Tuesday, December 30, 2008

So What Do Insomniacs Dream About?

In Fight Club, the movie, not the book, because I didn't feel like leafing through my copy to find a quote, the narrator says "With insomnia, nothing is real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy." This isn't exactly true.

I've had insomnia since I was in high school. As you might imagine, at this point I'm reasonably adept at living with it which, if you look at the time stamp on this entry, is pretty much what I'm doing now. It's 3:39AM and I had planned to get up and go swim at 5:30. Pretty sure that's not happening. Instead, I've decided to write a blog entry rather than get too far into the second book of the evening. I'm rereading West of Jesus, by Steven Kotler. Even if you don't surf, take a look at it. It's a pretty cool story and raises lots of interesting questions.

The reason I'm writing this is that I'm hoping to expend a little mental energy, shut down my brain so that maybe, if I'm really lucky, I'll be able to carve out a 90 minute or 2 hour power nap before I go to work. Sadly, the days are gone when I would have these attacks and just power through the day on caffeine until the sun went down and I added whiskey to the cokes to slow down and hopefully get some sleep. And I used to wonder why I would sometimes go three or four days with only an hour or two of sleep. The equation seems pretty simple now.

My record run is 10 days. That's not 10 days with no sleep, mind you. That would have had me in the padded room strapped to a table freebasing NyQuil and asking the nice orderlies to please get the spiders off me. No, it was 10 days with no more than 2 hours a night. I was a freshman in college, which was a bad time all around for me, but this two week span, ugh. I went to the student health center where they advised me to go to bed earlier and to try not to get stressed out before bed. And they wouldn't give me sleep aids because I might get hooked, but was I by chance depressed? If I was, it might be a cause of my insomnia, and they could probably prescribe something for the depression. If you've ever wondered what it would feel like to have Joseph Heller write your life story, that appointment was it for me.

I can't sleep, so I want pills. I can't get pills unless I'm depressed. I'm not depressed, so I can't have pills, but not being able to sleep is depressing...Sorry, that doesn't count. No pills. Come back when you're wearing all black, listening to Morrissey for hours on end and have developed a fascination with razor blades.

Enough of this rambling. I finally ended that run because my body just shut down. I remember I slept for something like 16 hours straight and then got to be kind of functional, but it took a long time to get back to an even keel.

So what do insomniacs dream about? We dream about sleep. Most of the dreams I can remember involve waking up, only to realize at some unconscious level that I just woke up in a dream, which is usually followed by waking up in real life, which can sometimes trigger more insomnia. Like a snake eating its tail, very slowly...because it's fucking exhausted.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I'm Dreaming of Tomorrow

Properly compartmentalized, 2008 has been a hell of a year. Improperly compartmentalized, it was kind of, well, hell. Such is the fundamental dichotomy of my world. Of course, the hellish bits are pretty much all professionally rooted and tied to factors beyond my control like the implosion of the global economy and the vagaries of Taiwanese circuit board manufacturing, so I choose not to dwell on them.

2008 was a great year, personally. A year of firsts. My first successful heavy powder day on a snowboard. My first trip to Hawaii. My first half marathon and half ironman.

Along the way I've been privileged to get to know some pretty incredible people, and to count several of them as friends. I've managed to reach back into the mostly walled up and ignored reaches of my past and make contact, however tenuous, with people I haven't spoken to in years but think of often and well. I've lost touch with, and had to make the harder decision to forcibly cut away from others, but that's what happens. Roads diverge and sometimes you just can't build a strong enough or long enough bridge. Things come together, evolve and fall apart at the edges while the center strengthens.

This being the holidays, and reading all the other posts about reflecting, I guess I should say that, like Ben and Annie, I don't put the religion of the season in the front of my head. Frankly, I'm more of a New Year's guy than a Christmas one. I don't know, as I've gotten older, I just don't feel like it's everything it's supposed to be. I get burned out on the retail pressure and the personal pressure to get something right, to find some kind of insight that makes the previous year worth it.

It always seems to me that the small victories, finishing the longest race yet, catching a great wave or having a flawless run on a waist deep powder day, adding a few new people to your life to keep things interesting; it's these things that make the year worth what it took to get it in the books. The big victories, while they are incredible, are too few and far between to count on.

And that's why I like New Year's. It's a time to plan out your path through the coming year, to choose your battles. To have, as the saying goes, one last drink before the coming war.

