A Few Days on Mackinac Island

July 7, 2014

I’m baaaaack! Hope you all had a great Fourth of July week. Mine was wonderful – I spent it hanging out with family in Michigan, where I grew up, visiting places we used to go to all the time when I was a kid.

First stop: Mackinac Island. Located in the very northern part of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island is known for a few things: its history, its ban on motor vehicles (which means bikes and horses are the main means of transportation), and its many fudge shops. As many brochures and websites point out, visiting Mackinac Island is like stepping back in time – specifically, to the late 1800s, when many of the island’s buildings were constructed.

The island is only accessible by ferry, and my in-law Anne took this great picture of me as we pulled away from the mainland.


We used to go to Mackinac Island every Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas and New Years Recap 2012

January 6, 2013

Howdy folks. I don’t think I’m 100% better yet, but I’m feeling like this cold is definitely on its way out. Time to fill you in on my holiday adventures! As I mentioned in my last post (with much excitement and perhaps an exclamation point or two), I managed to make it through my holiday travels without gaining any weight. I made a concerted effort to make healthy choices and stay active, while still enjoying some of the pleasures of the season.

I’ll start with exercise. No, on second thought, I’ll start with what I was most hoping for: A white Christmas! There wasn’t a speck of snow on the ground when I landed in Michigan on the 23rd, but it started snowing in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve, and by Christmas morning, there was a nice white blanket covering everything in sight.


It snowed more the next couple days, and I loved being back in winter weather, if only for a little while!

Moving on to exercise! Read the rest of this entry »

Finger Limes and Calamondin

December 25, 2011

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas! Mine was great: the gifts I gave resulted in excitement and appreciation, and I got some great gifts myself. There were lots of laughs and good times with my family, and I didn’t overeat to the point where I fell into a food coma or wanted to unbutton my pants – which have both happened in the past, many many times.

The gym I’ve been going to in Michigan was closed on Christmas day, but I had great workouts for the four days leading up to Christmas. After the gym on Christmas Eve morning, I went to Plum Market, an amazing local grocery store with three Detroit-area locations, for some last minute shopping for dinner that night.

The produce department at Plum is beautiful, and even though I only needed a couple items from it, I wandered the whole thing, and I’m glad I did, because I stumbled upon two new things that I’d never seen before.

Item #1 were finger limes, and in this case, it wasn’t the produce itself that caught my eye, but the price tag:

FIFTY BUCKS A POUND? For produce? Are you kidding me? All I wanted to do was toss a couple in my cart, but this boy’s on a budget, and I need to save some more pennies before making an investment like that! Usually I take a ‘buy now, research later’ approach to produce investigation, but in this case, I think the opposite approach is in order. I know, I know, they’re tiny, and buying one or two would only cost a few bucks, but still. I need to know what I’m getting into!

I’ve learned a little about finger limes since them. Todd, one of my Facebook followers (follow me on Facebook here!), told me about a wonderful iPhone app called Specialty Produce, which has all sorts of information on fruits and veggies (duh). Here’s what’s written about finger limes:

“Known as ‘the caviar of citrus,’ these tiny digit-shaped limes are practically in a category all their own. Their aromatic skin appears in a triad of colors and the flesh holds caviar-shapes vesicles that pop crisply in your mouth with an assertively tart punch. The flavor is a lemon-lime combination with herbaceous undertones.”

Another website describes them as having “A caviar-like appearance and… a delightful pop rock texture.” Pop rock texture? Caviar or citrus? Vesicles? Damn, I wish I bought a finger lime! I’m keeping my eye out for these when I get back to California. Have you had one? What did you think? Share, share, share in the comments section!

Item #2 were calamondins, and at first, I thought these were the tiniest tangerines ever:

Until I saw the signage – and look, they’re much more reasonable than finger limes!

If you’re a fruit with a nickname like ‘sour bomb,’ how can I not eat you? Plum Market gets big-time bonus points for this informational placard – thanks for doing my research for me!

See that part at the bottom about asking a staffer for a sample? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret if you promise to not tell Plum Market management: I just ate one, without asking for permission. Shhhhh! Don’t tell on me!

Sour bomb is actually a perfect description – it’s like a kumquat on steroids. I definitely puckered from the sourness, but it wasn’t overwhelming. I liked it!

I did a little more research and learned that the calamondin is native to southeast Asia, and there’s some mystery as to its history. Call Nancy Drew! Scientists have figured out that calamondrin is an ancient hybrid, but they can’t identify the precise parent plants. It’s thought that it’s a mix of something from the citrus family with something from the kumquat family, but there’s a lot of head-scratching when you delve for more details.

Turns out the calamondin is a wonder fruit! Check out some of the ways (beyond eating and cooking) that the people of the Philippines and Malaysia use them:

  • Frozen whole, as ice cubes in beverages
  • Rub the juice on insect bites and abscesses to relieve itching and irritation
  • To clear up acne and bleach freckles
  • The juice, when diluted, can ease constipation
  • As an anecdote for poison
  • As an phlegm expectorant (when combined with pepper)
  • To remove ink stains from clothing
  • And, lastly, as a hair conditioner

And, like other citrus fruits, it’s high in vitamin C!

