Big head. Balding big head. Overweight with a balding big head. Overweight with a balding and graying big head: My life in a few unflattering pictures

As a toddler, I might as well have worn a hat that said, “C-Section Baby” to remove all doubt from anyone who cast their eyes upon my giant head and thought, “How did mom birth that kid?” On second thought, I would have to wear a T-shirt–they wouldn’t be able to find a hat large enough for my gargantuan grape. My small mouth only accentuated the problem. Growing and keeping my hair longish helped for a while until I began to lose it. Then, after I got married, I began to gain weight followed by my receding hair graying. So the images below are not intended to impress. “There but for the grace of God go I,” I suppose.

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Is this 1963? Close. That is me on the left next to my sister, Michele. It is amazing my neck could suspend that gigantic head!

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The early 60s. After my grandfather got the donkey and told my brother to get off of it, we settled down and watched 8mm home movies on my forehead.

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Two hopelessly square conservatives and one swingin’ progressive in or around 1966.

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1968, Third Grade class picture. I nearly flunked out of this one–as I actually did First Grade. I hate to say it, but I credit my promotion to Fourth Grade to my teacher’s serious car accident. Mrs. Pickett was replaced by a long-term temp who had more patience with me. Geez, look at me! I was a hot mess.

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Eighth Grade yearbook pic, I think. Check out the wave in those bangs!

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Sometime in the mid-70s, we saw Rich Little at a casino in South Shore or Reno, Nevada. Rich Little inspired me to become an impressionist, but like everything else, once I found out it took a lot of practice and hard work, I dumped it. Leasure suits? Good God! Were my brother and I feigning senior citizens?

1975
Because my father built boats for a living, I spent a lot of time on the Sacramento River in the mid-1970s. This pic might be from Folsom Lake, though. What a ham!

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1977 trip to Alcopoco, Mexico. Here my brother and sister and I pose for a picture.

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Senior Year Homecoming. I rarely went to school dances. I was as out of step with my schoolmates–and my date–as that leisure suit was in the fashion of the day. I should have seen it coming! Sorry, Jerri.

1976
I spent two seasons trying to shoot pheasants from the sky. On the last day of the 1977 season, we bagged three drakes. I never hunted after that. I don’t mind eating fowl; I didn’t like the feeling I got standing over mortally wondered birds lamely flapping their broken wings, then having the unenviable task of breaking their necks.

1980
This 1979 lad is beginning to bald, but can still rock a Calvin Klien oxford, Newman jeans, and a YSL belt.

1984
Party time after hours at the Tower Theatre. The year is 1985 because that was the release year of “Cocoon.” That’s me on the ground, my boss Gerry above me, my best friend and fellow floor staffer, Paul on the couch. Randy and Anne are the attractive lovebirds. They met at the Tower, fell in love, got married, and became successful in the film business in SoCal.

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This photo appeared in the now-defunct Sacramento Union in the mid-1980s. It was the main image in an article by Mick Martin about college students opting to stay home. (And, presumably, leave the housework to their mothers.) The picture was a big hit with the ladies. You missed a spot, Mom.

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I think this was taken in 1985 during my one-year relationship with Judi. My best friend, Paul is on the left. I don’t know what party we all went to that required name tags.

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1986: The end of my five-year stint as part of the Tower Theatre floor staff. I got a job working for the State of California. When I was put on furlough, I came back and worked for a couple of months. This photo was one of the last nights working with the old crew.

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In 1987 one epoch came to a close, and another one began. I graduated from California State University, Sacramento. (The Ten Year Plan.) Here I am with my mentor William A. Dorman. The new epoch started within a month of posing for this photograph: I got married.

peteI’m not sure if this was taken in 1987 or 1988 since I lived with my future wife and her kid, Peter, for a year. Call it a test drive. Of course, it worked out swimmingly. This is one for the images from a photo booth at either the Pizza Hut or the Time Zone arcade across the street in Old Sacramento. I spent countless hours and quarters on Peter at the Time Zone. First Pizza Hut then, when Ely was a toddler Chuck E. Cheese’s. I was once a pizza snob before this time in my life. Now, it was whatever Peter and later Peter and Ely wanted no matter how shitty the pizza. Parenthood.

1989
In 1988 we bought our first house. Here I am amusing my father (kneeling) and my father-in-law with my sophisticated jocularity while we installed tiles in our new kitchen.

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Then came Ely. I think this was when I started to gain the weight. A lot of time resting, followed by eating, then more resting.

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1989, I suppose. Ely is young enough to ride on my back. I don’t know where we are, but I like the look on Ely’s face, asking himself what the heck is his big brother Peter is doing.

1990
Christmas 1989, I think. I’m trying to figure out my kids’ Christmas toys.

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So in 1992 I messed up and didn’t do any of the parental hours I was supposed to perform during Peter’s Magnet school year. I was told I could make it up by spending the night at Sutter’s Fort with my kid and his classmates (and other slacking parents). We had to rough it: wear period-looking clothes, even sleeping on the ground at night. It’s strange hearing total strangers fart in their sleeping bags! My job was the class photographer. See that twine around my neck? Below it dangles a period Asahi Pentax K-mount SLR with a 55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens. Very rustic! This is one of my many pre-smartphone selfies. They did that back in the day, no?

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In 1994/5 my wife and I took separate vacations. She went to Chicago and came back an ardent Cubs fan to this day. I went to the D.C. area where I stayed with our friend Mad Dog and became a passionate hockey fan–for well, about two years. (I’m not good at sticking with things.) I saw all the Smithsonian museums, and on the weekend Mad Dog and I  went to Gettysburg and Baltimore where we took in an Orioles game at the beautiful Camden Yards, John Water’s old apartment complex, and visited Edgar Allen Poe’s monument.

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My brother and I have always had to share birthday parties since our dates are only about two weeks apart. I used to think that was a ripoff. Since my youngest son, Ely, has a birthday within a month of my brother and me, my mother makes a big deal of celebrating “The Keaton Kids” birthdays together. I like the idea and other family members’ birthdays are celebrated in a like manner. Here is one of the dozens of Keaton Kids Birthday Cake Blowout pix my wife religiously takes. This one is from the late 1990s. Ely’s big brother, Peter on the right. Since his birthday is near Thanksgiving we celebrate his with Tommy Turkey’s death day.

