“I’m Sorry, Your Salad Has Been Cancelled. May I Re-book You On Our Earliest Available Salad?

I stopped at my favorite salad place to get my salad to go for lunch this afternoon. They were surprised I hadn’t ordered online, as I usually do, so I explained that I had been in DC for Father’s Day and my Monday 5 pm flight had been cancelled. The earliest re book I could get was at 5 pm, the NEXT day, but not a 90 minute direct flight but a 5 hour flight through Chicago. (why I have to fly to Chicago, from DC, to get to South Carolina never made sense to me, but I digress….) I had to be at work today, so I rented a car, drove 9 hours and was too late to pick up my salads for the week.

“Damn airlines!”, the counter girl said. I said, “What if I came in here and you said, ‘I’m sorry, but your salad has been cancelled. I can get you another salad on Wednesday?’ You wouldn’t stay in business long if you sold salads like airline flights.”

As I leave her laughing at the counter, the imaginary AirlineSalad conversation continues in my head. “But I’m hungry right now, I would say.” “I’m so sorry, says the United AirlineSalad Agent. (The name of the salad company here is not meant to reference any real or existing airline company and any similarity is truly unintended, mostly because this horrible behavior is practiced by ALL the Airline Salad companies, regardless of their name) We apologize for your inconvenience, but it’s exactly the same salad, on Wednesday, going to exactly the same place. (your stomach)

“But, I’m STARVING”. What am I supposed to do for food for the next two days?” “I understand sir, but we’re not responsible for your lack of something to eat when our inability to make your salad is due to weather, employee absences, government intervention, promising to sell more salads then we actually have to sell, war, pestilence, broken salad makers, bowls, labor unrest, computer crashes, computer hacks, or lack of deliveries. However, here at United Airlines Salad makers, we stand by and take pride in our percentage on-time and actually delivery of salads we have sold, which approaches 100%,” said the Agent.

“Well, can you help me get something else to eat?” “I’m sorry sir, we are not able to offer coupons for other food from other vendors”. I could however, direct you to a grocery story where you can buy your own salad fixings, a bowl, dressing, knives, forks and you could fix your salad yourself.” (Sigh), “If I wanted to fix my salad myself, I would have gone to the grocery store in the first place and not purchased a salad from you.” Can I at least get a refund or credit for this salad I paid for, but you cancelled today/” “I’m sorry sir, I cannot do that on the phone or in person, you need to access UnitedAirlineSalads dot com / refunds in order to request a refund. Just have your confirmation number, your 16 digit ticket number, a picture of any food receipt you receive from obtaining other salads, a 2000 word description of what we already know about why and how we cancelled your salad, why you want a refund, what category of refund and your blood type. Either you’ll get a credit in 14-28 business days on your credit card, or maybe an e mail, or certainly a reference number if you need to call us back.

So I opened my WendysDelta app, ordered a single and went there, since I’m still… hungry. “Hi, I ordered a single on my Wendy’s app, the name is Lawrence”. “‘m sorry sir, your single has been delayed due to our selling more singles on line than we have food to make them with”. If you’ll please wait in your car, we’ll have you scheduled for the singles coming our in 6 hours”.

There was a grocery story in the parking lot…..

What If Other Goods and Services Were Sold Like Timeshares?

Call me a masochist, but sitting through a timeshare presentation has always been on my bucket list. Ok, not really, but when the GF called and said, “Hey, I got 5 Days and 4 nights in a Hilton Vegas Resort for $200, I just gotta go to this presentation thing, wanna go”? -I was all in.  She even said she’d brace the presentation by herself, but who wants to miss THAT?

Rather than bore you with all the ways this is not a good deal, my mind turned to what if  other goods and services were sold the same way?

Imagine getting an email from your favorite grocery store. “Hi, Safeway Customer!!!   We see from your Safeway frequent flyer card that you buy groceries. A LOT of groceries.  SOOO many groceries in fact, we see you REALLY like to eat!  How would you like 4 days and three nights of groceries in MIAMI, FLORIDA for $50?  All you have to do is attend our presentation on our irresistible grocery OWNERS club?!?!”    So, one click, $800 of airline tickets and you’re in

You show up for your 10:30 appointment time and …. you wait for 15 minutes. What makes you more anxious to buy something than someone being disrespectful of your time? (Think doctors, cable repairmen and toll booths)

Finally, you and a large group of your fellow Safeway shoppers are ushered into a rather typically decorated hotel seminar room decorated in “high fever, blood drained from your face” beige with a 70 inch TV screen in the front of the room. Your host, a tall handsome, salesman named John takes the front of the room. He laughs, painfully and insincere, at all his jokes no one else laughs at.

He launches into his very scripted presentation which goes something like this. “Who likes to eat?”  (Only a few hands). (We’re going to hear 90 “raise your hand questions” in 30 minutes which soon makes me wonder if they’re trying to sell something or just lack creativity at Simon Says).  “Who buys groceries”?   (Pic of people buying groceries in Paris).  “Who LOVES food” (pic of grocery buying in London- you can feel the excitement building in the room)

“I’m now gonna answer the three questions you’re dying to know”.  “First, how long is this gonna take””.  90 minutes.  The other two questions, which I have now forgotten were also answered by -lies.

