If you were to take a serious look at my posting numbers, you'd see that in the last few years I haven't had much to say here.
I've been giving this fact some serious thought, and I keep hitting a hard truth: what I really like writing about these days, when my lawyer hat isn't on, is music. Not health and fitness. Not healthy food. I've said about all I can say about those things.
I'm, at heart, a music junkie. I've been one since I was ten years old. You'll see music scattered through these pages even though this was not intended to be a music blog. I decided to finally own up: I don't want to write here any more, at least not at the moment.
I started a music blog. It's called Self-Referenced. The title comes from a Minutemen song. If you don't have any interest in edgier music -- punk, alternative, etc., with a smattering of classic rock, soul, and funk -- then you probably aren't going to find much to like there. On the other hand, if you are a fellow traveler in the land of the music-obsessed, and you already like my writing, you might enjoy what you'll find there. I gave it that title not just because I love the Minutemen, but because it's intended to be a very personal account of my musical thoughts -- a self-referential trip into my life seeing bands and obsessing over albums.
As of the day I'm writing this post, there are only three posts over on that blog. But that's three posts in three days. That fact gives you some insight into my desire and motivation to write there, rather than here where I can barely reach three posts in a year these days.
Whatever your level of involvement here over the past ten-ish years, I greatly appreciate it. No shit. Seriously. I just don't have anything more to add to the pile of health/fitness/food writing than I've already posted, whereas I have approximately 10,000 stories of seeing this or that band. But don't think that doesn't mean that I don't love and appreciate every damn one of you. Maybe I'll be back here. Maybe not. But I'll keep the page up.
In the meantime, I'll see you over on the other blog, if you want to stop by. Either way, thanks. Really.
I trust the guy. He's had a long, storied career and he's been right much more than he's been wrong. Somehow he even managed to negotiate working for that fool Donald Trump and still dispense solid advice.
I don't have any profundities for you right now. I don't even have any humor to share at the moment. But I am excited to "get back to normal" as much as we can. So when The Doc says it's cool to ditch the masks indoors, I'm in.
It's been awhile. I'll (mostly, maybe?) leave it at that.
COVID-19 hit us all somehow, whether we got it or not (I didn't). Not for a goddamn moment will I compare my own vague mindfog/writer's block to the struggles of anyone who got the virus, lost someone to it, etc. It's not even close.
Around here, we stayed home, followed all the health/mask protocols, were there for each other when we needed to be, and stayed the hell out of the way of each other when necessary too. We had it VERY easy in comparison to almost anyone. Neither of us lost an income source, or even knew someone who passed away because of the virus.
But it still messed with my head, and it probably messed with yours too even if you were as lucky as we were.
There was a joke-y meme going around at one point in Pandemia about how the pandemic was "an introvert's dream." I sort of doubt that, but I'll tell you one thing for sure: it was not an extrovert's dream, and I'm an extrovert.
The things I do -- other than work (from home) as a lawyer -- to keep my brain firing on all (or any) cylinders all got canceled.
Band practice? Didn't happen other than a couple attempts at outdoor/driveway stuff that was hard to organize and likely enraged my neighbors with volume and a shitty PA.
Gigs? Hahahaha. No. We're not fucking stupid.
Meetups with friends? There were a few outside-'round-the-fire moments, but those got tougher to hold (or enjoy) as winter hit.
Gym? No. Again, I'm not fucking stupid.
Volunteering at the animal shelter? Nope.
About all I did away from my home from mid-March 2020 until my vaccination immunity kicked in early April 2021 was occasionally go grocery shopping -- with a mask on.
