Battle Royale

via Daily Prompt: Conquer

Ruhe und Kraft durch Yoga

I’ve been practicing yoga for more than three years. It started as a Rx by a physical therapist who said there’s no cure for my osteoporosis, but keeping limber will keep me off ibuprofen and the occasional opioid. She was right–barring the stiffness from binge watching The Walking Dead, Orange is the New Black or BoJack Horseman I’m pretty much alway limber thanks to four hours of yoga a week.

And this is my own personal jihad: my laziness, and gluttony versus my life on the mat.It is a mortal struggle. In some ways, literally. Watching TV for three or four house straight.and/or eating way too much pizza versus my time on the mat when I fight to win back some of the ground I lost. Since I think I spend more time doing the two things that are killing me than the time I spend on the mat sweating it out, it is usually a losing battle. There’s also time–the ultimate killer.

It’s all about what element will conquer my body on a given day. This day, Sunday, May 19, 2017, goes to the Axis of Evil: an hour of TV, way too much ice cream late in the evening, and just the plain fact that I have much fewer days on this planet than the time behind me. Tomorrow is another fight.

 

Namaste.

 

Staying out of the path of the tornado

via Daily Prompt: Luck

“Luck: a force that brings good fortune or adversity.” – Merriam-Webster

“May The Force be with you.” – various Jedi knights

I like the idea of luck being a force–like it has power and that it even can move. Like Andy Dufresne says in Shawshank Redemption: “Bad luck, I guess. It floats around. It’s got to land on somebody. It was my turn, that’s all. I was in the path of the tornado. I just didn’t expect the storm would last as long as it has.”

While I could bitch about how things have never come easy to me I’ll spare my readers the laundry list of gripes and just let them know that it took me four (or was it five?) times to pass my driver’s test, multiple times to pass the written motorcycle test, and decades later, when I wanted to ride a scooter around and needed a new Class M, I failed the final riding exam crashing twice, cracking my ribs.

With that said I can’t say how many times on my bicycle and my scooter I have had close calls, but had the good luck to be a little to the right or left of a pot hole I didn’t see, or ten seconds ahead or behind a car the didn’t see me. And that’s just talking about my good luck while commuting. I think it is fair to say that with all the little things I have to complain about The Force is definitely with me.

 

The latest (but not last) face lift

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Notice my blog changed, again. I’ve been working in an IT environment for about twenty years and have had blogs for nearly half that time and I am still an idiot when it comes to most things computer. I’ve also been a Christian for some years and have began to embrace some yogic philosophies as well and I still look at other people’s blogs and wish mine looked like theirs. Anyway, enjoy the latest face lift, but don’t get use to it.

Victoria, Cindi, and my ongoing quest for the next uber barber

Classic Barber PoleOkay, why does a balding guy get so worked up about having a great barber? It’s a valid question. I used to go to a hair stylist. You know the kind with the sinks and the line of hair products. I paid good money for someone to wash and cut my hair. The price kept going up (inflation) while the job kept getting easier (less hair to manage).

At one point I just said the hell with paying way too much for way too little work and I started looking for a barber. I had done this before. There were the few times I got my haircut by student barbers at a now-defunct barber college down the street from where I work. That was a bit of a zoo and the last straw came when the black student barber who practiced on my hair gave me a fade.

I tried the sensible thing for a balding man and tried the local Supercuts (or was it a Great Clips?), but the barber (I guess they fancy themselves as stylists), ran over my wart. It didn’t matter if I walked into the shop with my finger pressing on it like I was going to say, “Okay, all the TRESemme in the bag or the fat guy gets it.” No, somehow, she managed to run over it with her electric clippers.  How can something so small as an ugly wart bleed like that? I’m surprised the manager didn’t call the EMTs.

The second and last time at the barber-in-a-box joint I got a razor burn. She didn’t appear to notice. Anyway, I wasn’t keen on these kinds of places in that I try not to give corporations my money though it is an uphill battle. It was a fluke that I found Victoria.

