Sunday, December 21, 2008

down in the French Quarter

so despite Troy losing a game they had no business losing (which will be another blog entry all on its own), Misty and i are having a great time in New Orleans. we're actually staying in Slidell, just across Lake Ponchartrain from Nawlins. we checked in this afternoon despite an unhelpful hotel desk jockey, left our bags in the room and headed into the Big Easy.

it was nice just to have some time to drive around the city, find decent parking and then gawk around some of the French Quarter. we stayed mostly on Canal Street or Decatur ... probably will tackle Bourbon Street when we come back for New Year's Eve/Sugar Bowl. but i wanted to write about some of the stuff we did before i go to bed tonight, so that i won't forget it. we ducked into the Crescent City Brewhouse. we ducked in for a quick drink, and ended up dining there, too. the beer was ok, but the food was awesome, and we can definitely recommend the baked brie (it comes with apple chutney, grapes, roasted garlic and crusty French bread) and the cornbread dressing (with andouille sausage). the food was amazing and the service was really friendly too.

from there we ducked in a couple of stores, but my favorite place was undoubtedly The Cigar Factory, where you could see cigars being rolled by hand and tour the humidor where they were being aged. i bought one and smoked it as we wandered around and enjoyed the brisk December chill. we also stopped in at the Green Room, where we were served the worst vodka gimlets in the entire known world. they were -- as Charles Barkley would say -- turrible, just turrible. from there we finally headed to the Superdome (which lived up to its name ... it really was nice). we had great seats and were surrounded by cool people. no complaints on this end.

oh, and here's a fun thing: i ran into people i knew from Troy, who said they missed me and the sports section just wasn't the same without me. i really appreciated hearing that. Janice Blakeney (Coach's wife) saw me, hugged my neck and said she and Larry both missed having me in Troy. that meant a lot. the first time i ever met Janice, she was mad at something i'd written in the paper. by the time she left, she was laughing with me. when i left Troy, she hugged me and said I could come back anytime I wanted.

oh, and i have to say ... i spotted my former lackey Ben Stanfield at the game. Ben was rocking the sweater vest, and i wouldn't be doing my job as his friend if i didn't make fun of him for it. you are NOT Jim Tressel, my friend. let the sweater vest go.

anyway, it's time for bed. good night.

the Big Easy

so Misty and i are headed out later this morning to go to the New Orleans Bowl to watch Troy play Southern miss. should be a good game, but i think we're really just looking forward to having a little bit of time all to ourselves.

we'll be down in time to wander through the French Quarter a bit and relax before the bowl game. we'll be driving right through Hattiesburg, and i thought of seeing if my friend Ginny and her hubby might like to join us for a coffee, but i haven't seen her on FB in a few days. we'll be going back through there on Dec. 31 and Jan. 3, so maybe then?

like a lot of people, we're going to be traveling a lot over the next couple of weeks. heading to New Orleans (twice!), and also back down to the Wiregrass for Christmas. i'm hoping i get to see some of my old friends while i'm down there. i know i'll see Chris V. (and yeah, big guy, you know i'll try to pick up a shirt for Josh at the bowl game tonight) and Bobby R. while i'm down. i'd like to catch up with Chad and Jen, too (hint, hint, Jen!). and Blair and i keep meaning to catch up, but it hasn't worked out yet. but it will, i'm sure. and Rachel Benton better come by and see me at some point. lol

i'm kind of meandering around here (likely because it's very early in the morning). i just ... i dunno. i think about how lucky i am. i have a girl who loves me dearly and accepts me despite my (numerous) flaws. i have a great dog. materially, i have a ton of things. financially, i'm doing OK. i look back on my life just two short years ago, and things have changed so much for the better. i think the biggest changes have come in my relationships with people ... building trust and laying the foundation for real, long-term friendships. another huge change is not finding my identity in work anymore, but instead finding it in who i am emotionally and spiritually. i used to rush to the office in the mornings and work through the night a lot of times. these days i guard my time jealously. i'd rather spend it on Misty or my friends.

ugh. sorry for the long ramble. i'm going to go dry some clothes and try to catch another couple hours of sleep.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


oh my goodness. in the battle between myself and the CrossFit program, CrossFit has won. easily. like Mike Tyson when he was in his prime, CrossFit came up and just whipped my ass today. if it were a boxing match, it would have been over in the first round. i would be that guy lying knocked out on the canvas with the little birdies circling his head.

in the past two days, i've done the following: wallball (all links in this post to video examples), which is a free squat while throwing a weighted medicine ball at a mark about 10 feet off the ground; burpees, which are harder than they look, especially after about the first five; kettlebell swings, which start out easy and get progressively harder ... the girl in the video there is insane; a squat/military press combo that i can't find a video to, and rowing (don't feel like i need to post a video of that).