“What if you could have two weeks of groceries every year for –$59?”   “Pic of people buying groceries in San Francisco”. “Wouldn’t you love that”? (Pic of people buying groceries in the Maldives”).

“Right now, you just go to the grocery store and BUY groceries.”  (Pic of grocery shopping in Bali). “But what if you OWNED part of the grocery store”.  “You could walk in and just take groceries out in a percentage of your ownership- for almost nothing!”   (Wait, didn’t you say I had to buy part of the grocery store? Pic of grocery shopping in the Grand Canyon)

“Now this is not a timeshare.  This is a prepaid ownership points system.   We sell different ownership percentages from a teenie weenie bit to a whole lot!!  We use a point system because if you wanna buy groceries in a  blizzard nobody wants to eat at the airport in Detroit you get FOUR WEEKS of Groceries, but if you want healthy delicious food at Christmas in Paris, you get 48 hours”.

You then get your personal salesman, Mike, who takes you on a tour of the grocery store you’ve shopped in many times before and repeats, ad nauseam, much of what Snake Oil John said. The one question he claims to beyond his pale of understanding like “what caused the Big Bang” is “what does this cost?”   I know, cause like a prosecutor in Law and Order, I rephrased this question a dozen different ways.

It is now 105 minutes in. I have behaved up until this point. Until, he asks, “if we actually DID tell you what this cost, would you buy today?”   Apparently, suggesting that this one question is used by every scam artist selling used cars purchased out of a flood to Ponzi schemes was taken personally.  We were immediately taken to Jay to sign out where we were required to listen to what caused the Big Bang.  Meaning – cost

Jay was a nice Asian guy who sat down and started to listen to the Mike go through a word by word recitation of what had taken place the last 105 minutes. I angrily interrupted to say that we were told this would be 90 minutes total, that they were 15 minutes over time, and that even cars had stickers on the window to tell you the cost and even car dealers, at some point brought in the finance guy. Jay also took this personally and claimed he was only doing his job.  I calmly said I was not addressing my anger to him, as a sociopath thief, but to Sociopathic Thieves, Inc for whom he worked. This resulted in an immediate pricing. $10,000 payable $2500 up front, with payments of $250 a month at 14%-24% credit card interest for 10 years plus a maintenance fee of $1000 a year, forever.  For a weeks worth of groceries. I assume the lack of attraction for prepaying $30,000 worth of groceries where you would not reach the break even retail point and get a discount for 20 years needs no explication.

Health care-imagine the same scenario above except your paying a high monthly payment to Medicare or health insurance for health care you may or may not need, where you have less buying power for the best healthcare when and how you need it- oh wait, bad example. Healthcare IS A timeshare.

Treating Exercise Injury With The Inner Child R.I.C.E Method

You may know that the common medical advice for treating soft tissue injury is the R.I.C.E. method:  Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate.  Your inner child however, prefers Reinjure, Ignore, Curse, Exhort (or entreat).  

Sitting here in week 4 of hamstring tendonitis, I’ve come to realize, from  9 years anecdotal, strictly non scientific, non statically valid samples, that there may be others, like me, who prefer to address their injuries from a strictly emotional, inner child point for view. (This also has applications for why people,especially men, avoid regular medical checkups or any of the assorted medical screenings which catch cancer earlier and reduce mortality).  I know many of you who know what you’re talking about by virtue of training or expertise in medicine, physical therapy, exercise physiology , etc., are all be shaking your heads right now, but there are completely valid logical reasons for this irrational emotional response.  

There will be times during your life when you feel completely fine (for which you should express constant gratitude to your God, source, science or your lucky draw of probability) but these periods decline exponentially as one ages.  Therefore, at any given time, something in your body is going to hurt.  There are two causes for these injuries.  Doing nothing or doing something.  Those who exercise have formed a firm belief the pains from doing something are better (less debilitating) than those from doing nothing.  That’s because 99% of us, (excepting Olympic and professional athletes) have gone though long periods of time of doing nothing.  What is more painful or humiliating then throwing out your back reaching across the Baskin Robbins counter for your ice cream cone.  Who hasn’t heard some one say, “Really, I wasn’t doing anything, I just reached over to load the dishwasher and a disc in my spine exploded like a firecracker in an empty soda bottle!”

When you begin an exercise program everything hurts. All the time. The first workout, walk, run, yoga class, weight training session leaves you so sore, getting to the bathroom seems like a lottery win.  You wonder if this is what death feels like. Your ego suggests that maybe, avoiding exercise will avoid this pain.  You may even be sore for days.  But your body tricks you. Quickly you’re not sore again so you work out again. More pain.  Quicker recovery. Somehow, your rational brain over rides this self-preservation instinct and  you establish some kind of routine.  Soon however, the exercise starts causing the same rush of endorphins that you were previously happy to get from smoking, drug use, gambling, shoe shopping, sex, or soduku. You notice you actually feel better!!!   Here’s where the body gets really sneaky.  Soon you notice you don’t get sore the next day, maybe just later that day. Then that gets better.  Your recovery time decreases. You’re lulled into a sense of perpetual physical self-improvement.  But the body is not finished setting this devilish trap for you. 

