Monday, December 13, 2010

A four-letter word

You want to know what is worse than gaining ten pounds after the holidays? Finding out your ten pounds over weight before they begin.

This past weekend I took my wife to a Christmas Ball with a 1940s theme. They had a big band, costumes contest, WWII memorabilia, and Andrew Sisters impersonators. Everything to make you feel you were back in the 40s, except the prices. For what I shelled out I could have bought myself a Nash. But let me get back to my story…

Since I work for myself I don’t get the opportunity to wear a suit too often, unless I feel like calling a meeting, which I never plan to attend. So in my absence the Pants Gnomes got into my closet and shrunk all my clothes. They seem to get particular delight in watching me twist and shout my way into a pair of tailored trousers that fit like a glove only a year ago. Pair after pair I tried on, all with the same results, testing the tensile strength of thread and patience along the way. Now I’m not a huge guy, and maybe I’m making a bigger deal out of this then I should, but when your clothes make your internal organs feel like they are riding the number 7 train from Hunterspoint Avenue to Grand Central Station at rush hour it’s time for a change.

As I let out a lion size moan my eleven-year-old walked in. “What’s the matter dad?” “I have to go on a diet.” “It’s about time,” she said. And with those words of encouragement I began my descent into a basket of carrot sticks.

Now, if you are familiar at all with my past rantings you may be thinking, “Jamie, you’re always touting your bike rides, and your long walks, and the great outdoors, how could you have gained weight?” Apparently, walking a half mile won’t compensate for the half dozen Quadruple Stuffed Oreos I shove down my gullet when I return home. (Do the math on the Double Stuffed. When are they going to wise up down at Nabisco and just put three cookies in the entire bag?)

I should have known something was wrong when I went to get a massage this past week. I wanted The Outdoorsman, which was described as the following: “Whether you just climbed a fourteener (That’s when some daring fool hikes up to the top of a 14,000 foot peak. A peak is all you have time for as your lungs give out.), spent a day on the ski slopes or played a round of golf, this rejuvenating package is just for you.” Instead the woman automatically gave me The Potato. That’s where they spend 45 minutes working on your sorry ass and the last 15 on the arm that holds the remote control. Between you and me, it was the best massage I ever had.

So now I’m on this alternating diet. It’s when one day you limit your intake to 800 calories and the next day you can eat whatever you want, then back again. It’s suppose to trick your skinny genes so you eat less and eventually you can get back into your skinny jeans. My wife explained it to me but I was so fatigued with skipping a snack today I didn’t have the strength to listen. If this diet doesn’t work I’ll try my version of the alternating diet. That’s when I alternate between not giving a shit and buying bigger pants.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I’ve always been a bit of a collector. As a kid growing up in Levittown, I spent my days with comic books, mostly DC because their stories ended without having to buy the next one. Then as a teenager it was vinyl records. Album cover art, along with liner notes and studying lyrics, has gone the way of the dodo when you download music. In my twenties and thirties I moved to art books, limited edition posters, and concert ticket stubs.

But those things were all transitory. All that has changed since I hit fifty. Now I collect something that will last the rest of my life. New and mysterious aches and pains I never had before. I joined, or rather was signed up for, the Aged of the Month Club. Each month a new area will suddenly show up red and inflamed where once was pink and baby soft. February: a cornucopia of skin blotches, barnacles, and breakouts. Just in time for Valentine’s Day! Oh joy! September: Congratulations! It’s a new allergen. Go rake some leaves and take a deep breath so the mold really gets in there.

For November, I woke with my newest collection, repetitive motion injury in my drawing elbow. (And at a time when my career could suddenly blossom like an Outback Steakhouse onion.) So I needed to make some adjustments to my workstation and I haven’t been able to ride my bike. But, like the apartment dog that I am, I still have to get outside once in a while. So I have switched to trail hiking. At first I was a little bummed not being able to ride, but the nice part is I can take our dog with me, who seems more than willing to go.