It’s been a good week for trying new foods. A few days ago, I tried moose meat for the first time, as well as apple pears (read my blog about both here), and now, I can add calamondin to the list!

Keep it up, David!

Henry Ford Museum

December 23, 2011

I’m back on the exercise wagon! A few days ago, I wrote about how unmotivated I was feeling to exercise, but I’ve been to the gym three days in a row, and I feel great. All three days I’ve done variations of the same formula: 5 minutes of cardio warm-up, then 30-40 minutes of weightlifting, then 15-25 minutes of cardio. One of my sisters has joined me at the gym for the past 2 days, and today, I was joined by both sisters. Three cheers for family workouts!

Yesterday I got a bonus workout: a couple hours walking around the Henry Ford Museum with my sister, nephew, and niece. Located in Dearborn, Michigan (adjacent to Ford world headquarters, and about 40 minutes from my parents’ house), the Henry Ford Museum is an enormous history museum (the size of 10 football fields, literally – that’s not an exaggeration) with a focus on technology, inventions, and transportation. The museum’s collection is vast and amazingly impressive: they have the chair from Ford’s Theatre that President Lincoln was sitting in when he was shot, the bus that Rosa Parks was riding when she refused to give up her seat, and, in the adjacent Greenfield Village, Thomas Edison’s laboratory and the Wright brothers’ bicycle shop (which were both moved, brick by brick, from New Jersey and Ohio, respectively). And those were all things that we didn’t see!

I brought a camera and got a few shots of some of the stuff we did see. Here I am, with my nephew Sam, in front of one of the original 1952 Weinermobiles:

They have an exhibit on early aviation, with about 12 or 14 actual airplanes on display, including this 1939 Douglas DC-3:

They have 5 Presidential limousines on display, dating back to the very first official Presidential vehicle,  which was used by Teddy Roosevelt. The highlight of this exhibit, for me, was the Lincoln Continental that John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was shot. It was humbling to be standing so close to a defining moment in U.S. history:

They also have one of the rarest and most expensive cars of all time: a 1932 Bugatti Royale. Only 6 of these were ever made, and its sticker price, in 1932 dollars, was $43,000. The last time one of these cars was sold, in 1999, it went for $20 million! Here it is:

The planes and trains and automobiles are all very cool, but I also love that the Henry Ford Museum has a huge display honoring domestic life. They have a big furniture collection, and tons of vintage appliances and electronics. They currently have displays recreating kitchens throughout time, and being a kitchen-loving dude, I couldn’t help but take pictures. Here’s a kitchen from the 1860s:

From the 1900s:

From the 1930s:

It will be fun, when I’m an old old man, to go back to the Henry Ford Museum and see a bunch of kids gawking at a kitchen from the 1980s!

I’d say the stroll around the museum equaled a couple miles, but with so much to look at, I never once thought about the exercise.

Keep it up, David!

Greetings From Michigan!

December 20, 2011

I’ve landed in the Great Lakes State – my home state – and I’ll be here through the day after Christmas. Then it’s off to a whole different part of the world… but that’s an announcement for a whole ‘nother day!

My flights today were great. I had a short layover in Phoenix, and, during the Burbank-Phoenix leg, I had a window seat… except that, as you can see in the picture, I got gypped out of a window! From Phoenix-Detroit, I had an aisle seat, which I like because I can stretch a leg into the aisle. Added bonus today: the middle seat next to me was empty, so I could stretch my other leg in that direction!

Tomorrow morning I’m heading to a local gym – the same gym I frequented when I was here in September – and seeing what kind of deal they can cut me for a week. In September, they charged me $25 for 2 weeks, so their 1-week rate must be less than that, right?

I’m hoping the change of fitness-related scenery will provide me a little boost. I’ve been struggling lately to motivate myself to work out. Last week, when I was terribly ill with a cold and/or flu, I ended up missing four days of exercise in a row. I’m not complaining – just an observation. It’s the longest stretch of non-exercise I think I’ve had all year. Plus, two days prior to that little stretch, I had a planned rest day, so, in total, I worked out twice that week, instead of an ideal six times.

Normally when circumstances prohibit me from exercising for a day or two, I start feeling antsy to get back in the gym. Apparently when circumstances prohibit me from exercising for four days straight, I lose all interest in the gym altogether, because that’s how I felt when I got healthy and strong enough to resume exercising. My motivation had disappeared quicker than Santa up the chimney! My first workout back after recuperating was a run. I hadn’t gone running since Thanksgiving Day (when I ran my first 5K with my sister), and at first I felt great. About 15 minutes in, though, my tune had changed, and I couldn’t wait to finish. I had pre-determined my route, so I was nowhere near home by that point, so I kept running, and banned myself from checking the time. All told, I spent 41 minutes on the sidewalks of North Hollywood, and went exactly 4 miles. My route:

I calculated my speed at 5.8 mph (and, yep, I’ve added it to my running chart!). Even though I was fairly miserable by the run’s end, I was happy and proud I stuck it out.

The next day (Monday), I hit the gym for the first time in a week, and had a good workout – 40 minutes of weightlifting and 16 minutes on a bike, plus a little warm-up on the treadmill. Today was a looong travel day – I left my house in California at 5am and walked in my parents’ door at 6pm – so no workout. Tomorrow, it’s gym time. I can’t miss many more workouts – not with all the holiday goodies around!