Shit, man. I didn't realize how much I missed the most basic/mundane of human interactions -- casual conversations with strangers in places of business -- until those weren't happening. In the beginning of Pandemia, it was particularly desperate and nuts. Fellow shoppers weren't just masked and silent; they were fucking rude. Costco became a place to avoid except on weekdays, or else you could risk some sort of Mad Max remake over a 50-pound bag of beans in Aisle 12. But even after things settled down in that respect, shopping for food was still grim. I remember one particular moment that I recounted in a text exchange with a bandmate in about August 2020:
Bandmate: "Hey, how you holding up in all this?" Me: "Uhhhhh, I don't want to complain but some basic human conversational interaction with anyone other than my wife would be good. My wife is a spectacular human being but I'm an extrovert and I need lots of conversations with lots of people, and there's none of that." Bandmate: "I kinda figured. You're not the shy, reserved type. Introverts are winning at the moment." Me: "Ha. No. I'm not. You wanna know how bad it is? The only conversation I have had in-person with anyone in the last I don't know how long was with a Whole Foods cashier who recognized me despite the mask and she had a very quick, 'Hey, good to see you healthy, etc." convo with me. The result? That night I had a sex dream involving that woman." Bandmate: "Hahahahaha. That's amazing." Me: "I'm not sure that's the word I'd choose. But it's certainly a sign that my brain apparently believed that that convo was about all the mental stimulation I was gonna get so why not run with it?"
Seriously. Dude. Come on, now.
Anyway, I said I wouldn't go on and on about why I disappeared from the blogosphere, but I just kind of did despite myself. What did I do during Pandemia? I worked a lot. I'm fortunate that I at least had that outlet. Some clients got some extra-high-quality work out of me (if I do say so myself). I also mostly didn't drive my wife crazy. Together we watched more TV than ever in our lives. I also worked out a lot and played drums a fair amount as well. That's about it, although I'm sure I have some stories for you that will pop up here with any luck -- just as soon as my still pandemic-scarred brain gets its act fully back together. I'm happy to be (at least allegedly) immune, post-vaccination.
So, I'm back? I think? Band practice is slowly getting itself back together. Everything else will too. Eventually, when it's safe, the mask mandate in New Jersey will be eliminated and a band that I'm in will play a gig, and I'll go see others play gigs too. Fuck, I miss live music. I'm ready.
But no, I don't think I'll be able to get through that cashier's line at Whole Foods without laughing to/at myself.
I'm writing this just to let you know that even the people who seem generally to have their diet and exercise together may not be as care-free about all this shit as it might seem.
My personal battle du jour is, apparently, coffee.
I love the stuff. Too much, it would seem. My stomach is objecting. In precise medical terms, it burns like a motherfucker too often lately and coffee seems to be the cause. (I also have had a mild hiatal hernia for most of my life and that's involved too, but trust me when I say that coffee really seems to be the most direct agent of doom here).
Funny thing is: I never drank coffee until my forties.
Another funny thing is: I'm really bad at moderation.
When I plunged into the big, bad world of coffee, in 2005 or so, I did not do so in a measured way. I dove in, off the ten meter high dive, and immersed myself fully. I've been there ever since.
So I'm committed to two things:
--getting an endoscopy to find out if this situation is worse than "usual"
--quitting coffee for an extended period
In fact, if quitting coffee has the immediate effect that I expect it may, I probably can skip the endoscopy, which is scheduled for mid-January at the moment.
I know how to do this quitting thing.
I've done it before. I can quit anything.
But, with coffee, you really can't just cold-turkey the quitting. Not without a lot of pain anyway. That will bring crushing headaches of doom. You have to taper down using black and green tea.
Fuck. I really like coffee.
I'm going to miss it. But I'm at a point in life where I work for myself, when I feel like it. I get up when I want. I rarely have to be TOTALLY FUCKING "ON" in a manner that demands/requires the "zoom" that coffee supplies.
But, oh, I like that zoom.
I also previously lived 40-something years without it, and it's not like black tea is caffeine-free.
Wish me luck. This sort of sucks right now. I have to throw an old friend out on the street, and then see if he was actually the problem.
Five or six years ago, this was me, deadlifting 425 pounds three times using a trap bar:
It's nothing spectacular (that third rep... as I say in the video: "Hooooooo!"), but it's pretty damn solid for a then-early-fifties dude who never made powerlifting anything other than just a way to stay strong. I wasn't competing, just lifting at a CrossFit gym. I bet you know someone that can deadlift a lot more. But more on-point is that you probably know a lot more who can't.