Inevitably however you reach that time when work, vacation, family obligations or something else silly causes you to mix one or more of your exercise sessions.  You go back only to realize that even though you only missed three days, it’s like starting the program over from scratch.  You re visibly pissed only to be calmed down by the short period it takes to get back to where you were. 

One day you work out as normal and something doesn’t feel quite right. Later your arm, leg, lower upper back, knew, ankle, foot, neck hurts.  You immediately pay attention.  Maybe you do something rational like rest it, baby it, take an anti inflammatory. The pain is gone the next day.  You feel like a cubicle worker who just found out the office is closed tomorrow for a snow day.  You got outta prison early.  Unlike the cubicle worker however, as you increase your exercise addiction to a 7 day a week thing, these pain days are more frequent.  And, like Pavlov’s dog, you learn to ignore these little aches and pains because they will all be gone in a day or two.  Until one isn’t. And, you don’t want to take time off and go backwards.  The loss of benefit from exercise starts as soon as the workout is over. .Hence, step one- Reinjure.  Why rest when you know this pain is only temporary.  You can’t be a wuss or and skip every exercise session cause one body part is being pissy.  So you go back out. And reinjure it again. And again.

This bring em to the second step- ignore the pain injury. I finally worked my way up to a “no exercise if limping rule”. (Or a fever above 102). (Or severe gastrointestinal illness because well, who,didn’t have that happen to them in elementary school?). From anecdotal evidence, most folk’s inner child developed different time periods for the ignore time period, for me currently it’s 2 weeks.   I’m hoping to build up to a month soon.   Anyway, you know realize you have… what’s the medical term, oh, right “f#%^ed yo shit UP”.   Now, you know, from past experience that if you go to the doctor with a “soft tissue” injury (soft tissue is anything that is not a bone sticking out of your bleeding “soft tissue”, they are going to palpitate, massage, poke, prod and otherwise feel around your injured soft tissue, look at you very compassionately and say “you have f#^*ed yo shit UP” and you should rest, ice the soft tissue (or heat- “ice or heat” is apparently a bigger mystery than what caused the Big Bang), buy a girdle appliance for your afflicted part, and elevate it. So, at this point you skip the doctor and curse.   Here’s a big tip- just curse in general, like a venting do not curse AT the soft tissue.  Some people prefer a cursing which completely runs through every profanity they know- I prefer picking one and repeating it quickly, like combination of a tongue twister and mantra.  Try it, pick your favorite curse word and repeat it as quickly as possible in your own mind silently and see how much better you feel.  If you curse AT the body part- well, Katie bar the door, because the mind-body connection is well documented scientifically and psychologically.  This means, simply that if you cuss AT the body part, it is going to compound your injury.  It will escalate.  In other words, your knees say, “Yeah?!?!?  Ok, then, I’m gonna f#%€ Yo shit up even worse!!”  

And this bring us to the final step in our inner child acronym or “exhort”. Or “entreat”.  I prefer the terms beg, plead and whine, but I needed an “e” word for the acronym and only those pedantic e words were an option.  Anyone who’s ever experienced a difficult relationship with a significant other, parent  or child understands the exhort, entreat, beg, plead or whine stage.  So you also know how well that works. 

 So, there you go, the R.I.C.E method,  re injure, ignore, curse and exhort.  I’ve been doing that for the last week after my massage therapist, chiropractor and yoga instructor all suggested I not exercise for a bit and let this tendon heal.  The yoga instructor even suggested a take 10 (TEN days off). (Pfffft- what does that PhD, 500 hr yoga certified, anatomy expert, 20 years fitness experienced guru know?!)

I guess if all else fails, I’ll tell my inner child what I tell it anytime when adulting is required. I won’t be happy about it, though. And, It’s gonna require Ben and Jerry’s.

Move Over Hated DMV Photos- US Passport Photos Is The New King in Town

Who likes their DMV photo?  No one.  However, the federal government, fulfilling it’s primary goal to be ever more annoying,  has recently changed passport photo requirement to insure you will hate your photo. In the age of selfies, they have guaranteed your worst selfie ever.

Surprisingly, it didn’t require much.   Two of these requirements guarantee you’ll be unhappy. First, no glasses.  Second, no smile.   (Actually the rule says “neutral facial expression” which I assume means halfway between your “Hi, mother in law”  and “I’m so glad to see you snoopy after my weeks vacay” look. Here’s the government’s exciting web page, US Department of State How to Take and Awful Photo Page.   Do NOT miss the exciting video available there.

Anyway, my GF and I recently took a cruise and realized our passports expired just past the 6 month deadline.  Many carriers will not let you travel with a passport that expires in 6 months or less, so at 10 months, we realized when we got back, a renewal was due.  I did mine online, went to a local drugstore for my passport photo and found out about these new rules.  Now, I’m a 60 year old, overweight man of Italian Descent on both sides of my family so, I’m not winning any modeling contests but I’m a happy guy, so I’m usually smiling.  Quite often. Always for photos.  Here’s an example. And, to be fair, even though I wear glasses 24 hours a day, here’s a pic of myself, taken by a professional photographer, without glasses, that I like. 