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At the cabin owned by my parents and brother and his wife sometime in the 1990s. That’s my dad in the background probably saying something like, “Cut that selfy shit out!”

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Not sure when this was taken, the early 00s, I suppose. I’m either in mid-laugh, mid-fart, or just trying to pull my now gigantic ass out of the chair. This time was also Peter’s long, unkempt, “What’s a rubber band?” hair phase.

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We’re at the in-laws here, Peter, Grandma Peggy, Ely, Grandpa Bob, and me. This was probably taken in the mid-00s.

2006
Martial-arts leaves grabbing in 2006. My all-time favorite pet, Casey is giving himself a bath on the hood of my neighbor’s Beemer in the background. I miss Casey.

2007
2007 Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I remember thinking. Boy, am I going to lose weight in Mexico! Last time I was there (1977) I got a severe case of dysentery and things aren’t supposed to be much better as far as the water goes. As it turned out, we stayed at an all-inclusive resort that had it’s own water filtration system. Outside of the resort, I drank nothing but cerveza and diet soda, so I ate like a pig and hit my all-time high in weight: 235!

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We took an Alaskan cruise in 2008. Best vacation I’ve ever had. The cruise part wasn’t all that great. Like the previous year in Mexico, I pigged out on the ship. What else do you do on a cruise? It was all the ports of call that made the trip fantastic. I’m not a hiker, but this glacier hike was great! To all readers of this post: Go on a glacier hike quick and remember to take plenty of pictures so you can tell your grandkids what they were like.

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This one hurts. Yes, there was a time I liked Obama, and I believed in all that Hope and Change shit. The wife and I had left a restaurant in East Sacramento and noticed an Obama 2008 campaign office near our parked car with this standee inside. There was a short line for people wanting to pose with this chunk of cardboard. The time was obviously magical for more people than just me. Then the man was elected, and he called in the arsonists to put out the fire!

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I took this selfie in 2009. I was in a church in Elk Grove, California and about to join a Bible study session. In the 1980s the right wing hijacked patriotism, the flag, the National Anthem, everything short of apple pie. I never had a flag to put out on Flag Day, but after all this shit I never wanted to be misunderstood! So, no flag on Flag Day or July 4th. Also, conservative churches began to associate themselves with the Republican Party and its candidates. I found this flag hanging in a hallway near the room where the study was being held. What’s a flag doing in a church? Where does it say to worship Ceasar? This selfie was intended to be slightly irreverent–as if to say, “This the way I salute the flag, my fellow Christians!” But after posting it on Facebook, a few of my conservative friends dished out some patriotic tripe. “Hell yeah! America!” and the strange, “All you need now is a cowboy hat, and you’re Toby Keith!” Huh?

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Me and my wife’s little mistake. We are cat people, but in 2009 Ely, her baby boy moved in with his girlfriend. I suppose my wife felt she needed a replacement–something more responsive than a cat. Enter Vivian, somewhat equal parts labrador, beagle, “Canine from Hell.” We were not prepared for this kind of dog. Nor were the two trainers who kicked my wife and her unruly dog out of each of their training classes. My wife says she will cry hard when Vivian dies. Then, after a respectable time of mourning passes and we’ve vacuumed the last hair of dog from the property, she’s going to get a litter of kittens and become “That crazy old lady with all the cats.”

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Keaton Boat Group, Stockton Ski Club, 2009. I’m in the floppy hat talking with Dennis Payton, a long-time family friend. My dad is in his boat. For decades we never had a boat of our own, always taking demonstration models and clients’ boats out for family outings on the Sacramento River. In his retirement, my dad bought a used Keaton from someone who most likely bought it from my dad. Then he modified it into a fishing boat with the ability to troll. Still, he complained he had to settle for a small block. We’re talking about fishing, and my dad still wanted to go fast! I miss him dearly.

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2010: The Year of the Scooter. I got a Vespa GT 200L in 2010. I launched the blog BurgerScoot and rode around town reviewing burger joints and dipping my toes into the local scooter subculture. Turns out you really should know how to cook if you want to write decent, informed reviews on restaurant food. Alton Brown, I am not. I had fun and officially ditched a diet that I was unofficially failing. I discovered food trucks around this time. MY GOD, FOOD TRUCKS! Here I’m at REI where Krush Burger (nee Mini Burger) parked.

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In 2011 we vacationed in London, Oxford, Bath, and Paris. All fascinating places, especially London which I won’t mind seeing again, but I have found over the years that I like to stay close. Close like North America. Is Hawaii considered North America? What about Iceland? I’d want to go to those two places, too. Wait, Ireland, and Scotland! Oh, the Scandinavian countries, also…

2012
Springsteen at The Jewel, Oakland, CA., 2012.  Thanks to Annie and her brother Karl!

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One of the most exciting finds in recent years here in Sacramento is The Moon Lecture Series hosted by St. Mark’s Unified Methodist Church. St. Mark’s is a progressive-minded church and the Moon Lectures, which occur during the last four months of each year, features some of the most interesting progressive voices in the country. I have seen Morris Dees, Chris Hedges, Angela Davis, Michele Norris, and recently Jim Wallis (see below). I am very sorry I have missed past guests like Rev. William J Barber II, Amy Goodman, and Daniel Ellsberg.  Here I am with Advocate Dees, co-founder of the monumental Southern Poverty Law Center, doing my very best Jimi Hendrix impression.

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In 2014 I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a terminal illness–you’ve got it until your bones shatter like glass or you die of some other age-related disease, or you get hit by a truck. The closest thing to an Rx for the condition is staying limber. My physical therapist recommended yoga. It was one of the two most important pieces of advise I have received in my advancing years. The other being “Lose at least fifty pounds.” I’ve taken the first piece of advice very seriously and am struggling with the second piece.

2015 Rogers Centre Toronto
In 2015 we vacationed in Toronto. It is a beautiful city. Here I’m in the CN Tower. By the scowl on my face, you would think I knew that the A’s would get their collective ass handed to them by the Blue Jays later that evening. No, that’s how I usually look. If you get a chance, visit Toronto and don’t miss taking in a game at the Rogers Centre. It’s a great ballpark, even if the otherwise amiable people of Toronto turn into complete assholes when they are in that massive stadium!