Fast forward to the present, and that "pretty damn solid" deadlifting person is not really me. I'm not weak by any means, but I am pretty sure that I've let my deadlift atrophy to the point of not being able to do anything close to what's in that video. The excuses pile up fast: I didn't have time because of work; I was doing a lot of (valuable) HIIT-style training; I got injured. Blah blah blah fucking blah....
I'm semi-retired now. I have time. I'd like to get my deadlift going again.
When I want to do something simple like "get stronger," my go-to person -- my guardo camino -- has always been Dan John. He's not fancy. He's just simple and direct. Currently, I would fail his basic test of being in really good shape: being able to deadlift 60 reps in 30 minutes at 315 pounds. I'd like to get to a point where I can do that again (yes, again; back when that video was filmed I could pass that 30-minute/60-rep/315-pound test).
It's called "Simple Strength." It's... simple. After warm-up, take the biggest weight that you can lift comfortably for five reps and, instead of five reps, do: 1-2-3 (with breaks) three total times (so 18 total reps). The reps should be easy-ish, not a struggle. Bump up the weight as it gets too easy.
I started last night (on a straight bar; I don't own a trap bar), and today I have that glorious just-slightly-sore post-deadlift feeling that I've been missing. I'm planning on deadlifting twice a week for now. I may never get back to three reps at 425. That's fine. I just want to recover what I can and be stronger than now.
And stay stronger than all those old dudes who don't deadlift.
Sometimes people email me questions. Usually I just respond directly, but I'm tellin' ya... that job that I just quit had me so busy that I was ignoring a lot of things that I usually pay attention to. One was my Paleo Drummer email account. Another, by the way, was the task of approving comments on this blog. I'll approve almost any comment, except spam, that is. But if I didn't have the comments set up the way they are to require approval, the comment section would be overrun with Viagra spam or, lately (why????), escort-service ads. Anyway, if you were waiting for your comment to be approved, it's been done. Or it's been rejected as spammy. Either way, I've slogged my way through that list. So now it's on to the mailbag....
I've gotten this question emailed to me a lot: "What's your opinion of the carnivore diet?"
My answer is neither entirely pro nor entirely con. I'll start by saying that my initial reaction was the same as a lot of yours: how the hell do you not end up with scurvy from eating just meat? I don't know what the "how" part of the answer is, but it seems that if you really just eat meat, somehow your Vitamin C requirements to avoid scurvy (which are reallllllly low anyway) get even lower. There are people who have been strictly adhering to a carnivore diet for 10, or even 20, years and they are not suffering from scurvy. On the other hand, if you eat some grains regularly and otherwise just eat meat -- in other words, if you don't go all-in on carnivore and half-ass it -- you may find your Vitamin C needs are higher than for the all-carnivores and you may have a deficiency in that regard. Why? I do not know. I'm not a doctor, or a biochemist. But it appears that if your sole concern is scurvy, super strict adherence to the carnivore diet is not likely to be the first train to Scurvyville for you.
On the other hand, the pluses of the carnivore diet seem real. Reduced body fat, higher energy, super low triglycerides, weight loss if that's what you're looking for. Honestly, the benefits seem, most of the time, to be almost exactly the same benefits as you'd get from eating strict very-low-carb paleo, but they are the real deal.
My best guess is that the reason people who are metabolically damaged see such spectacular results from going all-in carnivore are mostly the very same reasons the same type of drastic improvement occurs with a Whole 30 or all-in paleo. Elimination diets do wonders for short-term results. There is a huge benefit to ditching grains and sugar.
