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This is a story about what happens when your brain doesn't communicate with your body.

I'm visiting my folks in Texas. Today, my mother asked me to look into replacing the venetian mini-blinds along the front of her store. They're old and falling into a pretty sad state of disrepair. Being the typical guy that I am, I tell her that she doesn't need professionals when she has me. My mother is pretty skeptical about the whole idea but I manage to convince her that I've got it all figured out. How hard can it be, right? I measure the width and height of what I need, go to the Home Depot and have a few sections of blinds custom cut. So far, so good.

I grab a step ladder and go to work unmounting the old blinds when I discover to my great pleasure that the blinds that are up there are from the same company as the ones I just bought. I'm thinking, "Great! If they're from the same manufacturer, maybe the mounting brackets will be the same. Less work for me!" WRONG! Not only have the mounting brackets changed, the screw sizes and spacings have changed as well, forcing me to drill a new set of holes for the screws into the metal frame. Meanwhile, I've discovered that my ladder is too short and because of the way the shelving and displays are set up, I can't get the ladder anywhere close to the windows, leaving me perched precariously to one side. So I try standing on the shelves. No go. The windows run the full length from floor to ceiling so the top is flush with the ceiling and the shelves are at precisely the wrong height. If I kneel on them, I can't reach; if I stand, I end up hunched over with bad footing. Not having much of a choice, I proceed with the latter option.

I've bumped my head into the ceiling sending down a shower of plaster for the tenth time and am beginning to mutter curses to myself about how assinine this whole situation is when I have an epiphany. I come down excited about my new plan. Not having any of my climbing gear with me, I grab some rope from my dad's truck and tie myself a Swiss seat. I can take another length of rope and secure myself to the top horizontal crossbar of the security bars that run the length of the windows. Now I don't have to be hunched over but if I brace my knees against the vertical bars, I can lean away into a fairly comfortable semi-seated/squatting position. I congratulate myself on my cleverness and get to work. My mother looks worried but I ignore her.

A good bit of time and nagging later, I finish the job without incident. (Hah! Weren't expecting that, were you?) I step back and admire my handiwork. Awfully pleased at my ingenuity and all around handiness, I congratulate myself on a job well done and go to the bathroom to wash my hands. I lean over the sink and .... WHAM!

I find myself lying on the floor staring at the ceiling with soap on my hands. Huh? My mom shakes her head with a look on her face that says, "You decided to fall down now?!?" Then it occurs to me what just happened. My body hadn't yet recieved the memo from my brain that I was no longer secured to anything. Apparently, it decided that when I hunched over the sink that leaning forward wasn't nearly as good as leaning backwards so it decided to sit down without checking with the brain first. In one hour, I had managed to develop a conditioned reflex that laid me out flat on my back from a standing position with no more a complex action than leaning forward.

Dr. Pavlov would have been proud. And my butt still hurts.

Running Log

Friday, Mar. 5 ........ 38 min
Saturday, Mar. 6 .... 40 min
Sunday, Mar. 7 ...... 41 min
Monday, Mar. 8 ..... 42 min
Tuesday, Mar. 9 ..... 43 min

Saturday, Mar. 6 This beautiful rainy Saturday morning was wasted attended a 5 hour officer training meeting for a local volunteer organization. The meeting had gone well for the most part, but ended badly. For that and a variety of other reasons I left in a confused and upset state. Arriving home still upset, I immediately changed into running clothes and sought emotional refuge in the cool outdoors.

This morning’s early rains had left the bridle trail muddy and soft and creating an excellent running surface. My left knee has gotten stronger with the gradually increasing abuse. Rather than hurting more, it’s hurt less with every passing day. An earlier bit of trouble with bronchial wheezing has now almost completely disappeared. I can finally breathe fully, without pain. It is a delightful feeling to run healthy again.

All this wonderful confluence of health ought to have led to a euphoric mood. However the mind is a wonderfully perverse thing. I wanted to punish myself for screwing up so many things, and to rid myself of the accumulated anger that lay so close. Forty minutes of hard running. It never felt so good to run angry.

