The Dark Truth Cover Revealed

It is with great pleasure and pride that I reveal the cover for my debut novel, “The Dark Truth,” which is a dark, gritty, bloody, neo-Gothic vampire tale set in modern-day San Francisco. The book, which took me 13 months to write, will be available for pre-order in January and released in February via Trifecta Publishing.  It will be released in trade paperback and e-book.

Follow me on Twitter, @GetTheKnaak (#TheDarkTruth) and like my author page on Facebook to make sure you get the latest info on the book.

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The Death of the American Picnic

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My cousins Dave and Dave, my cousin Bonnie’s husband Tom and your humble narrator at my last family reunion five years ago.

I don’t know when it died. I have a pretty good idea how though. The American picnic appears to be dead. At least the ones that I remember are dead. Am I too nostalgic? Have times changed that much? Or am I just pining for days gone by that I’ll never get back?

Most deaths are traumatic, sudden. This has been slow, glacial.

I’m not talking about family reunions, which I am sure take place on the regular. Heck, I helped organize one a few short summers ago. I’m talking about holiday weekend and spontaneous treks to the park – state parks and county parks. You know the ones I am talking about. You load up the car with dishes to pass. Everyone has their assigned bring-alongs – aluminum foil, buns, potato chips, potato salad, hot dogs, hamburgers, deviled eggs, charcoal, lighter fluid, beverages, condiments. There was sports equipment and games to bring too. Ball gloves, baseballs and softballs and bats, frisbees and lawn darts.

Comedian Jeff Foxworthy tells a great story about the dangers of lawn darts.

In my family, like it was/is for many I’m sure, Memorial Day was the kickoff to summer. My parents and I packed up the car and piled in it. We drove to the agreed upon park and met up with my father’s sister, her husband and my first cousins. I wish memory served but I think my Uncle Freddy would show up way early, by himself, then complain for 30 minutes that everyone else was late.

Somebody would scrape the community Hibachi and then cover it with tin foil. The kids would get some game going and we would play and roughhouse until the food was ready. Tablecloths were draped over the wooden picnic tables and held down by rocks to keep the spring breeze from turning the table covering into an erstwhile kite.

We’d sit and eat. Someone always got into something they shouldn’t – a mud puddle, a creek, a beehive (yes David, I’m talking about you). We’d go swimming in the pond or the lake – whichever that particular park featured.

Some of these late spring gatherings were large affairs, especially as we got older and folks got married and had kids. Memorial Day was just the kickoff, we’d get together for the 4th of July, and have a combo birthday picnic since many of my cousins were summer babies. We may have even had Labor Day picnics too, the memory fails on that.

But my parents were fond of intimate picnics as well. We’d fill up a carry-along jug with Kool-Aid, water or juice, pack sandwiches and chips, and get in the car and drive to a random state or county park. We’d hike or walk and find a shady spot to sit and eat. We’d bring the ball gloves or the frisbee or a Korean throw and catch game with a plastic ball and wicker rackets. We would do this on several weekend occasions during my summer vacations from school.

My parents continued this tradition after I graduated from high school and joined the U.S. Navy. They’d pile the dog into the car, pick up a bucket of chicken and drive to a park and spend the day under a tree while playing fetch with their yellow lab, Princess.

If I visited during spring or summer, there was always a picnic to go to. My activities may have changed – beer replaced pop, I smoked, I hung out with the adults – but it didn’t take much to drag me into a game of frisbee or softball or touch football.

I have opined on more than one occasion that I don’t see many people outside anymore, especially kids. We’ve become a society of shut-ins with our WiFi, cable TV, broadband Internet, binge-watching, gaming consoles, etc. This spring it seems more people are out, which has to be a good thing. I doubt it will last as temperatures in my Northern California town are starting to rise. Where I live, many of us have backyards, some have pools. I’m sure we can’t all possibly spend these beautiful, warm spring/summer days indoors, especially now that school is out for the summer for countless school districts, with many more to come in the coming days and weeks.

On a recent podcast, I discussed that we parents of a certain age don’t introduce our children to certain types of music, most notably jazz, like our parents did. I think this is true of picnics too. CBS Sunday Morning aired a piece this morning about how little vacation time we take, and the various reasons why. Have our occupations commanded so much of our attention and contributed to fatigue and miasma that we prefer to spend our weekends in our abodes? I am fortunate enough to have a pool. I have a relaxing body of water in my backyard. I suppose that’s my excuse.

I recently took my son to a park to play basketball. We have a hoop out front, but I tire of yelling “car” every three minutes so I like to go to a park with a court so we can play uninterrupted or without the fear of vehicular manslaughter. There was a man at the park and he was setting up for something big. He had the pavilion all to himself and he looked like he was getting ready for one of my old childhood family-style picnics. But he was there all by himself…for a long time. He had the tablecloths out, charcoal and the Hibachi going. I felt bad for him until folks started to arrive. But even then, some attendees showed up, dropped off their dish to pass, then left. We didn’t stay long enough to see how this all played out so I hope those folks came back. It still didn’t seem like they knew how to picnic. Everyone just kind of milled around. But who am I to criticize these people for how they get together?

Maybe I was a little jealous or envious that this family was going to have a day like I used to have with my family. I have hundreds of second cousins, most in New York, but numerous others up and down the eastern seaboard. So, I’d have to travel some, and it would take some organizing. Hence the family reunion a few years ago, it was our first full family reunion in 20 years and 100 people showed.

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Maybe the picnic of old has evolved into the backyard get-together. Maybe we did the parks because we didn’t have the room to have a large picnic gathering that included enough games and activities to keep the kiddies occupied. We entertained more last summer than we have the nearly nine years we’ve lived here. The S’mores wench was active, and I do enjoy the swim-up S’mores bar.

This is not to say that people don’t hop into a car and head to a nearby beach, we’ve certainly done that on a few occasions. But it seems like those excursions include eating at a local restaurant in the beach community. Maybe it’s California. Maybe natives of the left coast don’t picnic, maybe they never did. Maybe folks in the northeast or the Midwest or in the deep south still do it.

I threw a poll up for two hours on Twitter today and got no responses. I also flat out asked the question in a Tweet and got no answers. I asked the question on Faceboook, and although I didn’t get that many replies, it sure seems to me that the American picnic is dead. When it died seems to vary depending on who you ask. For some it was fairly recent, for others it died a long time ago.

Do I miss picnics? Do I mourn them? Those are not easy questions to answer, especially given my penchant for nostalgia. I have fond memories of my family picnics. I have some photos of a few memorable ones. Maybe that’s what I miss about them, the people. Most of the then-adults we’d picnic with are deceased, aunts, uncles…my parents.

It seems like the tradition died with them.

Following in Some Giant Footsteps

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My cloth-bound copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a gift from my dear departed mother, is one of my most prized possessions.