2016 A's v Pirates
2016: A’s host the Pirates. Guess who won?

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Late in 2016 my mom and I saw Anthony Bourdain in San Francisco. It was a fun night. The chef turned author, TV personality, and activist along the way was funny, crude, and gracious. I realize this addition may come off as obligatory after hearing of the man’s death especially considering I never watched his shows on a regular basis. Still, his Kitchen Confidential is one book that I think of every time I walk into a restaurant, glace at a menu, take a slice of complimentary bread, and use the restaurant’s bathroom. Bourdain has been called one of the greatest storytellers of our time and one of the most influential cultural figures of his age.

2017
Last year Mom took me to a Giants vs Nationals game. One condition, though: I couldn’t wear my A’s colors. I couldn’t abide by wearing anything with the Giants on it, so I met her halfway and bought a River Cats cap. The Sacramento River Cats is our local AAA team and, alas, a Giants affiliate, so purchasing and wearing the headgear stung a bit. When I pulled the cap out of the shipping box, I frantically perused it to ensure it didn’t have any Giants markings or that “Stronger Together” bullshit slogan on it. I enjoyed the crab sandwich, a dugout-clearing fight, the Nat’s shutting out the home team, and the excellent company!

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June 23, 2018: My mother’s 85th birthday party at Raley Field, home of the Sacramento River Cats. My mom popped for a corporate suite! Sweet…
Another Moon Lecture at St. Mark’s Unified Methodist Church in Sacramento. This one on
November 2, 2018, with Jim Wallis: preacher, activist, founding editor of the independent news and faith magazine Sojourners. Wallis is also the author of many books including his latest America’s Original Sin. I went with my co-worker and friend, Tom. I think he liked the political activism of the man but wasn’t crazy about the Christianity part. To me, Wallis embodies the best of both worlds, and as you can see by the selfie, he’s quite a sport! Chris Hedges wasn’t so amiable when I asked for a picture together here a few years back.

You cried yesterday, I’m crying now

Thanks for your vote, ma’am. I’m crying now that Beto lost to a truly horrible U.S. Senator. More tears for Andrew Gillum’s loss to a bigot in the Florida Gubernatorial race. Stacey Abrams may lose to a complete asshole in the Georgia Gubernatorial.

Most of the Dems that won in the less-than-tidal “Blue Wave” are Centrists. Most politicos are now saying the only one who can defeat Trump is one more neoliberal Democrat like Corey Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren or Joe Biden. Jesus, how depressing! Anyway, thanks for this, David Doel. You and Naomi Klein are two of my favorite people from The Great White North.

I know there are some positive Firsts from the 2018 Midterms. AOC’s win now seems anti-climatic after her stunning win over Joe Crowley in June. I guess I’m too morbid to list them, so click here for news that is mostly good if you are a liberal.

Little Free Library Founder Todd Bol Dies

Little Free Library Founder Todd Bol

Has anyone who is reading this post ever seen a Little Free Library? I have! In Sacramento, there’s one on Second Avenue that I have passed on my way to my church and there’s one I just discover before publishing this post that is walking distance from my home. Though I admit I have never used one I love the idea. Below is a short obituary from WCCO/CBS Minnesota. Below that is an interesting short article of the Little Free Library from Mother Jones.

A Wisconsin entrepreneur whose little libraries made a big impact all over the world has died. Todd Bol created the first Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin, in 2009.

via ‘He Was Truly A Lot Of Fun’: Brother Remembers Little Free Library Founder — WCCO | CBS Minnesota

Here’s the one from Mother Jones:
https://www.motherjones.com/media/2018/10/recharge-25-little-free-library-todd-bol/

Also, here’s the Little Free Library link: https://littlefreelibrary.org/

Happy Reading!

Five Guys, another fat guy on a scooter, and the burning question that just might render all this burger scooting irrelevant

 

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Yeah, couldn’t find a closer spot.

As the subtitle of this blog suggests, I don’t review burger joints very often anymore. Also, now that I am almost as fat as I have ever been, I have made a couple of healthy half measures (I rarely stick to whole measures): cut way down on dairy and beef. The decision on cutting down on dairy is purely a healthy choice–I’ve replaced milk with vanilla soy and hope to go to almond or some other replacement for soymilk since I’ve been reading negative stuff on that milk substitute. I haven’t begun to look for alternatives for butter, cream, mayo yet. (So the cutting down on dairy is truly a baby step.) Cheese, what would life be like without cheese? My low-beef consumption decision has more to do with how the demand for beef–especially in America–is killing the planet. I would rant on about that, but instead, I’m providing one of many sources here if you care to investigate this very serious dilemma yourself.

While on this kick I picked up Rich Roll’s Finding Ultra. I’d love to tell my readers that when I was forty, I weighed 200 pounds (think heavier) and that within two years I was training for the Ultraman or Ironman Triathlon or the NorCal Spartan or even the less-challenging Sacramento Urban Cow Half-Marathon (nope, nope, nope, and not even), but at forty I was happily stuffing my face. I’m sixty and twenty quid past the two-century mark as my stressed scale tells me. I am interested in Roll’s book for some inspiration and information, that’s all. And since reading it I do think more about what I’m eating, but I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to personal fitness and healthy food choices. I love to eat, and plants are at the tippy-top of my perverted food pyramid. At least for now.

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Famous water tower with the new and controversial signage.

Last June folks from both sides of my family met up at Raley Field to celebrate my mom’s 85th birthday. It was quite an event. The matriarch rented a corporate suite and my brother popped for the refreshments. With beer bottles in hands cousins from my mother’s side and my late father’s side (presumably still thinking this blog was for the reviewing burgers) marveled at the fact that I had never been to a Five Guys. At one point one of the cousins whispered the driving directions to me as if she expected me to Uber it to the lauded grill and pick up a burger in between innings.

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As it turned out, there is a Five Guys much closer than the one the cousin directed me to–only ten minutes away from the park. So when I decided to check out what’s the big deal with Five Guys, I opted for the one in West Sac. From my house, I can use a circuitous, but pleasurable route: from my South Land Park house take the River Road, cross the Freeport Bridge and take South River Road up into West Sacramento proper then Google Maps the rest of the way.

