What? He Likes to Smell Good.

My son makes me laugh.  Very hard.

Here it is, a very lazy Saturday after Thanksgiving.  We’ve all slept in a bit.  We’re also in the midst of a three-day monsoon that’s going to dump another 5 inches of rain on us before the day is out.  Yep, it’s that kind of day.

As I sat down to check my mail and Twitter feeds, my boy approached from the other side of the counter.

“Daddy,” he said, “I’ve finished our schedule for the day.”  I didn’t realize we had a schedule today.  See above about the rain and laziness and SATURDAY.

“Sure, son, give it to me.  But go easy on Daddy.  I haven’t had much coffee yet.”

“At 10:30 we all get dressed,” he began.

“Son, it’s 10:30 now,” I said.  “That means I’d have to get up from this chair.  Remember what I said about ‘going easy on Daddy’?”

“Daddy, we can’t sit around the house all day,” he continued.  I suppose that makes a certain amount of sense, however, I WILL finish my coffee first.  He carried on with a few more of his favorite activities like visiting the library.  Again, not going to happen because I want to stay dry.  Truth is I had already determined that his schedule was a pipe dream and definitely not for me and so I had tuned out a bit.  Until he mentioned the following.

“At 11:30 I spray Ocean for Men on me.”

OK, back that one up.  For the uninitiated, Ocean is one of the men’s fragrances sold at Bath and Body Works, a store where his aunt does some part time work (pretty much for the discount).  My son, owing to his birthright (being born in New Jersey) is very much concerned with smelling nice and having perfect hair.  On that second front, I haven’t had the heart to tell him to enjoy it now because it will likely be gone one day.  But on the body spray front, I had to laugh.  I questioned his prioritization of his scent on a daily agenda.  “Son, did you just list spraying a fragrance on your schedule for the day?”

“What?” came his incredulous reply.  “I like to smell good.”

Of course you do, son.  Of course you do.

The Tooth Fairy Is A Big Dope

First, I’ll have you know that I have met the tooth fairy. Tooth Fairy is a friend of mine. He is brutally handsome, about 6’2″ (yes dear…), with blonde hair, hazel eyes, and currently sporting an awesome beard.

He makes appearances in secret when my children loose teeth. And when he remembers. He’s also clever and very witty. Get a few gins into him and he’s the life of any party.

Tonight my daughter reminded me of her most recently departed tooth.

“Daddy, could you please get my tooth from the shelf in your bedroom so we can put it under my pillow?” she asked, most sweetly.

“Sure, sweetheart! Let’s just go ahead and wrap this bad boy in some tissue…”

“Why, Daddy?” she asked, looking most puzzled.

“Because that’s going to make it easiest for me to find it under your pillow, silly girl.”

Fortunately I was able to quickly rejoin: “I mean, for Tooth Fairy to find it.”

Her brow unfurrowed. Crisis averted.

I’m an idiot. But I love my baby.

Sheepish Tooth Fairy caught absconding with a tooth.

Reaction to “Shred This” – Insights on Getting Shredded with a Trainer

My post yesterday about the kettlebell drew more readers than I’ve had in a long while.  Included in those readers was a man I affectionately dubbed “TP” in that post.  He called me up and thanked me for what I had written.  “Only thing is,” he said, “My wife said I’m a complete jerk.”  So, Mrs. TP, if you’re reading this, please know that your husband is (normally) far from a jerk.  In fact, as I’ve stated, I’m very grateful for his help and motivation.  This is the first time I’ve ever had a personal trainer and I’m thus far pleased with the results.  Granted, I did have to practically abduct the trainer and force him to train me against his will.  Don’t worry.  When I’ve reached 4% body fat, I will destroy the negatives.

Speaking of 4% bf, I want to mention some other facts about TP.  Did you know he first appeared on these pages as a character called “Zippy“?  Truth.  Follow the link, you’ll see.  So, TP knows me well enough.  He knows that I have some insecurity about reaching my fitness goals and I tease him about it by ridiculing him for his “beastliness”.  One thing he detests is when I try to make a comparison.  There are probably a few reasons for this.  As I said in my last post, comparisons with him are dumb because he’ll always come out on top.  He has been doing this a lot longer.  That’s one of the reasons I hired him.  There I go again…  It’s one of the reasons I coerced him with blackmail to train me.  I absolutely trust that he’s done all the work and figured out how to get in great shape.  If he could do it for himself, he ought to be able to do it for others, right?  Did not Abe Vigoda do the same thing for Barney Miller?