I think we are all influenced by literature in some way. From the moment we are introduced to it, we either gravitate toward it or run from it, screaming. I belong to the group of people who did the former, although I was never much of a fan of the required reading in high school. However, there were some classics that helped mold the reader and writer I became.

Along with the Alcott, Salinger, Shakespeare, Orwell, et al, tomes that we were part of the curriculum in my junior and senior high schools, I developed the need to seek out stories that appealed to me. The Black Stallion by Walter Farley held particular interest when I was young. Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was one of the first novels I ever read for “fun.” John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men stuck with me. I developed an affinity for horror fiction, Gothic horror in particular in the process. I also enjoyed weird tales and science fiction.

I couldn’t have been more than nine or 10 years old the first time I read Dracula, and then shortly thereafter Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus. How apropos that title is, because it helped ignite a lifelong love of books. I read Isaac Asimov, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. I read Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury, and I consumed H.P. Lovecraft.

H.P. Lovecraft’s greatest creation – Cthulhu

I owe quite a bit to Lovecraft. His stories of the weird, his tales of descents into madness, his Cthulhu Mythos – and the movies these stories inspired – helped forge a lifelong bond with my best friend. They also taught me that good horror fiction pulls back the veil just enough to give you a glimpse and that a full view is too much for the human mind to handle. Lovecraft also inspired countless writers (including yours truly) including Stephen King. And you can’t tell me that Clive Barker wasn’t influenced as well.

One of the greatest things I ever read in horror fiction was King’s Night Shift. To this day I consider it the best collections of short stories I have ever seen. I also have a book of short stories called Prime Evil – a collection of terror written by several authors. King’s The Night Flier leads off Prime Evil. This book is the only volume I have ever found that contains The Night Flier.

Years ago I also became aware of the Beat Generation, the Beatniks. Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady and that crowd of hepcats. Funny thing is, I didn’t read anything by them, and I was just enthralled by who and what they were. Kerouac oozed cool to me. His reputation as the progenitor of quintessential second half of 20th century American literature exceeded anything I had endeavored to read. But On the Road was always on my “to read” list.

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Reading On the Road on the road a few years ago.

I finally got around to reading On the Road a couple of years ago. It affected me. Not many things affect me in this way. I’m sure I’m not the first and I won’t be the last to say or write that. I found that Kerouac’s narrative style was eerily similar to my blog style. This was further confirmed as I started to read The Unknown Kerouac, which was translated from the original French just last fall. I found Kerouac’s journals and essays to be very similar to my blogging style. I am no Kerouac. His descriptions of the world around him are pure poetry. I am a blunt instrument compared to the King of the Beats. But I can turn out 1,000 words in a blog at the drop of a hat.

I followed up On the Road with The Dharma Bums. What I have found with Kerouac is that when he is moving, when he is “on the road” so to speak, he is brilliant and I love him. When he is stationary, when he is trying to figure it all out, he bores the hell out of me.

But his prolific period, when he was stoned out of his mind on Benzedrine – he wrote On the Road in three weeks and The Dharma Bums in two – is the stuff of legend. Ginsberg said he was worthless while he was taking it, but Kerouac…Jack spewed prose while whacked out on speed. I’m powered by coffee and Scotch.

I recently learned of a Beatnik/Lovecraft connection and my mind was blown. Apparently Burroughs attended a lecture or class taught by a huge fan of Lovecraft’s named Robert Barlow. After several failed attempts at becoming a writer, he became an anthropologist and taught in Mexico. Burroughs, on the run from an alleged drug charge, attended Barlow’s lectures on Mayan culture. The Naked Lunch apparently emanated from this time. A brilliant article from The New Yorker discusses this more articulately than I ever could.

I’ve always envied the wildly successful authors. King, Dean Koontz, Mary Higgins Clark, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, J.K. Rowling, Jackie Collins, Dan Brown, Danielle Steel, just to name a few. Koontz has long been my favorite. I own 26 of his works of fiction.

IBM_SelectricWhen I started consuming works of horror and thriller fiction, I had the mind to write a novel. During my time aboard the USS Saratoga during the first Gulf War, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, I wrote letters home in prose. I used an IBM Selectric electric typewriter. Hell, I told short stories rather than write letters. After writing for our cruise book and deployment newsletter, shipmates asked, “what the hell are you doing here?”

It wasn’t until 2011 that I had an idea for a book. I shared the beginnings of something written in the third person with a cousin, who is also an aspiring writer. His feedback stung. It was clear that I had no idea what I was doing when it came to novel writing. “Head hopping,” “show, don’t tell,” all these terms and techniques were foreign to me. I put it away. A year ago January I dragged it out. I took my cousin’s suggestions, I rewrote it from the first person perspective and it took off. Thirteen months later I had a finished product. I told the story I wanted to tell. Within a month I was under contract with a publisher.

I have written a dark, bloody, exciting vampire tale set in modern-day San Francisco. It’s called The Dark Truth and it is due out in trade paperback and e-book in February.

I have often joked that I had to live past the age of 47. Lovecraft died at 47. Kerouac died at 47. I am 47. I’ll be 48 in a few months. Lovecraft and Kerouac produced a tremendous amount of published work by the time they died. My sports writing is one thing. I’ve written articles that number well over 1,000 that live on the Internet. But, fiction? Well. I’m just getting started. But in nine short months I will join my literary heroes as a “published author.”

And I am just now starting to pull back that veil.

Facebook Writing Prompt

A few months ago, an old military pal, Paula, posted one of these Facebook things and encouraged her online community to do it with her. Now, I don’t know how many folks have participated in this particular viral thing. However, when I looked at it, I thought of it more as a writing prompt. None of these things, to me, can be answered yes or no. So, I thought I would give it a whirl with tongue planted firmly in cheek.

Tattoos………………….no. I am not opposed; I just haven’t gotten one yet. I did see a male motorcycle rider today with a tramp stamp. I firmly believe that if you are going to get one, spend some money and make sure you find a capable artist.

Piercings……………….no. I did have my ear pierced once a long time ago, it lasted four days before I took the stud out and let the hole close up.

Children………………..yes, two, one at home, one who lives with his mom in Florida.

Surgeries………………..yes, technically three, unless you want to count oral surgeries. Knee, butt and back. Don’t ask about the middle one. There’s a blog entry for that somewhere in the archive.

Broken Bones ……….yes, fractured my elbow once, fell off my bike when I was 11 I think. Pretty sure I broke my pinky during a flag football practice/scrimmage in Iceland but I never got it looked at.

Shot a gun………………I am ex-military so, yeah.

Quit a job………………..Quit, fired, what’s your point?

Flown on a plane…….more times than I can count, although the first time wasn’t until I was 18 and I was on my way to boot camp just outside of Chicago.

Gone zip lining………..no, but there are some batshit crazy guys in Wales who have one I’d like to try.

Given CPR……………….no, almost had to. We lost 21 sailors in a ferry accident off the coast of Haifa, Israel, 1990, and I was standing by on the hangar deck.

