Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Deltoid Corner

The last time I lifted weights was back in the mid-70s. I was in my early 20's, and had never done anything remotely athletic in my life except for a bit of wrestling as a 10-year-old at Camp Piasa(got an award and everything!)and one wrestling win as a 7th grader. As part of this new education,  I read some of the prevailing muscle magazines, many of which were from Joe Weider. He was a big name then in fitness, with a number of products and dietary supplements(I used to choke down his Protein Powder, in an effort to 'bulk up'), and had a number of bodybuilders under his auspices. 

I got a kick out of how it was so much its own world, this bodybuilding thing, with its cast of characters and the various "intrigues" between them as they competed for the various titles(Mr Universe, etc). Very specialized. And funny in its own way.  I remember making the quip that there should be a column in there called Deltoid Corner. 

So all these years later, with this renewed interest in physical fitness, I was toying with the idea of starting yet another blogsite. And I was going to call it- yep,  Deltoid Corner

But I've been down that road before. "Gee, that sounds like a great idea: a blogsite all about snails"! And then I somehow lose interest in snails, or just never get any hits, so for whatever reason I stop posting and there sits another albatross. 

With  three such sites now sitting there untended to due to my waning interest, maybe better to hold back on yet another potential albatross. Best anyway not to divide oneself into too many pieces. So the posts about fitness will stay here, unless they become so numerous and regular as to take on a life of their own. Then we'll see about opening up the Deltoid Corner for business. 

Anyway! Pictured above is my burgeoning home-gym. I've had the 15-lb dumbbells for awhile now, and have added the other weights(from 5 to 20)over the past couple months. From the exercises my trainer showed me, I can get in a complete workout with the apparatus you see here. Actually I try and get in to the gym to work as well, and try to balance the gym sessions with the home ones. Both have their advantages. 

One thing I'm still missing with this home setup is a bench. This is necessary for chest exercises like the Bench Press and Flyes. For the time being, this is what I'm using. Sort of an Ottoman/weight bench combo:
It seems to provide the neck and back support I need until I can make that trip to Scheel's or Dick's Sporting Goods and pick myself up a bona fide weight bench. 

Like I said, I did this stuff back in my early 20's. First at the Baltimore Y, then the local one, and then at home. And I accumulated a pretty good array of tools. Had a nice bench with an adjustable incline for working those upper pecs(which I didn't have, but at least had the means), a special barbell for doing biceps curls, various plates. The works, at least for my needs at the time.

All that stuff is lost, either buried in the basement or attic of the family home or traded off to someone long forgotten. So I'm starting over with the acquisition of weightstuff, just like I'm starting over with the whole exercise thing. Both a gradual process. 

Doing this stuff at this 'advanced' age has its disadvantages. Your body doesn't have as much testosterone as it did in your 20's, so your muscle-building and strength potentials are not gonna be what they were. But you do have the advantage of age-provided it's brought you at least a modicum of wisdom. You know how to work smarter.  So what you lose in one way, you gain(or at least equalize)in another. 

Unlike the stint in my 20's, where I worked the upper body almost exclusively, this time I do the whole enchilada- and starting with those hitherto neglected legs. And I'm happy to say that they're no longer spindly. Still skinny but more wire and sinew in there. 

And not unlike but above and beyond my earlier effort, where I had a mentor of sorts in the Baltimore Y who had given me a workout routine, I now have a trainer. Well, there was one with whom I've worked for a couple 3 months, ending in October; and will probably work with again in the Spring. He has given me the equivalent of several workout routines, and lots of tips which I try to remember as I now exercise on my own. 

So I'm off and running with this exercise thing. I've started back up God knows how many times over the last 2 decades or so, only to get a week in and get sidetracked. Actually the last attempt was last year, with my 15-lb dumbbells, and I pulled something. So that put me off for a legitimate while and then sidetracked again.

 I think what made the difference this time was working with a trainer, where you're obliged to make your weekly appointments, thus getting you through those grotty early weeks where you'd ordinarily throw in the towel. And it was rough at first! I had muscles that hadn't been exercised in 20 years, so they'd poop out in the course of the workout in those early sessions. 

But you build stamina after awhile, and it becomes more enjoyable. Much like learning a musical instrument, which becomes exponentially more fun as you acquire the skills to express yourself. Of course you develop stamina as a musician as well: lung power(and embouchure) if you're a wind player, callouses if you're a string player. 