I play the piano.  I play it quite well.  Been playing since I was 4 years-old.  If I were to “train” another on how to play, I know it would take several years for that person to reach a point where he or she could play like I can.  But even with the passage of time, there’s something that person would have to have that I cannot give.  He would have to have talent.  So, TP, listen up…  When I tease him for being “superman”, it’s a complement, truly.  Not everyone has been blessed by God with physical abilities.  I try not to make the comparison as though I’ll ever reach the same stature as him.  I just like to imagine reaching that kind of a goal.  Case in point: I’m currently running a 9:30-10:00 minute pace.  It’s kind of humiliating only because I WANT to do better.  I don’t know if I CAN do better but I want to try.  If I were to ask TP “TP, how long did it take you to go from 10:00 to your current 7:30?” he’d likely respond “3 weeks.”  And that’s cool.  It’s actually funny.  And it’s a gift from God that one should not shy away from.  If I were to ask that same question in a British accent, it would be even funnier.

A thought…

When I was 4 years-old and being tossed from a burning building, setting me up for a broken body as an adult, there was a child, barely a year and a half old living across the continent.  That child was going to grow up to meet me one day and offer incredible training advice that would finally help me get my broken body back in shape.  See, it is a gift and I’m thankful for it.

So, TP, will I run as fast as you?  Doubtful.  I’d like to and I don’t think I’ll stop trying.  Your time is a benchmark for me, nothing more.  In our training session the other day, he showed me a stretch and said “This one’s great because while you’re stretching you can admire your lats.”  He’s a comedian.  I don’t have lats.  I’d like to and I don’t think I’ll stop trying.  The thing is, I know I’ve made progress.  Am I at his 4% fat levels?  Far from it.  I’ve never properly checked but I’m sure it’s way up there.  Is it coming down?  You bet.  Am I the only one who sees that?  Maybe.  What’s important is that he has seen, I hope, that after these past four months, I’m serious, dedicated, and willing to do whatever he suggests.  I’m doing things I’ve never done before like running and using a kettlebell and not just once or twice.  I like how I feel and I sort of like how I’m shaping up.  Can he get me to 4%?  That’s kind of up to him.  See how I did that there?  Clever, huh?  I just placed the burden all on his shoulders.  What?  They’re bigger than mine anyway.

Getting shredded, that’s the goal.  We’ll continue to monitor the situation like a hostage crisis.  Until then, this is my cheat day, per TP’s instructions and I may have already tapped into a big bottle of wine and a very large, unhealthy pizza topped with… enriched flour.

Shred This…

Running again, you ask?

No.  I think I’ve got the running thing under control.  I mean that in the sense that I’ve been able to get back on track with relative ease.  I’m back to what I had been running before a blistered heel sidelined me.

Of late I’ve been refocusing my goals a bit.  And that is why my whole body aches this morning…

Let’s review.  You all remember my trainer pal?  We’ll call him TP.  One hires a trainer based on his potential to deliver solid results.  One might choose a financial adviser who has great personal wealth.  Follow along.  That adviser would have the tools to show you how to increase wealth.  So, a jacked-up trainer has to be able to show you how to get, well, jacked-up as well.  Keep in mind that TP is a friend and that I, therefore, did not hire him.  In fact I’m only paying him in boxed wine and tears.

Also of note, TP is a beast.  Let me restate that.  He’s not a man.  He’s a super-man.  This is the kind of guy who does it all.  Let me explain…

So on the running front, TP runs 2 min. miles.  Interestingly, he does not sweat.  Rather, like a hog, he concludes each 27 mile run by dropping into a pit of mud and rolling around.  He emerges from said mud, completely clean.

I asked him to give me some advice on how to really step this up.  “Fix your diet,” he replied.  I thought my diet, rich in healthy foods like Frito’s and onion dip was just fine.  But, you see, I was wrong.  In addition to little fixes like working out first thing (before eating breakfast) and avoiding something called “enriched flour” he suggested I not eat after 8PM.  I had actually heard these things before but never thought they’d do much good.  Of course he tells me these things right after I’ve eaten a five pound bag of enriched flour at 8:01.  Most important, he tells me, I should have a “cheat day” once a week.  Now we’re talking.  I began to imagine the joys of spending a whole 24 hours going through my favorite fast food menus with reckless abandon, knowing that I would still come out on top.

Apparently, enriched flour=new, whole grain=ancient.  Gotcha.