Keep it up, David!

PS – Wondering why I didn’t weigh myself this morning? It’s because I vowed to not weigh myself again until 2012, as a way to combat a developing obsession with my scale. I found a new hiding spot for my scale, and it’s working like a charm! Find out where it is here.

PPS – Remember the micro red amaranth I purchased last week? A few days ago, I included it in a big kale salad I brought to a dinner party:

The salad was simple and easy (pre-chopped and washed kale, tomatoes, persian cucumbers, micro red amaranth, and bottled nonfat balsamic vinaigrette), and it was a big hit. I thought the amaranth tasted a little like lawn cuttings (in a wheatgrass sorta way, not an off-putting sorta way), but a couple of my friends thought they tasted like beets. Or maybe it was just the color that reminded them of beets!

OK – I’m off. Because of the holidays, my posting schedule may be a little erratic, but I’ll be keeping it up, and so should you!

Downtown Detroit

September 9, 2011

A quick plug: My first public speaking gig is now less than two weeks away!  I created a “See Me at Whole Foods” link at the top of the page that has all the details.  So click on it, and RSVP.  I wanna see you there!

I have strong feelings about the city of Detroit.  While I’ve never considered myself a Detroiter, as I’ve never lived within the city limits, it’s always been there, not that far from my childhood home in one of its northwest suburbs.  It’s a major American city with a long and rich history (it’s the oldest city in the Midwest – founded over 100 years before Chicago, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee) that has given the world everything from mass-produced automobiles to Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross to the ice cream soda.  The first regular radio reports were broadcast from Detroit, and Detroit was home to the first paved road, the first tri-colored stoplight, and the first urban freeway.

You don’t hear many good things about Detroit in the news; it has a pretty bad rap.  Detroit has plenty of huge problems, and people tend to say plenty of terrible things about it.  I’m not one of them.  I like to think that Detroit will, one of these days, get out of the slump it’s been in for past 40 or so years, and rise again as a place where people will want to live and want to visit.

It’s easy for me to be positive – I live 2,000 miles away, unexposed to the crumbling infrastructure, the poverty, the rampant unemployment.  I just don’t think that being negative is very productive or helpful.  I have fond memories of Detroit from my childhood, and have heard many more wonderful stories from my father, who grew up there.  You may think me naive or unrealistic, but I think the city has a lot of potential, and I will always root for it.

My attitude towards Detroit are best reflected in this 1985 television commercial produced by the local ABC affiliate.  It’s dated and super-cheesy now, but it used to air all the time, and I remember loving it as a kid.  And since I’m sharing local commercials from the ’80s, check out this one for the Detroit Zoo, which is one of my favorite commercials of all time.

Thank you for indulging me in my little pro-Detroit rant.  It’s been on my mind because yesterday I headed downtown to meet up with a buddy for lunch.  Matt is a friend from high school who lived in Los Angeles after college, then moved back to Michigan with his wife and started a family.  He’s the author behind The Dad Scene, a funny and smart blog chronicling his experiences as a first-time father.  Matt is a tremendous writer, so you should definitely check it his blogno, really, check it out.

Matt works at Compuware, a software company that moved their world headquarters to Detroit about 8 years ago.  Their building has an impressive atrium that rises up 16 stories, and that’s where I met Matt:

We apparently just missed a doggie fashion show in the atrium that wrapped up minutes before we got there.  I hate when that happens.

Here’s the both of us:

For lunch, we headed a few blocks away to Vicente, a Cuban place that Matt likes. 

I’ve had Cuban dishes before, at restaurants that featured cuisine from across Latin America, but this might have been my first visit to a full-fledged Cuban restaurant.  Everything on the menu sounded good, but I settled on the Pan con Bistec, a pressed sandwich with skirt steak, swiss cheese, grilled onions, mustard, mayo, lettuce and tomatoes.  I considered having them hold the cheese and mayo, but decided that since I eat Cuban food so rarely, I should enjoy it as it’s intended.  My sandwich (with a side of plantain chips):

Matt’s sandwich was similar, but with chicken:

I love a pressed sandwich.  They’re dense and flavorful, and this sandwich was fantastic.  It was also huge, and both of us ended up eating only half.  We boxed up the other halves to take with us, but as we walked back to Matt’s office, we were approached by two homeless women who asked if we’d consider sharing, so we gave the food to them.

After I parted ways with Matt, I did something I haven’t done since I was a kid: I rode the People Mover.  The Detroit People Mover is a rather silly example of mass transit.  It’s a 3-mile-long monorail that encircles downtown Detroit and doesn’t really go anywhere.  No stop is more than 10 blocks from any other stop, so it’s not very efficient for commuters, but for someone like me who just wanted to see a little more of the city, it was perfect.  Here comes a train now!

I took some pictures from the monorail’s windows (it was gray and rainy, so they’re not great).  Here’s Woodward Avenue, which extends from the heart of downtown all the way out to my neck of the suburbs:

The old Wayne County Building:

The skyline, looking east from Joe Louis Arena (where the Red Wings play).  The towers on the right are the Renaissance Center, which I’ve blogged about numerous times before (most notably here and here, and it’s featured in my Skyscraper Collection):

I like that picture because you can see raindrops in it.

