - It's Live! blogging from the Hillsdale Brewfest.

The beers are flowing. People are here. It promises to get crowded. I'll update periodically as the day progresses and maybe post some pics too.

So, come on down if you want some special brews and good company.



11:42 am - Our yellow sample trays arrived. A few very tasty brews and a few that I can't drink the entire 3 oz sample let alone an entire pint. Conversation is rotating around the history of IPAs and decent pubs in the area.


12:29 pm - A few more pics to come. The pub is now jam packed with people and conversation. The serving staff consists of the managers of the different McMenamin's around town so there's a great deal of pride and ownership for each of the brewfest beers.

11:00am 02/17/08 Had some technical difficulties onsite and had to stop the live blog. Anyone know who won the belt?

Friday, February 15, 2008

C'Mon, Just One More

I had a personal training session yesterday.

Did you know there’s a little bit of your triceps that extends right down to your elbow? It probably attaches to a tendon there or something. Well, I never knew it existed before and it hurts like hell. Both of them. I forgot just how exhilaratingly excruciating a weight workout could be.

Now, I’ve never been a big weightlifter, but its downright embarrassing how weak I am for a bigger guy. I really struggled at some points during my workout. But Eric, my trainer, was supportive the entire way and really made it worth my while.

We set goals. Talked nutrition. He gave pep talks. I absorbed the talks. Nodded my head a lot. I answered what was a rhetorical question. (I hate it when I do that.) But I also got a good understanding of what I need to do and how I need to do it to get to my goals. We’ll see.

On another sore note. My mood from yesterday has not recovered. I really found myself feeling lost today. More so than I have in a long, long time. And it’s doubly frustrating as I had such a good weekend last weekend. But that good weekend also got my small brain overthinking a lot which can lead to doubt and then, without seeing him come in, Mr. Insecurity has plopped himself down on the couch and is making nachos out of my self-esteem.

Chip anyone?

But I do get a three-day weekend, which will include a visit to the Hillsdale Pub Saturday for their annual brewfest/brewer’s competition. It should be a good time. Lots of friends will be there. 20 beers including “Rose City ‘Til I Die P A” inspired by Timbers Army.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

TV Or Not TV

I did the inaugural edition of my new TV show last night. The show is called Portland Men on Sports (PMS) and is hosted by me and my friend Loren and produced by my friend Derek. The show will air on local cable access soon and we hope to do regular weekly or bi-weekly episodes. However, the first episode may stay in the can while we work out the bugs.

I did a decent amount of radio (years ago) and worked in TV production for several years but this is my first chance to really be on air, even if it’s just cable access. It was a lot of fun and I think it came off surprisingly well. Neither of us froze, stuttering and stammering was kept to a minimum and we stayed mostly on topic.

The show is a cross between Pardon The Interruption and The Sports Reporters. It’s sometimes informative, sometimes funny, not always entirely topical or relevant. It’s mostly our opinions but we hope to add viewer email and may end up doing live broadcasts with phone-in down the line once we find our rhythm.

I’m not sure how I’m finding the time for all of my current pursuits but so far there’s been no burnout. I’m still here writing regularly, I’ve started a routine at the gym, I’ve yet to succumb to a fast food joint, I haven’t missed any work and my social life is slow and steady. Once soccer season starts we’ll see if something has to give. I hope nothing does.

And that thing about the camera adding 10 pounds is a lie. It adds 20 pounds. At least.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Got VD?

I don’t hate St. Valentine’s Day. I just don’t have much use for it.

I’ve been thinking about the notion of this Hallmark holiday a lot lately. I’ve got no problem with the sentiment of wanting to let your loved one know how much you care. But is that what the day is really about or has become?

It seems that it revolves more around expectations and bragging rights than the expression of love. Is the gift(s) big enough? Is the gift(s) expensive enough? Is the gift(s) thoughtful enough? Did the gift(s) get delivered so everyone at work can see the gift(s)?

As much as I’d enjoy having a true love (this is a rather bold statement for me…) I’d totally avoid the Valentine’s Day pressure. It’s hard to know who’s got it worse, the guys with girlfriends or the guys without? It’s just not my style (we’re talking 2008 Bruce here) to put everything into a single day. I’m a bit of a romantic at heart and I’d hope to sprinkle affection all throughout the year.

But, as I look back on my romantic life, it was very rare that I was involved with someone on Valentine’s Day. At least I’m struggling to remember anything monumental on VD. My two long relationships sure, but so many others were of very short duration that they didn’t justify doing anything massive on VD.