When asked what kind of things TP eats on his cheat days I was brought back down to earth.  “Pizza,” he replied.  I thought a moment.  “Wait,” I said, “You make your own pizza, right?  Don’t you use whole grain crust and put healthy crap on it?”  Even his cheat day isn’t a cheat.  Will power.  That’s what I need.

Having been at this for about four months now I expressed to TP my desire to take it further.  “I don’t want to be that jackass who asks ‘when do I see results’ but… still no visible six pack, TP.”

This is where he instructed me to invest in something called a kettlebell.  Not familiar?  A kettlebell is a small but dense cast iron ball with a handle.  It was invented in Germany in 1207 by a group of Saracen invaders with the purpose of defeating the Huns in Tuscany.  Unsuspecting Huns would ride their elephants through the streets of Navarre, France and the Germans would drop kettlebells on them from the roofs of office buildings killing both man and elephant instantly.

This thing not only defeated the Goths and Vandals but helped launch the Mars rover into low-earth orbit.  No joke.

Something like that.  Look, if you’ve ever picked one of these things up your first thought is that it is a torture device of epic dimension.  He suggested I go with something manageable like a 25-pounder.  At first I was offended.  “I can lift more than that!”  Came TP’s reply: “No, you can’t, tough guy.”  In fact when he started talking about this, his eyes glazed over and he became somewhat crazed.    “This is the one thing that will get you where you want to be!!”  I thought that was Uber.

During a long break at work the other day, TP and I headed to the torture chamber, AKA the fitness center, where he laid down the law.  “These are the 27 basic movements we’ll do with our kettlebells.  Ready?”  He prefaced it by telling me something I wanted and needed to hear.  “This baby right here (pointing to the torture instrument) is what’s going to get you shredded.”  Well why didn’t you say so?!  Apparently working out with a kettlebell a couple of times a week is one of the best things you can do to burn fat and build muscle (both mass and tone).  “Will the kettlebell help me look like you?” I asked.  “Ha!  No,” he said.

We started out doing fine.  Pull ups were first followed by the following bizarrely named movements: clean and press, hip swings, and the snatch.  Yes, the snatch.  Three sets of 12 reps on each.  By the third set I was faltering.  “Sorry I didn’t hit all twelve on that one,” I said.  “It’s OK.  Do what you can.”  That’s encouraging.  “And don’t forget,” he added, “I’ve been doing this since I was 17.  It’s going to take time to see results.”  In my mind I’m doing the math.  “Hmm…  17 to, what’s this guy?  35?…  I’m currently…  Wait, I think I’ve got this…  No, carry the 1…”  He was still speaking when I blurted out “56!”  Not sure he understood what I was saying.  But by the end of our workout I understood what he was saying.

That iron ball changed my life.  I grabbed some water and caught my breath.  “That was pretty awesome,” I said to TP.  “Not done yet…” he responded, no sweat evident anywhere on his body.  “Let’s hit the track.”

With that, beast-man took off on a 3 mile “cool down” run.  Actually I don’t recall seeing him after that.  He may still be running.  Because he can.

On a final note, to prove his beastly stature, TP recommended one more thing to me.  We’re both teachers and we had a long evening of parent conferences ahead of us.  “Do 10 push ups between each conference.  25 meetings, 250 push ups.”  OK, 10 at a time?  I can do that.  I swear it’s not a competition as that would be really, really dumb (he’d take me down) but someone who’s name rhymes with PT quietly upped his game and did 12 at a time.  This left me with a dilemma.  I swore it wasn’t competitive but there’s something in the man code that forbids a guy from making any rationale sense when another man is doing more push ups than he is.  I had to catch up somehow.  And yet, I still only hit 275.  Did I just say that?  Only 275?  OK, that’s actually not bad.

Kept a running scorecard of my push up’s on the board.  Parents who came for conferences were able to ask “What’s that?”  I was able to brag.

All in all, though, I still remember that less than two years ago I couldn’t do any of this.  I was broken, in pain, and declining fast.  So what if it takes me the next 18 years to reach the goal?  What else would I be doing by then?  And for how I already feel after just a few months, the humiliation is worth it.  Realizing what you couldn’t do is a good motivator to help you do more.  I chose this trainer because of his ability to deliver results.  And he’s been worth every penny.

Work + Workout = Hard Work

Just putting it out there… I’m having a really hard time with this. My trainer buddy gave me some advice and I’m trying to implement it but the work week has got me like…

Let’s hope for a re-boot soon. 

Sweet Emma Barrett or Mom Was Right

Welcome to another installment of “My Kids are Nuts: They Must Have Gotten It From Someone”.