Time to get international!  This is a picture of a totally different country – it’s the skyline of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is directly across the river from Detroit.  I took this picture specifically for my trainer Craig, who grew up outside Windsor and asked that I say hello to it on this trip.  Hello, Windsor!

Finally, one of Detroit’s most famous landmarks, the 8,000-pound statue that honors Detroit resident Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937-49:

OK – bedtime for me.  Gotta hit the gym in the morning!

Keep it up, David!

Weather, Nancy Drew, Pop, and MORE!

September 8, 2011

It was wonderfully rainy yesterday in Michigan.  It was wet all day, ranging from drizzly to a few occasional downpours, and I loved it!  The rain wasn’t so severe that it’s prohibited me from going about my business (although the power did go out for a minute in one of the buildings I was in), and it’s nice to have weather.  There’s not much variety in Los Angeles.  It’s consistently hot and dry (not a bad thing), so to be somewhere where’s actual rain falls for longer than 10 minutes is a nice change of pace.

There’s a few odds and ends that I want to get to today, and since I’ve already mentioned the weather, I thought I’d start by talking about… more weather.

1) Cedar Point Weather Update.  My big Cedar Point trip is the day after tomorrow!  Yesterday I bought discounted admission tickets at Meijer, and I checked to see if the weather forecast had changed.  The last time I looked (at the end of this post), there was a 40% chance of rain.  Here’s the update, courtesy of The Weather Channel:

CRAP.  Now a 50% chance of rain, and not just rain, scattered thunderstorms.  But it’s not going to rain.  I’m willing it not to happen.  The park doesn’t open until noon on Saturday, so if it does rain, maybe I’ll all be over by, say, 11:45am.  Yea, that’ll work just fine!

2) Nancy Drew.  I found this book on the shelf in my parents’ house:

It’s “The Mystery at the Ski Jump,” a vintage Nancy Drew mystery, copyright 1952.  I opened it randomly to page 12, and found this paragraph, which introduced Nancy’s friend Bess:

“I’d rather stay inside,” said Bess, blond and pretty.  “Maybe we can make some fudge,” she added hopefully.  Bess loved sweets and worried little about her weight.

Oh, Bess, you and I are nothing alike.  Except that we both love sweets.  And staying inside.  And we’re both pretty.

3) Pop.  I had another fun reminder that I’m back in Michigan the other day, when I had lunch with my friend Laura, and a word showed up on the bill that I’m not used to seeing anymore:

Michiganders, like most midwesterners, use “pop” as the generic term for soft drinks.  That’s the term I grew up saying.  Sometime during the past 9 years, though, I switched teams, and started referring to soft drinks as “soda,” like everyone else in California.  It wasn’t a conscious switch, it just happened, so it was fun to see “pop” on a restaurant bill. What do you call soft drinks?  Check out this fun map that breaks down who says what in every county in the country.  I don’t drink soda or pop anymore – it was Laura who ordered the pop, and it was Vernors, an amazing ginger ale that was created in Detroit in 1866.

Laura, by the way, is a huge Cedar Point enthusiast who goes every year (she gave me some great park-navigating advice). She’d totally be there screaming alongside us this weekend, except for one little snafu: she’s 7 months pregnant.  It would’ve been fun for Laura to join us at the park, but it will be more fun (if that’s possible) to meet her baby the next time I see her!  Cedar Point isn’t going anywhere – Laura and I can always go another year.  We’ll just leave the baby in the car, with the window rolled down a crack – he’ll be fine!

4) Amazing Super-Local Dinner.  The other night I went to Ann Arbor, my college town, and spent the night with my friend-since-sophomore-year Jim and his husband Aric.  Shortly after I arrived, we sat down to a very impressive and delicious meal that Aric put together.

I’m so amazed at how Jim and Aric eat.  Being healthy and eating well are very important to both of them, as is eating organically, eating seasonally, supporting local farmers, and knowing where their food comes from.  My plate (and bowl):

I can’t remember the specifics of everything on the plate, but the meal included tons of vegetables that came from a variety of wonderful sources:

  • Their backyard.  They have a garden and grow all sorts of things, including the tomatoes and lots of herbs.
  • Farmers’ market.  They go every week and personally know a lot of the vendors.
  • CSA box.  They participate in Community-Supported Agriculture (sometimes called farmshare).  Basically, they pay a fee at the beginning of the summer, and every week, a box is delivered to their door with all sorts of just-picked produce from the fields outside of town.  Sound like something you want to try? Learn more and find a CSA near you here.

A couple more fun things:

  • In the lower left of the plate is homemade kimchi, a Korean dish of fermented vegetables.  This was the second time in a week I’ve eating Korean food (here’s the other time), a new record!  Aric made the kimchi, and I visited on a good night, because I got to see the kimchi get unveiled.  Aric has a fermenting crock (similar to this one), and this batch has been fermenting for a couple weeks in their basement.  The kimchi was delicious, and now I’m toying with the idea of getting a fermenting crock for myself.  Maybe.
  • Two of the dishes had fresh mushrooms in them, and Aric found them, himself, in the woods.  There’s a whole underground culture of people who go looking for wild edible mushrooms, and Aric’s a pro at it.  What’s funny is that mushroom foraging is very hush-hush and top secret, because you don’t want to give away where you’re finding the good stuff!  Aric’s a mushroom expert: he knows the scientific names and can identify tons of mushroom varieties, and has found all sorts of varieties in the woods around Ann Arbor.  He just found this beauty, called Hen-of-the-Woods, which is the size of a football:

My god, I have such interesting friends!