It seems to me that there are four distinct situations for men on VD; Long-term, stable relationship/marriage; Just getting involved; Just getting uninvolved; Serially uninvolved. Of those four I’d imagine the two middle ones produce the most grief on VD. Just getting involved carries the pressure of doing enough without doing too much. It’s a fine line between clever and stupid. Just getting uninvolved carries the biggest emotional disappointment. Don’t know what you have ‘til it’s gone.

So, for all the guys out there feeling the pressure. Relax. Show her you care more often and take the pressure off of VD.

Me? My true love could count on a fantastic meal cooked by yours truly with a good bottle of wine, her choice of movie (home or theater) or drinks/dancing, a thoughtful card and some simple but classy flowers. But she’d get this once or twice a month, not once a year.

Remember, I’m a romantic. Unfortunately I’m also serially uninvolved. Well, there’s always next month.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Handmade For Your Feet

This past weekend was the annual N.A.H.B.S. North American Handmade Bicycle Show at the Portland Convention Center. My friend Steve was in town from Michigan to assist our friend Aaron Hayes with his booth at the show.

Aaron is an industrial designer. He’s got a keen eye for form and craft. A combination of sculptor and innovator. This past summer he founded Courage Bicycle Manufacturing Company and has been designing, fabricating, welding, re-designing and poring over the tiniest details of his bikes ever since.

And it paid off.

Aaron Hayes was named Best New Builder at the show.

Pretty amazing praise for someone who a year ago was riding bikes not building them. I was pleased to have been there when the award was announced and fortunate to see the amazed elation on Aaron’s face.

Now, I’m not the best guy to blog about bicycles. Sure, I had a yellow Schwinn with a big sparkly banana seat as a kid and I loved riding, but as an adult I lost interest. But, as someone who enjoys the mechanics of everything from a pepper grinder to my favorite Rickenbacker guitar, I LOVED this show. But it wasn’t just the mechanics of it, it was the art involved. The colors used in painting. The chrome. Wood slats on baskets. Leathers on seats. Metal, metal, metal. Even a hollow hardwood frame. It was like being in a forest of functional sculpture.

The show moves on to Indianapolis next year. I may just go for the weekend and really try to soak it all in. Maybe even help out if Courage is on display again.

Last night Aaron hosted some of us for dinner and a final chance to spend time with Steve before he returned to Michigan. Taped all over the walls of his house were pages of designs, ideas, schematics and plans for bike after bike, part after part.

It’s inspiring to see someone make a dream a reality and then be recognized for it.


There Is No Comparison

This past weekend three of my friends and I had some deep discussions about the everythings of life. The context of this is that three of us are entirely single. Never married, no children. One of us is happily married with a child. We’re all within a year of 40 or already past it. I’ve started to think of this as our mid-life crisis kick-off party.

One of the things that came up in our talk (besides some Yo Momma jokes and lotsa wicked innuendos) was the idea of comparisons. Specifically, comparing yourself to others. Within the netherworld of insecurities this may be the one I struggle with the most.

Why is it that it’s so hard to be satisfied being the best that you can be? Why do we seek out and compare ourselves to those we don’t know, want to know or even like?

This is especially crippling when it comes to romance. Comparing me to a fellow suitor for a woman’s affections is one of the worst things I can do for myself emotionally. Stupid really. And I’m not normally stupid. But I still find myself in this trap. In fact, I was in it yesterday and was able to recognize it for what it was. Hey, that’s a positive.

Regardless, this is one of the topics that have really stuck with me from the weekend, and it’s on my mind a bit. Just thought I’d share. Self esteem is a real bitch, isn’t it?


Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Devil Is In The Details

The following statement is absolutely true. See how many things wrong with it you can find.

"I just returned from the gym."


Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Rule Of Threes Revisited

I almost forgot....

I ran into the third ex. She wasn't one of the ones I posted. She went even further back. An old high school girlfriend we'll call 'Carol' was at my friend's birthday party last weekend. I didn't even get to talk to her as she didn't recognize me but it definitely counts as the third. The major positive to come out of this relationship was the understanding that a 1983 Volvo is one of the worst make-out cars available to mankind (possibly surpassed only by the 1967 species of Volvo). True.

So. Now what will be the next sequence of threes? Old friends? Medical emergencies? Billing disputes? Snake bites?