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It had been a could of years since riding the River Road (California State Route 160). It is by far the best ride for a motorcyclist or scooterist in Sacramento. Winding roads that follow the Sacramento River down to the Delta. (If I was more serious about turning over a new leaf I would ride my bike there, but the streets are very narrow with no bike lanes.) If the rider doesn’t want to cut over the river at Freeport they can keep riding to the Old Sugar Mill, a place I have never visited, but seems worth checking out. A little further south and there’s Stone Lakes National Wildlife Refuge–another place this blogger has not seen but might be worth a look. Al the Wop’s is in the Walnut Grove area about a half hour from the end of Freeport Blvd and is known for excellent food and has some history to it. If this blog had remained a burger review, I would have covered it a long time ago. Keep in mind, all these places can be accessed much quicker by taking Interstate 5 South, but that’s not the point. The River Road is the event. The destination takes a backseat to the ride!

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West Sacramento’s not-so-famous water tower.

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Five Guys: In-N-Out on steroids. But is it better?

Anyway, if you have ever seen the colossal IKEA store in West Sac, that’s where the Five Guys store is. The first thing I noticed when I walked into the restaurant is that it looked very similar to an In-N-Out Burger. This is an important point–to me at least–because the cousins at Raley Field and every other burger booster I know who has sung the praises of Five Guys, inevitably compare the chain to In-N-Out Burger–not Smashburger, not Habit Burger, and not any other chain.

The menu is much bigger than In-N-Out Burger since we’re on the subject. There are far more items on the menu including hot dogs, veggie selections, and a BLT. There are far more flavors of shakes besides In-N-Out Burger’s traditional chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry.

I ordered something called a Bacon Cheeseburger, which was two patties, two strips of bacon and two slices of American Cheese. (It’s sad that the most boring cheese on the planet is called “American.” Perhaps the French or the German’s invented it and named it as a joke.) I also ordered medium fries, an Oreo Cookie Pieces Shake and a small Diet Coke. Before you think me a complete pig, I ordered the Coke as a shake chaser so I wouldn’t have that aftertaste one gets after drinking a shake. I normally don’t order shakes unless I’m getting the order to go.

So did it meet all the expectations? It was a mixed bag. First, the shake was delicious. I didn’t finish it. Nor did I finish the Diet Coke. The fries were excellent and quite possibly better than In-N-Out if my memory serves me well. If I wanted to kill myself, a blind taste test of all these items could be executed with little hassle since there is an In-N-Out Burger spitting distance from the Five Guys. The same with the shakes. Five Guys has an In-N-Out Burger beat on variety, but vanilla shake to vanilla shake–that would be interesting.

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This is what the burger looked like when I peeled away the foil. It’s as if after the line cook prepared it, the expo chef wrapped it, took a blackjack to it, and kicked it across the kitchen before bagging it.

The Bacon Cheeseburger was a mess. I damn near asked for cutlery to eat it. First of all, they have the labeling all wrong. The Bacon Cheeseburger was a double bacon cheeseburger and the Little Bacon Cheeseburger was not a kid’s bacon cheeseburger, but a large single-patty affair. (Think Quarterpounder, Whopper, et al.) In other words, a good-sized, single-patty burger. What self-hating fatass would want anything “little” when they waddle into a burger joint! Not me! So I bought a huge burger that immediately fell apart when I opened it.

So there I was, eating what tasted like a pretty good burger–with my fingers. Was it better than an In-N-Out Burger? Once again, I don’t know, but for sure it was too big. If I go to a Five Guys again, I’ll order the Little Bacon Cheeseburger. Ridiculous naming conventions! But why should I care, anyway? I can’t enjoy this shit anymore in my physical state and my age: while I was eating this stuff, I envisioned two people sitting across from me: my ex-doctor whispering, “Don’t love food that doesn’t love you back” and Rich Roll, the guy I have been reading. He’s just shaking his head and saying, “Man, you’ll never find Ultra the way you’re going, bro.”

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It was a miracle that the President of the Clean Plate Club didn’t finish all of the fries, the shake, and the soda. Maybe that’s a turning point. Or perhaps it was way too much food for even me to choke down. Burp!

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I used to think bacon was the greatest thing in God’s creation. “A Vegan’s bridge food,” as the joke goes. Now, I am just embarrassed.

If only…

 

Cold Brewing: Home and Away

The best cup of coffee I ever had–cold or hot–was a Kyoto Cold Brew at the Temple Coffee Roasters‘ coffeehouse at 2200 K Street here in Sacramento. It featured all the pleasurable notes I love in coffee without the acid quality. When I first began to drink coffee I had to accept the acid quality of the drink as a given–that the acid taste was not a bad taste, but just a part of the drink’s signature. Similar to the hurdle new wine drinkers clear when they accept the vinegar quality and move on to notice the features that bring the wine drinker back for more. I never got there with wine, though my sister-in-law from Sonoma County is still trying to pull me over that hurdle–a particular pinot noir she poured me once has come the closest to me completing that jump.

One quality about cold brewed coffee that the taster immediately notices is that the drink is nearly devoid of the acidy note they come to accept in a hot cup of coffee. I still like hot coffee–acidity and all, but the first time I tasted a Kyoto, it was everything I come to expect in a cold brew, but it was even smoother. I was sick on the day I was scheduled to take a class on Palate Development & Tasting that I wrote about in a previous post so I can’t give you a full report on the tastes and aromas I experienced with the Kyoto. Let’s say it had a certain jenesequa.

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Temple’s Kyoto cold brewers at work. Above the tall brewers, we see what has to be one of the most inconvenient bike storage solutions in the world!

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The Kyoto brews coffee one drop at a time.

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What you get is eight fluid ounces of the best coffee you may ever taste. Yeah, that’s not a typo–eight (8) ounces. I would prefer at least twelve, but this gourmet coffeehouse serves the drink without ice, and the glass is chilled, so it isn’t that far off from twelve-ounce glass with ice cubes, but I usually buy sixteen-ounce drinks. Oh never mind. This cold brew you are supposed to spend time savoring. Considering how slow the process is I can see why the small dose. And at about $4 a glass it is worth every drop!

This experience led me to investigate cold brewers for the home. The first thing I looked for was a home-scale Kyoto, but I couldn’t find one small enough for my operation and storage. Nick Dekker of Breakfast with Nick did a thorough post on how Kyoto-style brewing works. You should check it out here if you are interested in the specifics. The image below I lifted from his excellent site and as you can see the domestic Kyoto is still quite tall and is too cumbersome for my kitchen. Also, I can see me knocking this thing over–shattered glass everywhere!