So have I considered going all-carnivore? I have. But I'm not likely to do it for two reasons. First, one of the principal reasons I'm not a vegetarian or [shudder] a vegan is because I think that vegetarianism and veganism often leave you lacking in important nutrients, particularly B-12. I feel the same way about the lack of antioxidant intake for a carnivore diet. Vegetables, particularly organic ones, are a rich and varied source of antioxidants that are plainly beneficial. Can you live without them? Sure. Should you though? I really haven't figured out why you would want to unless you are a rare one-percenter for whom all vegetables seem to be a gut irritant.
The second reason I'm not all-carnivore is just because I like eating meat and vegetables too much, and I feel great eating that way. Eating only meat is, for me, going to rob me of some of the joy of food to a degree that I'm not interested in it and I can't imagine the pluses are going to outweigh that minus. (On the other hand, eliminating most carbs is a huge plus for me. I feel way better low-carb than I do eating grains regularly). It's all about weighing the individual costs and benefits. If I ate only meat, eating meat would seem like a job, and I'm against turning food prep and the act of eating into a job. As I've said before in other contexts, I'd eat dirt if you can convince me it's a great idea in terms of costs versus benefits. But I'm, so far, unconvinced on this one that it's for me. I'm good with mostly meat and greens.
However, am I telling you not to go carnivore? Of course not. I think you should try it if it interests you. See how you do on it. You may love it. You may live a long and healthy life that way. I have friends who are all-carnivore or 98% carnivore (with the remaining 2% just a few greens and berries). My doctor is mostly carnivore, fercryinoutloud. Give it a shot. Hell, I feel the same way about veganism. Try it. See what happens. There's enough sucks/rules dogmatic bullshit and food-related hysteria out there already. But there's your answer -- for me. I'm not likely to jump on that train anytime soon. I'm good with low-carb paleo/primal eating. Cheers.
I've led a sort of charmed life when it comes to employment. When I retired last December from a 30-ish-year stint as a public defender, I could honestly say that I'd never had a job that I didn't like. Really, never. When I was in high school and college, I worked as a stock guy at a KMart, as a cashier at a convenience store, and as a data-entry guy at an office. I liked all those jobs just fine. They served their purpose -- cash for the money-strapped student -- and I am still friends with some coworkers from way back then. As a lawyer, I went from judicial law clerk to a stint in a private firm to a career as a public defender and I loved every one of those jobs too.
So back in January, when I wrote this article, I made a joke about possibly hating a new lawyer gig that I was taking on -- a public-interest position in Philly.
But that was gallows humor. I didn't really believe that I'd hate that job.
Well, shit.... As it turns out, I hated that job.
It was a confluence of blech -- a lot of hours away from home, work that I wasn't crazy about, and a strange prison-like solitude because of the odd structure of the office where my work group was small and stuffed into an office with a larger group that knew nothing of what we were doing.
Seriously, other than some of the people, whom I genuinely liked, I really hated that job.
So I quit. After only five months.
Now it's time to sort out what "retirement" really means for me. Once again, I'm lucky: I bring home a large percentage of my former salary thanks to a pension. So that frees me up to, well, dabble. There will be some law -- I'm still really good at that, particularly in New Jersey, where I practiced law for more than three decades before the unfortunate detour into Pennsylvania. But there will be vacations to take, and bands to play in -- I'm in three of those right now: one, two, and three. I've even decided to offer myself up to friends (who live in cool places) as an occasional live-in dogsitter. And there will certainly be more time for the gym and yoga.
And maybe, just maybe, there will be a lot more writing here. I'm not going to promise you anything reckless like a daily post, but I really want to get back to the frequency of, say, 2014 or so when it comes to spewing my blahblahblah on this page. It's fun and sometimes creative. Occasionally I even say something smart. And I meet more of you that way. Really!
I'll end by quoting Frank Costanza -- not for the first time:
It's a repeating theme in my head: I'm running out of time.
No, not imminently (that I know of), but I'm 56 years old. If I'm really lucky, I'll get 30 or so more very healthy years on the planet. What am I going to do with that time?