I don't know if this will help my guitar playing or musicianship in general, if there's any tangible benefit to be gotten, but exercising seems to help me. I feel good after a strenuous workout, vitalized, and for the first time in a long time am to feeling  better about the way my body looks. It's all stuff that's good for Roger the person(as well as his component Roger-the-musician), however it distributes itself in his life. 

So we'll see where it goes. After 5 months, I'm in for the duration.   

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Mission Continues

Well I'm now about 5 months into this exercise program(see my earlier post Man with a Mission from July), and as you can see from my midsection, the Mission is by no means accomplished.This is not the After picture. At least not the After picture I'd be after.  More work to do. Definitely. And not just there, but to some extent all over. Like I said, five months. Still a beginner on this path.

But it is a pretty good During picture. You can see some progress, some development  in the arms and shoulders and chest. Likewise in the legs(not visible in the pic, so you'll have to trust me on this one), which have gone from spindly to merely skinny.

My original purpose in getting into this fitness stuff, joining a club and working with a trainer and all, was to lose around the middle. And I have, to some degree, though not to the dramatic extent I'd like. It's a stubborn area, especially if you're basically skinny elsewhere, as the body wants to hang on to that fat since there's so little of it. Like it's maintaining a certain homeostasis in its fat quotient. 

There have been greater returns as far as the weight-training. Nothing dramatic there either(even though it seems so at very first), but a steadier and more consistent progress. So you start to get hooked on the results you're getting, regardless of whether they're the ones you wanted. They're still results. Like watering a plant and watching it grow. And once you start to see the correlation between the work you're doing and the results you're getting, it's more than a little bit empowering. Wow, this is something I can actually change on my body!My determination(and not just genetic determinism)has at least a say in the matter!

So I haven't turned my back on the cardio portion of the program, and still get in some kind of abdominal exercise. Not too much though, but some.(My trainer warned me of doing too much before you lose that layer of fat-that you'll get the muscles there but still have the fat, and actually look pregnant!)You want a somewhat balanced diet. Don't ignore any of the major food groups. But I'm concentrating more these days on working with the dumbbells. And no, I'm not referring to the people in the gym(actually, some of them, at least my trainer and his brother, are very intelligent!).

Exercise is one of those things you have to have a genuine affinity for to stick with. You have to really like it, just for the doing, or you'll find a million reasons to quit. There is really no inherent fun in lifting something, the strain on your strength and endurance. But for some weird reason or reasons, I like lifting weights. I did in my twenties(my first foray with this malarkey)and find that I do again in my just-hit sixties. 

Some areas are more enjoyable to work than others. To a great degree, I've noticed, in my 5 months into this, that it varies from person to person. Some like leg work, for instance, which is anathema to others. Me, I like the shoulders, chest and triceps best. Those are my fun areas. Leg work is tolerable. And at this point, the abdominal stuff is my Waterloo. 

So on it goes. The fitness thing. My fitness thing. I try to take the whole process this time around as a during picture, rather than focus on what results may(or may not) be forthcoming. The after picture takes care of itself as long as you handle the during, I figure. But, yes, still having fun in there. 

Still, following the present course as assiduously as possible, I'm curious as to what kind of picture I'll take, say, six months from now. For the next Mission Progress Report

Well that's about all there is to say about the subject, at least for now. So if you'll excuse me, I've got some weights to lift. A mission to fulfill...


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fright Night

I love movies. Funny movies, sad movies, scary movies, creepy movies, you name it. Some of my favorites are not necessarily the best films, but they're interesting in one way or another. Something in there lodges itself in your psyche, and you just have to return to it.

Case in point: this made-for-TV relic of the 70's. 1971 to be exact. It's called Black Noon, and stars Roy Thinnes, Yvette Mimeux, Ray Milland, and even Leif Garrett(who?)as one of the "towheads". Found it on YouTube, in 5 installments:
You'll probably want to crank up your speakers a bit. And the picture quality is far from perfect. And I guess it really wasn't all that good a movie. Still,  like I said, interesting. To give you my favorite scenes would be giving away some of the plot, so I have to hold back here.. I mean, in a movie like this, you know the bad guys are going to win. You just don't know quite how. 

I actually found this movie online, from a company that specializes in rare movies from the 60's and 70's, little gems like this that somehow don't get released. Anxiously awaiting my DVD copy in the mail. I'm sure it'll be better quality than this YouTube rendering, but I'm still not expecting much. Other than a movie that's still a lot of fun to watch. At least if you like creepy horror/supernatural films. 