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Home-size–I guess–Kyoto brewer.

So I binged on YouTube videos looking for more practical home cold brewers. I got to know Gail from Seattle Coffee Gear like she was my out-of-town wife and watched a lot of demonstrations of cold brew contraptions. I narrowed my cold brewer down to brewers by Hario, Osaka, Toddy, OXO, Bruer (more on this one later), and Takeya (better known for its tumblers and insulated sports bottles). I settled on Hario mainly because of the design, but also its rep in the coffee business. To my frustration, I couldn’t buy a new Hario anywhere online, so I ended up with the Takeya Cold Brew Coffee Maker because it was almost identical in design to the Hario.

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It finally arrives.

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Mmm, that looks tasty.

After I took the above two photos, I went to bed. Visions of ice-cold coffee beans dancing on my large head. I woke up in the morning got on my riding gear and blew my brand new cold brewer a kiss–promising I would brew my first quart when I got home that night. When I arrived back at the homestead that evening my son had decided he would pop the poor brewer’s cherry usings some Peet’s pre-ground coffee. Before I could taste the stuff, my son told me it was awful–blaming the bad taste on the pedestrian-quality of the coffee and the manufacturer’s fine grind. Indeed, it was horrible, but we slogged through the quart thanks to on-hand low-fat milk and chocolate syrup or vanilla soymilk (not together, mind you).

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Now, my turn: I gathered all the gear to brew a better quart.

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On my first try, I used my–whole bean–coffee: a blended Brazilian from Temple Roasters. I started buying this coffee because it is reported to taste like “milk chocolate in a cup.” Meh, my dull buds say it just tastes like good coffee, hot or cold. (Anyway, if I want milk chocolate in a cup I’ll fix me some chocolate milk.) The main reason I return to this product and not any of the other equally good beans the coffeehouse sells is that 50 cents of each bag sold go to the Sac Bike Park Project. Unfortunately, just before I published this post this a manager at the Temple coffeehouse told me this blend’s days are numbered. I’d better find a new bean!

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Add 16 tablespoons of the freshly-ground coffee to the infuser…

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twist on the lid…

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add thirty-two fluid ounces of cold filtered water, but my water is unfiltered. I used bottled water. Since my first try, I’ve been using unfiltered tap and not cold, either. I know, I’m quite the café philistine!

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Insert the infuser and lid, seal the top air-tight and shake well, then…

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refrigerate for twelve to twenty-four hours.

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I stopped the process after twelve hours. (I couldn’t wait!) I should have measured the amount of water, marking the carafe before I inserted the infuser. Naturally, the grounds retained some of the water, but the volume seems lower than I expected.

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Cleaned the filter was easy, but there were some models I was courting that had a more elegant way of dispatching the grounds. I suppose I should toss these grounds to our planters. I’ll have to talk to the boss about that.

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I sampled it in its concentrated state. A little too strong for me. The Takeya–like many of the non-commercial brewers–makes a coffee concentrate. One can drink it straight, cut it with cold water, hot water, cream, and play with the 1 to 3 concentrate ratio.

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It looks a little weak. There’s a couple of variables that can be adjusted: more brewing time and, of course, less water added to the original concentrated brew.

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I’ve had a few carafes of cold brew from my Takeya since that nasty false start and can say it was worth the purchase. Also, with the weather beginning to cool I may continue cold brewing and mixing the concentrate with (very) hot water when the weather turns chilly. My son, the ex-barista reminds me that cold brewing means not brewing with hot water–room temperature will do, you only need to watch your brewing times. Room-temperature brewing means I can heat my drink faster when I want a cup of hot coffee.

Still, the more I look at the $80 Cold Bruer Iced Coffee Maker Temple sells, the more I am intrigued: it has an adjustable valve that controls the drip. So the operator can brew the coffee one drip at a time, in a similar way the Kyoto brews. Damn! Why didn’t I notice that before? All I saw at the time was the cost-prohibitive pricing and that it was a little too small with too much glass. I should be happy with my purchase and move on, but now I want to know how a cup of coffee from the Bruer product tastes. Some people are never satisfied.

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Postscript: While tooling around the web looking for Kyoto-style cold brewers I found Kyoto Black by Justin Doggett–a pre-brewed Kyoto-style coffee concentrate. In the spirit of this post, I ordered one. After tax, the 1.5-liter pouch cost about $40. That’s about $5 a drink depending on how strong you like your coffee. As far as the taste goes, it was good, though not as good as the Kyoto I had at Temple, but that’s not the point. If you have never had Kyoto cold brew and none of the coffeehouses in your area brews it, you might think the price is not an issue. If that’s the case, you may get hooked. As for me, I’ll stick with my non-Kyoto style Takeya–for now, at least. Happy sipping!

“Minimum wage, we’ll chalk it up to that”

On August 10, 2018, Richard “Beebo” Russell, an overworked, underpaid ground service agent at SeaTac, stole an empty Horizon Air Q400. After seventy-five minutes in the air, he crashed on a desolate part of Ketron Island in the south of the Puget Sound killing himself. There were no other casualties.

The mainstream media reported this incident as a security failure because Russell was an employee of Horizon Air and as an employee, he had cleared the security perimeter that day. Airlines were also addressing the possibilities for psychological evaluations for airline employees. They scrambled to cover any and all the security holes. Only the alternative press wanted to discuss the subject of Horizon Air’s horrible working conditions and the airline’s poor work culture and to suggest that maybe the dehumanizing working conditions could have contributed to Russell’s decision to steal the plane he did not know how to fly.

In 2013 Alaska Air Group (the parent company of Horizon Air) lead the fight to suppress the City of SeaTac’s $15 minimum wage increase. The result was a confusing patchwork of wage minimums–many of the workers on the ramp, like Russell, worked for less than a living wage while all the employees working inside the airport were at the new $15 an hour minimum wage. (To be fair, Horizon Air employees get free or discounted airline tickets, which Russell appeared to take advantage of. Whether he used his stock options benefit at a $12 wage is doubtful.)