All the way around, while parts of this year have been, shall we say, less than awesome, it's been a hell of a ride, and I'm going to chalk it up to a win. Frankly, I can't wait to see what's coming down the pipe in '09, or who's going to be walking the road with me. I hope we can have as much fun as we did this time around, if not more.

So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Give your family and friends a hug and a pat on the back. Thank them for what they've done for you and resolve to return the favor as best you're able. Have a drink and get ready to get back on the ride. The 2009 show is completely different than the 2008 show, and it's gonna be a mind-blower.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I'm lying on the couch in a house that, until a few hours ago, I had been in front of but never inside. I know the owners in passing, friends of a friend, and yet here I am, on their couch with their dog snoring on the floor a few feet away. They were asleep when I got here, so I haven't even said hello or thanks for the place to sleep.

Now, don't get me wrong, I'm here for a reason. I wasn't freebasing drain cleaner around the corner and wandering around looking for unlocked doors and Doritos or anything. Well, okay, mabe Doritos. Mmm....

Anyway, I'm lying here in the dark, with the whole place asleep, trying and failing to space out to the Alison Krauss album playing on my ipod, and thinking about home. Not my home, in the sense of the place where I keep my stuff, but home in the ephemeral sense, what it means to be home. It's December, meaning Christmas, and that means that a lot of the people I know are going home for the holidays. Being one of 8 people in San Diego who actually think of this place as home, I'm hanging here.

So all these friends of mine who are leaving, going home, do they think of this place as home all year, only to switch allegiances come winter? Or do they only consider this a way station on a larger road? Is this truly just a place to keep their stuff?

Maybe I was smoking something. I don't know. Maybe I just have quiet time now and too much thinking going on. Lord knows I've already written enough tonight that I'm not going to post.

Back to the topic at hand, my brother is coming back this weekend for a few days. I am really excited about this, since we don't talk or hang out nearly enough. I have to wonder though. I think of this as my brother coming home, but does he? Our parents don't live in the house where we grew up, and our childhood rooms are long gone. This doesn't seem to matter much when we're all together, so maybe there's something to all those sappy cliches...I don't know.

Think about it, if like me you can't sleep. Where do you keep your stuff? Is it home?

I'm going to try switching albums.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

7 Pieces in 7 Days

So I set myself a couple of challenges last week. The first was to go without soda for a week. Made it 5 days.

The second was to write one original piece per day for a week. I made 7 of 7 days, from Monday through Monday, and I've got a start on Tuesday. Can I go 8 for 8?

I won't post all of them here, because that would be self indulgent and obnoxious, but I picked my two favorites from the period and one that I got busted writing when I should have been being social. See if you can guess which one's which.

By way of context, these are all written in one shot with no editing or revision.

Eyes scratched inside like broken glass
Sunlight through the blinds
The promise of a new day gone stale
The taste of last night's stout
Where exactly did tomorrow go?
Where might you have left it?
Through your dirty window watch
Is that rain? Is it smoke?
Are you thinking about later?
The sound of wheels waiting for you
Just beyond
Just past the place you wanted to stop
Towel dry
Burn your coffee. You like it that way.
You shouldn't drink so much anyway.
Irish it up? Iris it shut?
Fade to black and scene
Curtain call before the overture and then you can just skip the formality
The taste in your throat like a cigarette
You forgot to stop smoking until you hit the filter
Where exactly did you leave tomorrow?
Why can you only find today?
Think back. You remember.
Last week.
Last month.
Last year.
But not last night.
Now where, exactly, did you leave tomorrow?

Lights in the mirror reflect
Questions left unasked
Answers unneeded in the dawn's first flash
Eyes open to yesterday and closed again
Blown glass casting shadows
Like echoes of tomorrow
Bleeding through the seams
Shining past today
I see what was and never what is
Where and when no longer matter
What color do I bleed
Cut with a razor I can't see
The day's first light brings sights
I'd rather not see
But I can't close my eyes

If an answer in the negative
Stops conversation in its tracks
What is there to talk about?
What questions left to ask?
If the story that unfolds
Is too much or not enough
Remember silence broken
In the words that passed for love
A thousand ways to ask this question
Only one way to respond
Pick the locks before I turn
To see the damage that we've done
Tunneling to freedom
Seeing light through the dirt
Shovels ground down in our hands
And just ourselves to hurt
So come on and ask your questions
Reach right in and take hold
But if the answer pulls away
Be strong enough to let it go

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This Tri Shit Is Getting Ridiculous

So it's the off season. Why don't I feel like it? Oh yeah, because I'm reading books about training, working out in sport specific ways and still getting up early on Saturdays to put miles on the new bike. That's right, I bought a new bike.