There was a barber across the street from where I work. He worked in an old-timey barber shirt–white with the tunic-style collar and his name on it, Jose. Jose was a nice guy and his shop had a lot of historic Sacramento baseball images like the Solons and Joe Marty drawings and photographs–nice touches. It was when I came back for another trim that things changed forever for me.

Jose had a customer so I took the empty seat next to him. The barber’s name was Victoria. She was a large, sweet lady with fair skin and ginger hair and she did a good job. Then, when all the barber and stylists would have ended it she started on my shoulders.

I was initially shocked. I nervously looked over at Jose, but he was starting on a new customer and might have been a little pissed that I hadn’t called him for an appointment. I looked in the large mirror in front of me thinking she might be winking at me, but no she was in deep concentration. It was at this time I realized I had hit the jackpot. Victoria was giving me a serious massage–kind of like the kind I got from my wife back when we were younger.

From my shoulders, she worked her way to the base of my neck, then up my neck to my scalp. The scalp massage was incredible. She finished with a kiss on the top of my head. I dismounted the chair a new and very spoiled man. She got a big tip. I returned to Victoria a few times and got the same treatment and she got the same tip.

Then one day I walked in and Victoria was gone. In her place, some kid wearing all black, with jet black-dyed hair looking like a very young Robert Smith from The Cure was behind what used to be Victoria’s chair. With obvious disappointment in my voice, I asked, “Where’s Victoria?” The kid (I’ll call him Robert) said, “She is now a licensed massage therapist.” Jose looked vindicated. “Yeah, I guess you can’t have Victoria cut your hair or whatever you call that peach fuzz, you Judas,” he looked like he was thinking behind his smile. As it turned out Robert had a band–surprise! Besides the skill with the clippers, a good barber is a very good listener. As for Robert, I didn’t get a word in edgewise–as if I wanted to. I did learn; however, that he just “laid down some tracks” with his band recently and “had some gigs lined up blah, blah, blah.” Jesus, get me out of here!

Obviously, I had to move on, but I was now spoiled–haircuts were more than just cutting hair I could get a massage, too! I began my quest for Victoria’s replacement at Hot Rod’s. A place a fellow worker told me about. He spoke of deep head massages and shaves–shaves! Why didn’t I think of that! I could use a good shave now and then. However, when I went there and even dropped my friend’s name I received a respectable haircut, but the experience was nothing spectacular–no scalp massage, and the guy told me he had an appointment so no hot-towel shave. I tried other shops, but I got nothing, but what most people would expect from a barber. Perhaps the “Victoria Experience” was once in a lifetime deal.

One day I was walking to a cup of coffee through Cathedral Square when a young woman gave me her mother’s business card. “She cuts hair the old fashioned way. She uses a straight edge, hot towels, shoulder massages, and”–“Wait, you had me at “shoulder massages” “Uh-yeaaah,” she replied, re-thinking her sales pitch in the wake of visualizing her mother rubbing this old man’s shoulders. We played tug of war with her mom’s card and I won!

It took about a year for it to happen, but her mother, Cindi, got her own barbershop and I was one of her first customers. I might have been a little too excited about getting a shave and a haircut because when I showed up Cindi’s boyfriend was there facing me the whole time. It turned out Bobby was cool and I think I spent more time over the next couple of years talking with him than with Cindi. I never got up the nerve to ask if Bobby had a job–he was at Cindi’s shop so often.

This is where the story is supposed to end: with me spoiled once again and becoming friends with my barber, too. Providence would step in, though, and in early 2016 Cindi had to move to Iowa. I believed her mother lives there and she might have had to move back there to take care of her.

Once again, I’m looking for a new barber. I’ve had a few since Cindi. All of them have been good. The last one–Rico–is a boxer and a trainer of boxers. He could be a long-term one for me. I want to know if he does shoulder massages, but when I look up at the famous poster of Cassius Clay standing over the KO’d Sonny Liston I think again.

