An Epiphany In The Shower

July 25, 2013

I have one more quick story from Catalina that I didn’t work into the Catalina-centric post I published earlier this week. I mentioned in that post that we stayed in a very basic, no-frills hotel, but I didn’t get into specifics. My roommate Brendan and I were in the smallest hotel room I had ever seen. It was maybe 10’x10′, with double beds in two of the corners. There was a narrow aisle between the beds, about 2 feet of space at the ends of the beds, a tiny sink in the third corner, the door to the hall, a closet barely wide enough to hold a backpack, and that was it.

I’m not complaining – the hotel served my needs just fine, seeing as how I slept there and that’s about it. I’m just setting the scene. Next to the tiny sink was Read the rest of this entry »

I’m a Dancing Machine

January 25, 2012

Last weekend, I got a call from my friend Tavi, inviting me to go dancing. I haven’t been dancing in years – I probably haven’t gone dancing since I moved to Los Angeles, and that was nearly ten years ago!

In college, I went out dancing all the time – almost every week. There’s a nightclub in Ann Arbor, Michigan (where I went to school) called Nectarine, and Friday nights were (and I presume still are) gay nights. The first few times I went, I was painfully self-conscious and uncomfortable. I felt that, as one of the biggest people in the room (if not the biggest), all eyes were on me, and not in a good way. But I kept going, always with good friends, and slowly the self-consciousness subsided and I started having a really good time. Nectarine is where I saw my first drag show – and my second, third, fourth, and so on, because they would host one every month.

When I moved out to Los Angeles, my interest in dancing waned significantly. I was intimidated – it may sound silly, but I thought there was a big difference between big city nightclubs and the one in my college town, and I didn’t think I was ready. It took me a little while to settle into Los Angeles, generally speaking – learning the landscape, finding a job, making friends, and all while staying with my aunt and uncle 45 minutes outside of town until I got my feet planted. I started establishing my life without going out to nightclubs, and I didn’t miss it. I certainly didn’t miss the self-consciousness that would have gone along with stepping into a new club scene.

So when Tavi called with the nightclub invitation, I was excited to go. I knew I wouldn’t feel self-conscious, and the good Nectarine memories far outweighed the bad. That night, I met up with Tavi, his boyfriend Antonio, and Antonio’s roommate, Brian, and we headed out.

The club we were headed to was called Club Mayan, and the evening was built around the fact that Antonio was working there that night as a go-go dancer. Club Mayan is housed within a huge old gutted theater in downtown Los Angeles that is fabulously and elaborately decorated in the style of a Mayan temple. We wandered in, and all I could think about was how fun this place would have been in its heyday, before they ripped out all the seats and slapped slapped multiple coats of paint on every surface. I snapped a couple pictures – the first is the exterior, the second is the lobby, but they don’t do the place justice:

I looked up the history of the Mayan, and, like a lot of old theaters, it has a long and fascinating history. It opened in 1927 as a Broadway-style venue for musical comedies, and then it became a movie theater. In the ’40, it was a burlesque house (it’s rumored that Marilyn Monroe performed there), and in the ’50 and ’60s, it showed Mexican and Latin American films. Then, in the ’70s, new owners turned it into an adult film theater (they even filmed some of the porno scenes in the basement), and in the late ’70s, the space was subdivided into three adult film theaters. In 1990, it was converted back into one big space and transformed into a nightclub.

It was a fun evening – except for the part where they didn’t think Tavi was wearing nice enough shoes and wouldn’t let him in (it was bullshit), so he and I had to go all the way back to Tavi’s house to grab a new pair. I wouldn’t say that the Club Mayan was my scene (but I probably can’t claim to have a scene, as I haven’t been dancing in 10 years, right?), but anything is fun when you’re with good friends. Antonio was one of five go-go dancers that rotated between a couple elevated platforms, and holy crap, Antonio is jacked. He could be covered in gray paint and stuck in the antiquities wing of any museum alongside the other Greek God sculptures. Seriously. His muscles have muscles.

Oh, and we danced! We were on the dance floor for well over an hour. The music was pretty good, and I definitely broke a sweat. I slept well that night, and I’m glad I did, because less than 12 hours after leaving the club, I was dancing again…

…in Richard Simmons’ aerobics class. The theme for that class was country music, and Richard was wearing a tank top and shorts fashioned entirely out of bandannas. Wanna see? Here’s the video from that day’s class. Keep a look out for me – I’m not sure there’s anyone lingering footage of me, but I only half paid attention while watching:

Richard’s class is around 90 minutes long, and I’d guess I danced for that long at Club Mayan… so 3 hours of dancing in a 12-hour period?

Keep it up, David!

My Grandmother’s Bribe

December 6, 2011

What were you doing in the fall of 1997? Maybe you were watching the final season of Seinfeld, or listening to Jewel’s “Foolish Games” on your Discman? Maybe you felt empowered by Demi Moore’s performance in G.I. Jane, or were eagerly awaiting a little movie coming out soon about the Titanic.