Been to Canada…………….yes, love Canada. Toronto, Winnipeg, Niagara Falls, been to a lot of places in Canada, including Canadian Tire.

Ridden in an ambulance…..no, almost. Was checked out in the back of one when I wrecked a car when I was in high school.

Been to Europe………………..yes, London, England; four places in Turkey.

Stamps in Passport(s) ……..yes, in addition to England, Mexico.

Been to Washington D.C….yes, stationed there for three years. Went as part of a class trip in grade school as well.

Florida………………………unfortunately.

Colorado…………………yes, it’s growing on me.

Mexico……………………………yes, last year for the first time. Best tacos ever.

Las Vegas………………………..yes, if you count a layover at McCarran Airport. They have slot machines in the freaking airport. Of course they do.

Sang karaoke………………..no. Nobody needs to hear me sing. Although I am a professional in the car singer, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

Had (a) pet(s)…………………yes, currently? Three cats, a dog, four turtles, Lord knows how many Koi fish, and several vagrant lizards and spiders.

Been downhill skiing……….yes, once, disastrous experience, still think I owe the ski resort money for a binding.

Ability to read music ………no, took piano lessons in grammar school, didn’t even get to Chopsticks. I am not a musical people.

Rode a motorcycle…………..no, I like at least 3,000 pounds of car around me when I go careening down the highway at 75 miles per hour.

Rode a horse…………………….yes, unassisted no…rode a camel once too.

Stayed in hospital…………….kinda, just not overnight.

Donated blood………………..no, my blood stays in my body there Drac.

Driven a stick shift……………Yes, learned on my dad’s 1979 Ford Mustang, four on the floor and four cylinders. It wouldn’t go faster than 82 m.p.h. Believe me, I tried.

Ride in Police Car ………..Military Police count?

Grandkids……………………no, although several people have accused me.

Driven a Boat ……………..yes! My wife didn’t think I could, but I showed her. “Just because you were in the Navy doesn’t mean they let you drive the boat.” Yeah well, I drove a damn speedboat, so there. I came into the slip a little hot, but, whatever. Everyone survived.

Eaten Escargot ……………no, never have, never will. Bleah.

Seen a UFO………………..um…

Been on a Cruise………..yes, if you count the USS Saratoga. Other than that, no. And you’ll never get me on a cruise ship either.

Run out of Gas…………..yes, in my own damn garage no less. Shut up, it’s not funny.

Eat Sushi……………………yes, but where I come from we call it “bait.”

Seen a Ghost……………..seen? No. Experienced? That’s a blog for a different day, but yes, three times.

A Second Life for a Window Into Mine

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This was my father’s Petri 7 35mm camera.

Ten years ago this week, my father John Henry Knaak, Jr., suffered a fatal heart attack. It was 11 months after my mother, Yung Hi Knaak, suffered a catastrophic stroke and died days later. I still say dad died of a broken heart. I inherited my parents’ belongings. Every knickknack, every piece of furniture, every book, every bill (including electric bills dating back to 1984), every stitch of clothing, everything became mine, everything including a Petri 35mm SLR camera kit.

I grew up in Rochester, New York, which is considered the birthplace of photography, as we know it. My high school graduation ceremony was held at the George Eastman Theater, so named for the founder of the Eastman Kodak Company.

When I was growing up, you had to be judicious about the photos you took. Cameras, film (if you don’t know what film cameras were, go ask a grown up), processing and printing cost money. Cameras certainly weren’t cheap and film could be expensive depending on quality and type. You had to be selective with your picture taking – you only had 24 or 36 shots per roll of film. Oftentimes we took our film to a place called Fotomat – drive-through islands located in the parking lots of numerous strip malls across the country. Many of these are now drive-thru espresso stands.

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A photo of a Fotomat booth from my hometown newspaper, The Democrat & Chronicle.

Petri 35mm cameras came along in the 1950s and my father purchased his at a PX in the 1960s while he was in the United States Army. This would be the camera that documented my father’s tour in Korea, his courtship of my mother, and much of my childhood.

The camera itself was sleek and elegant, especially for the time. It was heavy, substantial in your hand. You knew you had a well-made piece of equipment in your hand when you picked it up and felt the heft.

My father used the camera to shoot slides. Yes, we regaled whoever would sit still long enough with the dreaded slide show. We had a projector and a somewhat portable screen. I still have the slides and their carousels. He also took snapshots with print film. My mother didn’t take many photos. You could always tell when she did. You were lucky if you actually were in the photo. As I’ve mentioned before, this is probably why I don’t have many photos of my dad, he was the one behind the camera.

Dad was a bit of a shutterbug. He enjoyed taking family snapshots, landscapes and exterior architecture on family vacations, family pets, zoo animals, antique cars and fire engines at various shows and exhibits. However, he was a bit lackadaisical when it came to getting the film developed. Hell, there might still be an undeveloped roll or two lying around here somewhere. I’m not sure if it was a money issue or a procrastination issue. As I kid I enjoyed taking pictures. I used a Kodak “disc” camera for a while. It was state-of-the-art at the time. The film was contained in a wheel, not unlike a View Master slide picture wheel. You still had to have it developed like regular film. We had a Polaroid camera too, which was the closest thing we had to instant photography.

This Petri camera my father bought halfway around the world was a constant companion on numerous excursions. We drove everywhere for family vacations. I didn’t get on an airplane until I was 18. From the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, to Boston Harbor, and Niagara Falls and Toronto in between, dad chronicled it all with his Petri 7. He treated that camera with care and reverence. There was more than just a hint of melancholy when the image quality started to deteriorate.

Eventually, the Petri 7 gave way to higher-end point and shoot cameras. I had a couple of Canon 35mm SLRs, and I shot with a Canon F-1 when I was in the Navy, but none of them garnered the respect that Petri was given.

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The Petri 7 on display in my cousin’s home. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salatino.

Over the past decade I have had trouble getting rid of some of my parents’ stuff. Household goods and clothes were easier than some other items. Dad’s music collection, my parents’ DVD collection, select pieces of dad’s die-cast metal 1/43rd scale model car collection, his model trains, will all probably stay. Knickknacks are gone for the most part, with a few exceptions. I still have a few pieces of furniture that I refuse to part with.

During a clean out of my home office last year, I came across the Petri 7 35mm camera. I was fairly certain it couldn’t be fixed. Besides, we live in a digital world now. We carry a camera built into our phones everywhere we go. Photography is no longer a luxury, it has become an important way we express ourselves in our everyday lives. The only excuse for not taking a picture now is running out of memory. It’s fitting that an Instagram post triggered the words you’re reading right now.

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A closer view of the Petri 7 in my cousin’s home. Photo courtesy of Melissa Salatino.

When I came across the brown leather case containing the Petri and its accessories, I felt so many emotions – nostalgia, loss, longing, and gratitude all passed through me. And like a very few other things I inherited, I couldn’t bring myself to just toss the camera away. I couldn’t fathom trying to sell it on eBay either.