Like I said, this tri shit is getting ridiculous.

If you saw Mark's last post then you know that I'm part of his maniacal plan to train for a full Ironman in 2010. We've also enlisted Dana in our scheme.

The venue is yet to be determined, though we may be joining Goody and several other TNT alums in Taupo. Even if it doesn't end up being our race, I may go on principle. Can I do two in one year? Am I insane? Don't answer that! Who am I talking to? I should really take my meds on time.

So here it is. I don't know what I'm thinking, but in preparation for this nonsense, I am training in my off season to get ready for my season, which in 2009 will consist of at least one century, two half ironmans, an international tri and probably at least one sprint, just for giggles.

How did I get here? I don't know, but I'm kinda glad I did. Shut up, voices in my head.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Blast From the Past (unmedicated)

So, Mark, this one's for you. You were wondering what happened if I actually veered full into rantville? I dug into my old writing archives and pulled some of my editorials from my buddy's old mailing list. Despite the fact that the one I've included here makes it sound like, well, like I really earned my theater degree, I think it's pretty close to the full, in person meltdown. This is about 8 years old now, so take it for what it is.
On Fashion

Okay, so there’s no business like show business, and you live fast, die young and above all, leave a pretty corpse. What do these two cherished American axioms tell us about ourselves? We are one seriously vain culture. No big news, right? Right. Okay, so now that we’re all agreed, what can we say about our vanity?

Turn on any given episode of Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight and you will be bombarded by sickeningly sycophantic, startstruck horseshit about who was wearing what where and which alarmingly gay fashion expert had a near fatal aneurysm over it. One point of clarification here, the word gay in this context refers not specifically to homosexuals but to the community of men sporting lisps, triangular chin beards, turtlenecks and an unhealthy knowledge of fabric types. The kind of people who make you pronounce the word croissant correctly, who order coffee drinks with names more complicated than the scientific names for most venereal diseases and that cost more than the treatments. The kind of people who think Chloe is a nifty, hip name. In short, the kind of people who should be added to my ever expanding list of people who should not be allowed outside without a helmet. But I digress.

My rage in this case is pointed not at celebrities and the celebrity chasing tabloid media.
These people are paid very well to make spectacles of themselves and each other, paid, I might add, with the money we spend on their product. That said, I do occasionally wonder what causes celebrities (typically the women, but occasionally the men) to make personal appearance choices that dramatically reduce their personal attractiveness when they are not being paid to do so. It’s one thing when a beautiful actress gets a strange haircut to play a role for which she will be paid a hefty sum of money, but quite another when she decides that, in between seasons on her hit show, she should roll the dice on the miracle hair salon that is the local Nurseryland. But again, I digress.

I said that the target of my rage on this particular topic is not the celebrity, nor the drooling, borderline retarded schlubs that follow them around and take pictures of them doing useless things that we are then supposed to care about as though it were an offense to the cosmic order for the premiere of the Manimal movie adaptation to go unnoticed. No, the target of my venom this time around is none other than us, the media hungry, frantically unhip public.

In Las Vegas recently I witnessed fashion flubs that could possibly have scared Mr. Blackwell straight and could even have left Joan Rivers speechless. For this, these sartorially challenged individuals (who shall remain nameless since I was too busy laughing to bother to meet them) should be given the Congressional Medal of Honor. Before I go too far, I should note that I am speaking here as a critic of fashion, which of course means that I know nothing about it. But enough about me, on to the dirt, that is the earthen motif.