I saw my passport photo and thought, “OMG- they have done a remake of the Goodfellas – with the same actors- even the dead ones, and one of the dead ones got arrested and this is his mug shot.  No one is seeing this pic.  Ever.”

I mentioned  that I had renewed my passport and reminded the GF to get hers done.  Of course, a few weeks later she texts me her passport photo, and complains of the new rules.   I look at her photo and she looks like she just left a cover photo shoot for Vogue.  Of course she does.  I mentioned my horrible photo and I got back a “really? Pfffft” message as if I was being self deprecating. So I texted her the black and white from my passport card. 


5,4,3,2,1- and the phone rings.  She is laughing so hard, the tears coming out of her eyes are coming through my  phone. She’s laughing harder then the time in  Austin Texas I slid out of the back seat of a pickup truck so far because I’m so short I ended up in a ditch.  She was laughing so hard, I could understand no words she was saying. Not one. Then the texts started. It was my pic back with a caption. Some of the best were:  “I have killed and will keep on killing”.  “Sorry to bother you, don’t want to interrupt you cutting up peeps in little parts”.  “Jaundice for babies”. “Jeffrey Dahmer for adults photo filter”.  “No probation for you ever”. “Everybody’s talking about your mug shot”.  This went on for hours. 

Ok.  If you liked that, here’s the actual passport photo. 

The ER called later.  They actually had to giver her something to get her to stop laughing. 

F#%’ You, Alexa

A beloved employee of 26 years, probably the most creative gift giver I’ve ever known, gave me an Amazon Echo Dot for Christmas.  The echo dot is the new version of the echo, and it utilizes Amazons “Alexa” voice recognition service.  For those who are unfamiliar with this product, I’ve included a link at the end of this paragraph, but think a blue tooth enabled hockey puck size speaker, connected to the internet, that when spoken to, can give you the weather, sports scores,   New or anythingyou could look up on google.  

The 26 year length of service of my beloved employee give some hint of my age; I don’t consider myself an “early adopter of tech”, but I keep up and do love it, so I admit to being pretty smitten with this gift three days ago.  In fact, that evening I took it out of the box.  Set up was pretty easy   Plug it in; download the Alexa app on your phone; follow the instructions on set up.  It connects to your wi fi, and you can set some parameters as to what news you would like when you ask for news.  You don’t have unlimited choices in this area, but they cover the range of “so liberal that socialists in Sweden would be shocked” to so conservative even Putin’s compassion causes a little tear in the corner of his eye.  Set up took maybe 10 minutes – I’m pretty pleased.

“Alexa”, (she ‘wakes’ up when you say her name) I said.  “What’s the weather?”   In a “I’m your hot high school teacher who still is professional” kind of voice, Alexa says, “In Mayberry today, the current temperature is 52 degrees.  Later in the day the high will be 71 degrees, with a low of 49.”    My “thank you” gets no reply so I gather manners weren’t something programmed in by the millennial aged coders.   Shocker.  Like a “you’re welcome” would be a lot to ask.  Anyway, I noted that Alexa will pair with any Bluetooth enabled audio speaker so I paired Alexa with my Bose Mini Sound link.  It appeared in the app that Alexa could “wake up” or turn the speaker on, but a “Alexa, wake up (speaker)(Bose)(audio)(music)” instructins All failed so I immediately assumed I either read it wrong or it didn’t work, which all had the same result to me.  So, I walked the 26 inches to the speaker and ….turned in on.  “Alexa, play ‘you don’t own me’ by Leslie Gore (mostly because I love that commercial?   Have you seen it?  This is not the nest part of the commercial but you get the idea.  https://youtu.be/aqAFGPmECBwhttps://youtu.be/aqAFGPmECBw). 

So, over the next couple of days, I’m starting to dig Alexa.  Ok, so she can only read connect to a limited number of apps, and she can only access a google calendar and there some glitch where you can sync your google calendar with your other calendars but it doesn’t sync with the google site just the app so Alaexa seems to think I’m retired with nothing to do.  Ok, Alexa is definitely not the AI computer on star track where Scotty would say, “computer, get me some haggis, a Guinness, the computations to fly cross the galaxy in the shortest distance possible and a date with the hot polish chick in communications, but, I’m seeing promise. 

So, two days later I have company for Christmas Eve and I wanna show off my new toy so, I know my friend likes the funk musician, Bootsy Collins, so I say “Alex, play Bootsy Collins”.  Much to my surprise, there is a country singer by the name of Bootsy Collins.  “Alexa, play the OTHER Bootsy Collins”. A different artist comes on but still not the right Bootsy.  I know the acting world does a better job of making sure there’s only one Brad Pitt, but apparently musicians are substantially more laid back about it. So, knowing Alexa can only play Amazon Prime music, I find the Bootsy Collins channel on Amazon Prime but it will only play on my phone, not through the Bose Speaker.  DAMMIT.  I ask Alexa to play the Bootsy Collins streaming channel, but NOW she says “I dont understand the question”.  “NOW, you’re gonna get pissy?” I ask her.  Like simon says, if you don’t say “Alexa” first, you get the same reaction as lecturing a teenager.   silence. Except she couldn’t go to her room.