It has also given me a different view of the area. Even now, with the grasslands dead from the cold, they are still beautiful. The jet black cows that pepper the golden fields stand out strongly against the deep blue sky. We walked along a marsh where cottonwoods and cattails grow. In the underbrush unseen birds were chirping away when suddenly a flock of red winged blackbirds took flight. On our latest trek we spotted a coyote hunting around for a meal. He was only about fifty yards away and as graceful as any animal could be. He looked at us a few times but didn’t seem overly concerned and neither were we.

The gravel crunched under my footsteps and the sound reminded my of my dad. For each morning he would have his bowl of Frosted Flakes. My dad was a creature of habit, something that was simultaneously reassuring and exasperating. But because of that repetitiveness that memory has stuck in my head and it makes me smile out here in the cold.

I guess we all become collectors of a sort as we grow old. Whether on a long walk, or sitting with my elbow propped up to rest, I can spread my memories out like a collection of old comics across the floor and dive in. This Thanksgiving I am grateful for all my friends and family members that have given me something warm to think about on a cold November day.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Fall back, spring out an open window.

Marriage, or as I refer to it a government sanctioned Stockholm Syndrome, is never easy and at times challenging. Anyone who says they have a perfect marriage and never fight are either liars, heavily medicated or both. And marriage is not the same as living together, no matter what a morning news show is telling you. You can learn to live with almost anyone; friends, parents, kids, sexual partner, salesman, but making decisions and compromising, well that's a whole different wild animal my friend.

For instance, we had to buy a new bed for our dog, Daisy, because she didn't like the one she had. I find this odd because she never said a word. And I didn’t even place in this argument. The bed had to be a special ordered one with her name embroider on it. Daddy’s little cur is over twelve years old now. With my luck it will curl up and die before we get it out of the box (the bed that is) and I’ll end up having to name our next dog Daisy just so I can get my money's worth out of the bed.

A simple thing like setting our clocks back, as we just recently did, could be an innocuous task. But do not jump to conclusions my friend, especially when we have an extra hour to do so. All sorts of emotions, desires, animosity, longings can surface at such times. Enclosed is a sample of my conversation with my dear wife at one am, the morning of the event. I purposely removed our names since it is really pointless which side of the time continuum fence you are on. Although, anyone who has meet me can tell in the first five minutes how uptight I am and my responses.

“C’mon, let’s go to bed.”

“It’s only 12.”

“Well, it’s really one.”

“So what. We’re gaining an hour. You can sleep until nine.”

“Nine my time or your time?”

“Listen, stop acting like an old man.”

“What do you think is killing all the honeybees? It’s from collecting the wax for my birthday candles.”

“Just relax and find a movie for us to watch.”

“We’ve seen everything On Demand and Netflix. The only thing left is our worn out VHS copies of Dark Shadows.”

A glare and then silence…


“When we first got married you were a lot of fun. Now, I can barely get you to do anything.”

“That’s not true. You can get me to go to bed. What’s wrong with getting a little extra sleep?”



“Don’t you want to stay up with me?”

(flat) “Yes.”

“No really?”

(as a board) “More than anything.”

“Fine. Go.”

“Okay, they’re showing 7 Days in May on TCM, which is about how long this night is. Why don’t we watch that?”

“How many times can you watch the same movie?”

“A million.”

“Will you make us some popcorn?”

(boardlike) “Fine.”

And so it went.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holiday Cards

I've added several new cards to my Zazzle store if you are in the market. Zazzle is a pretty neat place to make customised products. Millions of styles available. Of course this shameless promotion will most likely generate a ton of cash for people I've never meet and probably will never send my royalty check of $4.23, but my website guy tells me to do these things.

rabbits and dreidel HR card
rabbits and dreidel HR by JamiePS
Make your own cards at zazzle

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

I'll shut up now.

I didn’t write anything the last two weeks because of the elections. I’m struggling with the notion of whether to put anything political on this blog. However, after being inundated for the past month with ads stating everything from the ridiculous to the utterly ridiculous and pundits on “news channels” telling me how I feel, I am about ready to scream. I just want to make two brief observations then I’ll shut the hell up.