Monday, February 4, 2008

Disorder In The House

For lack of a better term, I’m a slob. Certainly not the worst in the world, but I have a certain knack for leaving things messier than I found them. Cluttered. This makes me a particularly bad house guest.

This flaw transcends the home and also involves my desks, both at home and at work, and my car.

This comes up today as I spent most of my Super Bowl Sunday straightening up my bedroom and spent a few minutes today on my car.

To rip off my friend Stephanie’s blog title, (and even this post is a bit of blog topic acquisition) my bedroom is a work in progress. No matter how much effort I put into keeping it tidy I never truly succeed. It seems I always have more stuff I want handy than I have proper places for.

An example:

Clothes. Clothes hang in my closet. Clothes sleep in my dresser. Clothes crumple in a hamper. Clean clothes return to the room but often take their time to reach the closet or the dresser. I’ve just never developed a good habit of folding, straightening and returning. I want this to change.

As I worked on my room yesterday, deconstructing the cardboard boxes that had nestled on top of each other and inside each other, I had a very real epiphany of simplification. I need to simplify the room. The closet. The dresser. The desk. Me. I once again need to remove the clothes that I don’t wear and refrain from buying new clothes no matter what a bargain they appear to be.

I have a rather adolescent love of sports and sports clothing. And not just a team shirt or hat, I’m talking authentic basketball jerseys, game worn baseball, basketball and soccer jerseys, etc. A good portion of my closet is dedicated to these items. At the time they brought me a great deal of joy in acquisition but in reality they do me absolutely no good hanging in a closet and I almost never put them on. So I will start to thin the armoire. Once I do that then the trickle-down effect should take pressure off of the other areas of the room.

What I hope to realize will be that all of the clothes that I want to wear will have a proper home so there’s a reduction in the number of stray and homeless clothing. No wandering dress shirts. A place for belts and shoes, etc.

Another example:

I have three CD racks taking up valuable floor space in my bedroom. I listen to maybe 20% of these discs on any sort of regular basis. But, when visiting IKEA a few weeks ago, I stumbled on some metal CD racks. They are meant to mount to a wall but I figure I can build a cool, small footprint stand and mount them that way. I got six of them. They are still in their boxes. Leaning up against the CD stands they will replace. This, sadly, is typical. I want this to change.

My desk is another story. Similar but different. When I was first moving into David’s house I got a good look at my bedroom. It’s a decent size but posed some configuration problems due to the massive windows, closet door and entry path. With the advent of flat panel monitors I determined that a standard desk was just unnecessary and also far too big for the space.

So I decided to make one.

I started with two pre-fab particle board bachelor items for a foundation. One is just a small shelf unit, a foot wide, the other is a double door cabinet about two-feet wide.

The top of the desk is a six-foot plank of poplar, stained with a honey oak and trimmed with two pieces of poplar stained in a walnut finish. The idea was that the desk surface would wrap the edges of the pre-fab units. Good idea.

Now, when I started this project I didn’t measure particularly well. I was in the midst of moving, stressed out beyond belief and I just botched it. So I ended up with a plank that sat at an angle rather than lay flat. It was this way until a month ago.

That’s when, after getting some inspiration from Stephanie’s blog, I piqued her renovator instincts and we developed a plan. Originally I expected that I would need to route some channels in the boards to allow them to sit flush. But we determined that we could make some shims for the bases, creating a new surface for the top and seat it that way. We also determined that the pre-fab bases needed to be neutralized. So they got some nice coats of dark brown paint. I put new pulls on the doors. I put six coats of gloss poly on the desktop.

It now looks like a pretty bad-ass piece of furniture. And, in keeping with my life of clutter, most of its surfaces are covered already. I want this to change.

After uncovering my floor again yesterday and my nice, if not expensive rug, I remembered how much I do enjoy the results of simplification.

Today, the car was bothering me. For my father’s party last week I had the seats all laid flat and used ALL of the square footage in the car. During everyday use I have a particularly bad habit of covering the seating surfaces with items, therefore making transport of passengers a bit clumsy. As I was putting the seat backs in place today, and setting the seatbelts just so, I decided this needs to change too. So, my dedication is that only the rear of the car will haul items. I will not put any items on the seats. At all. Ever again.

So, my room is getting where I want it, home desk needs attention, car needs a bit more straightening. My work desk is another story. Maybe when I’m at the office this Saturday I’ll make an effort.

All of this change is preliminary to a massive change in my future. A change that will require me to be a bit more nimble with my possessions and smarter about them too. I will certainly share that here when the time is right.