I moved out of the house in the fall of 1997, and, for the first time ever, I was living on my own – in a dorm room on the University of Michigan campus. I had scored a single room (woohoo – no randomly assigned roommate!) on the 5th floor of Couzens Hall. There were Bjork and Tori Amos posters on the wall, and the obligatory dorm room appliance tower: a TV/VCR combo unit stacked on a microwave stacked on a mini-fridge. I was happy to be starting a new chapter, forging my way.

When I moved into my dorm, I decided I would try to lose some weight. I had spent the summer listening to jokes (and cracking my own) about the dreaded “Freshman 15” – but as I started wandering my new college, finding my textbooks at the campus bookstores, learning where my classes would be held – I decided that I would buck the trend. I wasn’t going to let my new freedom result in weight gain. In fact, I would do the opposite – I would lose weight, and make this new environment benefit my health. The situation was ideal for weight loss: I was walking everywhere (a big change from high school in the suburbs, where everything was 20-minutes by car), and I could easily find healthy food options in the cafeteria: every dorm had a salad bar, and I started learning the secrets – like how the Betsy Barbour Dining Hall always had hard-boiled eggs, but you had to ask for them.

Both my older brother and sister were also students at the University of Michigan when I enrolled as a freshman, and my brother Steven and his friend/roommate Roger invited me to exercise with them on a regular basis. We would meet at the CCRB (Central Campus Recreation Building) a couple times a week, and spend an hour doing a little basic weight-lifting, and a lot of cardio: It was here that I first stepped foot on an elliptical and a stairmaster.

I bought a scale for my room, and, as the weeks progressed during my first fall semester, I started losing weight. Ten pounds, then fifteen, then twenty. I kept the weight loss a secret – I just wanted to see if I could do it for myself. Since I had a lot of weight to lose, it was easy to keep quiet, as ten or fifteen pounds is hard to notice on a guy that’s as big as I was.

I don’t exactly remember how much I had lost when my grandma Dorothy came for a visit. It was probably later in the fall, as I remember her wearing a big puffy jacket, and she came with my parents. My folks had seen my dorm room before (they had helped me move in), but Dorothy hadn’t, so I gave her the tour of my 8′ x 12′ room, which took all of 30 seconds, and I filled her in on my classes, how I was doing, and so on. I didn’t mention my weight loss, and if she (or my parents) noticed, they didn’t say anything. When it was time for them to leave, I hugged my folks first, who then stepped into the hall. Then I wrapped my arms around Dorothy, and when we were cheek to cheek, she whispered something in my ear:

“If you lose fifty pounds, and keep it off for one year, I’ll give you one thousand dollars.”

Our embrace ended, and without another word, she turned, walked out the door, and headed down the hall towards the elevator with my folks.

After they turned the corner, I shut the door and sat on my bed. A thousand dollars is a lot of money, especially for a college student, and my first thought was “Hot damn! She doesn’t know that I’ve already started!” I decided not to get all tangled up in the semantics – if the weight that I’d lost so far counted towards the 50 or not – and instead, I decided to focus on continuing to drop the pounds. I wouldn’t bring the matter up again until I had good news to report.

Me and Grandma Dorothy in 2007.

As the weeks progressed, the pounds continued to come off. I made it to 35 pounds before beginning to stumble and falter. I plateaued, and that lack of movement soon gave way to a lack of motivation. The weather grew colder, and I stopped meeting my brother at the gym. I discovered that the convenience store across the street sold Faygo Peach, a regional soda that quickly became my favorite beverage. I’d buy a bottle or three nearly every day (they didn’t make a diet version), usually along with some Pringles or candy. On the weekends, I’d ask my older friends to buy me Peach Schnapps, and I’d drink a third of a bottle of soda, refill it with the Schnapps, and drink it as I walked with friends to Nectarine, a local dance club that had a gay night on Fridays.

My grandma Dorothy lived on the other side of the state, which limited the times I saw her, mostly to major holidays. She never mentioned her offer again, or asked for any weight updates – not at our home at Christmas, and not at her home at Easter. By summer, all the weight that I had lost that freshman fall had returned, and I tried to forget that Dorothy ever made the offer to begin with. It was just another failure, another opportunity that I had blown.

In about a month, it will be the 4th anniversary of Dorothy’s passing. She lived a good, long life, and was independent up until the end, when she suffered a major stroke that she couldn’t recover from. During her last year, I began calling once a week, on Tuesday mornings, as I drove to work. She was still sharp as a tack, but her memory was starting to fail her, and often times, our conversations were repetitious. She’d reminisce about living in California as a girl – about 15 minutes from where I live now – and I’d give her the latest on my work, my apartment, my life.

Dorothy passed two years before I started this current weight loss adventure, and I’ve more than met the criteria to get that one thousand dollars: I’m down 166 pounds, and most of it I lost in the first year, meaning I’ve kept about 150 of it off for the required twelve months.

Do I want the money anymore? No. But I’d give anything for one more Tuesday morning phone call, one more chance to hear her voice and her laugh, while imagining her sitting in her favorite chair, with the newspaper at her side, opened to the business section. How I wish I had another opportunity to share the great things I’ve been doing, and the success I’ve had, and tell her that I love her.

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!

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...