Sunday, Mar. 7. An oh-darkhundred hike in the Shenandoahs took 3 hours: Little Devil’s Staircase. It was more vertical than horizontal, a steep incline rated “somewhat strenuous” by the trail guides, crossing a series of small waterfalls and a stream flowing down a ravine. This was a challenge for my knees. But it was finished in good time. Afterwards I stretched out a blanket in the parking lot and read more of The Royal Physician’s Visit and a bit of Christopher Marlowe’s Hero and Leander poem – great courting lines, guys, for that special girl you’re trying to woo – and then I drove back. Got back home, changed immediately and ran 41 minutes in the early afternoon under incredibly warm and blue skies.

I have to admit to suffering a momentary loss of will about 30 minutes into the run. On the return run I wanted to stop for no good reason. The slacker part of me was saying, "That's okay, you deserve it." The slacker part is well-connected with most of the other pleasure centers of my brain, so this little voice, which sounded so sweet and reasonable, was quite compelling. However, an equally compelling voice, the internal Dr. Phil voice, was saying something like "You don't deserve to stop, lardbutt. Your fat ass is so big it could cover small South American countries. You can stop when you run so hard you puke, and you're not even close, you sniveling whiny weasel." My own brain was yelling at me. It was good no one else was around. I felt like Steve Martin's character in that movie where Lily Tomlin took control of his brain. After lurching around a bit I continued, and Dr. Phil rewarded me at run's end by having me weigh myself, where the needle dropped a tiny micron below 220 lb. I am taking this as a victory and declaring my new weight to be 219 lb.

Monday, Mar. 8. 5:20 a.m. starting time. I’d left running shoes outside so had to run in wet and heavy running shoes. Builds character? The shoes, Saucony Jazz 3000s, are beginning to look muddy. I'm finally getting back to the good old all-terrain, all-weather mudrunning days. Ah, the memories.

I’d also left the Oxford Book of English Verse out there, which was the real pity. Now it’s soaking wet. I went into full mourning about that.

Full moon. When I got to the bike trail I heard a hideous scream between what sounded like a goose and a fox. The scream was far enough away so that I couldn’t see the commotion, but it sounded like the goose was putting up quite a struggle. The running itself was relatively easy.

I wasn’t using controlled breathing. Controlled breathing is when your breathing pattern is, for example, (in)(in)(out)(out)(out), timed to your strides. This requires you to think about your breathing while you run. I wasn’t thinking at all today. Was able to catch a second wind on the way back. Back was good. Knees were good, although the right knee had a few sharp pains for just a few strides. Not too much chafing between thighs. I can tell I am going to have to pay attention to arm motions from here on out. My hands usually hang waist level. But when hands are held at chest level you can run with less energy and less trunk rotation, and that usually makes for more efficient running. Will have to begin to consciously do this in the next few weeks. I ran to the W&OD milepost 13.5 and then ran back.

Tuesday, Mar. 9. 6:30 a.m. starting time. It froze last night, but I refused to wear anything other than the minimum, and consequently froze my little titties off.

The blonde who runs her two black labs started off at the same time, which was unfortunate since we run at the same pace. I ratcheted up my pace until I got to the bike trail and thought I’d put some distance between us. She caught up, however, and passed, her two big labs running in tandem. It was pretty funny to see.

Once again I had a successful hard run. I am losing weight and losing inches off the inner thighs and the rest of the body feels wonderful. Running makes me feel alive.

A tick made its appearance after the morning shower. I noticed it while toweling off. There was a big dark spot on my right hip that wasn’t there yesterday, right at the line where the elastic of the running shorts liner grips the skin. It felt sort of hard. I picked at it and then it erupted in a fountain of blood. The head of the tick was still under the skin. I used the big Leatherman knife to remove some skin around and under the tick’s bite. It looked a bit messy, and I might not have gotten everything of that tick’s, so I coated the area with extra strength Ben Gay to give that sucker a little chemical heat. TAKE THAT LITTLE SUCKER.

Guess I’ll have to read up on Lyme’s Disease to see what major symptoms to look for. Lyme’s Disease is big around this area, because of the combination of woodlands and pet and deer population.

The Oxford Book of English Verse is slowly drying out.


Almost two years ago, I began dating a young woman.

Let me rephrase: Two years ago, I asked out a young girl, my equal chronologically, who was much less mature than I at the time.