I spent the night in Jim and Aric’s guest room, and before leaving in the morning, I grabbed a peach:

Where did the peach come from?  The peach tree in their backyard, of course!

5) Chart/Exercise Update.  It’s been slightly over two weeks since I’ve updated my weight loss chart, mainly because it’s on my wall in California, and I’m in Michigan (see my two-weeks-ago update here).  I actually don’t even know how I’m doing, weight-wise, because I don’t have access to a reliable scale.  My parents’ scale is way off-base – the last time I used it, I weighed myself 3 times in a row, and got 3 different weights in a 30-pound range, none of them in the ballpark of what I should have weighed.  The gym I joined for these 2 weeks in Michigan has a physician’s scale where you slide the thingamajigs back and forth until the lever-thingie balances, but it’s not accurate either – I used it the other day, and the thingie stayed perfectly balanced for every pound in an 8-pound range.  Not helpful.

I don’t need a scale to know that I’m doing well, however, and it kinda liberating to just live without feeling tethered to a number (although I know my curiosity will get the best of me and I’ll jump on my scale the morning after I get back).  I’ve been eating well and making good choices, and my exercise has been strong.  I took a rest day today, after 7 workouts in a row, and on Monday, I started weight training for the first time since I hurt my lower back.  All went well, and it felt great!  I’ll be hitting the gym again today – I’m looking forward to it!

Keep it up, David!

Back on an Actual Bike

September 5, 2011

Remember at the beginning of my last post when I said that it would be the only post during this long Labor Day weekend?  Well, I lied.  Enjoy this bonus post!

Is it sad that I can’t remember the last time I was on a bicycle?  I mean an actual bicycle – I use the stationary and recumbent bikes at the gym a couple times a week.  But an actual bicycle, with two wheels and the ability to take me places… well, it’s been a long, long, time.

The last bike I owned as a bright yellow Schwinn that I got in middle school.  I had an odomoter/speedometer on it, and I loved it.  I clocked some pretty impressive rides on that bike – going to the movies about 5 miles away, and even, a couple times, riding to Tel-Twelve Mall about 7 or 8 miles away.  I never told my parents that I rode my bike on Telegraph, a major six-lane, sidewalk-free divided road near our house, because I’m sure my mom would’ve freaked out.  But I did.  And since they’re both readers of this blog, they know now!

When I got my drivers’ license and gained access to a car, my bike usage plummeted to pretty much nothing.  My older brother, in college at the time, borrowed it to use on campus, so it went to Ann Arbor, where the odometer was promptly stolen.  I ended up at the same college as my brother (Go Blue!), and we overlapped by a year, so I got the bike back from him when he graduated, but never really used it that frequently.  By my junior year, I had a car on campus, sending my bike usage plummeting back to zero, and when I graduated and packed my things to move to California, I ended up donating the bike to the student-run theater group that I was involved with.

That was 2002.  It’s very likely I haven’t ridden a bike since.  I can’t remember an occasion where I would have.  I didn’t really miss it, either.  I got heavier after college, and had decided that biking, like so many other physical activities, was something best left to other people.  Skinnier people.

Now it’s Labor Day weekend 2011, and my parents and I met up with my sister Laura in St. Joseph, Michigan, right near the shores of Lake Michigan.  And guess what was waiting for us in the garage there?

My parents told me they’d gotten bikes this summer so they could ride around St. Joe, but it had slipped my mind until I saw them.  Laura was down for some biking, so on Saturday morning, we headed out for a ride.

It felt great to be back on a bike, and the old saying is true.  You don’t forget how to ride a bike.

St. Joseph has a really cute downtown on a bluff about 4 miles away, so a round trip would make for a nice 8 mile workout, and that’s what we decided to do.  Along we way we passed…

…nifty old houses…

…St. Joe’s main downtown shopping district, which is paved with bricks…

…and best of all, some of our route was right along the edge of the bluff, overlooking the water…

Laura and I did the 8 miles downtown and back, and tacked on a few miles on top of it.  It took us a little over an hour, and I was tired and sweaty afterward.  Here’s our route, which totaled 11.3 miles (“E” marks where we started and stopped):

Laura left that night to return to Chicago, but since I wasn’t leaving until Sunday afternoon, I decided to take another bike ride, solo, on Sunday morning.  I planned a route ahead of time, and it was designed to take me by a very special landmark:

That’s the house that my grandmother lived in for all of my childhood.  Lots of memories.  Great to see it again.

Here’s my 14-mile Sunday route:

My thighs were aching (in a good way) when I was done!

25 miles of biking in 2 days?  Not too shabby!

Lots of other fun was had in between the two bike excursions.  More family joined us in St. Joe, including aunts, uncles and cousins, and later in the day on Saturday, we headed to the best feature St. Joe has to offer.  I’ll give you two hints as to what it is:

Hint #1:

Hint #2:

It’s the beach, dummies!