A bolt of inspiration struck me.

My cousin Melissa, a descendant of my grandfather’s brother Carl, was getting ready for her wedding. I have often remarked that Melissa was born in the wrong decade. Her appreciation of vintage clothing, hairstyles, cars, décor and such is nothing short of remarkable. I thought if anyone could appreciate this camera, it would be Melissa. As an early wedding gift, I shipped the camera to her. It now sits prominently and proudly displayed in the home she shares with her husband Tom.

Melissa posted a photo from inside her home on Instagram today and the Petri 35mm is clearly visible. As I’ve thought about my father this week and how 10 years have already passed since his death, it was a bit of serendipity to see this photo on social media today.

I’m glad this piece of my history, this window on my life, will now bear witness to a new life my cousin and her husband are building together. I think my father would be happy that I found a loving home for one of his most cherished possessions.

Struggling with Fitness Motivation

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Yours truly after a 4-mile run last weekend.

Since January 2013, I have only truly struggled with the motivation to exercise and eat healthier a few times. Usually the onset of disillusionment has accompanied an injury or setback of some kind, never the lack of results. Conventional wisdom and everything I read says to keep at it and the results will come. I’m not so sure anymore.

I have been known to read too much when it comes to research. I have written of information overload in previous entries. Most of the time I can’t make heads or tails of the information I consume. I read Runner’s World and Men’s Fitness. I spend time on numerous web sites from Men’s Health to bodybuilding.com. You would think after four years of better nutrition and consistent exercise, I would be seeing better results. You would think after four years I would understand my body. You would be wrong.

I have been a proponent of what I believe to be a simple truth. The body doesn’t need as many calories to subsist as we think it does. That being said, my calorie ceiling, no matter how much I exercise, seems to be pretty low. I have a FitBit Charge HR. I know how much I sleep, I know my heart rate, I know approximately how many calories I burn each day. Either I am lying to myself about how many calories I take in each day (I am horribly inconsistent with MyFitnessPal and logging my food), or my metabolism is much slower than I care to admit.

Actually, what’s crazy is the calorie burn estimates from each app you use. The Nike Run Club app says yesterday’s run burned 572 cal., while Smashrun says 761 cal. FitBit says 690. According to FitBit, I burned 3,106 cal. yesterday. I know I didn’t eat that much, but I guarantee you if I got on the scale this morning, it would have showed an uptick in weight. If that was the case, and knowing that you have to burn more than you take in to lose weight, you’d think I’d have this licked.

To recap – I once weighed 236 pounds. I lost 60 to get to 176. I put four back on and stayed at 180 for several months. I was quite happy at 180 pounds. Then I hurt my back. Even after surgery to repair a herniated disc, I stayed at 180 for some time. This was summer 2015. By January 2017 I have put about 20 pounds back on. November and December 2016 were bad for me. I backed off my running, I exercised three to four days a week instead of five to six, and I ate more holiday comfort food than I should have. Over the summer, I ate more backyard cookout food and drank more beer than I should have. From July on I took on a new hobby – podcasting – to go with blogging and working on my first novel.

Since the first of the year, a bout with the flu not withstanding, I have been back on my game. I have been running more often, especially of late, and I am back to five to six workouts per week. Trusting the process has been my mantra from the beginning and I don’t know what that process is anymore. I have forgotten how to do this. I don’t even know what to do anymore. I don’t know what to eat, how much of it to eat. I don’t know what workouts to do. I don’t know what not to do either.

I belong to a Facebook group affiliated with Jim Stoppani, an exercise scientist who has his own line of supplements. The group, known as the JYM Army, consists of people of all ages, shapes, and sizes and walks off life. Many post transformation photos. Instead of being inspired to achieve, I am jealous. I’m envious. And worst of all, I’m disgusted with myself. I know what I want. I know what I want to look like; I know how I want to feel. And I just don’t know how to do it.

The past few weeks have been frustrating. I have seen a little movement on the scale in the right direction, which is undone quickly. I am in a constant battle with needing to manage my life and wanting to live it. I used to get frustrated when my weight loss efforts stalled. But I never really considered giving up. My eyes were always on the prize. As I drove toward it I always thought the definition would come, the body fat would slough off. I figured I would build the body I always wanted while I did this.

But I think the past two weeks have seen my first real cracks, my first real thoughts of wanting to quit. I see people who have lost weight and gained it back and never go back to diet and exercise. I guess either life got in the way or they just said, “screw it.” I don’t want to be that person. Yet, despite my best efforts, I gained 20 pounds. And I’m debating being that person.

I lift and I lift and nothing seems to change. My belly fat is back in abundance and my muscles never seem to grow or define. I get a little stronger and I’m probably stronger that I ever have been, but that’s not good enough. My battle with the poster on the wall seems to be unwinnable.

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Same route, two years apart, and I’ve lost six minutes total run time, and a minute and a half off my pace.

I’m 47 years old. The one thing I have figured out about this 1969 rambling wreck is that backing off is the kiss of death. If I don’t maintain the five to six days a week of weightlifting and 10-15 miles a week of running, my fitness level goes right down the drain. The worst part about that is getting back to where I was, which gets harder as I get older. It wasn’t that long ago when I was able to consistently run 10-minute miles on three- to five-mile runs. I never could maintain than on a six-miler. I’m trudging along at 11-minute miles now. Sure I can turn in a sub 10-minute mile, but I can’t maintain that pace. Carrying 20 extra pounds can’t be helping. Two years ago I was running four miles in 38 minutes. Now? 44 minutes. I am an ex-smoker but I quit damn near nine years ago. I know that it takes 15 years to undo it, but you’d think my cardio-vascular health would be better than it is. Granted, I have not been able to get my speed back since back surgery.

My new problem is mystery quad pain and tightness I’ve never had before. I used to suffer from shin splints. Quality running shoes with plenty of cushion solved that. Now I wonder if my new running shoes are causing the quad problem. My new weight bench has a built-in squat rack and I am squatting more weight that I ever have. Maybe that is causing my quad issues. Who the hell knows? We’ve established that I don’t understand my anatomy.

Maybe I’m not sticking to anything long enough to get any real results. Getting enough protein on a daily basis is a constant struggle. I’m good once in awhile. But I forget my discipline and I don’t stick to it. I forget to make a shake, or miss the window to drink one. I don’t eat enough animal protein during the day because I don’t want the calories. The JYM Army and Stoppani tell you screw the calories, it’s about losing inches and fat and building muscle. I would say, “yeah, that’s great if you’re 25,” but the are 50-somethings in the group that look like professional bodybuilders. And for me, and my body, eating to fuel muscle growth and workouts is not what works for me. I just put on fat. I never shred.