This evening, my beautiful baby girl was sitting at the kitchen counter as I trod lightly across the hardwood floor.  I was hoping not to be detected as I made my way from the living room to the piano.  You see I’ve been working on a Beethoven Sonata for a little while and I enjoy sitting and playing and working it out until it’s perfect.  My daughter, soon to be six, has been working on “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and also likes to sit down and play when the mood strikes her.  Crazy genetics.

To make matters worse, my wife, when she sees me heading for the keys, likes to egg the situation on by suggestion to my otherwise unsuspecting daughter that she practice her pieces.

Needless to say I gave up the bench to my daughter who played beautifully.  “There’s only one problem, sweetheart,” I said.  I had noticed the way she was sitting.  I’m crazy pyscho about form.  If you do not have good form at piano, you should correct it immediately.  She was sitting with her left leg pulled up, foot on the bench, and her free arm sort of lazily wrapped around her knee while she pecked out the notes with her right hand.

I scooted her over and gave a demonstration.  “Should Daddy sit like this?” I asked, mimicking her posture, “Or like this?” sitting up straight.  She laughed.  I couldn’t tell if she got the importance so I offered a story.

“When Daddy was a little boy, his mommy – Grandma – told him this story.  She and Grandpa had gone to New Orleans.  While they were there they went to a famous jazz club.  A revered veteran of the jazz world was to perform at the piano.  To their surprise, a 90 year-old woman was chair-lifted to the stage by four men.”  At this point I started gesticulating and got into character so she could see.  “When she was in front of the keys, she rested her left hand in her lap, for she had long since stroked out.”  I started to giggle as my wife, fixing dinner, looked on incredulously.  “She proceeded to clear her throat and then played a song using just a few fingers on her right hand.”

My wife stopped my.  “I don’t believe this” – But I continued…

“On top of the piano, her assistants had placed a bowl of saltines which she would routinely grasp at and then nibble on in between notes.”  At this point I couldn’t control my laughter.  “You are making this up!” shouted my wife.

Now I couldn’t be called a liar in front of my daughter; not while teaching a lesson.  Still not sure what that lesson was but I had to prove myself.

Out came the phone and pretty soon I had Grandma on FaceTime.

My daughter (who has Grandma’s eyes) looked at the screen and said “Is Daddy lying?!”  To allay her shock I had to clue her in.  “Mom, they don’t believe me about the old jazz lady with the –”  At that moment Mom jumped in…

“The saltines!?”

Stroked and batshit crazy.  That's the life.

Stroked and batshit crazy. That’s the life.

We laughed heartily as she regaled us and told the same story, only better than I could have for she’s the one who witnessed it.  She likes to complain that she’s not that smart or doesn’t have a great memory but the woman is sharp as a tack. This must have taken place 50 years ago and she knew all the details without hesitation.  “Preservation Hall,” she said.  “That’s where it was.  I just can’t recall her name.”

Well, Mom, thanks for the story.  It certainly stuck with me.  And using your details I looked the chick up.  I think it was Sweet Emma Barrett.  And thanks to you, another generation of us will live to tell her tale.  And thanks to you and me, my daughter will either sit up straight or decide that if Sweet Emma can do it, so can she.  Because hey, she can be anything she wants apparently.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to find some crackers.  I’ve got some Mozart to work on.  Oh, and my daughter has my mother’s eyes.  She keeps them in a glass jar on her dresser.*

*Only Mom will get the reference.

There’s No Such Thing As A Free Haircut

I have a friend who describes himself as being “a choc-oholic, except with alcohol”.

I suppose it’s all in the phrasing…  I like to think of myself as having a full and luscious head of hair, except with no hair.  That’s not exactly true.  I have just enough hair to be really annoying and the hair I have grows ridiculously fast.  This requires me to get a few strands of hair cut every couple of weeks or so.  Do you know how obnoxious it is to pay $20 every 2 weeks to cut what I’ve got?  There’s one additional catch.  I’m like a normal guy, except that crazy people seem to think I’m their best friend.

barber chairNear to my house there is a studio.  It’s affiliated with one of those big unisex hair-cutting joints.  Just to be fair (and to avoid a lawsuit) I’ll call it SuperClips.  Since this is their training studio and because somehow I got on their email distribution list, I get invited every few weeks to schedule a “free” haircut.  The first time I went in I was pleasantly surprised.  The “stylists” were completely trained and competent people who had been cutting hair for years.  It just so happens that in order to work at SuperClips they needed to undergo SuperClips training.  Apparently there’s a certain “way” to cut “hair” at this “place”.  In any event, the clipping wasn’t bad and all it cost me was a tip.  “Stay away from lava,” I shouted as I left the chair.  OK, I’m not an ass.  I left cash.