As I told you a few months ago, I recently "retired" from a job, as a public-interest lawyer, that I had for almost 30 years. When I decided to leave, I hadn't nailed down exactly what the next step was. But I knew one thing for sure: I wanted to keep my brain busy.
Just about every study/article/conclusion on healthy aging involves an active mind. Gray matter will rot, figuratively speaking, if not stimulated.
Well... here comes the stimulation: shortly after I made the retirement decision, a public-interest law practice in Philly chased me down and made me a full-time offer. I accepted. So I "retired" for all of two months, and I'm headed back to work, in a different state, doing work that is related to my old work, in a very general sense, but it's really not the same kind of job.
"You understand that basically no one does what you're about to do? No one jumps jurisdictions at age 56 and takes on a whole new body of law. This move is going to be amazing for your brain." That was a friend telling me the positives of the new gig. "No one" is an exaggeration, but the point is a solid one. My aging brain will be still on the move, and that's awesome.
But it's going to be a hell of a challenge too. There's a reason that "no one does what [I'm]] about to do": because it's really hard work. I'm a very good lawyer. But, unlike my old job, where I already knew 98% of what I needed to do the job, this one has required me to realize that I have a lot of information to amass in a short time. I know New Jersey law; Pennsylvania is a land of mystery, so to speak.
So the last few weeks, I've been studying up. I've spent at least a few hours each day, sometimes a lot more, reading (and reading and reading...) case law with which I was previously mostly unfamiliar. I'm entering a new arena.
It's a little daunting.
It's also exhilarating and cool. And really, I don't screw around when it comes to being prepared. I don't know if "most people" would start prepping three to four weeks in advance for a new job, but I'm not most people, and prepping is exactly what I've been doing.
If I'm lucky, I balance this job with all the fun creative things I do as a drummer, and my brain is so awash in endorphins, challenges, and growth that I am -- to quote a tattoo artist who made me laugh when he applied the phrase to me -- "crushing life."
Or I suppose that I could hate it.
I'm about to find out. Wish me luck. My brain already is thanking me.
As I've been heard to say: "As you get older, don't eat like a six-year-old and
don't drink like a college student."
Here's some science behind that
I started playing catch-up with some Robb Wolf podcasts recently and stumbled on this one. Wow. What a keeper.
Dr. Michael Rose's research, which he describes at length in the podcast, has led to the conclusion that aging represents a cessation of adaptation. Translated, from a dietary perspective: at a certain age, our bodies cease to be able to handle certain neolithic foods as well as we previously have.
So, while no one should be eating crappy processed Frankenfood at any age, younger folks can do fine, even thrive, on a wide-ranging diet that is not remotely paleolithic. However, at a certain point -- Rose says between 30 and 50 years old for most people -- the ability to handle that neolithic food load decreases sharply.
In other words, between ages 30 and 50, the *adaptation* to neolithic foods disappears and those foods become a significant source of inflammation and aging. His prescription: eat paleo as you get older than 30, and certainly by age 50.
The concept makes sense to me. I watch 20-something friends shovel in all sorts of things that I wouldn't eat now, and they do so without significant current consequence. When I ate those things in my thirties and early forties, I got heavier, softer, less-athletic, and generally less healthy. When I went paleo in 2010 at age 46, things changed quickly for the better. I leaned out, gained energy, and generally felt stronger and more alive.
You probably knew the basic idea already: when you get to a certain age, you cannot eff around with bad food and drink like you used to. Dr. Rose's research provides a strong genetic/evolutionary-science basis for that "obvious" fact.
"Adult humans are really bad about sticking with something that is good for them, but that they aren't great at. Doing something difficult requires strength. Be strong. "
-- my yoga teacher this morning, dropping a truth bomb.
For a while now, I've been operating under the theory that we are happiest if we are really good, even great, at at least two things. It helps if one of those things is the way the person makes a living -- you know, a skill that leaves you able to afford food/housing/etc. at a level that makes you happy/comfortable or at least takes away some worries. I also think that, ideally, the second thing ought to be a hell of a lot of fun. (Obviously, if you're lucky enough to combine fun and making a living, you get some sort of Life Bonus Points).