First off, to me this election wasn’t about saying no to this president or spending or healthcare. It wasn’t about the need to go back to those pretend halcyon days of President Bush. The election boils down to this. I believe the American voter was saying: “I’m pissed off at the government for wasting time, my money, and resources while I’m struggling to get by. If I have to be out of work, then guess what? I’m putting you out of work.” It’s our one chance to say FU. But saying it always comes with consequences. The government has become a dead leviathan beached in our backyard and starting to rot. Should we expect anything else? Would any normal person go into a profession where you spend millions and millions of dollars to make the other person going for the same job look like a criminal?

This brings me to my second point. I’ve been on countless job interviews and not once did it cross my mind to sabotage the other people going for the position. I just figured that person had different skills or experience or maybe at least was a relative. Can you imagine if every career treated potential employees this way? Teachers, pilots, janitors all vying and undermining their colleagues slash opponents while having a smile a used car salesman would envy. What kind of person are we hiring? We are producing an industry of small-minded narcissists with deep pockets to run this great country of ours into the ground, leaving little for our children.

Well, I guess you can tell by my tone that I am not only annoyed but over fifty with too much time on my hands. So it’s back to the drawing board. Next week I promise to get back to a lighter fare. Please leave your comments. I loved to hear how wrong or right you think I am.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Creeping White Death

Since we moved out here I’m doing more housework until my freelance picks up. With email, cell phones, and a landline it’s only a matter of time before someone gets a hold of me. (Ring, damn it, ring!) If your home needs a good cleaning I’d like to recommend Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar. Let’s face facts. Frank Sinatra is just fine for dusting or placing napkin rings for a dinner party. Hell, I’ve even used Aaron Copland for washing the dog. But for deep cleaning there is nothing that helps get rid of those stubborn stains than a pissed off rockstar. I particularly like “Angels with Scabbed Wings” track when scrubbing a toilet. Maybe it was the fumes of the Pine Sol inside a closed space with the windows shut, but I believe I reached a new level of cleanliness. When my wife returned from work several hours later and found me on the cold ceramic tile the first thing she said was “Boy that’s one clean bowl!”

There are a few other things I learned living out here. The plural of buckaroo is not buckarii, pork can be considered a vegetable, and that people actually look forward to snow!?! Can you imagine? Growing up on the east coast I don’t think I ever saw a weatherman smile when announcing a storm racing closer dumping 10-20 inches. The glee, the absolute twinkle in the eyes of these stalwarts of nature’s terror is more than perplexing. It’s downright criminal. How dare they not warn me of the creeping white death, of chains and wipeouts, of drifts and black ice? How am I supposed to be afraid if not for them? Don’t they realize we need to stock up on enough milk and bread to hold us until the spring thaw? The grocery shelves are still filled with eggs and juice! Come on people. Is a little panic too much to ask?

But they are all as happy as mice at a dirty diner about the blanket that never warms. They can’t wait to get to those slopes and go sliding down on whatever they can strap to the bottom of their feet. Can you image the first guy (And of course it was a guy. You see any women in the Jackass club?) that thought of it? “Vhat’s Crazy Olaf doing now Sven?” “Oh he invented a vay to get down da mountain faster.” “Faster vay to get to Vahalla you mean!” “You got that right Erik, yahar yahar.” Vahalla can just wait until I’m good and ready, and my plan is to never be good.

So for now I’m locking myself up in the house until this storm blows over, which they predict will be sometime in April. I have plenty of company with Joe Strummer, Bono, Sid Vicious and of course Joan Jett. I guess you can say my masculine side is coming to grips with my feminine side, but either way the grout has never looked cleaner.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pretty quiet week around here, so I thought I drag out my sketchbook. This is Coon Lake. It's really just a pond, but just as beautiful and only a mile and a half from our house. There's a sign here to stay on the paths because of rattlesnakes. I asked a local who grew up here if that was just to keep people out of the brush. "Oh no, they're in there," he warned. "Best to keep on the trails." You best believe I do. In case you were wondering, I drew this while sitting in my car with the windows up.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

To Bike or Not to Bike

As I mentioned in the last blog I’m doing my best to get into the spirit of the west and began biking in earnest. When I was a kid you biked because it was fun or it was the easiest mode of transportation. My father wasn’t going to be spending time schlepping me around to friends while he could be watching the Cubs lose on our twenty-inch Magnavox. Even if it meant that I would be out of his hair for a few hours I was on my own. But us older folks, we bike for exercise, for stamina, for endurance, for the pure sense of piling on the mileage. There is nothing fun about it. And I know I need to do something before my winter fat settles in like a twenty-year-old house cat on the divan in the sunroom.