I am aware that here in Sacramento there are barber shops that offer a lot of what I’m looking for, but each one of these shops itemize the tasks so that getting a hot towel shave, haircut, and (if listed) a scalp/shoulder massage is like eating out dim sum–oh it’s great experience, but when the bill comes you’d wished you’d settled for Panda Express.

So what’s the point of this post? Does my reader give a shit? Well, you’ve come this far with me. Unlike my wife and my sons who just want their damn hair cut, I want something more from an otherwise dull, but essential task–especially now that there is so little left to work with. Also, I like being pampered. It’s the same reason why I get a pedicure once a month. I like being waited on and I’ll pay the extra scratch if someone will do a good job at it. And if the barber and I can talk about music, politics, faith, or even boxing–something I know precious little about–it makes the experience sweeter.

Guns and boba straw-worthy milkshakes

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I visited Cookie’s Drive-In over the weekend. It’s a hamburger stand here in Sacramento known for its milkshakes and its unconventional hamburgers (e.g. ostrich and buffalo). The burger and fries I had were fine—up to Cookie’s high standards. They reminded me of what has become an urban legend here—that Bill Clinton visited this drive-in in the 1990s. Ordered his food, then came up short on cash. I don’t know if it’s true. I tried and failed to verify the story when I first came here years ago. Now, I just like the story and don’t want anyone to ruin the story for me.

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A serious straw for a serious shake!

I thought about doing another Burger Scoot review and then–taking a luscious drag from my Coffee Toffee milkshake–thought why not just enjoy the shake, Jocko! These are the kind of shakes that require boba straws: the big ones that can suck up chunks—like the boba in Thai iced tea. BAM! I just sucked up a big chunk of toffee.Sucking up this milkshake reminds me of firearms and how the two incongruous things are inexorably attached to one another in my mind.

Recently, I was invited by my childhood friend, who I haven’t seen for years, to go discharge some firearms and drink milkshakes. I wanted to see my old friend that I haven’t spoken to face to face since the late 1970’s and catch over a milkshake. The gun part I wasn’t that crazy about, but that was the thing he really wanted to do. Mike is an interesting guy though we couldn’t be more different: He is a follower of Alex Jones; I am a Democratic Socialist. He thinks Donald Trump is a “great man” who will most likely be assassinated because we don’t deserve such a great man to lead our country”; I think Trump is a proto-fascist, but also believe that the Democratic Party is loaded with Neo-liberals that refuse to address the problems of working-class people. In a nutshell: I’m with Bernie. He loves guns and (I think) does not believe in gun control; I think guns and their users should be controlled the way drivers and their vehicles are.

Mike is an interesting guy though we couldn’t be more different: He is a follower of Alex Jones; I am a Democratic Socialist. He thinks Donald Trump is a “great man” who will most likely be assassinated because “we don’t deserve such a great man to lead our country”; I think Trump is a proto-fascist, but also believe that the Democratic Party is loaded with Neo-liberals that refuse to address the problems of working-class people. In a nutshell: he’s with Trump, I’m with Bernie. He loves guns and (I think) does not believe in gun control; I think guns and their users should be controlled the way drivers and their vehicles are.

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Should say under Gun Club “No milkshakes served.”

When the day came, he picked me up and we drove to the gun range. The first thing I noticed walking inside the gun range building was there were no areas where I imagined we would have our milkshakes—just racks and racks of guns, ammo, sites, holsters, binoculars, and other things needed to start a war. The next thing I noted is that all of the employees wore sidearms. WTF! Mike brought in with him the long black case and placed it on one of the glass counters in front of an attractive young female wearing a sidearm. (Sexy!) Mike opened the case and in it were three pistols and a rifle, like he was Jason Bourne. Mike paid for both of us and I was instructed to watch a gun safety video on account I was not a member or that I didn’t have a license—I forgot. I watched the video, then we proceeded to the range. Still no milkshakes in sight.