Not to be defeated, I go back to my music app on my iPhone, find the Bootsy collins streaming channel and hit play.  Nothing from the Bose.  I realize the pairing of the Alexa with the speaker must have knocked off the pairing of my phone. I try to change it in utilities, but Alexa keeps snagging it back.  I’m seriously “ex wife” pissed and frustrated by now.  “F#%! YOU! ALEXA”.   Silence.  So I unplug her.  Still, no music.  I realize I have to turn her back on, disconnect the speaker from her Bluetooth and I do.  Still no music.  F#%! YOU, Alexa.   Silence. I’m really not understanding why these programmers don’t code her to respond to her name and a curse with with, “It’s not my fault, you idiot” or better yet,  “NO, F#%! YOU!!!! At least I’d feel like I had some closure.   “Let’s try vinyl, my friend said”,obviously wanting to de escalate the rising tension between me and Alexa.  I’m not even going to try to tell you what happened when we tried to stream a movie

This morning, I tried my phone and the Bose- music first try.   WOW.  “Alexa, what’s the temperature”, so I could dress for my walk. Alexa says  “The Phok Koo Chinese restaurant is open from 9-3 on Christmas Day”.    Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhh

Uber for Dogs?

Imagine my surprise the other day when the following e mail hit my smartphone. 

WOW!   Uber rides for dogs?!?!   AMAZING!  I don’t currently have a dog, but there’s a large number of them in the neighborhood, so I thought I’d ask around.

The first local I saw was a pleasant older Golden Retriever so I stopped and asked her what was up with the Uber for dogs. “Yeah, I’ve heard of it”, she said non chalantly.   “We’ve been flying on our own for years but this?……   We’re actually pretty excited about it. A bunch of us dogs were talking about it around the doggie station after some pretty vigorous sniffing.”

“Really?, I asked.  “What’s the concensus?”   “Well,” she drawled, “the poodles and the bichon frise were excited about more regular trips to the groomer but wanted to know if Uber served wine.”   “No, I don’t think so”, I said.  “At least they never have me”.    “They were particularly excited about finding some nicer salons, though”, she said.

“The terriers were a little miffed about some of Ubers new rider rules, especially no sex in the car and no unwanted contact with drivers. The Weimeraners were concerned about small cars but thought Uber Plus and Premium would work”.

“How do you pay, can ya’ll get credit cards?”   She laughed.  “Most of us don’t, but all of us are much more spoiled than kids.  We have an easier time getting ahold of our owners credit cards than an honors student from college on spring break in Cancun.  In fact, I flew there once for some frisbee beach thing and even as a dog, my card had a higher limit than most of those kids. I did hear a rumor about a Tibetan Mastiff who cost $1.6 million dollars who had their  own Visa Black card, but you know you can’t trust dog gossip.”  

“What do your owners think”, I asked.   “OMG, they are so excited about it.  She got really animated. ” It’s like getting out of chaffeuring your kids but without the cost of insurance and worrying about us killing ourselves driving when texting.  We can now Uber to the dog walking park, to dog friendly restaurants to have brunch with our dog buddies, to the vet, to the groomer, and to doggie day care. (God, I hate that term. What am I, 3 months old?) Mine is hoping for Lyft soon because you can tip on the Lyft app and my owner is kinda pissy about my carrying cash. I kinda understand though cause she thinks I lost $300 once because I didn’t want to admit on my first Uber ride, I ditched the park, went to a casino, lost  $200 on blackjack and got wasted on Mai Tai’s. I was really late getting back cause I had to sober up before she saw me.  The other hundred bucks was to get the driver to overlook a little urination thing in the backseat, but Mai Tais do that to me.  He said it was ok, most of his college kids were worse and three of the college kids bit him.  That’s why he now likes driving dogs better”

“Have any of ya’ll used there service yet?, I wondered out loud.  “What’s the experience been?

“Kinda all over the map”. she said.  A pit bull said he was leaving a doggie stripper park in the North Area, and that UBER App claimed  the closest vehicle was 30 minutes away but he was pretty drunk and you know how people judge pit bulls.  He swears some drivers won’t come get him.  Shame, even though he has a drinking s stripper problem, he’s a teddy bear.  One of my best friends said he put in a ride request, then sent a text to the driver asking where he was, then a second text asking if he was here yet, then a third asking what was taking to long, then a fourth asking what kind of service this was and then said he was banned the next day.  He though they were biased against dachshunds.  I did mention they were kinda ‘yappy’ , but he’s so sensitive about that.  I did hear later he bit the driver”.  

Just then she looked behind me and darted off. I turned around to see a dozen cats with “Cat Rides Matter” posters headed in our direction. I took off too.

Pre-Intoxication Guidelines for Zumba Fitness

Dear Zumba Fitness International, (and fellow Zumbaranians)

Having regularly attended a 9 am, Saturday morning, Zumba Fitness class, I have, unintentionally, acted as a lab rat for the hypothesis. “Just how many hours before a Zumba class do you need to stop drinking without experiencing a long list of side effects that would rival the average prescription drug disclaimer on a TV Commercial. You know, like (insert deep baritone announcers voice here) “common side effects include: (announcer speaking a 250 words a minute now) nausea, projectile vomiting, loss of bowel and/ bladder control, hives, rash, anxiety, numbness in hands, feet and nose, sinusitis, rhinitis, OMGitis, hair and fingernail pain, sensitivity to light and noise, dehydration, flatulence, lack of coordination, walking into walls, mirrors or windows, intense perspiration of alcohol, loss of memory,  desire to lose some memories, and pleading with a divine creator for assistance with promises of not repeating the behavior”.