Maybe it’s low testosterone. I have been tested. It is a bit low. Not catastrophically low, but lower than it should be. Maybe that is what’s hurting me. I read an article in the March 2017 Men’s Fitness that said people with sleep apnea shouldn’t take testosterone replacement because it could worsen the symptoms. It’s bad enough I thought losing 60 pounds would cure the condition only to find out I am stuck with it for life, only to read that something that would help lose weight, build muscle and provide numerous other benefits could also hasten my demise.

It seems like I am constantly stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think the added weight has not only hurt my running ability, but has also exacerbated my symptoms. Evening fatigue would be the most glaring. I have trouble getting up in the morning. During my last visit with the sleep doc, my CPAP machine was adjusted to help with that.

This week, I’ll try something new. I’m hardheaded I guess. I don’t know when or how to quit. But I do feel like for the first time since I started four years ago that there’s no point to it. That no matter what I do I’ll continue to gain weight no matter what I eat or how much I exercise. And that simply won’t do.

The Slippery Slope Has Been Coated with Grease

I have been on the fence with this one. I thought I could ride it out without feeling the need to articulate these thoughts but as events have unfolded the past few days in South Carolina and Florida, I can hold my keyboard no longer. I’ll cite sources as necessary but I may not need to because the source of my anger and angst is more visceral that literal.

I grew up on Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan. The latter made me a Republican.

On Nov. 8, 2016, I voted for a Democrat for president for the first time since I came of legal voting age. I voted for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush (twice), John McCain and Mitt Romney. Voting against party lines was inconceivable. Every now and again, there was a Democrat state legislator, U.S. senator or representative I would find appealing. I never voted “Republican” when it came to ballot initiatives, save one (and I’d vote opposite if I could do it all over again). I had to be one of the few registered Republicans in the state of California who voted for our embattled high-speed rail. I am proud to say I voted for Hillary Clinton. I was no fan of her husband, but I believed she was the best choice.

President Donald J. Trump ran as a Republican. He defeated Democratic challenger Hillary Rodham Clinton, 304- 227 in Electoral College votes. He continues to lie about the margin of victory, claiming it was the largest since Ronald Reagan.

During a press conference earlier this week, President Trump continued to falsely brag about his victory, and refused to admit inaccuracies.

Politifact reported on Twitter that President Trump lies 69.9 percent of the time. During the campaign it was 71 percent, while Clinton was proven to lie 27 percent of the time, which happened to be about average for your average president or presidential candidate. So, our president lies more than he tells the truth. More on that later.

From CNN.com

Trump claimed at a news conference that he had the largest Electoral College win since Ronald Reagan. When told later in the news conference by NBC’s Peter Alexander that information was false, Trump did not defend the argument, which he has made repeatedly in recent days, but said he was “talking about Republicans.”

“I was given that information,” Trump said, before quickly moving onto another questioner. “Actually, I’ve seen that information around. It was a very substantial victory. Would you agree with that?”

He spread blatant lies and misinformation throughout that press conference as he continues to demonstrate that he does not understand the hate that his election victory has allowed to fester across the country. During the debates, he was asked about Islamaphobia and he clearly didn’t understand what Islamaphobia is when he clearly practices it (as evidenced by the Muslim ban, not ban, yes, it is a ban, disguised as an Executive Order on immigration). He was asked about anti-Semitism and demonstrated that he didn’t understand the question or this term. He thought that the reporter, who happened to be Jewish, was asking him if he was racist or anti-Semitic.

The fact of the matter is, hate crimes rose sharply after Trump was elected. People of color, non-U.S. citizens, and people of non-Christian religious faiths have been targeted by bigots with graffiti and in-person confrontations. A Jan. 5, 2017 USA Today article indicated that hate crimes have subsided, but the indicated that the election and the incidents are not mutually exclusive.

Mr. Trump has escalated his war on the media. As someone who has worked as a journalist in one way, shape or form or another for more than 20 years, this is truly frightening. The First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees freedom of the Press. He continued that attack today at a rally in Florida. The term “fake news” is now being used to described legitimate news outlets when the “left” originally started using the term to call out Breibart, InfoWars and their ilk.

In fact, it was brilliant strategy by the Trump campaign. They co-opted everything the left tried to do to them during the 2016 presidential campaign. The “I’m rubber, you’re glue” strategy was unbelievably successful. “Fake news” has to be the most obvious example. However, while the Trump camp was screaming about Clinton’s use of a private email server, many of the president’s people do the same to this very day. He tweets from an unsecured Android device for crying out loud. Every time they screamed about the Clinton Foundation and “pay to play,” they planned to nominate Betsy DeVos as Education Secretary. Her family has donated $200 million to Republicans and several senators who voted on her confirmation, received money directly from DeVos and her husband. If this isn’t pay to play, I don’t know what is. The Republicans spent eight years obstructing President Barack Obama, and now they cry when Democrats offer any resistance to anything Trump and his merry band of fascists, racists, and xenophobes want to do.

The National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was asked to resign, quit, jump in a lake, and yet Trump defended him at this 77-minute rant disguised as a press conference. Which leads me down the Russia rabbit hole. I don’t have the bandwidth for this right now. There are smarter people than me dissecting this. However, whenever someone really gets close to convincing people who matter that a probe is necessary, Clinton and her emails get brought up again.

Every cabinet nominee has been tainted, either by being unqualified, unsuitability, corruption or a polar opposite viewpoint. Senator Mitch McConnell spent eight years obstructing Obama and his initiatives. And now he wants us to support Trump and the GOP. He’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This leads me to my actual point.

So many Democrats (elected officials and the citizenry) have been wondering and outright asking where is the Republican outrage. The short answer is that they don’t care. They don’t care that he lies, they don’t care that his cabinet nominees are unqualified and/or corrupt, they don’t care about the egregious things that came to light during the campaign even though they pretended to be mortified, they just don’t care. Why is that? I’m glad you asked. Because they are getting everything they ever wanted. They spent eight years waiting for Obama’s time as president to end so they could enact absolutely batshit legislation. Trump executive orders alone have been enough to scare the bejeezus out of me.

The folks who voted for Trump, for the most part, are happy with the job he’s doing, mainly because he is doing exactly what he said he was going to do. And that’s the rub, that’s where it falls down. I watched a story on the NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt where people in a town in Wisconsin were satisfied with the first month of the new administration and one man who was interviewed told viewers to give Trump a chance.

I’ll point out that Trump lost the popular vote by three million, although he and crackpot conspiracy theorists say that’s because millions of illegal immigrants voted for Clinton in what would be the biggest case of voter fraud in American election history. Just in case you’re unclear, that shit didn’t happen.

And every time you point this craziness out, someone pops up and shouts, “but Hillary…!”

Well, it’s been a month. And it’s been a shitshow. Journalists have been fighting the good fight. And I hope they continue to do so. Trump also managed to piss of the judicial branch. Apparently he doesn’t realize that the three branches of government are EQUAL. He has a rubberstamp congress, but the judiciary will not be bullied. Neither will the intelligence community, but that is a different ball of wax.