While most of what Russell said when he was up in the air talking with air traffic controllers and pilots was about flying the plane, not wanting to land, and that he had vomited in the cockpit and felt light-headed, he did give a reason why he stole the plane: “Minimum wage, we’ll chalk it up to that. Maybe that will grease some gears little bit with the higher ups. Maybe, uh. Yeah.” He also called himself a “broken man.” That last comment could have come from somewhere other than his work, but other past and current employees empathized with him.

Former Horizon Air co-worker, and friend, Robert Reeves explained to KIRO-TV, that Russell was one of the hardest working people Reeves has ever met at the airlines. Reeves also said that they were overworked and underpaid. “As the years go by and they are expecting more and more and more out of you,” Reeves said. “You could be at the end of your shift but they still want you to go work another flight.” Coincidently, this is what happened to Russell at the end of his shift on August 10.

The airline industry used to be heavily regulated and unionized. Workers were respected. But after forty years of restructuring and cost-cutting workers are now treated with about as much respect as a screwdriver.

Jacobin Magazine’s Joe Allen interviews writer Todd Bunker, who worked with Russell at Horizon Air. Bunker wrote a guest editorial for the Seattle alt-weekly The Stranger. The short interview for Jacobin’s blog is linked below.

On August 10, a Seattle-area airport worker stole a plane and crashed it, killing himself. Because his working conditions were so miserable, his former coworker says in an interview, the act wasn’t a complete shock. Getty Images The US workplace produced another devastating act of worker violence on August 10, when Richard Russell stole a…

via “Something Needs to Change” — Jacobin

The Bitter Incongruity of Old Man Problems & and the Triumph Bonneville in the Window

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Mike, my now retired scooter mechanic, once told me, “Most of my customers have owned a bike (motorcycle) sometime in their past. They are usually the ones who later buy a scooter and stick with it. It’s the ones who started out on a scooter that usually step up to a bike.” I was inquiring of this dusty old Triumph parked among the scooters at the Barber’s Automotive, the place I used to go to get my Vespa serviced. Mike might have thought I was pining for something bigger, faster. I wasn’t. I was just curious. Even with its equal parts rust and dust, the old Street Twin still looked good–better than some bikes when they are on the showroom floor. But I am content being a scooterist, and yes, I have had motorcycles in my past, albeit that was forty years ago and none of them were Triumphs. I have to admit I have a love for Triumph motorcycles. Any model will do, but I have an affinity for Bonnies. Will I ever graduate to a motorcycle? I seriously doubt it. Perhaps, if I someday win the lottery and become obscenely wealthy and can have a mini version of Jay Leno’s garage. Then I can buy me a Bonneville. I would probably take it out about one-tenth of the time I ride. The other ninety percent of my riding time would be split between a half-dozen or so new and vintage Vespas and Lambrettas. Even with my Triumph’s low odometer value, it would hold a special place in my garage. The spot that would remind my guests and me that I’m man enough to straddling a Tramp, but confident enough in my sexuality to prefer riding scooters most of the time.

Not everybody understands my love of the scooter over the cruiser or the sportbike. While receiving a food delivery at home one Saturday afternoon about five years ago, I was going over the invoice with the driver. He was a formidable looking guy, over six-feet tall with forearms the size of my calves. He had on black jeans that had seen plenty of action, tucked into knee-high steel-toe, black boots, and a waffle thermal shirt I would call heather but don’t tell him that. The sleeves of the shirt were pushed up revealing some busy, thick black tats.

At one point he gazed over the motorcycles in my garage: a Kawasaki Vulcan 800 Classic cruiser, a Suzuki SV650 sportbike, and a Vespa GT200L scooter. He told me he had a Harley Hard Tail and rode with an MC (Motorcycle Club–I don’t remember which one). I swallowed hard knowing what was coming next. He asked me which bike was mine, implying, I’m sure, the cruiser or the crotch rocket. I told him the scooter was mine. I finished the self-castration by saying that my son rides the Kawasaki and my wife rides the Suzuki. “Oh come on, man!” He exclaimed backing up a half-step as if he was afraid some of my pussy would rub off on him. I wish I could remember exactly what he said next, but it had something to do with being a man and “representing” or something like that. As if I had a duty to let everyone know who had the stones in this house or on the road. Before the delivery was finished my son and wife can out to the garage dressed for a very rare weekend spin together. They mounted their rides and took off leaving the Vagina GT200L there with its cuckold owner and an intimidating, Harley-owning, truck driver. The guy then handed me the clipboard and shook his head in a half-mocking disgusting manner. This guy was what I would call a typical Harley rider or at least a typical motorcycle club member. He had a very narrow idea of how masculinity should be exhibited and that there is no room for a feminine element for anyone with a Y chromosome.

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Only James Dean could make sitting on a front fender backward look somehow cool.

It’s true that Harley-Davidson has one-uped Triumph and all other motorcycles in the macho department when the manufacturer is closely associated with tough-looking MCs–especially the 1%ers, but in the youthful macho/stylish department, the Triumph is matchless. Hell, Paul Newman rode a Triumph, for Christsake! You know, the guy in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid who opted to pick apples with Katherine Ross rather than half sex with her. Triumphs have always conjured up youth, freedom, and a fair enough amount of machismo. “Tramps” as my dad and others used to lovingly call them are without a doubt the coolest motorcycles on the road. My father rode a Triumph, and so did my uncle–the sexiest, manliness man I ever met. I’m not sure about my uncle’s ride, to be honest. I’m saying he rode a Triumph for the story for convenient continuity, but my uncle may have actually ridden a BSA–which were nearly as sharp as Triumphs, but the now-defunct motorcycle company’s product has been relegated to vintage-bike collectors’ objects.) I can’t find any pictures of my dad and my uncle on their Triumphs. The only vision I have of that is contained in an 8mm home movie of my dad and uncle wearing their badass black t-shirts, Newport soft packs sticking out their breast pockets, cigarettes dangling from their lips as they manhandle their top-heavy thumpers through some dunes. Neither of them looked very graceful, but there is plenty of machismo between the two of them! A few years later my dad would get into two-cycle dirt bikes. He would show far more finesse in the dirt with these lighter bikes, winning himself an impressive trove of trophies to go with his boat- and car-racing trinkets.