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 9 years, and can count the number of times I’ve been to the beach on both hands, and still have some fingers left over.  I’m just not much of a beach person, normally.  But I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the beaches in west Michigan.  They’re spectacular!  The sand is really fine and rock-free, the water is refreshing, and it stays shallow for a really long time – I went swimming with my cousin and uncle, and we went all the way out to the swimming boundary, and the water was only up to my chest.

We weren’t the only ones who had the great idea to head to the beach:

The beach, by the way, is sponsored by Taco Bell – can you see their ad on the side of the lifeguard stand in the second picture?  Nothing says ‘beach’ like a Crunchwrap Supreme!

One final photograph from my weekend in St. Joe – actually, it’s a little photo montage:

That’s me and my doggie nephew Conrad!

I’ll end by saying that I ate pretty well all weekend long.  I abstained from the cupcakes that my aunt made, ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and drank a ton of water, both flat and sparkling.

Keep it up, David!

January 21 Adventures – Part 2

January 22, 2011

Previously on Keep It Up, David: Click here to see January 21 Adventures – Part 1.  For you lazy sonsofbitches, here’s the cliffnotes:  I had a looong, eventful day yesterday.  I came back from the gym to find I had locked myself out of house.  I headed to Ann Arbor for lunch with a friend; saw lots of friends at a reception at my old University, and headed up to Flint to meet up with other friends.  Oh yeah, and my day ended with a cop giving me field sobriety tests on the side of the road.  Why was I pulled over?  What happened next?  For the answers… keep reading!


Midnight. “I’m going to have you walk nine steps, heel-to-toe, along this tire track.  Then you’re going to turn to your left, and walk nine steps in that direction.  And this is what I mean by heel-to-toe…”  The officer demonstrates.  “You may want to take your hands out of your pockets for this,” the officer advises.  My hands were in my pockets because they were freezing, but I do as he suggests, and start walking the line.  I wonder how much I have to stumble to fail, but I walk the nine steps, turn, and walk back towards my car.  I stop after the nine steps, and stand still, facing away from the officers.  “There’s just one more thing…” the officer says.

7:30pm. I made it to Flint, and picked up my friend Lynn, who I grew up with, have known my whole life, and is a fantastic friend.  Then we picked up Kate, one of Lynn’s best friends, who I’ve known for a few years (at least), and I like her a lot and she’s a lot of fun to be around.  While driving to Kate’s, I asked Lynn what the speed limit was on the road we were on, as I hadn’t seen any signs.  Lynn knew it to be 55 mph.  I was going 40.  I sped up a little, and Lynn started talking about how cops around here are known for pulling people over for going 1 mph over the speed limit.  Fantastic.

7:50pm. The three of us headed into Sagano for dinner:

It’s one of those Japanese restaurants there you sit around a big communal table and a chef prepares your food right in front of you on a big grill, while flipping food around and showing off knife and spatula tricks.  Our chef started the cooking by lighting a big ol’ fire on the grill and then extinguishing it – which we knew was coming as we’d seen other chefs across the restaurant do it – but we got to looking around, and noticed a complete absence of smoke detectors and sprinklers.  Hmmm… safety first, anyone?  Here was our chef, but I forgot his name (or maybe I never learned it, I’m not sure):

Lynn, who is a regular reader of this blog, mentioned only about 4 times over the course of the evening that she wanted to be featured in the blog, so get ready for this, Lynn!  Here’s you and me and Kate at our table! (Lynn’s on the left)

The food was delicious, and not the healthiest (I noticed every time the chef added oil and butter, which was frequently), but I didn’t eat tons, and it was definitely a fun experience.  First came some miso soup and a small little salad:

The dressing on the salad tasted like a peanut sauce, but we were corrected by Tyler, our non-Japanese waiter, who said it was sesame seed and sesame oil-based.

Next, our table-side chef whipped up some assorted grilled veggies and noodles.  I only ate half of my noodles, and Lynn took the rest home:

For my main course, I ordered tuna, cooked medium rare.  Very tasty.  I also got some steamed rice on the side (I ate about a 1/4 cup), and in the upper right corner, a couple different dipping sauces.  Our chef described the orange one as a ‘shrimp sauce’ and the red one was ‘ginger sauce’, which was very gingery – a good thing.

Oops – I’m not going in order – we also got a couple shrimp as an appetizer (hence, I suppose, the need for Shrimp Sauce:

There was some fun people-watching at the restaurant, including a woman across the way still sporting a ’80s metal band perm/hairdo, and it was a good meal.

9:30pm. There are times and situations where I instantly revert to being a 13-year-old boy.  Talking or thinking about VG’s is one of them.  VG’s is a chain of 17 grocery stores in Michigan, and there’s one by Lynn’s house, and at 9:30pm we were pulling into the parking lot:

When I was visiting a few years back, Lynn, Kate, and I made a quick stop at VG’s, which was the first time I had ever heard of the store.  My mind instantly went into the gutter, and I asked Lynn and Kate: “What does VG’s stand for?  Vaginas?”  We all had a big laugh and now, I can’t drive by VG’s, or talk or think about it, without making dirty jokes like a middle schooler.  “Do you need anything?” I asked Lynn on the phone during my drive from Ann Arbor to Flint, “because I could poke around in Vaginas all night long if I have to.”  It’s that, times 50, and raunchier, every single time when I’m with Lynn and Kate.  Immature?  Surely.  Hilarious? I’m laughing just thinking about it!