I do. 


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ahhh SHIT!!!

It's here. Again. This was the depressing sight out my front door day before yesterday , after an otherwise pleasant day. So November 13th marks the first snowfall of the year, a month earlier than last year(gee I hope this isn't a trend). Whether officially or not, Winter has arrived.

And that's the only thing I don't like about the Fall. That it leads into this fucking season. I love the beautiful autumn colors- the resplendent splashes of red and green and yellow and gold-  and of course Indian Summer for as long as it lasts. But then there's that moment, like yesterday afternoon, where the party's over. No more nicey-nice until sometime in March. It's usually an abrupt nose-dive, or at least feels like one. 

This will be my second non-working Winter. Yes, it is wonderful, just like you'd think:  not to have to trudge out into the cold every morning and scrape the ice off the windshield, not to have that 10-15 minute period while the vehicle warms up, and not to have to drive out someplace and do something all day I'd just as soon not do!

One of my Dad's bits o' wisdom, passed down to us kids, was that  everything costs something. For every gain, there's a loss. I've found this to be true in many instances, and if there's a price tag here, with retirement, it's all the time you have on your hands. 

For your whole adult life, your whole working career, you're only given these little slivers of free time: your evenings, weekends, and vacations, year after year after year- and all of a sudden(after 20+ years of waiting for it), you have all the time in the world! It's wonderful and terrifying all in the same breath. 

Having resigned from my job at the end of June, I'd already come to terms with this side-effect of retirement. I'd had Jack Torrance nipping at my psyche long before old Jack Frost was nipping at my toes. So I've already exorcised those demons(not that they couldn't make a comeback..), and didn't have any real problems with the void as far as that goes. 

No, the problem I have with the Winter months is more that they're just plain dark . December to some extent, and most definitely January and February. It's cold outside, the ground is frozen, there's probably snow and ice on it, you have less daylight. All these things add up to darkness to me(especially that last one of course)- and with a couple extra numbers in there.The sun can be shining, and everything in my life going wonderfully, but if it's in the first two months of the year, it still belongs to the dark period. Things can't be coming up roses when the ground's too cold..

Really, we're not there yet. This was just a teaser. The temperature will fluctuate a bit before it drops once and for all. That is the true ahh shit moment: when it's snowed, and the temperatures all week are under the freezing mark. When Winter has announced that it's here to stay. 

At least until sometime in March. It's gone later than that, but usually wraps itself up by the end of March. And that's when the year really begins for me. I start making more plans to go out. 

Funny thing about last Winter. Nasty cold temperatures, the worst Winter we've had in over 30 years. Epic, I suppose.

I do remember some bad patches of mine: slipping on the ice(speaking of bad patches)and having some sore ribs for the next couple weeks; a nasty cold which also put me down for a similar period; a dolorous dullness of spirit just wishing the blasted Winter was over with! 

But I also remember all the little reprieves: the 2 and 3 and even 4-day stretches of tolerable and even nice weather; a few nice gigs on Sunday afternoon(even though one of them was the time I fell on the ice!); some fun YouTube videos I made, and some enhancements to the website. All these patches of light in the darkness. 

Those are what got me through last Winter. The reprieves. The breaks. And they're really what I remember, they form my recollection of the Winter of 2014.  Even the nasty stuff isn't as nasty as it may sound. With the fall on the ice, most of the soreness was gone after a day or so(though it was a bit tender for awhile in there); and a Winter cold ain't that bad if you get to stay home. 

So that's what will really get me through this Winter: all the optimism I can muster. And whatever nice patches there are to be enjoyed during these next couple months. Both to those reading this blog(if any)and the one writing it, see you sometime in March. 

Right now we have Fall wrapping itself up and Winter approaching; then, we'll have Winter coming to an end and Spring stepping in. I'm sure there will be much joy throughout the land. Winter, the Wicked Witch of seasons, is dead. At least for awhile.


Saturday, November 08, 2014

Astral Adventures with Mooark and Lifftenza

Half the fun of going off to sleep every night is whatever awaits you in the land of your dreams. Sometimes it's dark and disturbing, but more often just entertainingly bizarre. A parallel here on the good ol' Physical Plane might be the human phenomena you see on the streets of New York City.(And yes, this is half the fun of going to New York!).

I've had strange dreams ever since I can remember. The earliest recollection was when I was around 8 or 9, and in the dream I had a malady called Funk, wherein my eyes would blur and I'd levitate. 