It occurred to me this morning, after a lengthy birthday celebration which started early and ended late at a Waffle House, that maybe you had already covered this and I should check your website.  Seeing you have not, and assuming this was an oversight, I am happy to share my research with you (my non scientific, non controlled, not stistically valid sample of ‘one’, research)    BTW, I think law enforcement should drop the BA level testing and consider the “Waffle House” (or IHOP or Denny’s) Test. As in, you are pulled over late at night on the weekend and the officer asks “have you been drinking?”   You: (I’ve had a couple”.  Him:  are you on your way to or coming from a diner for breakfast at 1 am. You: (sheepishly) yes, am on the way there now to meet some friends. Him: “you are under arrest for driving under the influence, get out of the car”. (Disclaimer:  at all times mentioned herein, Uber or Lyft was used, do not drink and drive).  Anyhow, here’s my Zumba fitness class pre intoxication guidelines.

1. It should not need to be said that you should not have a cocktail DURING CLASS.  Most instructors frown on that because….-their insurance doesn’t cover them or you and, they want to be drinking to and are not allowed and you’re just going to make your class mates envious. (If anyone DOES know of an insurance policy that covers drinking while exercising , please let me know- I’m going to that class, at least once). And then everyone is going to have mimosas and what would THAT look like?

2. Drinking ends 24 or more hours before class. Again, you would think this doesn’t need comment, but if you’re experiencing “symptoms” 24 hours after your last drink and you’re blaming alcohol, you’re in denial about just how out of shape you are and you need more exercise. And less excuses. Or therapy.

3. 24- 12 hours before class. This what I have come to term the “reasonable zone”. The probability of avoiding symptoms within this time frame involves a number of variables like whether it’s closer to 24 hours or 12, whether you’re measuring your consumption by number of drinks,  or liters, or some either percentages or multiple of liters thereof and whether the circumstances of your consumption has video which either you or your companions think is “the Hangover” , the movie, worthy.  E.g, if there is a live tiger in your house, or you are missing a tooth, Do Not Attend Zumba class, regardless of the time period between your last drink and class.  Call your attorney.

4. 12-7.5 hours before class.  I confess this is the time period with which I have most consistently experimented. I will also say that in this time frame, class attendance requires a very dark pair of shades, and at least a Grande sized, extra shot espresso.  Don’t worry, with practice, you can Zumba with a Starbucks in one hand without spilling it.  My experience is that depending on consumption and whether you’re closer to 12 hours or 7.5, this time frame will involve some of the side effects mentioned above.  Most frequent:  the conversation between you and your Divine  creator. Second most frequent?  Let’s just say I measure those classes by whether they are a “no trip, or 1,2 or three bathroom trips during class”  (and severity of side effects) experience.

5. 7.5 to minutes before class.  Again, I confess that today is the first, and last time I try the 7.5 hour zone.  You do NOT want to be leaving a Waffle House at 1:30 am in a Uber and be in Zumba class, 7.5 hours later.  Do not try this at home.

However, science is a community affair where the many build on the research of pioneers. I pass the baton to my millennial Zumba friend who by virtue of age and or fitness, like our astronauts, are prepared to boldly go,where no one has gone before”. (If however, you drink consistently from 7.5 to minutes before class, please attach video.  Thank you).

Katie “Barre” The Door

“I’m not here to torture you”, said the instructor at the minute class started. Knowing people usually say the opposite of what they’re thinking, I thought “oh shit, here we go”.  

I’ve wanted to try Barre for a long time, but I needed to find a female friend to take me, because I can tell you from experience, when a guy shows up to take a class with a room full of women, they look at you like… Well:

1.   A group of pediatric nurses watching a newborn boy get circumcised 

2.  Like they want to search you for roofies

3.  Like “creepy” just walked out of the dictionary and came to class.  

Trust me, you would never go to another country without a passport, do not go to a women’s exercise class without a female to escort you.   

For the uninitiated, barre, according to the barre evolution website may be defined as “Barre (bar) n.: Exercise modality that uses a ballet barre for balance, your own bodyweight for resistance, and a series of small, low impact movements to rapidly yield a tight, toned and transformed physique.”   These “small, low impact, isometric movements create what is called “barre burn”. While “burn” is a good term, it’s a little misleading and here’s why.  Anyone who’s ever built a fire, or seen a fire built will identify.  In building a good fire, you need tinder (something to start the fire that burns easily, like paper) and then kindling (small sticks of wood or little branches that will,catch first easily from the tinder, and then pieces of wood which gradually increase in size.   Think of this muscle “burn” as the smoke that rises after the match is first put to paper, followed by the glint of flame as the paper flares I fire and starts to heat the kindling, followed by the hotter flame as the kindling is consumed, followed by the raging fire as the larger pieces of wood are consumed in flames.  Or if you e ever seen a building burn, you know that first there is a little smoke and then in a moment, the entire building is consumed in flames.  This is your muscles in Barre 

This might be just one of the thoughts that enter your mind as you stand, feet wide apart squat, your toes turned out to opposite walls, standing on your toes, doing infinitesimally small bends.  Or, you might think of that one time when you thought, “why can’t I climb a barbed wire fence, I’ll be careful” , or as a guy, “how hard can a split really be?”  Ever woke up in the middle of the night, with a charlie horse so bad, you literally levitate straight up out of the bed, to land on the floor, on your feet, massaging your cramped muscle?  This is barre. 