For many years, I have prided myself on my individuality, my intelligence, my maturity, my seamless compatibility with adults. It was with this attitude that I embarked on a journey that would fail miserably and leave burning, stinking wreckage in its wake.

Two years ago, I was invited to go on a road trip to Six Flags with my girlfriend and her family. Her twin sister had also invited her boyfriend to join the trek, so it was a full vehicle.

This young woman's parents had not had sex since their daughters' birth, sixteen and a half years ago. They delighted in controlling every aspect possible of their daughters' lives, and being informed of every detail not controlled. I was a threat to this family unit, because I encouraged individual voices and actions, I valued secrecy, and I expressed my views with zeal to other people. If I turned one of their daughters into an individual, I would have ruined their way of life.

Six Flags was uneventful. On the way back, we stayed in a hotel, payed for by the girls' father. The family of four shared a room, and the other boyfriend and I shared a room. We rented movies from the front desk and proceeded to watch them with our significant others. Though this young woman and I had professed our love for each other several times, we had yet to consummate the relationship with a kiss, until that fateful evening in our hotel room with a movie playing. As a matter of fact, this young woman had never been kissed before. It happened in slow motion, as first kisses do, and was quite a moving experience for both of us. I went to bed with a smile on my face.

Her parents asked me about it in the car the next morning, blaming me for stealing their poor, innocent daughter's first kiss. They accused me of depriving many boyfriends to come of the opportunity to take her first kiss, and called me a bad person for doing it. I try to protest, looking to my mate for support, but she hangs her head, unwilling to aid me in an explosive situation. Her parents are not sane.

The talk escalated. They began to decide that it wasn't acceptable for their daughter's first kiss to be in a hotel room, or with me. They concluded that there was nothing they could do to prevent her from kissing me, but that they could force a "do-over" of the kiss the previous night. They ordered me to kiss their daughter, in front of them, to negate the events of the night and create a controlled "first kiss."

Being told what to do doesn't sit well with me. Being stingy with public affection as I am, the thought of locking lips with this young woman in front of her family was less than appealing. Being the idealist that I am, I much preferred the real first kiss that took place last night, and not this pathetic attempt for a more "acceptable" ravaging of their daughter's innocence. Being the introvert that I am, I was astonished that this young woman before me would go and tell her parents the juicy details of our exploits. This was an uncomfortable situation.

I said "No." That should have ended it. I had expressed that I was not comfortable doing what they told me to do, and they should have accepted that. They didn't. The Mistress directed the Mister to pull the vehicle over to the side of the highway, and turn off the engine. He did. Taking a camera out of her purse, she again directed me to kiss her daughter and informed me that she would immortalize the event because I had been so stubborn.

I'm reminded of child pornography. The thought flashes through my head: "This is what those poor children must feel. They're beaten and degraded into submission. They're guilted into feeling that they've done something wrong. They're forced to do something they don't want to do so that they can return to the safety of their home, or their bedroom." I'm 250 miles away from my home, and my Mom and my Dad. I have no protection. The only ally I have is obediently complying with the Mistress's wishes.

I refused again. For fifteen minutes, we sat at the side of the road, baking in the Georgia Summer sun. The Mistress had forbidden the Mister from opening any windows. I was standing up for my ideals. I was standing up for myself as a person. I was standing up for the ownership of my relationship with this poor young woman. I was standing up for the sanctity of teenage love.

However, I wanted to go home. I wanted to be safe again. I kissed their daughter, and the Mister ignited the engine and took me home. It was in that moment that I surrendered control of my relationship to her parents. In that moment, I compromised my individuality. In that moment, I ceased to be a strong individual, and became a shameful, cowering, fearing inferior who flinched at the slightest parental disapproval incurred by his actions.

It was downhill from there. My schoolwork bombed. I began to cut myself. I expressed to this young woman that the world would be a better place without her family, and without her to carry on the genes. I expressed my willingness to remove them from existence if nature did not take care of it myself. I dropped out of high school. I've been at home for approximately 5 months now. I have no job, no car, and no money.

I am traumatized for life, and can only hope that scar tissue can work miracles.