The problem is I suffer from what I term paranoid-hypochondriasis. I admit I’m in good health but I just know I’m going to get sick, it’s just a matter of when and what. This feeling of gloom being just around the corner haunts my every move. If I don’t go biking my health will decline and could lead to hardening of the arteries, or perhaps diabetes. But if I do, I run the risk of having a heart attack or stroke as I push myself too far. “He should never have gone over that last hill,” says a mourner at my wake. Thanks, just what every funeral needs, twenty-twenty hindsight. It doesn’t help that I notice every little ache and pain too. Was that a leg cramp or a blood clot heading towards my cerebral cortex?

One of the many mistakes I made when younger was visiting a fortuneteller. I was always under the impression they would treat you like a mom, but with more a flamboyant closet. “Stay avay from strangers!” “In the future you vill vear a seatbelt.” While she was reading my palm, and keep in mind this is a true story, I asked her about my lifeline. “It’s this one isn’t it? It seems kind of short?” “Vell, I vouldn’t take any chances vhen you are in your fifties and sixties,” she warned me. This only hastened the paranoia that was first planted by my older siblings during my formative years. No matter how many times I grease the gears I can still hear her voice with every turn of the pedal. “Don’t take chances! Don’t take chances! Don’t take chances!” I’m like the little engine that shouldn’t.

So everyday I am faced with the same dilemma. Do I go riding not even sure if I’ll make it across the road without getting hit by some high school kid texting her friends about Glee, or do I stay home and eat five-dollar chocolate bars from Whole Foods pondering my waistline and how I should be out biking.

Thanks God it’s raining today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Paths of Gorey

As it says in the subhead this is the land of cycling. I think it has replaced Christianity some time back in the sixties. Communities have a way of making you feel unwelcome when you don’t follow the pack, and since I always enjoyed biking it was easier to join then making my first communion and promised to be have laughs.

The first thing I needed was a bike. Well, I actually have one but I thought when in Rome get yourself a bike. The only problem was I hadn’t bought a bike in some time and was in for a bit of sticker shock. My last bike cost $59.99 and that included the guy from Model’s putting it together for me. Those banana seats can be a bitch! I was prepared to pay more and scraped together $150 to get the best I could. Turns out $150 doesn’t even buy you the best helmet you can get let along what goes under it. The whole concept of helmets is wrong. Their main purpose, really only purpose, is to protect your head. It’s sort of like insurance for your brain. But just as I wouldn’t be paying the same premium for a Maserati as when I’m driving a Ford I shouldn’t be paying for the same kind of protection a NASA scientist is. Pound for pound he has a lot more to protect then I do. (This is where my friends and family jump in and say “oh stop that”, but all I’m hearing are crickets.) Until they fix this wrong I’ll just keep using my home made one of half used paper towel rolls and rubber bands.

Speaking of crickets, we have some very adventurous ones out here. While taking my Schwinn for a jaunt I keep hearing strange noises. It sounded as if I left my Carl Yastrzemski rookie card in the spokes, which I clearly remembered I removed back in ‘88. The path I was on was littered with grasshoppers and they wait until the last possible moment before jumping out of the way. It was as if tiny quiet fireworks were going off as they jumped hither and thither. This game of insect chicken resulted in a number of cricket fatalities as many of them became caught in my wheels and gears, resulting in the needless destruction of innocent lives. When will they learn that life is not a game of chance but of luck? As I sat on the side of the gravel path, toothpick in hand, picking out grasshopper guts out of my derailer for the past thirty minutes I wondered if the church would take me back.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's been a busy week here and I didn't get a chance to write anything. So I'll just leave you with some photos my daughter Mallory took while we all were hiking.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My Eyes Have Seen The Sky

I truly believed I was developing glaucoma. Everything around me was gray. It was as if I saw the world through cheesecloth like a close-up they use on an aging actress. I don’t even know if that‘s what glaucoma is like, but as far as I was concerned I had it. Turns out I just lived in New York all my life and didn’t know any better. Once I moved West my first thought was “So that’s what they mean by a blue sky”. I mean you can see things, really see things. I went right out and bought a tube of ultramarine for my landscapes. Of course the drawback is there is very little air to block sunlight, and the oxygen content is thirty parts per million.