Ever gotten a foot cramp so bad when driving, you literally had to pull over to get out of the car to stand on the cramped foot to get the cramp out?   This is barre

But in fairness it’s a cross between the excruciating burn of isolating a muscle to exhaustion with the shaking and quivering which comes from actually having exhausted the muscle.  

They have accoutrements of torture including straps (yay bondage), hand weights, little green balls (I never did find out what the balls were for) , mats and some wooden thing on the wall about four feet wide and going up about 8 feet with little round rungs. My escort said it was for you to hang by, but she forgot its name.  The rack I said, it’s “the rack”. 

If there was a warm up I missed it. The class progresses from push ups and planks, to arm and shoulder exercises (if you want an idea what this feels like hold your arms straight up with your palms outstretched.  Now watch Gone with the the Wind.  Drop your arms). Then gluteus and thighs. Then abdominal.   Thankfully the difficulty of coping with the searing pain in so many parts of your body is slightly distracting.  

There was a clearly announced “cool down” period which involved a series of more exercises in which the instructor was not clamoring for more pain.   The lack of clamoring did not reduce the pain.  

If, like me, you’re happily wandering through the sadomasochism of various modalities of exercise, barre is clearly a torture session you don’t want to miss. I can’t wait to go back. 

Relationship Lessons Gleaned from Lead/Follow Dances

Dancing Argentine Tango for seven years, many of my classes and workshops are on perfecting the skills of being a good leader and follower. I’ve noticed many of those lessons are good for relationships in general. While men are often leaders and women followers, anyone can lead or follow, so to be as all encompassing as possible, my references will be to leader and followers only, as opposed to gender. After all, I’m not North Carolina.

1. Both parties should stay on their own axis (balance). If you are leaning on your partner to the point they are having to hold you up, the dance will never work. Have we not all dated someone like that?

2. Leaders should not pull, push, shove, or otherwise forcibly try to get the follower to “get it”. I mention this since SC is quite high on the national list for Domestic Violence, and because reading followers posts, it seems to be epidemic. Maybe you really want to be in mixed martial arts or wrestling instead.

3. Stated differently in different languages, “the leader proposes, the follower disposes”. A lead is not a command, but an invitation, to which the follower accepts or rejects. (or maybe interprets differently then you intended in an even more lovely way) Followers, like people in bars, appreciate your picking up on this after your third invitation is rejected (or first). Know the difference between persistence and harassment.

4. If your lead doesn’t obtain the intended response, my advice is to consider this to be something you miscommunicated rather than an error on the followers part. Here’s why, there’s nothing you can do about an error on the followers part (during a social dance) , but there’s a lot you can do to make your non verbal communication skills better. In fact, one of the greatest benefit of lead follow dances is that you ACQUIRE non verbal communication skills. What married person wouldn’t like THOSE to be better? For themselves and their significant other (SO). For workshops, consider that most issues between couples are a combination of both parties. Take a “how can we make this better approach”, as opposed to a “you need to do or not do X,Y,and Z.” Even if it is one person’s issue, it’s easier to accept if determined in a cooperative format.

5. Likewise, as a follower, if you are confused by your partners lead, you can’t do anything about that in the moment. What you can do, is focus on what YOU’RE doing and go through your mental checklist: posture, balance, arm position, looking at partners chest, etc. Wouldn’t most relationships be better if we worked hardest at “fixing” ourselves, rather than taking our SO’s inventory.

6. Follow etiquette. “Etiquette is a code of polite conduct. If you practice proper etiquette, you are less likely to offend or annoy people — and you may even charm them.” https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/etiquette Rules regarding the dance moves in a counter clockwise circle, that one does not instruct during a social dance, that one doesn’t talk DURING the dance (before or after is fine) are all designed to avoid injury, and create an opportunity for everyone to have a pleasant social experience while dancing. While some neglect etiquette in relationships, one might argue that relationships need just as much etiquette as public situations. Like not talking during a dance. Who hasn’t been in relationship and far too often thought, “will they just not shut up”.

7. You will not have chemistry with everyone. This is not a surprise. You may even find that someone you had chemistry with at one time, you no longer do. Or you may find that they no longer have chemistry with you. Usually some distance is all that’s required. Stabbing, poisoning, shooting them is not recommended, nor is defaming them, trying to cause them financial ruin or slashing there tires. While intentionally hyperbole, anyone who’s been to divorce court knows exactly where I’m coming from.

8. Personal Hygiene. Who hasn’t wished this was a more popular endeavor in ALL facets of life. Whether dancing or in a relationship, applying the Golden Rule to yourself for any situation in which you will spend significant time cheek to cheek is not rocket science.