Trump, his administration and his supporters all claim that the resistance is undermining the president and what he wants to do. Good. They want news outlets like CNN to soften its coverage of the president. No. None of this is normal, none of this should be normalized, and the bullshit flag needs to be raised every time – every time.

Now, you might be thinking that after almost 30 years as a Republican, that I have completely gone over to the other side and become a bleeding heart liberal. I am a registered independent and I am on the side of truth and facts. If the president can’t admit that Obama’s inaugural crowd was larger than his and then orders a government agency to find photographs that prove his delusion, there’s something wrong with that. That’s minor compared to all of the other lies and falsehoods.

He calls the mainstream media and major newspapers “fake news.” He says the general public distrusts the media. I read the subtweets, I read the Facebook comments. The attacks on journalists and anyone who would question the president are unbelievable.

This article will tell you what sites are truly fake news.

What I’d like to now is this, for those people out there who distrust the news media, do you think CNN, MSNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, et al make shit up? Do you think they flat out lie?

So many folks believe the media is biased to the left. Maybe there is some bias for some outlets. However, I believe most journalists are telling truthful, factual stories. It’s what they were trained to do.

My broadcast journalism voice and diction teacher, Mr. Bob Runda, taught me that the newscaster is the subject matter expert (I think that extends to the news writer). It is their job to explain the world and world events to the viewer or the reader.

It doesn’t matter what you feel or believe – facts are facts. And the fact of the matter is, the GOP is trying to enact laws and policies that will slide us down that slippery slope straight into fascism. Our president and his spokespeople do not live in our reality. They lie and they get angry when you question them.

Read good journalism. Watch good television news (not panel shouting matches featuring Trump spin doctors). As Keith Olbermann ends every YouTube episode of his GQ series, “Resist.”

I Wrote a Book

scary-typewriterDuring the past four years, I have accomplished a great deal. I have also had several setbacks. From professional successes and failures to weight loss and injuries, I have run the physical, emotional and psychological gamut. I found my writing voice in this blog, I chronicled my fitness journey as I lost 60 pounds (gained 20 back), I regaled you with tales of the operating room as I endured two surgeries, including a major procedure on my back, and detailed my travel and running adventures. This past weekend, I accomplished a lifelong goal – I finished the rough draft of my first novel.

I have always wanted to write a book. Ever since I was a young student penning short stories for class creative writing assignments, I wanted to write a novel. Add that to my predilection for Gothic horror and vampire fiction and you have a recipe for my first book.

Writing has always come natural to me. I have never been afraid of a blank page or a blank screen. Writer’s block is something I’ve never known. I know that might make me sound like a braggart. Writing is not an easy thing, especially for most. But I won’t apologize for what I am able to do. I have been writing professionally in one capacity of another for more than 20 years. News, news features, sports, regularly scheduled columns, broadcast news and sports scripts, short stories, poetry  – you name it, I’ve written it. But I have never attempted a novel. Well, 13 months and 59,000 words later I wrote the last words of what I hope to be my debut novel.

ktpng.gifThere was no doubt in my mind this was going to be a vampire tale. I only had a character in mind. There was no outline, no character sketches and no real plan. But there was plenty of Tullamore DEW Irish whisky and Deschutes Black Butte Porter beer. I took days and weeks off. I even would take a full month off. Sometimes life got in the way. Sometimes the story got stuck. But every time I came back to it, I fell right back in and was able to keep trucking.

Now comes the hard part. I sincerely hope that I can get it published. I have been looking into my options and the traditional route looks to be daunting and expensive. Publishing an e-book to Amazon Kindle is free and supposedly easy, but having a physical book on the market in book stores is my first choice. It’s funny. I own a Kindle Fire and I love it. But I use it more as a tablet and for movie viewing than I do reading. I acquire paper books at an alarming rate – I just wish I was buying the time to read them.

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How in the hell is this a genre?

I’ve joined a few writers groups on Facebook, I’ve signed up for a few writers newsletters and I follow numerous authors, agents and publishing houses on Twitter. Hopefully, the connections I am making will assist me in going from unpublished aspiring author to published novelist. Regardless, as long as there are free platforms such as WordPress, I’ll keep writing and I hope you continue to read.

Throughout high school, I wondered what I would ever use later in life. Geometry, trigonometry, algebra? Social Studies? Meh. The drafting classes I wasted my time in? Science? I misguidedly wanted to be an engineer at one time. Earth science was fun, biology was okay, chemistry was too hard and I failed physics because my teacher was a wackaloon.

English.

That’s what I took away from high school. I never went to college. But I did receive an education thanks to the United States Navy and your taxpayer dollars. I hate math but calculators help with that. Social studies and history help somewhat when it comes to understanding the world we live in, our government (well, at least up until Nov. 8 of last year) and how to avoid the mistakes of our forebears.

Language.

Reading and writing.

We use it every day. At least I do. It used to be you couldn’t order from a fast food menu without the ability to read but now all you have to do is speak the right number for what you want. You can’t apply for a job, do your taxes, buy or rent a car or a place to live, pay your bills, deal with all types of insurance, shop for food, clothing household items and sundries without the ability to read and write. Hell, in this social media, iMsg, SMS texting society, you have to have some rudimentary command of language – even if it’s just a bastardized, emoji (electronic hieroglyphs if you ask me) form of it. You don’t even know you’re reading when you’re doing it. Try driving somewhere without reading. You can’t do it. Try shutting off that part of the brain that tells you to read words when you see them. You can’t do it.

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I could live in a bookstore.

I’ve developed a passion for it. I love words and language and sentences and phrases and prose and stanzas and paragraphs and quatrains and cantos. I love books and magazines and newspapers and web sites and blogs. I love a good pamphlet and I used to read the dictionary when I was a kid.

I have favorite fiction authors and non-fiction writers and newspaper columnists and sports writers. I know several published authors, some of whom I know very well and count as friends. I have counted myself among some, and now I hope to count myself among the published authors.

I’m not sure what my next novel-length project will be. I have a few thoughts. A childhood memoir perhaps? An old Navy buddy’s dad was a nefarious, larger than life outlaw (for lack of a better term). Maybe I’ll craft that story. The only limit is my imagination, which means there are no limits.

When my story is published, in whichever form, I do hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Time to Reset the Mechanism

cbe9caa6_9ecc00fd_ed08_4397_856e_026310109756Weight is a sneaky thing. It creeps up on you when you least expect it. It appears in the strangest places. It makes your clothes tight and increases your appetite. It’s fed by apathy, inattention and distraction. If you’re not careful, you’ll wake up obese.

Just over four years ago I woke up obese. A victim of lethargy, opiate entertainment, stress and fatigue, I had put on a disturbing amount of weight. After reflection and contemplation, I hatched a plan and was determined to rectify the situation.