It took some time adjusting to the high altitude. Opening cans required a quick ten-minute nap. And I’m still getting use to mowing the lawn while wearing a nebulizer. My lungs keep asking me “hey, where’s all the crap that use to be here?” in my fading Long Island accent. Like an ex-smoker clearing out his lungs, I spewed out tar balls the size of walnuts for a week.

If it wasn’t bad enough living at 5,200 feet, my wife suggested that we take a drive up to the mountains our first week. “You mean we can go higher?” I asked all dried and cracked as if auditioning for Jack Klugman. When the signpost read “You are now two miles above sea level” my heart let out an audible squeak like a strangled hamster. Once we got back down below tree line I breathed easier. And I mean that in every way possible.

It doesn’t seem to be affecting my wife and daughter as much. I guess fifty plus year old men have a different metabolism. Especially ones that stopped working out. On top of that, because my body is not getting its daily carcinogenic requirements my appetite for junk food has increased ten fold. I’m shoving cupcakes, pies, potato chips, and cookies down my throat faster than they can stock the shelves. And this is from a guy that weighted 160 pounds in sixth grade! I had a higher fat content than a Happy Meal.

So I should be healthier living here and I hope some day that is true, but for now it’s just one step, then a deep breath, at a time.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Closing Time, Last call!

It's closing day in NY.

Call the lawyer. Call the lawyer for the new house. They just picked up my wife's car. Hey, I sold my car! Hey, I have no car!?! Now how am I suppose to get around? The buyers called and want the jungle gym removed. Is my axe packed? The couch won't fit out of the basement. How did that happened? Must have soaked up all the moisture down there for ten years and grew two inches. Get the chain saw. Now we have a love seat and a ottoman. 80…90…115 boxes. My wife packed three of those so it's not like I didn't have help. Keep moving, keep packing. Do I want that? I guess not. Trash. How about this? Probably not. Gone. No the dog comes with us.

Go to closing. Sign some checks. Get some checks. The dust is settling. The movers are leaving. Everything we own is on that truck. Am I going to see any of them again? They seemed like nice guys, even if they had tattoos that read "Death for the Hell of it." Dinner in Smithtown for the last time. My son drives us to a hotel near La Guardia Airport. It's been a long day. But I don't fall asleep right away. Instead, I lie in bed, staring at the ceiling wondering if I remembered to pack my 1962 copy of 'What Happened to George,' a children's book about a pig that could not stop eating. My family used it to poke fun of me when I was a chubby little boy. Why was that popping into my head now?

The Big Move

After growing up on Long Island and spending the past (Let's just call it some time shall we? No reason to start off depressed.) years there, we finally made the Big Move and headed out to Colorado. It wasn't easy for me leaving friends and loved ones behind. And there were some concerns by many like "Where are you going to get a good slice of pizza?" and "What if you get lost?" You do realize it's a state right? Can you image if Columbus had to go through that? Hey Chris suppose your sail gets a hole, then what? Sounds like death before you get out of the harbor. I know they all meant well, but it didn't exactly fill me with confidence. Maybe they know me better than I do myself and realized how ill-equipped I am for anything that doesn't require a trip to a strip mall?

After packing, giving away, throwing out, or selling every last item we accumulated over time we headed out. Go West Old Man! It's too crowded here now. One less Nissan on the LIE. One more seat at the Multiplex for my 3D adventure. To give you some idea of what those last weeks were all about, here is my weekly agenda compared to one at a more sedate time.

When you look back at oral surgery as simpler times you know you're in trouble.