I'm doing OK on both of those fronts. I've always been pretty accomplished at my attorney day gig. And I've become a pretty damn good drummer too. "10,000 hours," and all that.
But lately I've been thinking about another category: doing something that you suck at. Because if "relentless self-improvement" is the goal -- hint: it is; it really is -- just improving the things that you're already great at seems like cheating, or selling yourself short.
I've been going to the same yoga studio for the last three years, and they're closing. No big deal, right? Just find another, you say. There are tons of yoga places around. OK, sure. So I shopped a bit, looking for a mix of different types of classes, at convenient times, etc. And I found a studio that seems to fit the bill.
When I got out of the chilled-out/hippie comfort zone of my usual yoga place, I was then almost immediately reminded of one thing: good lord, I suck at yoga.
I'm 56 years old. Despite being in generally good shape -- healthy, decently strong, good aerobic capacity, etc. -- I have arthritis in both knees, both shoulders and at least my right elbow (and probably the left one too). That right elbow is also damaged enough from 37 years of drumming that it doesn't allow my right arm to fully straighten in a locked-out position. I was at the old yoga place -- a quiet studio with a mostly older clientele -- for so long that I sort of forgot how many rungs down the proverbial ladder of yoga skills I am. I can get left in the dust pretty quickly.
At the new place, a lot more than at the old one, the proverbial dust and I get a little time together quite often, while the rest of the class plows ahead at full speed. The clients here are all ages, and all skill levels, but mostly they are much more accomplished at yoga than I am. It's a humbling exercise to be practicing at this studio.
But yoga is not about competition, you might say (and you'd be right). Sometimes, being a bit of an overly-competitive jackass, I have to remind myself of that fact over and over. "YOGA IS NOT ABOUT COMPETITION," I mentally yell to my inner self as I wait for class to begin and the room fills with beautiful people who can accomplish twisty/bendy things with their bodies that appear to be flat-out sorcery.
I mostly focus inward and, depending on the class and the teacher, struggle somewhere between a little and a lot.
But, in the new studio, I'm already learning cool new things too: like that doing yoga when the room is already warm-ish and there is also a giant infrared lamp turned on does crazy positive things to both my state of mind and my flexibility. That ginormous glowing infrared lamp doesn't heat the room. Nope, in its own bit of sorcery, it heats the people in the roombut not the roomitself. My only prior experience, a couple years ago, with "hot yoga" was in a grossly humid studio that was so unpleasant that we were one small step from doing yoga in Satan's armpit (or close to this). The infrared experience is nothing like that. Or at least the humidity/armpit part is removed. You get really warm; you sweat; but you do not feel like you are in a rain forest. The heat comes from within because the lamp heats your insides. I told you: sorcery. Wonderful wonderful sorcery.
Just the other day, in an infrared class, instead of mentally mumbling, "Oh I don't think so," to myself when the teacher suggested transitioning one difficult pose into another tougher one, I just... did the harder pose. When sweat is pouring out of me, I am not thinking about anything else. I'm in the moment -- you know, that place we're always supposed to be?
But this post is about sucking at something, not about success, and let's not pretend -- despite small gains being made in the mental and flexibility arenas -- that I don't suck at yoga. I definitely suck at yoga.
But here's the thing: in a Zen trick of sorts, that's kind of the point, hmmm? Somewhere, even amidst the modest improvements, there is an ever-present thought that no matter how much yoga I practice, I am never going to be able to do whatever the hell that pose was that the teacher showed us at one point today. And that's OK.
Really, it's not just OK; it's why I keep moving forward.
It's fine to do things that you're good at, and it's even better to get really good at those things, but sometimes -- despite my reflexive recoil against such new-agey phrases -- it really is the journey and not the destination that's important. That concept right there is why I do yoga: because I suck at yoga, the "journey" will be an endless path forward, and forward is a good direction. Indeed it's the only direction worth going.