And then there was today — a day so bizarre at the hair-cuttery that I realized why these things were free.  I hadn’t scheduled an appointment but found myself home from work early.  I reached out to the woman who runs the place and, sure enough, I was able to come by at my convenience.  They weren’t busy at all.  Should’ve been my first clue.

Walking through the door I was greeted by a barber stylist Cher.  Actually, it was a man in drag pretending to be a lady who was pretending to be a man.  I don’t know.  He had blue hair.  And he couldn’t stop talking about his blue hair.  Look, I don’t mind blue hair.  I appreciate the artistry and the guts it takes to be a little different.  But I don’t need to hear about how you custom created that shade for the next five minutes.

The thing is, while he was telling me about the color blue he was nervously pacing and looking around.  He was also completely oblivious the fact that I could see him as there was a mirrored wall in front of me.  I actually heard him “mutter” the following.  “Now is it stand right, clip right?  Stand left, clip…  fuck it, where’s my manual?”  Not exactly inspiring confidence but as I like to point out, you can’t really screw up my mop.  That’s because there’s not much mop left.  And that brings me to my next gripe.

If you’ve been asked to cut a man’s hair and that man is in his late 30’s and clearly balding and we don’t know each other…  Why would you assume it’s a great business tactic or even simply polite to continue to point out the fact that he’s losing his hair?  Dude, I’ve come to terms with it.  My dad’s bald.  He’s distinguished.  Bald men are manlier.  That’s just nature.  You, Cher, need to stop saying things like “Wow, you’re bold for wanting to wear it this short.  Usually balding men want to go really longer because it hides the baldness.  But you’re doing the right thing, baldy.”

I would have responded with my standard bemused look while mouthing the letters “WTF” (or just saying the words outright) but Skippy had already moved on to his next parlor trick.  “So, tell me what you do for a living…”  Again with the small talk.  “I’m a teacher,” I said.  And then I waited for three minutes.  He had zoned out.  He literally stared at the back of my head that whole time, not saying a word.  Until finally…  “Sorry, I zoned out.  I do that all the time!  Oh my God, what a fantastic whirl!”  By whirl he meant the whirling pattern of my hairline at the back of my scalp.  Apparently it’s a work of art.  “It just goes on forever!  I LOVE it!”

It is not an exaggeration to say that I endured another 40 minutes of this.  Have I mentioned my hair looks like Charlie Brown’s?  No, at one point he even admitted that “I’m sorry, I just don’t get the whole ‘clipper’ thing.”  I was praying he was talking about the LA basketball team because he was holding hair clippers at the time.  “I mean, I worked for ten years in really high-end salons and I never touched clippers once.  I just don’t understand them, how they work…”  On that one his voice trailed off as he once again zoned out.  I think he was playing with my whirl.  “Do you want me to try to cut these here?”  He was pointing to a few hairs on the back of my head.  Truthfully I wanted him to finish up and release me from this bizarre barber shop hell.  “No, Barbra, it’s a cowlick. It’s always going to stick up.”  To which he responded “It is so brave of you to just accept all of this.”  He said it as though I’d just been diagnosed with cancer and vowed to climb Everest before I died.

It got worse. He very casually asked “Can I hit the eyebrows?”  For a man who couldn’t help but extol my falling hair he seemed to think my brows were too full. Oddly I let him. Because I was afraid. 

Mercifully he finished, clipping and all.  But he had to throw one last cautionary tale at me.  “So, this one time at the academy…”  No, seriously, he said that in the hopes that I’d treat the beauty academy the same way mentally as a police training facility.  “One time, I brought a model in and my friend, she was cutting his hair and she went to hit his neck with the clippers and she kept going lower.  My motto is stop at the collar!  But she did it.  She made the fatal mistake of pulling his collar back and the next thing you know he’s asking her to shave his back.”

Tossing a $5 bill at his counter, I ran to my car.  Quickly I opened about five pieces of Nicorette and began chewing.  As I drove home I weighed the merits of whether a “free” haircut is truly free if you pay with your dignity and a pinch of sanity.  Walking in the door I realized it probably didn’t matter since no one noticed the two strands that had been trimmed.  All in all, I think I’ll have to go back there.  There are just too many characters and this story needs to be written.