Complaint #1: Women with colored hair.
While this phenomenon is not an inherently problematic one, there appear to be several areas of this rather delicate operation with which the bulk of our female population is unfamiliar. These issues, when dealt with properly, greatly enhance the appeal of the woman to men surrounding her. Handled improperly, they induce men to ask for an hourly rate. Allow me to provide the following helpful hints.
1. Just because Christina Aguilera saw fit to dye the lower half of her head blue, this does not make it a good idea for you. People like Ms. Aguilera have image consultants and hairstylists with one name on speed dial. People whose hourly rates are higher than most psychiatrists. You however, have ponytail holders and a sharpie. Do the math.
2. Bleach jobs are rarely as good an idea in truth as they seemed to be in the planning, especially if you are not white. This is not a racial statement, but rather an observation about color interaction. Platinum blond is not a color that mixes well with dark skin. You are not fooling anyone. Pale white people can usually pull it off, but rarely do it properly, hence the number of people you see walking around looking like a road pylon took a shit on them.
3. Uncorrected botched dye jobs are particularly bad. If you dye your long hair and find that it looks bad, cut it. You are only doing yourself a disservice by wandering around with well styled, but plastic looking hair.
4. Pastels do not naturally occur in human growth. Lavender, orange, blue, green, and other colors not generated by chromosomal combination should be ignored. You don’t look daring, you look like you slept in a kindergarten tempera set.

Complaint #2: Those shirts with no backs.
Here’s the deal, that thing you have, the one comprised of a sequined dinner napkin and two matching shoelaces? Yes, that one. It’s not clothing, it’s table linen. Wrap it around a fork and go put on some clothes.

Complaint #3: Strap lines.
If you wear a bikini to play, tank tops to shop and spaghetti straps to functions, stop it, at least during the summer. Your back looks like a Sanskrit manuscript. It’s not sexy. It’s geometry.

Complaint #4: Men in leather pants.
Go home and put on some jeans. You’re not a rock star, and if you were, you would probably be responsible for more schlock like With Arms Wide Open and I would be forced to put on a Metallica CD and crush your head with a rock.

Complaint #5: Cowboy Up
If you live in or are visiting a major city center, leave the boots, belt buckle and cowboy hat at home. You stick out like Ron Jeremy in a convent. Stop it. And for God’s sake, take that damn sticker off your Neon. One more thing, Calvin is a city boy, so take that sticker off too. A real cowboy would kick your ass faster than he’d shoot a cow stuck in barbed wire.

The list goes on and on. Sadly, there are more problems involving women than men, but men wrote the rulebook, which means that we get to do things the easy way. Then again, visit a golf course and you will see that many men have obviously never read the book their ancestors clubbed so many women to create.

So what can we do about this? How do we keep from becoming walking fashion travesties? We can’t listen to our European cousins since they’re the ones who started all this insanity in the first place. Fashion designers are no help. Watch an awards show. These people are so whacked out they make me want to watch the Jerry Springer show for a little normalcy. I don’t know, maybe we should all just go back to cheetah skins and loincloths, at least the current cast of Baywatch should, if not permanently then definitely during sweeps.

But seriously, we have to do something, unless of course evolution is showing us that the next stage in our development is Bozo the Clown, in which case we should just set off the nuclear warheads and see if the cockroaches can do better in a few thousand years.

For what it’s worth, my advice is just to do what you do. Stop trying so hard, it’s never as impressive as you think it is. You’ll be much better off .

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Song Lyrics That Kick Ass

Mostly this is random lines from songs that I think are really cool. Why am I writing this down? Because they keep getting stuck in my head.

1. I brought down the sky for you / but all you did was shrug -- Audience of One, Rise Against.

2. When I die I don't want no part of heaven / I would not do heaven's work well -- Youngstown, Bruce Springsteen

3. Now every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world, / Ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl. -- Death or Glory, The Clash

4. Pretty girl keep growin' up, playin' make-up, wearin' guitar -- Left of the Dial, The Replacements

5. She's living in LA / with my best old ex-friend Ray / a guy she said she knew well and sometimes hated -- Operator, Jim Croce

6. All smiles and sunshine / a perfect world on a perfect day / everything always works out / I have never felt so fucking great -- Survive, Rise Against

7. The Gods forgot they've made me / so I forgot them to / I listen to the shadows / I play among their graves -- Seven, David Bowie

8. Big green monkey / everyone's a junky -- Everyone's a Junky, Our Lady Peace

9. Look around and you'll see that at times it feels like no one really cares / It gets me down but I'm still gonna try to do what's right, I know that there's / A difference between sleight of hand, and giving everything you have / There's a line drawn in the sand, I'm working up the will to cross it -- The Artist in the Ambulance, Thrice

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

File Under: Didn't You Think to Check?

Seriously, it's like Christmas.

Zoo solves mystery of celibate polar bears

The punchline is in line 1 of the story. It's awesome.

Yeah, but how are the brownies?


This rocks. I got nothing.