9. Your current lack of ability at “whatever” is not an excuse for not learning, participating or getting better. This is one of my favorites. When I tell people I take yoga classes, a typical response is “I can’t do that, I’m not flexible.” “Neither was I when I started, but I can now stick my head up my ass, and you’re apparently flexible enough for that”. Or, “I can’t dance, I have no rhythm”. Uhhh, that’s why you take lessons. Just say I’m not interested in that rather then suggesting a lack of knowledge is a good excuse. We could have all gotten out of public school if saying, “Wow, I can’t go, I don’t know math”. Over seven years, I’ve been told I have no rhythm, can’t move to a beat, act like I’m always at a funeral, lack musicality, have no creativity or imagination. And those comments were just from my former marriage.

Left Brain-Right Brain: The “Filter” vs “Smart Assery”

You may be familiar with various theories of the effects that the two hemispheres of our brain have on a variety of things from behavior, to psychology to biology, including the most popular that our left brain is where rational, logical processes reside and the right, creativity.  This is all, of course probably not true. If you’re remotely interested in any of this, here is a Wikipedia article with 80 citations to current professional journal articles in neurology, physchology, and other medical, scientific and Behavorial science publications.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lateralization_of_brain_function
 Let me save you some time, however, and suggest that our knowledge of the brain is not much more advanced than our medieval theories that the Black Plague was caused by an imbalance in the four humours (not comedy humours but blood, phlegm, black and yellow bile)

This allows me to pretty freely postulate that the left brain is where our “filter” resides, as a constant balance to the “smart Assery” right side of our brain.  By “filter”, I mean that part of our brains that stops us from offering the police office, who just stopped us, the box of donuts from the passenger seat, or when our significant other asks, “do these jeans make my ass look fat”; scrolling through the responses of “everything makes your ass look fat” or “your ass IS FAT”, or “do you mean ‘semi trailer fat’, or ‘Beyoncé booty fat’, or ‘Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue fat” and instead opt for “of course not- your ass is perfection defined”. 

I find it difficult to predict when my filter will or won’t work, or when the switch is on or off.  I first noticed this as a 17 year old in AP calculus class.  The teacher said, “and what should I do with this Parabola”, and before I knew it I said “you don’t REALLY want us to tell you what to do with that Parabola, do you”, whereupon with equal speed an eraser was whizzing by my left ear.  I immediately began to put as much value on my filter as her bad aim. As the things which then began to get thrown at my head increased in both frequency and weight, I began to think maybe my filter could be exercised to be made more effective. I’m not sure at my age if it’s better or worse.  Here’s just a few examples.

At a function this week hosted by a female friend, I met her husband for the first time. Part of the conversation went like this.  “…-and he does Argentine tango, she said”.   “Wow,” he said, what a beautiful dance.  We so enjoyed watching tango on our trip to Buenos Aires.  But you don’t seem to have the body type of a tango dancer?”.   Possible replies submitted to my filter:  “Yes, well I got a 6 week scholarship to the Sumo Wrestlers School of Argentine Tango in Kyoto in 2009”. “Yes, but I applied for and was granted a weight waiver from the International Tango Police in Buenos Aires”.  “Yes, but I’m also short and I get to dance with REALLY tall women”.

image

 Yes, but I’m not allowed to dance with women over (or under) a certain weight”. “Yes, I have to weigh in monthly and if I go over 240, I’m suspended”. “Yes, but we have weight classes in Tango, like boxing” to what actually passed my filter which was “hahahahahaha, Yes!”  (Yay filter!!!)

My filter seems particularly challenged by stupidity.  At a tango class years ago, a conversation with a medical school professor somehow turned to my struggles to lose weight despite a ridiculous amount of exercise, clean eating and food deprivation.    “It’s easy he said, don’t eat anything white”.   Uh oh, here we go with a furious assault on my filter.   “This is going to be shocking news to my black and Asian friends”.  “OMG- in 48 years of dieting, I’ve never seen or read this theory or been told this by any of the 36 physicians I’ve seen in all these years”.  While my filter is processing some other options which are not printable, he adds “you know like white rice, white bread, or white flour”.  Immediately after my filter rejects “so the outside of Oreo’s is ok, but not the middle” and “You’re a fucking idiot”, and it allows, “yes, I should work harder on this, thank you”.  

I was encouraging a fellow zumberanian this morning by remarking she looks like she lost a significant amount of weight lately and is more tone.  Anytime I see someone I know, who looks like they’ve lost weight lately, I tell them. Who doesn’t want to hear they’ve lost weight lately, even if they haven’t (Nigerian marathon runners and eating disorder patients excluded). We had the usual banter of “yes, I really want to get rid of this belly” (whereupon I put my arm around her and showed her it’s still smaller than mine), how long it takes to make progress, etc. etc. whereupon the other person in this conversation said, “your genes have a lot to do with it”.   Apparently my filter was recovering from my Friday night because I blurted out, “so, I should stop wearing wranglers and get designer jeans instead?”, all the while thinking I should warn my former beauty pageant friend to immediately burn those baby phat jeans I bought her years ago.  After all, she might ask me, “Baby, do these baby phat’s make my ass look fat?”.