Anyhoo – I was out of hair gel, and thought that’d be the perfect excuse to pull into Vaginas.  I found my gel, and I also scored souvenirs when Kate got me a couple reusable bags that I will proudly shop with when I’m back in southern California.  Thank you, Kate!

By the way, the website printed on that bag, theveege.com (which is a terrible website address and is just begging to be the source of endless dirty puns), doesn’t even work.  The store’s website is actually www.vgsfood.com.

9:50pm. Driving to nearly Flushing, Michigan, which is Kate’s hometown, to get a drink and play some Keno.  After not seeing any signs, I ask again what the speed limit is on this road.  It’s 55 mph, and I’m going 44.

10pm. We pull up to Johnny’s Pour House, a bar:

Here’s me and Lynn with the wooden bear sculpture inside the front door:

I ordered my first and only drink of the night, a Bud Light, and we settled into at a table, and got our Keno on.  The Michigan Lottery sponsors Club Keno, which you can play in bars across the state.  There’s drawings every couple minutes.  I won $5, which sounds great, until I mention the part where I also lost $30 or so.

Midnight. Back in the car, headed towards Lynn and Kate’s houses, so I can drop them off and head back down to my parents’ house.  We’re drove along a quiet 2-lane road.  There’s no other traffic, anywhere, except for a car behind me.  I approached a 4-way stop, and stopped completely.  I accelerated past the intersection, and that’s when I see the dancing blue lights bounce off my rear-view.  Crap.  One other car on the road, and it’s a cop.  What did I do?

After pulling over, I slid my license out of my wallet and asked Lynn to get the registration and insurance cards out of the glove box.  “I can’t find them,” she said after a few seconds, “except for this registration card that expired in 2007.”  Crap.  No insurance card, and no current registration card.  This is one of my parents’ cars, and it’s not like them to be unprepared in this way.  Crap.  It doesn’t matter what I was pulled me over for, I can get tickets just for the lack of paperwork.

The cop appeared at my window, asked for my license, registration, and insurance, and I sheepishly handed over what I had.  He asked a few questions, and I answered:  We’re coming from a bar.  I had one beer a couple hours ago.  He took my stuff, and Lynn and Kate’s IDs as well, and disappeared back to his cruiser.

After a few minutes, he returned, and had me step out of the car.  I asked him, as we walked to the shoulder between my car and the cruiser,  “Why I was pulled over to begin with, Officer?”  There’s a pregnant pause, and the cop responded.  “Your taillights were dim.  It seemed like the only light coming from them was the light reflected from my headlights.”   Bullshit.  I can see my lights right now, and they’re on. But I kept my mouth shut, because that’s when the cop started explaining the field sobriety tests I had to complete.  I followed the pen with my eyes, and then walked along a line, heel-to-toe.  After I finished the walk exercise, I stood still, faced away from the officers.  “There’s just one more thing…” the officer said.

Crap.  This is where I get the lecture about having all the proper paperwork.  This is where he pulls out his pad and starts writing a ticket.  Crap. I spun around to face the cop, who was walking towards his cruiser.  He reached in the open window, leaning so far inside it that the whole upper half of his body disappeared.  A few seconds later, and he walked towards me.  “Here’s your things back.  I’m going to let you go.  You’ll want to get those taillights looked at.”  Whew! “Thank you, Officer.  I’ll do that.”  No, I won’t.

I climbed back into my car and exhaled.

I later learned, from my dad, that the car indeed has the proper, current registration and insurance cards, in a hidden compartment inside the glove box door that I didn’t even know existed.

2am. Pulled into my parents’ driveway.  The long day is over.  Field sobriety tests aside, it was a good day – I worked out; ate well…  there’s nothing left to say about January 21, 2011, except…

….Keep it up, David!

January 21 Adventures – Part 1

January 22, 2011

Midnight. “I’m going to have you step out of the car,” the officer said to me, the light from his flashlight partially blinding me.  I unbuckled my seatbelt, opened the door, and stepped out onto the two-lane country road.  I had glanced at the thermometer in the car moments earlier – it was 2 degrees outside.  2 degrees.  The night air gnawed at my fingers and ears – why did I leave my hat and gloves in the car?  The officer had me join him in the shoulder of the road between my parked car and his cruiser, brightly lit by the cruiser’s headlights, and within seconds my teeth were chattering.  “Please put your glasses right here,” the officer said, pointing to the trunk of my car.  I did as I was asked, and stood there, unable to see anything beyond a few feet, watching the heat from my own breath spiral upwards, like cigarette smoke.  The officer continued: “I’m going to have you do a couple field sobriety tests.”

9:30am (14 and a half hours earlier). The day started off like most days this week – at the gym.  I arrived at Bally’s, and quickly bolted from my car to the lobby.  I had made the decision at the house, before leaving, to wear my shorts and hoodie – it was going to be a long day, and I could save a few minutes if I didn’t have to change at the gym.  Sure, it was only 10 degrees outside, but I’d be fine wearing shorts for just the few seconds to get from my car into the building.  I ran a mile around the jogging track to warm up (in 10:45 seconds), then headed over to the stationary bikes.  The book I’m currently reading, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, had gone from really good to can’t-put-it-down, and I know I can get a great workout in on the bike and tackle a few more chapters in the process.  It total, I spent 42 minutes pedaling away.