i'm working muscles i didn't know i had ... and the ones i thought were in decent shape appear to ... well ... let's be kind and say they aren't anywhere as decent as i thought they were. these workouts only take 30-40 minutes, and at the end of them i'm so exhausted i have to force myself to get to my feet and go shower. but i think i did better today with the workout than i did the first day. here's what i'm really liking: the workout is challenging. it's different every day. and quite frankly, it's beating me into submission. in each of my workouts, i've had moments of "WTF??? why am i doing this?" but i've worked past that, and i'm glad. but honestly, the workouts are kicking my butt right now.

my goals are simple: to really be "in shape." and i define "in shape" as being physically able to do whatever i want. if that's run a 5K, great. if that means playing basketball or tennis or softball, that's what i want/need. i want to maintain that level of fitness. i can tell you that, while i'm sore, i feel better physically than i have in a long while. part of that is just knowing i'm doing something to get more fit. but i think part of it is the exercise itself.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sunday morning coming down

I'm still laughing about Gene Chizik being hired at Auburn. Sorry, but you're going to fire a guy with 85 wins -- including seven of 10 against your arch rival -- to hire a guy whose head coaching record is 5-19? At Iowa State? Really?

And don't tell me Tubs resigned. You don't pay a guy $5.1 million in buyout money when he quits.

On to more pleasant topics:

Misty and I joined Northridge Fitness yesterday. I went ahead and paid a year's membership in advance ... now we need to use it. Yes, I want to lose weight ... but the important thing for me is to be and feel healthier. Misty got to work out, but I had to work from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m., so no weekend workout for me. I'm looking forward to getting in there Monday morning and banging out a good workout. I'm planning on doing the CrossFit stuff I mentioned in a previous entry. Northridge looks ... extensive. It's even got a boxing area so I can have a go at the heavy bag when I want to. And I will definitely want to. LOL

I'm also going to be concentrating on my diet, trying to work in more fresh veggies and unprocessed foods. This will help me control calories and make me more aware of the foods i'm putting in my body.

I look back on the last two years of my life and think about how far I've come ... from ending a horrible, self-damaging relationship with an abusive woman to building a good relationship. From being single-minded about finding my happiness in my career to finding out I can do other things and have a life -- a real life -- outside the office. Basically I've come from slogging mindlessly through the days to a point where I can see the joy in my life. And knowing the difference between those days and these makes all the difference.

"Oh, yesterdays over my shoulder
So I cant look back for too long
Theres just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just cant go wrong"

-- Jimmy Buffett, Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Friday, December 12, 2008

weighty issues

i'm not happy with my weight. well, i take that back -- i'm okay with my weight. i don't mind being a fat guy ... until someone takes a picture. in the past year i've not felt like working out. i've had a lot of pain, which resulted in a diminished desire for nearly any physical activity. that results in depression, which makes me eat more. and the pounds pack on.

i've also been coping with injuries -- specifically to my left hand/wrist -- that have been excuses not to go to the gym or not work out as hard as i could. 

i've had three straight days here where there has been zero pain in my feet and legs, and now i'm itching to work out -- ready to go walk or run or DO something. i've been reading about a very challenging workout regimen: CrossFit. my local gym offers it (and boy, is it expensive!), and i hear it works wonders if you can keep up.

i keep thinking about this, and i think the gym is definitely something i need to do for myself. i also need to get control of my nutrition (stop eating out so much, cut out so much sugar and starch, etc.) ... i know i'll feel and look better. i'll probably end up getting Misty a membership too -- but only if she'll USE it. right now we don't use the resources we have, and we really need to do that.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


a couple of weeks ago — maybe a little more — i turned to Misty and said, "i just want one pain-free day. just one more."

the story: i have gout, which is an excess of uric acid in your blood. as i understand it, the acid crystallizes, and the crystals are heavier than blood, so they follow the path of gravity downward. most gout sufferers get an attack in the big toe. but because i've had so much damage over the years to my ankles and knees, that's where the crystals often settle. left unchecked, gout can cause bone damage and weakness — and it's painful as hell, to boot. during an acute attack, it's nearly unbearable. with no hyperbole, an acute attack can be worse than a broken bone. my legs and feet have been bothering me, off and on, for nearly all of this past year. i have probably limped more this year than ever before. it's been nagging like an overachieving mother-in-law. i've been concerned that it's basically getting worse, because the pain and inflammation has lingered so long. i've stopped playing tennis and basketball. i could still get out on the court, but it would take me days — perhaps even a week — to recover from just a little effort.

it last attacked my right knee, and i could barely walk. it was bad enough that i went to the doctor. for me, a trip to the ER or doctor really means i think i'm in bad shape. i thought they'd have to drain my knee, but instead it was the usual cocktail of painkillers, muscle relaxers, steroids ... and now i'm taking a daily dose of allopurinol, which should regulate some of the excess uric acid.

today was the day: pain-free. no limping. no swelling in my ankles or knees. no trouble navigating the stairs at Misty's place. this is what being pain-free is like. i want it to continue.