Just a side note for those who think I’m just a socialist pussy: I have fired weapons before. Back in the mid-1970s, I fired a few rounds from a .38 caliber revolver into a felled tree when my dad, brother and I were camping with a family friend. At around the same time, for two seasons my father, brother and I hunted pheasant with Remington 12 gauge, pump-action shotguns. Besides shooting at pheasants we shot at clay pigeons. Finally, during this macho phase, I went duck hunting with a friend. Both my pheasant hunting days and the nightmare of that single duck hunting outing are fleshed out in another blog.

In the range area, we were given earmuffs. (Actually, I had to look up the name of the sound-suppressing doohickies. I was shocked something related to shuutin’ guuns would have such a powder puff name!) Mike stopped at a station along the range and opened the case. He pointed out each firearm to me: a .22 caliber rifle, a .22 caliber pistol, a 9 mm pistol, and a .45 caliber pistol.

We started with the rifle, moved to the .22 pistol, then to the 9 mm, and finally to the .45. The rifle and the 22 pistol were easy to use. So was the 9 mm. My aim was poor, but at least I hit the targets—most of the time. I don’t quite understand what is the point in firing a .45: it’s load, it has a horrendous recoil, and, ultimately, my shots were way off.

Two things bugged me while Mike was discharging his .45: why would someone create a firearm like that and why were the targets shaped like a human? The two answers are eerily harmonious. The .45 was designed to put a man down. So are the other caliber guns, but the .45 will keep the man down. The targets are shaped like a human so the operators of the firearms can aim for the head or heart center—putting your target down–for good. Fun times at the gun range!

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Mike seems to like head shots. 

Finally, we are done and in the McDonald’s drive-thru line and all I can think of is milkshakes. Mike keeps telling me he would love to do this again. (I found out later he has asked others if they would come along. I guess he hasn’t had any takers.) Mike stops with the gun date offer and goes on about The U.S. Constitution and the Second Amendment. It’s at this time I notice his left thumb is actually a big toe. “Jesus,” I jump back like it’s contagious. He tells me how he lost it. It’s not uncommon for carpenters to lose digits in their line of work. I keep thinking that he shot it off, but that’s just me. I get my milkshake and begin nursing on it while Mike goes on about how great Alex Jones is. I want to tell him how nuts the Info Wars host is (noticed I didn’t link his site.).

The milkshake could be better—it could be a Coffee Toffee from Cookie’s, but it’s a mother’s teet to me among the guns and flying thumbs, and talk of “people being disappeared” and “Trump is great.” Mike’s alright, just a little too “foil hat” for my taste. Mmm, taste. I just received another toffee chunk blast. I won’t be going back to the gun range anytime soon, but Cookie’s, now that’s a different matter.

By the way, Cookie’s Drive-in is located at 5640 H St, Sacramento, near California State University, Sacramento. The phone number is 916.457.8353. I couldn’t tell you where the gun range is.

Train in Vain

I burned most of this workweek in all-day training classes, learning a computer program I will virtually never use. But hey, it’s software licensing! It rivals accounting as the least exciting subject on the planet. Truth be told, I’m impressed with the three people in my cubicle farm that do the work.

I’m surrounded by software management analysts and from the chatter flying over my cubicle walls the subject sounds like a very complicated and labor-intensive job, and—like accounting—mercilessly tedious. I would never want to do it which begs the question why my boss insists that all of us must attend these classes. I’ve already forgotten how to do most of the tasks the program is designed to perform and it has only been one day since the third and final class.

I kept awake those days with espressos, cappuccinos, and ridiculously frequent exits where I would walk briskly through the hallways stealing from the reception area mini-size Hersey’s Mr. Goodbars, Krackels, and Special Dark Chocolate bars (and there’s nothing “special” about the latter) each time I blasted past the desk on my way to the lobby and back in the training class, a half-dozen sets of eyes trained on me wondering why I have to piss so often.