Perhaps my dad and uncle got the idea to ride Triumphs from the movies–there sure were a lot of examples of cool guys riding them. My dad was in Marlon Brando’s and

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McQueen in “The Great Escape”
James Dean’s generation who rode Triumphs on screen and (at least for Dean) off. But my dad seemed to have the highest degree of respect for Steve McQueen. McQueen raced cars and dirt bikes and in The Great Escape did virtually all of the tricky motorcycle work short of the famous jump and spill which. Due to insurance regulations, his off-road racing buddy Bud Ekins performed those stunts. The motorcycles used were not the historically correct BMWs, but more nimble Triumphs. McQueen indirectly sold a lot of Triumphs. Triumph Motorcycles Ltd. returned the favor and named apparel and even one of their motorcycle models after him.

So Triumphs are closely linked to men like James Dean, Steve “King of Cool” McQueen, and, on a personal level, my dad, and my uncle. I might enjoy riding a Triumph Bonneville, Scrambler, or Street Twin, but I wouldn’t be forwarding the brand any, and that’s okay. My love of Triumphs is more of unfulfilled love–a shiny object in the window I look upon from time to time with a distant longing. So, when I literally saw a gun-barrel grey Triumph Bonneville T1200 in the window of the store where I buy my calcium and vitamin D (pills I’d rather not take, but I need to because of my old age) the irony stung a bit. And, with return visits, it is the sting that kept on hurting.

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Bob Dylan–a Triumph owner–could have drawn me to a Tramp, but I had just sold my Yamaha for a car when I “discovered” Dylan. Here, in this famous photo, he is representing the brand.

First, it reminded me of how unobservant I am. I have been getting my supplements at that place for a couple of years now, and it wasn’t until about six months ago that I noticed the 450-pound motorcycle in the room. When I first started buying my supplements there, I immediately saw the bright-yellow Fuji road bike hanging very high in the shop. The shop’s owner gave me a reason he hung the pricey road bike in the shop, but I quickly forgot. That’s fine, I guess. I ride a hybrid and have never felt I needed a road bike, so my envy was checked. I’m such a selfish bastard that if I wanted a road bike, it would have drove me nuts looking at that nice bike up there every time I walked into the shop. He introduced himself as Gabriel and said he recognized me walking my dog in our neighborhood. (It turns out we live on the opposite ends of the same street.) During a later visit, I even noticed the yellow LeMond Fitness spin bike right next to the still unnoticed Triumph. I never asked him why his spin bike is in the shop. I would like to think if I had that bike in my house I would use it, but you probably know how that story goes, right? It would end up a coat rack. I could see Gabriel moving the LeMond out of his house and into a store that pushes pills and potions that are or claim to be beneficial for you–like regular workouts on a spin bike have proven to be. That would be a good sales hook. But it took me months of return visits to realize “The Bike of My Dreams” was less than two feet from that spin bike.

I don’t recall why Gabriel placed his Bonneville in the window. I know he gave me a reason because I shot him a heavily filtered version of, “What the fuck are you doing with a Triumph Bonneville in the window of a supplements shop? Are you crazy? You could be riding that Tramp to work every day. There’s free motorcycle parking right across the street, too!” Whatever the reason he gave me, I recall thinking the answer was grossly insufficient. He was especially nuts ruining the iconic logo on both sides of the gas tank by adding black decal lettering “Total Body Nutrition.” I also wanted to weep when I saw he added in decal lettering “Est. 2015” on both battery covers. Sacrilege!

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My doctor. Just kidding. Heidi Klum on a Triumph.

While I could see he cared more about pushing Ginkgo biloba than riding his motorcycle I just felt pathetic. I was in this joint because my body is disintegrating and the stuff I needed from this shop was kind of the opposite of a Triumph Bonneville. The spin bike or the Fuji road bike would have been more appropriate window dressing for this kind of shop. The discovery of the motorcycle was a surprising slap in the face. Like going to see my doctor about my low T levels only to have Heidi Klum bust through the door on a black Triumph wearing sexy underwear and telling me, “I got your Testosterone test back. Not good. Poor little man. Well, I’ve got to go. I have a date with my boyfriend. He’s a stud, not like you.” and then peel out the door.  When I was first diagnosed with Low T and requested hormone therapy, my doctor at the time (a man about ten years my senior) told me that we should “enjoy this phase of our lives. The eunuchs lived for a hundred years. They were happy people…”

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Another image of McQueen. This time he’s on a Triumph Scrambler. No Low T here!

In the meantime, I started seeing targeted online advertising for products like Nugenix, HighT, Steel Libido, T-Up, T-Blast, everything short of Mr. T. WTF? Did my HMO sell me out? I incidentally got the soft sell from Gabriel when, by accident, I bought a bottle of Vitamin B Complex, thinking it was my calcium fix. (Same company, similar box color, and design.) When I brought it back for an exchange, Gabriel tried to sell me on the stuff. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it? You know B is the sex vitamin and for guys like us getting on in age we can use all the help we can get.” He also started in on the wonders of Zinc, Ginger, and stuff I doubt I could pronounce back to him if I gave a shit. I wanted to snap, “Hey, who’s the one treating a Triumph Bonneville T1200 like it was a box of ginseng tea?” I exchanged my unwanted Vitamin B for calcium and walked out glancing at the big, firm, erect, sexy, seemingly self-confident Triumph as I exited.

To be fair, adding the words “Low T” and “Overweight” as tags to this post will only intensify the targeted advertising. What can I say, it comes with the territory of being a whore for hits on my blog!

Some experts say that low T also brings on weight gain or is it difficulty losing weight. Yeah, I like that excuse! I am at one of my heaviest. I’ve long forgotten the post-marital epochs; times where I would mount the scale in my 53rd Street bathroom, my wife standing there to officiate the new high and offer support with a dash of criticism. I only remember one time when my youngest son was running around in diapers, and I knew the pregnancy and infancy of the new addition had brought on a lot of joy, but also a lot of food consumption especially late-night snacking. I also was becoming more sedentary than ever before. After the analog scale whirled like the tach on a revving Street Triple, the number rested on 222–like Room 222, the 70’s TV show that was a belated answer to To Sir With Love. I began sardonically humming the theme song during weigh times.  The only correlation here was that I felt as big as a room. I would love to inform the reader that this was the all-time heaviest, but I only got out of the zone about four times in the twenty-five years that followed: two times after vacations when I weighed in at a whopping 235 and two times I somehow, some way dropped slightly below two centuries.