And it's never gotten any better. Not all of my astral adventures rock the bizarre-o-meter quite so soundly, but most have a degree of weirdness. They at least register. 

Last night's dream theatre seemed significant as it involved two women I know but only through Facebook. Your nocturnal adventures are peopled with potentially anybody in your address book, but these two I've never met and don't know them as physical presences. Our relationships are, at least at this point, on a non-physical plane. And here I am dreaming about them on what's widely referred to as a non-physical plane. 

Hm. I wonder if you're acquainted on a non-physical plane, and then dream about them on a non-physical plane, do they(or you)get any kind of special rate?

Guess that's a question that will be answered in its proper time. On to the dream. It involved these two women I know through Facebook. Of course I can't give out their names, and they may not mean anything to you anyway unless you know them(not that they have no notoriety of their own, but you know what I mean), so let's call them Mooark and Lifftenza. (Strangely enough, those are names like you'd come up with in your dreams. Again, the bizarre-o-meter..)

So Mooark and Lifftenza and I are driving someplace. There are controls but no real car. Still,  I'm doing the driving, and am checking out an mp3 file/device  Lifftenza has given me. It's very high-tech.. There's an event of some kind that's happened or about to happen. Also a brief interlude where I'm sitting on the sidewalk and someone helps me to my feet. Lifftenza and I are talking about stuff, and Mooark is kind of peripheral in the scene but still there.

On the floorboard of the car(which is vast, going on forever)are several pairs of shoes strewn around every which way. This is a parallel to the A/C vent in my bedroom, which had shoes around it in similar disarray. At one point, we all get out of the car. I notice the shoes, four or five pairs of different shoes(I don't own that many in real life) which are all neatly arranged along the floorboard, and I realize that Mooark has done this for me. Warm feeling for Mooark in here. 

And then it's time to go. Lifftenza asks me, "Roger, are you leaving us?" I don't remember my response, but it was affirmative. Yes, Lillie, I'm leavin' the farm. Shortly thereafter, I woke up. 

There was more stuff in there- I remember a moment, after Mooark had left,  when I said something about gathering up my accoutrements(clearly in an attempt here to impress Lifftenza with my vocabulary), but the minute you wake up it starts to fade, starts to crumble into dust. Still, an interesting time, and with some very unlikely people. But that's often a great feature of one's nightly astral adventures. You just never know who you'll meet. 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

That's MR Fix-it to you!

  I had a good Dad. He gave it his best shot, and even passed on a little wisdom here and there. No real complaints. Well, it would've been nice to get a word in edgewise once in awhile(he was a talker!)- and while we're at it, maybe some mechanical/repair savvy. 

 Where it seems most boys are taught how to hammer a nail or use a socket wrench, I was simply given this gem: "Son, when you get married, pretend that you don't know how to fix anything in the house. That way you'll get out of having to do it." 

I still cite that statement as the sole bit of shitty fatherly advice I was given in my life. 

And I must say, doggie-Daddy, you were true to yourself on that one. My Dad was a dreadful handyman. He didn't show me that stuff because he didn't know it himself! So there's no blame. He couldn't give me something that wasn't in him to give. 

My brother learned the handy stuff on his own and from others(he couldn't have gotten it from our Dad!), and has that basic proficiency as far as domestic repairs. Good for him. Me, I'm a chip off the old block, and carrying forward the Roundly tradition of incompetence. Not much I can do, but I change a mean light bulb. 

I remember cracking that joke to my wife, who was complaining about my lack of repair skills: "Being handy is more than just changing light bulbs" was, I believe, her line. She was not amused. 

And of course she didn't see much humor in his fatherly advice either. Not a laughing matter to her. 

I should have said ex-wife. But that may have been evident already. Anyway, this lack of handyman skills is something I've just lived with. If I have a problem, I get someone who's in the know, and pay them to fix it. 

I've long ago resigned myself to the fact that fixing things is something I have basically no affinity for or ability toward. And I'm okay with that. Well, sort of.

Oh, I'm sorry, I do have another domestic skill.(No sense selling myself short here..) Besides changing a mean light bulb I'm a pretty heavy dude with a plunger. With this simple tool, I can unclog things like toilets and bathroom/kitchen sinks, and often return my home to functionality. 