Continued from February 11, 2004

Sixth Grade

Baseball cards were my passion. I scrutinized lists of prices, marking their fluctuations, tracking the statistics I thought affected price most. Nick and I went to the baseball card shop every weekend and most weekdays, if our moms let us. We fancied ourselves con men. We’d buy waxpacks and open them, glean the good cards, iron them shut and resell them in the hall between periods. I spent a few heady sleepovers learning to mimic the insouciant perfection of an adult autograph, and ruined literally thousands of low-priced baseball cards until I could do something passable. Sold some of those.

On the weekends the baseball card store was packed. 20-30 kids easy. Ken, the proprietor, was an obese man in his thirties with glistening oily hair and thick plastic glasses. Nick and I had boxes we’d fashioned out of cardboard, about half as big as a shoebox, and festooned with stickers of team logos. These contained our choice cards and were much admired. During peak hours, the scam was get Ken to make offers on some of our collection. “How much for the Frank Thomas Upper Deck rookie, Ken?” "I’ll give you 7 dollars for that, guy.” "Anyone else? Anyone want a Frank Thomas rookie for 10 bucks?” So it was that sometimes the whole store would follow Nick and I outside, leaving Ken red-faced and impotent. Later, when I got my license, I worked as a pizza delivery guy and Ken happened to be my boss. Sometimes when I worked closing shift, I would sit across from him in a booth, listening to Beatles records and feigning interest in his Matchbox car collection.

So this one day, Nick and I got the tip-off at school that 7-11 was selling packs of Skybox basketball cards – a new brand of glossy, high-quality cardboard sports cards selling at 2 bucks a pack everywhere else – for 50 cents. This was unbelievable, but our source was reliable so we both decided to walk to 7-11 after school and seize this opportunity. I was already doing the math.

It was a cold day in November. The leaves were starting to bleach out into the monochrome of winter and the sky was grey. To get to 7-11, you had to walk through a park on the older side of town. It featured scruffy tracts of suburban woods where there were always porn and spent condoms if you wanted to build a fort or something. There was a big lagoon that smelled like sulphur in the summer. A sledding hill with a sad, sagging fence defining the permissible side to sled down. A playground from which the 'Tornado Slide', the only fun thing there, was removed when I was 7 because some kid died falling off the side. Couple baseball fields and goose shit and fire pits and picnic tables and an outdoor pool. Some low-income apartments around the perimeter. Nothing special, really.

So we walked through the park, down the feeder road, past the parking lot blinking with broken glass, past the baseball field where I went 0-4 during the championships a few years ago, past the cabin where the retard camp met in the summer that always smelled like burning tires, crunching around the gravel path that circled the pool, all tarped and quiet. The shortcut took you through a gap in the fence in 7-11’s back parking lot. It was already getting dark.

Sure enough, there were about 20 packs left all stickered at 25% of their rightful price. Nick and I had to struggle to repress our give-away, greedy laughter. That's 15 bucks profit each, I would have told you then. I shoved the shiny cellophane packs into the pockets of my stonewashed jean jacket with the flannel lining. It had a vest sort of built in and lots of pockets and snaps. Underneath I wore a black hooded sweatshirt. Everything was right with the world.

We walked back the same way. Nick noticed him first. "Dude, don't look but isn't that guy on the other side of the street kind of weird?" Nick stuttered and was small, having a very late birthday for our grade. He was also brilliant. We composed a gritty, true-crime choose-your-own-adventure-style computer game for a contest and I remember arguing with him about word choice: "Even if brandished is a word, it's just weird. Why not 'held' the gun?" "'Whilst'? Fuck you!" Our family had that stupid toy with tons of blunt pins that you could lay over your hand and see what you'd look like as a pointillist sculpture. When I put it on my face, he'd often get what he could only call a weird feeling and he'd have to go home. We burned shit like toilet paper and leaves. I remember numerous times that I had to call my parents when we were alone because there was a suspicious car in the street, or some weird guy walking around or someone who just came to our door in this brown uniform and waited there forever. The world was a dangerous place, and we were dangerous men.