Monday, December 8, 2008

say cheese!

so, i'm a softie.

does this surprise anybody, really? i got Misty a gift she's been wanting forever — a digital SLR camera. in fact, i got her this one: ... a pretty darn good "starter" DSLR. it was also on sale (and thank goodness). i was totally trying not to give it to her until Christmas, but that didn't work out so well.

the softie part comes in this: she's known i was getting her this camera ... and she knows me well enough to know that if she shows me she really, REALLY wants something, i can't deny her. so, the package came from Amazon today, and Misty has spent most of the evening taking random pictures of Ranger, Nom Nom and some goofy fat guy. she's been, well, like a kid at Christmas. and i think i feel a little like my parents did when i was little, and got a present i really liked.

making her happy makes me happy. that's one of the ways you know it's love, i guess. her happiness doesn't come before my happiness — my happiness is increased because of hers. in the six years i've known Misty, that's always been true. we've only been together romantically for a year and a half now, but she enriches my life in countless ways. i was (and am) glad i could return the favor (though, frankly, what i did for her pales in comparison for what she does for me on a daily basis).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

watching the world go by

Misty, my roommate Chris and I met up with a group going to "Dickens Downtown" in Northport last night and ended up having a pretty good time.

It was a bit of a walk into town, since traffic was blocked off. It was cold, but not cold enough to see our breath as we marched toward the festivities. there were carolers in 19th century regalia, a cordon of bagpipers, a "snow" machine, free bags of roasted peanuts, apple cider, hot chocolate. it was really too cold to hang around outside too long, so we went into The Globe, an upscale restaurant/pub, and were seated in front of a large picture window where we could watch the goings-on outside. we had Irish coffee and split a chocolate torte. oh, and i had a Guinness, which Misty helped me drink. heh. it was fun to sit there, warm and secure, and just watch the world go by.

we did go visit a local artist of some renown, Danny Roundtree, who is incredibly talented. I loved some of his work, and liked a good bit more. i think i respect him not only for his talent (which is sizeable), but also for the fact he actually WORKS at being an artist. it's not a plaything or a sometime thing for him. It's not a dalliance. This is his work, and he loves what he's doing. You can tell. It made me think about what *I* am doing with my life. I'm working as a studio photographer and sometimes enjoying it, but it's not what I want to do. I want to write novels. But sadly I'm lacking the discipline to finish what I've started, apparently. Maybe I can use Danny's success -- and in this instance I define success as being able to use your passion to make a living -- to motivate myself.

Monday, December 1, 2008

doing a little good

i guess at some point we should talk about faith. not religion, per se, but faith. and by that, i don't necessarily even mean faith in God. as Shepherd Book tells Mal in Serenity, "Why, when I talk about faith, do you always assume I'm talking about God? I don't care what you believe in, just believe in it."

for me, i use "faith" in this instance as the code by which we live our lives. your code may be different from mine, and that's fine. but hey, it's my blog. so let's talk about my faith. it's weak, and it crumbles. as i get older, it gets harder for me to know what to do with it. but i'm proud of it, just the same. one of the key elements of my adult faith -- i almost said my "new" faith -- is that it should help others. i like to think that good Christianity should have an active side, that it shouldn't mean church on Sundays and the occasional sawbuck in the collection plate. my faith should mean helping other people.

our church (meaning Misty's and mine) has a food pantry, which helps several families every week. the church is pretty good about giving patrons staples: canned veggies, soups, maybe some rice, some beans, pasta. Misty and i have volunteered there occasionally, but i'll tell you this: it's hard. it's hard to see that need in people and not be moved. our friends Ashley and Benji run the place pretty much every weekend. i don't know how they do it. food pantries run on marginal budgets at best, and they need help. (sloppy, intrusive editor's note: I can't figure out how to write this next part without sounding like I'm patting myself on the back. I'm not trying to do that at all, I swear. So if I come off like a jerk, I'm sorry.) last night, Misty and i hit wal-mart, and i don't really know what came over me. i went in to get a new wallet (mine is worn slap out). but i scooped up canned hams and chopped chicken ... cleared a couple of shelves, as a matter of fact. and wished i could do more. it looked like a lot, sitting in the buggy. but the reality is that there are people in Tuscaloosa who are hungry and homeless -- people who will go without food or shelter this holiday season. the reality is that $60 in canned meats might last a couple of weeks at the food pantry, since it's open only one day a week. after that, they'll need more.

i didn't do much, and that aggravates me. i start thinking about it -- about the state of poverty in Tuscaloosa, in Alabama, in our nation and our world -- and it gets overwhelming. i'm a fat guy. i like to eat. and i feel bad for those who don't have enough money to do that. or to clothe their children. and that's where my faith is stretched to its thinnest point, i think: what can i do, realistically, to help? how do you battle something as global as poverty or hunger? people who are smarter, more globally aware, more conscientious, than me can't even answer that question.

on a global scale? there's not much i can do. nor at a national or state level. but i can help someone have meat to go with their meal. i can help right here, right now. how do you tell someone about God's love when all they can think of is their empty belly? love is a word that's come easily to me in the past. it's an easy word for most people to say. but it's not an easy thing to do, not an easy thing to live up to. but i'm trying.

and i guess that's where my faith is today.