The day after the final day of training my boss announces that we all had to take the training because he wants us all cross trained. Is it too late for a change in vocation? In the last months of his life, my father asked me if I was happy in my career. I should have told him I was, but I was honest. I told him with little gusto it’s not a bad job. Maybe this is the time to start the job I always wanted. Too bad I have no frickin’ idea what that is.

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Double espressos to stay awake. Playing with my phone when I get bored, and–Oh shit, the trainer spotted me!

“Style” and the older man

It’s dinner and a movie night with some friends. The monthly event is called Don Pedro, for some reason, but I love it and look forward to it every month.

So I’m waiting for my Smashburger pager to rattle and flash when I notice one of our guys approaching. He’s wearing a blue blazer, and a tie with a tie clip(!) We tease him, but he looks good and a little out of place compared to the rest of us. He explains to us that getting on in years he’s put on some weight and a blazer and a tie makes him look thinner. And it is true–the jacket especially takes off a few pounds. He points out that our president is quite fat, but you don’t really notice this most of the time. It’s the pix of him on the golf course sans the jacket and often in white where he looks quite the “fat ass,” to quote one of Matt Taibbi‘s designations for the 45th President.

styleDuring this talk about the slimming effect of wearing a coat and tie, I glanced down and noticed what I was wearing. It’s got nothing to do with weight. Oh, I’m definitely fatter than my fellow Don Pedro, and I’m not trying to cover it up–unfortunately. No, it’s what I am wearing–nothing matches! My shirt doesn’t go with my khaki-or-green-or-whatevercolor brushed chords which definitely does not go with my socks. Finally, there’s the business of my sneakers. I have been told a man pushing 60 should not go out on the town wearing these type of shoes.

There was a time I was very style conscience. Forty years ago I sold shoes and bought clothes designed by Calvin Klein, George Rech, I wore Newman Jeans and expensive kid leather shoes and demi boots. Over the years my taste turned more conservative, but I always cared about what clothes I bought and wore outside. I would wonder whenever Christmas and my birthday came around if I was going to get clothes that didn’t meet my standards. These days I don’t care so much.

It is illustrative of a shift in values and my philosophy. I didn’t mean to look tacky. I got lazy, that morning when I was dressing in the dark, I guess. My politics have shifted decidedly to the left. I don’t want to buy new clothes unless they are made in the U.S. by a union shop. That’s nearly impossible to achieve on my budget. So now I’m buying used and overstock stuff so the styles are limited. This head-on collision with discordant colors was bound to happen, I guess.

Then there are the shoes. Something tells me no matter how often my wife points out I need to wear footwear more befitting an elderly man, I’ll probably always (short of church services, weddings, and funerals) wear tennies. Ten years from now–if I am still alive–I’m sure I won’t give a shit.

Cramped Quarters

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As office cubicles go mine is okay. I used to have an office with a door. For my classification, it was too big, but it was in a warehouse–plenty of space. Later I was given a cubicle. It took a while to adjust, but my ego has long since left the job site. All that remains is an old dude ticking off the days until retirement.

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Sync and USB cables; oh yeah, headphone cables for when the talk gets too Limbuaghesque for my tender lefty ears. 

About ten years ago I began working on projects that required a lot of testing. After clicking on the wrong icon and testing with live data one day I requested and received a dedicated test computer on a tiny “computer desk” about thirty feet away from my cubicle in the corner of an office surrounded by warehousemen. These are big guys with G.E.D.s, military backgrounds, and big knives.

 

The workstation is a cramped affair but the walls really start to close in when the guys start talking conservative politics, guns, abortion, fundamental Christianity, and how Trump is going to “fix” this country. Most of the time they don’t ask me about this stuff, and that’s a blessing. I do occasionally talk Bible with them, but keep it superficial otherwise I get the “you’re going to hell” look.