"Dude, seriously, I think that guy's following us." I laughed dismissively. I liked to pretend to be tough, because I was wrong in most of our arguments and at least tough was something. It was getting really dark. I snuck a look. There was a guy on the other side of the feeder road matching us pace for pace. He had long, flappy blond hair and could have been 20 to 40. He was one of those guys. I could have sworn he returned my gaze. "He’s not following us. Let's just walk over this way, around the pond.” We started arcing off right, away from the road and towards the pond and the sled hill. “See” I said, "he’s gone.” I looked back over my left shoulder and he wasn't there. “Dude, he’s right there.” Nick pointed straight to my left. The guy was walking really fast towards us. He’d crossed the street and he was coming right at us. “Oh fuck, “ I said. “Run!” So we ran towards the edge of the lake and over this shitty stone waterfall/bridge and through backyards and I never looked back knowing it would be like all those dreams where suddenly your feet get leaden and you just …can’t … go … any … faster. Sometimes I thought I heard him breathing hard behind us. I ran as fast as I could.

We ended up near this kid Kevin's house. He was a year younger than me but we’d been friends for a long time. His mom had undiagnosed manic-depression which I interpreted at the time as being really peppy and cool for an adult. Anyway, she called the police for us and Nick and I gave our best description. The police said it was probably nothing, but they’d keep an eye out. For some reason I lost interest in baseball cards soon after that.

I think I'm living the movie "Groundhog Day"

Every morning when my alarm clock goes off I invariably hit the snooze button for a valuable extra ten minutes of sleep. Every time it goes off again, and I cannot trace how far back this goes (how long its been doing this), the same damn commercial is airing. And it's at the precise spot in the commercial that it begins when my snooze goes off.

SWOOOOSSSHHHHH! That's supposed to be the sound of an airplane taking off.

"...and I eat a lot of airline food. All of a sudden one night, terrible heartburn...the guy in the seat next to me says 'Here, try this...Zantac 75.' 'Thanks,' I say. 'You know, I should really see a doctor about this heartburn.' and he says 'ya just did.'"

Every morning, right there, BAM, like clockwork! What, is that station I have my alarm radio set to play the same damn commercial at the precise, exact time every morning?? What the hell is up with that???

And then I get up and leave the hotel and go cover the groundhog seeing its shadow.

Hokkaido, Japan
from the foreign female perspective
Day : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

Day three began with the alarm clock ringing a little before seven in the morning. We were ready to go relatively on time, and stopped by the hotel lobby's restaurant for a buffet breakfast. Much to his indescribable delight, Aaron discovered a gravy boat brimming with some sort of ketchup sitting next to the scrambled eggs, and that was the end of his attempt to eat a Japanese breakfast.

However, I had tofu squares with scallions in soy sauce, one of my favorite Japanese breakfast foods, along with some unrecognizable vegetable combinations. It's difficult to get accustomed to eating vegetables first thing in the morning, but so long as they're cooked they go down a little easier.

On the way to the station we saw a massive store window which, I kid you not, said "Monkey Nuts" in two-foot high letters. Pictures were taken.

We had laid out a plan for the day: go to the Sapporo Beer Museum first thing, and then catch a train to 小樽, a so-called "romantic" town along the sea to the north of Sapporo. We stopped by the trusty Tourist Info center at the station while waiting for our bus to the Museum, and I even worked up the courage to speak with a lady working behind the counter. It turned out she spoke English, however, which meant there was no hope of getting some language practice in daily living situations. This is the biggest downfall of attempting to learn a foreign language as a native English speaker - everyone wants to speak English with you regardless of your wishes, and there's no way to force them to speak the language you wish to practice. This leads to the strange conundrum of me speaking Japanese to Japanese people, who in turn speak English to me. Backwards, I know. But there's nothing to be done for it.

Anyway, the lady gave us a brochure for 小樽 and told us to take the JR to get there, both helpful things. We made it back to the bus stop with time to spare.

Despite what the guidebook said, the distance from the station to the Museum was hardly formidable. We had arrived before I knew it. But as the bus was pulling away, I realized with a sinking feeling in my stomach that I had forgotten to pay. In Tokyo, one must pay a fixed fare of 210 yen upon boarding the bus, regardless of one's destination. In every other place in Japan, one pays upon getting off the bus, the amount dependant upon the total distance traveled since boarding. This places a lot of faith in the bus customers, who are expected to honestly say from which stop they have come and pay the subsequent fare. I suppose it's possible the bus driver might recognize and remember a few passengers, but it'd be too difficult to rely on his memory. People are always honest in my experience, something that's taken for granted here.