11am. I pull in the driveway, open the ashtray in the car to grab for the garage door opener, and it’s not there.  Crap.  I check my pockets and the arm rest, knowing full well the garage door opener isn’t in those spots either, my mind is fixated on the dining room table, where I remember leaving the opener last night.  Crap – why did I bring it inside the house?  Dumb move, David.  Because now you’re locked out. I don’t have a key to my parents house, just the garage door opener to get in.  Crap.  I make a mad dash around back, silently cursing my decision to wear shorts on a January day in Michigan, to check if any other doors were accidentally left unlocked, which of course they weren’t, and then I’m back in the car.  Time to head to my father’s office to borrow his keys.

11:40am. Back home, for the second time, with his keys in hand.  I made a quick breakfast – 2/3 cup egg whites, scrambled in Pam, carrot and celery sticks.  Part 1 of my breakfast was a big bunch of grapes that I ate before going to the gym.  Then I jumped in the shower.  By half past noon I was back in the car, where I began the 45 minute drive to Ann Arbor.

Midnight. “I’m going to move my pen from side to side, and up and down, and I want you to follow it with your eyes.  Only your eyes.  I don’t want to see your head moving, just your eyes.  I’ll try not to blind you with my flashlight.  Do you understand what to do?”  “Yes, Officer.”  He positioned the pen 6 inches in front of my face, and slowly moved it from left to right.  I followed it with my eyes.  I could see, in the darkness beyond the pen, a second officer that watched from the far side of the cruiser, not moving, his features obscured by the night.  Soon the pen moved up and down.  I followed it more.  Then the officer stepped alongside his cruiser, and ushered me towards him with a wave of his hand.  “May I put my glasses back on, officer?”  “Yes.”  The fields around me came into focus when I slid my glasses back onto my nose, as did the officer, who was pointing at the asphalt beneath our feet.  “You see this tire track?  I’m going to test how you walk.”

1:15pm. I picked up my friend Jim outside his office in downtown Ann Arbor for lunch.  Jim and I became really good friends in college, in Ann Arbor, over 10 years ago, and stayed really good friends since then.  We headed to Pizza House, because it’s been years since I’ve had one of my favorite foods ever, a chipati.  Here’s Pizza House, on Church Street:

We both ordered chipatis, and here’s what mine looked like with it arrived:

It looks like a giant loaf of bread, but it’s not!  It’s actually a whole wheat pita, and when you peel back the top layer of pita, you see:

A salad! The one I ordered today was spinach, onion, mushroom, and tomatoes (it’s supposed to also have mozzarella, but I ordered it without).  The orange sauce on the side is Chipati Sauce, the dressing, which is delicious and somewhat mysterious, although according to a website I just found on the interwebs, it’s just a mix of ranch, Frank’s RedHot, and ketchup, which is disappointingly boring and pedestrian but probably true, for all I know.  I decided to only eat the top half of the pita, and used only a few teaspoons of Chipati Sauce, so it was a pretty healthy lunch.

After lunch, we walked around the corner to another one of my favorite Ann Arbor establishments:

THE ARCADE!  I used to come to Pinball Pete’s between classes to play Ms. Pac-Man, my all-time favorite arcade game.  I was so glad to see they still had it!  Here I am playing:

Jim, meanwhile, is a Dance Dance Revolution fan, so he played that (I played once with him too):

We made a stop at the University of Michigan Museum of Art, which, since I graduated, had built a new wing that has some of the coolest gallery and exhibit spaces I’ve ever seen.  It’s always been a nice museum, but now it’s stunning.  Go when you’re in town.

4:45pm. I dropped Jim back off at his office (I hope, Jim, that your boss doesn’t read this and learn about your nearly 3-hour-plus lunch!), and headed to North Campus.  This part of the University of Michigan is now home to the Theater Theatre Department, of which I’m a proud alum, with a degree in Theatre Design and Production.  Every year, the students’ work (costume renderings, intricate models of set designs, and the like) is put on display for about a week in a gallery open to the public, and they kick off the week with a reception, which was that afternoon.  Being at the reception brought back a tsunami of memories, and it was great to see and catch up with a bunch of former professors and friends, and meet some of the students currently making their way through the program.

6pm. Back in the car, merging onto highway 23, starting the hour-long drive up to Flint, Michigan.

Midnight. “I’m going to have you walk nine steps, heel-to-toe, along this tire track.  Then you’re going to turn to your left, and walk nine steps in that direction.  And this is what I mean by heel-to-toe…”  The officer demonstrates.  “You may want to take your hands out of your pockets for this,” the officer advises.  My hands were in my pockets because they were freezing, but I do as he suggests, and start walking the line.  I wonder how much I have to stumble to fail, but I walk the nine steps, turn, and walk back towards my car.  I stop after the nine steps, and stand still, facing away from the officers.  “There’s just one more thing…” the officer says.

UH-OH – WHAT ELSE DID THE OFFICER WANT?  There’s only one way to find out – and that’s to come back for Part 2 of “January 21 Adventures” – which I’ll post before going to bed tonight!  I just love a good blog cliff-hanger...


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