Opiate

Noun

3. Anything that causes dullness or inaction or that soothes the feelings.

I figured out how to incorporate exercise into my schedule and I resolved to eat better and less. For the most part I was successful. I lost 60 pounds, shrunk several inches and had to replace my wardrobe with smaller, better fitting clothes. Throughout the process many people remarked that they were amazed that I was able to keep the weight off. It took 11 months to reach my first major goal and another several to reach 180 pounds. My lightest weight was 176 and I was quite pleased at 180. I loved the way my clothes fit; I had swagger and confidence.

hungry05This journey has not been smooth sailing by any stretch of the imagination. Two surgeries, including back surgery, shin splints, strained muscles, and numerous aches and pains have dotted the map along the way. Back surgery took place in May 2015 and I was able to maintain 180 pounds throughout the recovery process. However, when I resumed exercise, I began to gain weight. Slowly. A half a pound here, a half a pound there. I’ve never really got too far off track with my exercise. Sure, an injury or a strain here or there, work or family commitments knocked me off the path temporarily but never for very long. It’s always been my diet that derailed me.

From the day I quit smoking in 2008, nutrition has either been my enemy or my friend. I’ve read this comment in numerous places with a few variations and I believe it wholeheartedly – you can’t outrun or out-exercise a bad diet. In a recent Good Morning America story on Oprah Winfrey’s latest victory in the battle of the bulge, statistics reveal that many people regain lost weight after two years. Well, I’m right at that point and unfortunately I have regained almost 20 pounds from my fighting weight. The scale read 198 today. To be fair to myself, I just went through a one-week creatine load-in phase, which results in water retention. But, that’s only a few pounds.

The GMA piece is eye opening. The “lower third” graphic does not specify how much weight is regained, and implies “all.” I’ll never cross 200 pounds again, I’ll never climb back to 236, ain’t gonna happen.

Although this weight gain has snuck up on me, it’s didn’t take five years for me to notice this time. It took a few months. And I think I caught it in time. I have written previously that I was back in weight loss mode after discovering that I had put on a few pounds. It may seem a bit hypocritical for me to proclaim that now. But that’s what I’m doing. It has to happen. There is no not doing it.

So, what happened? How self-aware am I? Well. What I can tell you is that, starting last summer, I got complacent with food and alcohol. I have never been one to drink a whole helluva lot but between pool parties and entertaining, I ate too much and drank too much. This carried into the fall and into the holidays. Eventually, I got off track with running. You can read all the bodybuilding web sites and magazine you want and they’ll all tell you to avoid steady-rate cardio. They’ll all tell you the High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is better. They’ll all tell you strength training is the way to do. Some may tell you that some cardio is okay or necessary. Runner’s World magazine tells runners that they need strength training.

It’s all a racket. This one will tell you that you need 1.21 gigawatts of protein a day while they try to sell you protein powder. The other one tells you you need to run while they try to sell you Air Zoom Max Glide Trip-Its with mink uppers and gold soles to help you run faster.

I have covered information overload previously and it is real. I love the fact that information is available at my fingertips, but it can be a bit much to get through. What you have to understand is that we are all different. What works for me may not work for you. I am 47, I smoked for 18 years, I was obese, I have high cholesterol and triglycerides, and I have sleep apnea. My metabolism is my own. My body composition is my own.

My favorite comedian Lewis Black once ranted about health. His point was that we are all different. My point is that I need to go back and look at what I was doing when I was successful. And I need to adopt the philosophy that the nutrition I use to lose weight has to be my nutritional philosophy forever. That’s where this whole thing went sideways, that’s the rub, that’s where it fell down. The graphic on the GMA piece read “set-point” theory was the reason people regain weight. What does that mean exactly?

According to mirror-mirror.org:

“Set point is the weight range in which your body is programmed to function optimally. Set point theory holds that one’s body will fight to maintain that weight range.

Everyone has a set point and, just as you have no control over your height, eye color or hair color, you also have no control over what your set point will be. Your body is biologically and genetically determined to weigh within a certain weight range.”

Other sources indicate that it is possible to change that set point. And, I think, I changed mine for quite awhile. However, I had changed it for the negative. Fortunately I was able to change it again in the positive direction and that helped me keep the weight off for a year and a half. Now, my set point has changed again. My body wants me in the 195-200 range. I disagree. It is time to reset the mechanism and this time, I can’t forget one of my mantras. Your body doesn’t need as many calories as you think it does. Especially as you get older.

img_0471I have my own definition of “set-point.” I thought I was done. I thought I was at “set-point” in the game. One more and I win. You bust your ass to lose all the weight you want to lose, you get to your goal and you think you’re done. Or, you can back off. You think you can have that cookie, or that brownie, or a second piece of pie. I had to force myself to learn moderation. I lean toward the higher end and that has led to this weight gain.

I consume information on these topics and even though I don’t follow everything I read, I think some of this information has seeped into my consciousness and affects my eating habits. The exercise web sites and magazines will tell you about fueling your body, especially to work out. Then there’s the information about macronutrients and ratios of fat, carbohydrates and protein.

I think that if I lift weights and run enough that I’ll burn off what I consume. I must grossly overestimate how many calories I burn each day despite tracking this data with my Fitbit Charge HR. As I mentioned, I have not gotten too far off track with exercise in the last four years. Good nutrition and exercise are still an important part of my life. Yes, I indulge. Yes, I drink.

img_0464So, after trying to get back in the habit the last few months, I have had a great two weeks of weight lifting sessions. I haven’t missed a workout in two weeks. Twelve really good lifts in 13 days – Sunday is my rest day. I got a non-stop three-mile run in today. My last two runs were terrible. I can’t tell you the importance of good running shoes, and after almost 300 miles the spring in my Asics Kayano 21s finally sprung. After several days of shopping I finally settled on Asics Cumulus 17s. My first run in them was good from a shoe standpoint. They certainly solved my lower leg pain problem from my last two runs.

Now, today’s run was not good. I can’t lie. It was slow and painful. I guess that’s what I get for running the day after legs night. But it was non-stop and it was a good first step in getting back to my running regimen. The weight I’ve put obviously has an effect on my running. The weight also might be affecting my sleeping as well. Afternoon and evening fatigue have reared their ugly heads and I think the extra pounds are affecting sleep apnea events.

As proud of myself I am for getting the past two weeks done in my little gym, it is merely the beginning. All that swagger, all that confidence, and all that machismo I had? Gone. My competition with the poster on the wall? The poster has landed a few haymakers of late. I hit the canvass. But you know what?

I’ll get back up and I’ll keep coming.

Putting 2016 in the Rear View Mirror and Looking Toward 2017

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My new weight bench is already paying dividends.

For many, ringing in the New Year signifies hope and new beginnings. New Year’s resolutions will be made and broken, goals will be set, college football bowl games will be played and one night of revelry will herald the dawning of the first day of a new page on the calendar.