For the past couple days, I've had a bathroom sink that just stayed in a state of clog, despite much vigorous plunger action on my part. If anything, my efforts seemed to make it worse! And I was just getting ready to head to the store for some Liquid Plum'r or the equivalent, when I had an idea. Sort of like one of Columbo's last-minute hunches. 

Using the handle on my disposable razor(and then Mr Plunger's non-business end), I just dug the stuff out. This worked just a little bit at first, and then completely drained it. And yes, I disposed of the razor. The results of my successful unclogging of my upstairs bathroom sink can be viewed here: 
 This is significant because 99.9 percent of the time, I suck at this kind of thing! So any time I get a handle on fixing something, any time I get a hold on my old arch-nemesis Mechanical Ability it feels like a major coup. A battle has been won.

Just another day around the house for most, but a significant stride for Roger U Roundly. I'm thinking of submitting this to the newspaper. 

No, of course I'm not! But I'm still heartened by my ability to fix my sink without the help of even Liquid Plum'r. I'll never be a real handyman, but it's more because I just don't want to. 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Om Mani Padme Rog

One of the positives in my life, one of the things that help my day go 'round, is the practice of meditation. Every morning and every evening, for maybe 15-20 minutes, I close my eyes and go inside myself a bit, working on quieting my mind by a variety of means: regulating my breathing(or just focusing on the in/out of your inhalation and exhalation), or using a mantra.Those are my basics, but there are many other ways to go about it.

The morning session is probably my favorite of the two, particularly on a day where I don't have to be anywhere or do anything. Always feels like a "purer" session:  having just awoken from a night's sleep, there's rarely any junk to clear out of my head. 

Meditation is not a panacea though. There are no dramatic transformations. It doesn't turn you into a Swami. I'm still the same neurotic I always was, but at least I don't worry about it anymore. What meditation does is relax you, cool you out. And being quieter inside, you're able to see more of what's going on within you and without you- as it were. You might just get an insight or two into your own behavior, your own machinations, your own life. 

 I've practiced meditation now for- oh gosh!-42 of my just-now-60 years. First learned how to meditate(actually, like I said,  there are many hows, as far as that goes)when I was 18, not long after I'd learned of it.

The form of meditation I learned was called Transcendental Meditation(or TM for short), and was under the general direction of one Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Yep, the one with the celebrity clientele which included The Beatles and The Beach Boys(and wasn't Mia Farrow in there someplace?). That Maharishi.

He was a ubiquitous figure in the media at that time, espousing his philosophy of love and peace("life need not be a painful struggle")and had schools throughout the country. Learning how to meditate was a bit of an 'academic' pursuit, in that you had a classroom session or two and then an individual session with one of the teachers. 

The individual session was where you actually learned to meditate, and they gave you a mantra which was supposed to be your very own. More of this is coming back as I think of it. You had to bring an offering(like fresh fruit)to the teacher, and you had to be drug-free for at least the two weeks prior to the session. As an 18-year-old in 1972, this was a toughie. I'd go a week, maybe a week and a half, and then screw up. What can I say? Pot was our primary spirit, available and offered(nay, encouraged--our mores in 1972)at every social gathering. Besides, I liked the stuff!

But I finally made the 14 days, and was able to join the ranks. My first experience with meditation, strangely enough, was that it was very much like a pot high as far as the heightened senses, only with more continuity and less paranoia. And I was a hell of a lot calmer. 

The teachers had said that some of us would experience more contrast than others in first learning how to meditate, depending on what we came in with in terms of basic temperament. Someone who is more naturally calm and placid might not experience much of a change, whereas a rabbity, nervous individual(like me) would feel a world of difference. Of course, this wore off with time, but it was still quite a change! Enough to show me that it was possible to quiet the mind, calm the spirit.

Another thing I experienced early on was an insight into my life thusfar. In my eighteen years, I'd already had some decidedly nice patches and some downright crummy ones, and began to see both as just part of the process. The same process. No mistakes. Something didn't necessarily go wrong in my life to cause these bad things to happen. As you start to see their interrelatedness, your designations of good and bad begin to fall away. Life just is

Like I said, meditation doesn't turn you into a Swami. At 18, I probably expected it to. At 60, I know that it doesn't(or maybe I just missed the Swami boat!).But it does get you calmer, quieter inside. Externally, you're still going to be the same mess you always were. I remember a conversation with someone in college, age 20 or 21. He said, "you seem real nervous on the outside, and I get talking to you and you're calm. That's weird."

No. That's meditation. Gee, that sounds like maybe it actually works!