World's oldest marijuana stash totally busted
Two pounds of still-green weed found in a 2,700-year-old Gobi Desert grave

Monday, December 1, 2008

Tri-ing to Catch Up

So there, I think that's my first "tri"-related pun. I'll "tri" not to do it again...damn it...anyway...

I've been quiet a while, at least in blogger-land, so this is a quick catch up on the tri stuff, which is why this blog originally started. I'll "tri" to post the non-tri post tomorrow. Oh, jesus...just shoot me...I can't stop...

I'm back to working out, except that I can't run. My foot still doesn't work. I went my regular doctor, who helpfully explained to me that I weigh more that 200 pounds. not much more, but more. Therefore, I shouldn't run. You see, in his logic, the only people who should run are really skinny people, grown men who weigh 130 pounds or less. The rest of us should find other sports. In his words "Lots of people are perfectly happy working out on the elliptical trainer." Sorry to get crass, but...fuck off, Doc. You spent 8 years in med school to tell me not to exercise? Bite it.

So I went to a different doctor, a sports doctor who has bike jerseys hanging in his office and copies of Triathlete magazine in his waiting room. A good sign. He spent a half hour or so quizzing me about my injury and poking/bending my foot in ways that made me want to give up state secrets. In the end, I'm going back into physical therapy. I start on the 16th, so maybe I'll have more to say then.

Since I'm not running, I'm focusing on cycling and swimming. I've actually started using the pool at the YMCA, which is the reason I joined 6 months ago. It's going well. I still know how and I can still knock out a 2000+ yard workout in under an hour. Now to get faster....

On the cycling front, I learned something this past weekend. Pay attention. This is important. DO NOT, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, DO BACK TO BACK BIKE WORKOUTS!!!!

I was humbled this Sunday by Sleeping Indian Road. For the first time since I started in this sport, I had to get off the bike and walk up a hill. A little piece of me died. But then, wait for it....there were more hills!!!! HOORAY!!!! Finally, Dana and I just bagged it. Neither of us was feeling it, and she was bleeding, but that's her story to tell.

Since I seem to be working backwards, I'll wrap this up with a quick recap of Ironman Arizona (IMAZ). Dana and I drove out to watch the race on Saturday morning, meeting up with Katie and Joanna in Tempe. Since they are all paying a coach, they had to work out. I, being along for the ride, got to join in. Dana's scripted workout was a 50 mile ride comprised of one loop of the IMAZ course (competitors do 3), plus 13 extra miles. We did the loop, which turned out to be the most boring ride in existence. A sample of my interior monologue from the ride...

Wow, it sure is deserty out here. Is that a saguaro cactus? Well, I guess we are in Arizona. We haven't turned in a while. Where was that turn again? That mountain is kind of cool looking. I'm hungry. Almost heaven, west virginia...blue ridge mountains...why am I singing John Denver songs? How long have we been out here? Wait, has that mountain gotten closer? Is that another saguaro cactus? It sure is dry. Hey look, an indian casino...I'm tired of looking at that damn mountain. just sit right back and you'll hear a tale...Did I remember to lock the car?...What would happen if I just zigged into traffic? Why isn't that f$@I@#g mountain getting any closer. Damn it Dana, why did you have to ask me to come on this ride?...I don't ever want to do IMAZ...

And on and on. Despite the soul crushing monotony of the course, it was a really instructive experience to watch the race. Astute readers of this blog might have noticed a phantom post called "Water Boxing" which was an attemot to mobile blog from my blackberry. It was a short description of my impression of the swim start, which was, in distilled form, pretty much this:

At the sound of the cannon, punch your neighbor in the spine.

Now imagine 2500 people all doing this at once in the predawn glow while floating in a pool of motor oil.

Almost like you were there, huh?

From there it was over to the bike course where it went something like this:

Your friend comes out of T1. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!!

Wait 2 hours.

Your friend makes a u-turn. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!

Wait 2 hours.

Your friend makes a u-turn. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!

Wait 2 hours. Get lunch during this interval.

Your friend goes into T2. Cheer. YAY FRIEND!!!!

Go find a spot on the run course. Repeat.

Not to take anything away. Congrats to Jess, Jason, Brian, Chris, John and everyone else out there. You all rock, but when my time to race the distance comes, my family and friends are welcome to hang out at the bar.

I think that'll do for now. Still to come will be recaps of Thanksgiving, drinking stories, Snow Jam, and who the hell knows what else.

Time for bed now. Have to work out in the morning.