I rang in the New Year sick in bed in a hotel room in Denver. The flu bug kissed me long before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Fever, body aches and the chills dashed my grand plans for another Beatnik adventure in the Mile High City. That thing I do when I travel, you know, run? That went out the window too. The last thing I needed to do was go running on the 16th Street Mall in below freezing temperatures.

I wish I were in the mood to display piss and vinegar and let out a primal Howard Dean scream. I do not have the energy to proclaim that I’m attacking 2017 with resolve and fire. That’s not to say I won’t; it just means that fiery treatise on what I plan on making come to pass in the New Year isn’t happening today.

The New Year is also a time for reflection, both personal and worldly. It didn’t truly dawn on me until I watched CBS Sunday Morning’s Hail and Farewell how many entertainers who were important to me passed away in 2016. From my early childhood to my present state of being, these were the people who thrilled me on the big screen, made me laugh on the small screen, and provided part of the soundtrack of my life. Prince, David Bowie, George Michael, Gene Wilder, Carrie Fisher, Leonard Cohen, Garry Marshall, et al. I can’t recall a year in which we lost so many actors and musicians of note who meant something to me. Gene Wilder and Carrie Fisher hit particularly hard.

For me personally, 2016 was a year of ups and downs, a veritable roller coaster ride. It was one of the more challenging years of my professional life. The losses I suffered have opened a new door for me so I am not going to dwell on the negative. Although I am reflecting on the year that was I just want to put that part of the year behind me. I get to do something new and exciting. That’s the important take away.

So, what did I accomplish in 2016? I started a novel. I am more than halfway through writing my first book. I had hoped to have it done by now but as I am fond of saying, life got in the way. I managed to write over 40,000 words and I know how it ends, so, I just need to buckle down and finish it. I broke down and finally joined Twitter and Instagram. Yeah, yeah. Big accomplishments. I started a podcast and managed to figure out how to post it to iTunes. I dropped 41 blog posts – a few of them were teasers for the podcast. I got lazy toward the end of the year and recycled a few blogs from the year before.

I ran 303.87 miles in 2016. Not as many as I would have liked. I ran 319 miles in 2015. I am nothing if not consistent. I did manage my longest run ever – an eight-miler in Baltimore. I had a road trip run preempted by the flu just like 2015. I probably would have run more in 2016 but I got off track at the end of the year and didn’t run as much. I didn’t participate in any organized races in 2016. I normally just do two per year, but I decided to skip them this time around.

I went back and looked at my New Year’s blog post from Jan. 4, 2016. I’m actually a bit surprised at my optimism. I like to think of myself as a realist, but I’m sure most people who know me would call me a pessimist. I do know I am quite cynical.

Almost two weeks in to the New Year and all I can really come up with is fatigue. I’m tired. I don’t know why I’m tired. I’ve been putting my new weight bench to good use this week. I tried right after Christmas, but that damn flu bug derailed me. Running hasn’t been much of an option lately. I didn’t run in Denver because of the flu, and I didn’t run during a recent trip to Houston because a witch’s tit blew through southern Texas and I didn’t pack my cold weather gear. I had been over packing for my work trips and since I don’t employ a Sherpa, I was tied of hauling extra clothes and jackets all over the damn country. The forecast for Houston was also a bit understated. I didn’t expect Switzerland in the winter.

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My next pair of running shoes. I can’t wait to get back to running on fluffy kittens.

I am currently between running shoes. Almost 300 miles on my Asics Kayano 21s and the spring finally sprung. After some shopping around and trying Brooks and Nike, I have a pair of Asics Cumulus 17s in my future. I don’t dare run in the Kayano 21s again. My last two runs were horrible. Lower leg pain torpedoed those jaunts and I know damn well it had everything to do with the shoes.

Part of me is not too broken up about it. With the weather here in California I would just as soon become a submarine captain instead of a marathoner. We need the rain, but holy crap. If my 10-year-old starts building a boat in the backyard, you better hope you’re on the short list. I won’t have time to notify everyone.

I do not make New Year’s resolutions; I set goals. Want to know what they are? I thought you’d never ask.

  1. I have a major, important relationship to repair.
  2. I will finish my first novel. I am more than 40,000 words into a tale that I have spent roughly nine months crafting.
  3. This will be the year I find my abs. In 2013, I began eating better and exercising. I am still covered in fat. This will be the year I shed the fat and get defined. The goal is to exercise six days per week and run four. The former is more likely than the latter.
  4. I will read even more books. Two years ago I decided to read more books and I have accomplished that goal. I plan on reading even more. I have embarked on the 2017 Book Riot/Goodreads Read Harder Challenge. I have already accomplished one of the 24 tasks.
  5. I will participate in organized races. I took last year off and did not participate in the two 5Ks I normally run. I plan on trying 5Ks, 10Ks, and maybe even a half marathon. I do plan on running more in 2017. I’d like to get to 350 miles.
  6. I will blog more. I got lazy in 2016, especially toward the end of the year. Writing is therapy, writing is cathartic and I desperately need to get these thoughts and ideas out of my head. In addition to finishing my novel, I want to write some short stories this year too.
  7. I will expand my knowledge and consumption of Scotch. I do not pretend to know a damn thing about Scotch or how it’s made. I know that single malt is better than blended. I know that older Scotches are better. Funny, 15-year-old Scotch doesn’t do much for me. I like 12s and I like 18s. You do get what you pay for. That doesn’t mean you’ll be spared from my Tullamore DEW-fueled rants. I do like my Irish whisky.
  8. I’d like to grow my Twitter followers. I currently have approximately 245 Twitter followers.
  9. I also want to grow the podcast audience. The 17 of you who listen regularly are great, but…
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The first book down in the 2017 Book Riot/Goodreads Read Harder challenge – read a book you’ve read before. I finished this last week. I read it the first time in the early 1990s.

I’m sure I’ll come up with more. I have some professional challenges ahead of me this year and I am eager to tackle them. No, this will not be the year I get on Snapchat. It was a feat for me to add Twitter and Instagram to my communication repertoire last year. Snapchat is not a sandbox in which I wish to play. Maybe I’ll buy a domain name for the blog, maybe I’ll actually buy a WordPress template. Maybe I’ll continue to be a cheap ass and use as many free services I can.

I do pay for my Soundcloud account. Since I just love to hear myself talk, I ran out of storage space very quickly. I do have a new intro coming for the podcast. And a new podcast should drop this week. I hosted and posted 17 episodes in 2016 and I would like to stick to the once per week schedule. The first episode was the most played with 105 listens. The least was my Christmas podcast that got 14 plays. So, I’ll be looking for more ways to spread the word and get more people to walk around in my mind via this fun medium.

Listen on Soundcloud or iTunes. And if you don’t already, be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Okay loyal readers. I am looking forward to accomplishing much in 2017, I just hope I can find the energy to do it. I’ll turn 48 in June and hopefully I will have found my abs by then. I look forward to unveiling this Speedo body.

I’ll leave you with that image.