Anyways, I forgot to pay and felt like an ass. But the bus driver didn't say anything or run after me screaming, so perhaps he just thought I was a stupid 外人 and not worth the effort.

The museum was very cool. The tour was free of charge, and after the lady at the desk hesitantly inquired about my Japanese ability, she appeared to be delighted not to have to attempt to speak English (that was a shock). She explained a few rules, blah blah, then gave us headsets to explain the tour in English. Unfortunately the translation was pathetic and inadequate, but at least I was able to listen to the Japanese tour guide when my English tape quit.

Some interesting info I picked up: With a population of less than 11 million, The Czech Republic is #1 in alcohol consumption in the ENTIRE WORLD. That's alarming. As one might expect, Ireland is #2 and Germany is #3. The average aluminum beer can can be recycled and reused 54 times. There's this stuff called "hops" in beer, not just barley or rice or another grain. I guess it adds bitterness and aroma to the brew, although it doesn't look like anything special.

There was an extremely eccentric holographic movie that lasted for several minutes, telling about a beer-making competition between a demon and a Sapporo employee. After many special effects and groaning, grunting, and other indescribable sounds, both competitors had their product ready in glasses twice as tall as they were. A flying fairy in a pink dress tasted each of the brews, exclaiming in an even more high-pitched than normal tone that the Sapporo beer was by far the best. The demon disappeared with more grunting, and then the fairy dreamily descended into the foamy Sapporo beer, sighing and kicking her feet the whole way.

It was bizarre.

After the conclusion of the tour, we were taken to a large German-esque dining hall and given as much beer as we wanted for 20 minutes. I had about 1/2 of a miniature pilsner just to try it, but the other three women who were a part of the tour each drank 4 glasses. Aaron had about the same as the ladies. There was also a collection of snacks on each table, including fancy cheese and salty stuff. I was amazed at the generosity of the Museum - they could have easily charged $20 or more per person for the tour, and it still would have been a steal if one was inclined to drink a lot at the end. As it is, I believe they make enough through sales at the various gift shops to counterbalance the loss of beer profit. I bought a T-shirt that says "ルービロポッサ" (reeB oroppaS), which I thought was clever.

We walked back to the station instead of risking a run in with the same bus driver after my massive faux pas, and, as we had suspected, it really was not as far as the guidebook insinuated. On the way we were rewarded by a funny sign depicting a cartoon man falling in front of a car, speech bubbles everywhere. The funny part was only discovered upon closer inspection; the cartoon man's hat read "Sapporo Beer" and he was wearing a worker's outfit.

I guess there's a problem with hitting Sapporo Beer employees along that road. hehehe.

The rest of the walk was uneventful, as was the train ride to 小樽. We spent the afternoon walking along canals and past rickety buildings, dreary seasides and dripping rooftops. We shopped a bit, exclaimed over the crabs on display in the market, and were generally stared at by everyone in sight. In every shop that we entered, at least one salesperson was by our side the whole time, explaining carefully about each item and being really attentive. I don't think they get many foreigners out there.

After returning to Sapporo and a long nap, we set out ススキノ, Sapporo's famous nightlife district. After trudging a few kilometers underground through the subway station to find the 南北線 (Namboku Line), we hopped on it for two stations and upon disembarking found ourselves in a glittering world of huge strip clubs, bars, restaurants, and massive neon billboards advertising various alcohols. After a long search, we discovered a little Italian place that had some reasonable prices for reasonable food. We wandered around the city afterwards, stopped by a fancy bar for a little while, and then headed back.

One the way back we stopped by a convenience store to pick up some breakfast, and Aaron found the product that is advertised on his favorite commercial - Pinky Mints, a wonderful invention. He loves the Pinky monkey and the song in the commercial, the words to which we can never hear when it's playing. I know the second line is "ピンキーピンキーピンキー食べたい," but the first line is always lost in trying to turn the volume up. If anyone knows it, please share the knowledge.

The concludes day three of kaytay's Hokkaido adventure.

Day : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

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