My relationship with Gabriel and supplements is not all frustration. There is also some hope, albeit most likely false. I like to think while walking the back aisle of the little store I will discover something that will be the cure to my ails including my chronic weight problem. You know, a shaft of light from the heavens shone on a golden box beckoning me to pick it up. Alas, it never happens, but on one sad day, feeling the waist of my jeans tighter than usual, I blurted out in faux humor, “Is there anything in your shop that will make me skinny?” God, did I just say that? Take it back, take it back! Shit, too late. If Gabriel were brutally honest his reply would be, “Yeah, these magic words: Eat Less, Exercise More” but he didn’t say that. “Hey, I’ve got something for you,” disappearing from the other side of the center aisle. I walked around the corridor with dread, expecting some herbal weight loss gimmick in a pill with green tea extract or cactus. He hands me a book. I sighed with relief (at least I wouldn’t feel pressured to buy refills.)

He first called the book a loaner, which was a drag. I didn’t want responsibility for the book. Whenever this happens, I visualize bringing back whatever was loaned to me looking like a dog’s chew toy or with a conspicuous coffee ring on it. It’s not that I treat other people’s property like shit, I just stress over the responsibility. I planned to take it back to my cube glance over it. Take a picture of the cover (in case I actually liked it) then returned it to Gabriel before I accidentally dump iced tea on it or something. Just before I left the store, he changed his mind and said I could have it. That was probably a business investment towards a regular customer, but Gabriel is really a nice guy despite my complaining here. Regardless of his motive, his change of heart changed things with me and the book. I tucked it under my arm and thanked Gabriel and took off before he started chucking ketones at me or some other diet “solution.” Outside of the shop, I glanced once again at the Triumph. What the fuck is that doing there. What is the connection between a classic motorcycle and green tea tablets? The more I want to look at that beautiful bike the more it frustrates me. And hey, I wasn’t this fixated on Tramps until I saw the motorcycle in the window. I’m sure (I hope) time will pass and I’ll ignore the window dressing and stop looking up Triumphs online and how much they cost (too much, by the way).

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A look from the outside. Good god, those Jump Bikes are everywhere!

The book went from my armpit to my bag, then to the trunk of my bicycle. It wasn’t until I got home that I got my first good look at the cover: “You on a Diet” by Michael Roizen and [Dranatic silence here] Mehmet Oz. Dr. Oz?! The guy who is beloved by overweight housewives everywhere and hated by anyone who makes even the slightest attempt to research his latest “miracle” weight loss drug. The guy who, in 2016, was rightfully raked over the coals by Dean Heller and Claire McCaskill, among other U.S. Senators, during a Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation subcommittee hearing.

My wife has been railing against this guy for years for peddling snake oil. The fact that he is an M.D makes it far worse in her eyes. He’s in it for the cash, apparently. When my wife came home that night, I made the mistake of showing the book to her in the spirit of a joke. She wasn’t amused. After I told her about how I got it, she thought I should not patronize that store anymore. (I never got to the part about the Triumph in the window.)

Now nearly every time we are in a grocery store, she will point out the supplements section and tell me in a humorless tone, “You probably could get a better deal on your vitamins here.” Months after I showed her the book we were shopping at Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op. As we walked by what probably is the most expensive aisle of supplements in town she said, “Maybe you should buy your vitamins here.” Damn, women don’t forget! Yet I still buy my “bone pills” in Gabriel’s shop. I’m not sure why I’m loyal. I know there are a few places I could get cheaper pills while staying true to supporting independent shops. Maybe it is because we are neighbors and I want to avoid the awkward moments of running into him.

IMG_0674I finally got around to browsing the Dr. Oz diet book the other day. It is long-winded and speaks almost exclusively to women. I even looked up “Testosterone” and “Low Testosterone” in the index. (As stated above there is supposed to be some correlation between low T and weight gain.) No reference to Low T and only a few references to Testosterone, but exclusively on how it relates to women. I brought the book back to Gabriel, making sure to conceal the title on my walk to his shop to prevent any cracks like “It’s not working!” from any smartasses on the street who thinks a fat guy holding a book that says “Diet” on it is fair game. When I placed the book on the counter and said in so many words thanks but no thanks, it’s more of a diet book for women he understood. I then turned to the Triumph and asked why the iconic bike was in his shop window. He told me he is a collector of motorcycles. He has a couple Hondas one or two other bikes that I can’t recall and a Ducati. A Duck? Damn it: “the Ferrari of motorcycles.” He told me placing the Triumph in the window is for business purposes. He also added, “while the Triumph depreciates in bluebook value it increases in collector’s value because it’s a Triumph.” I wanted to scream, “Yeah, but it’s in the fucking window of a supplements store! Deface one of your lousy Hondas and put it up there among the tablets of fish oil, chromium, and Omega-3 Fatty Acid, but not your Tramp”! He continued that placing a motorcycle in the window is a tax write-off. “Macy’s and the other big department stores have been doing this for years and saving money.” Okay, so you’re a shrewd businessman, but Macy’s isn’t placing Triumphs or Ducati’s for that matter in their windows. (Well okay, I haven’t been to every department store in the U.S. Maybe some stores do, but they are faceless, impersonal corporations. You are a cyclist, man! Act like one!) He, apparently, doesn’t think of the bike the way that I do.

We continued to chat about motorcycles then he wanted to talk about our neighborhood and local real estate prices, how he recently set up a trust fund, and how trust funds are better than wills. He’s talking about death and I’m stealing glances at the gun barrel grey Triumph Bonneville T1200. He says he sees me walking my dog from time to time. “She’s slowing down now, isn’t she.” “Yes, my dog is a senior citizen, just like me,” I reply sadly. One day he might quit the elderly talk and I’ll see him riding a wheelie down our street on that Ducati of his. Or better yet, after freeing his Big Twin from its Protein Shake Purgatory, I’ll see him ride by my house (sands the advertising on the tank and battery covers) when I’m watering my lawn in my old-man shorts. Just a passing glance. Pull in the clutch and let’s hear that throaty rev! Yeah, that’s the Elixir of Life!

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A final pic of a Bonnie in front of my gym. This one someone is actually using! Damn, I should have used a flash. Oh, but wait, look how you can see that brightly lit Jump Bike! Wow, the sun is indeed shining on those red bikes these days! Mercy!