knox snooze

Succotash my Balzac, dipshiitake.

In which I elaborate upon something

Monday, November 28
I'm sad that the longest weekend of the year is gone. I lived it up, baby. Big meals, good wine, football on the television and naps in the afternoon. At one point I found my only reference for what day of the week it was was (holy crap, I said "was" twice in a row) whatever football game was on TV. Lions on Thursday, Texas on Friday, Tennessee on Saturday, and the other (slightly worse) Tennessee on Sunday.

You think I'm joking?

And you know how you go into a four-day weekend like that thinking about all the things you're going to get done? I wasn't. Seriously. Sure, there were things I needed to do - things I still need to do, actually - but I didn't pretend I was going to get any of it accomplished. Did I suffer for it? Do I feel guilty? Am I overwhelmed with tasks that I put off and now must slave through into the wee hours because it is, as they say, time to pay the piper? Not really.

It turns out that when I lower my expectations, even the most mundane shit excites me. I learned to make vegan gravy on Saturday night. I built a shoe rack yesterday. I took a couple of good dumps.

And I couldn't be prouder of me.

You gotta be kidding

Monday, November 21
After the surprising results of the previous two weeks, I decided to change my tactic some this week. Perhaps I had gained weight that was actually just quad muscle from riding the bike so much. And maybe even less smoking was better (a real moment of insight, I know).

So, this week saw a decrease in cigarettes (3 for the whole week...that's actual cigarettes, not packs) AND bike mileage. I still rode about 40 miles, but I didn't tack on a whole day of 25-mile riding-for-the-hell-of-it goodness. I had a few drinks, for sure, but beers were gradually replaced by bourbon-fortified cider drinks. They still have calories, of course, but just not as many as the beer I normally drink.

And I gained more weight. Same scale. Same time of day. Same lack of food in my belly in the morning. This means that my cigarette smoking has almost completely dropped off, my drinking has decreased, and my level of physical activity is much (much) higher than three weeks ago. And I've picked up a total of five pounds in that time.

So I'm going to do what anyone with a mind as scientifically inclined as mine would do. I'm going to try to smoke and drink more this week.

My wife is so happy.

Bikecommute: The Ouchening

Thursday, November 17
You know, I love riding my bike. The weirdness. The inherent goodness. The gut-trimming freeness of the fuel.

And when it's cold like it is around here right now, I love the badass-validation I get from pedalling to work. But, I have to admit, much as I love knowing that my quads are a veritable caloric blast-furnace when I'm on my bike, I'm kind of over the feeling of ball-peen hammers pounding me just above the knees as I climb hills in the bitter cold.

Cycle o' the seasons

Wednesday, November 16
Inspiration: the testicles of sea creatures.

So, last week, it was a difficult, but important, choice I made to ride my bike to work instead of driving my truck when I knew I was going to be late. Just to give you a little insight into how my mind (doesn't) work: I've already gotten to the point where I just don't give a rat's ass if I'm late. My bike is a good excuse for being late. "Why was I late? Because I rode my bike, you fat jackass."

I mean, that's how it would go if I had a spine.

This morning was colder and wetter than a Narwhal's balls, but I rode anyway. It makes me feel strong. Which, incidentally, is how people at work describe my aroma.

Slightly used shit

Tuesday, November 15
I've got a lot of crap around my house. And I don't have much money. With that in mind, I'm going to sell some stuff. Want a mediocre VCR/DVD player? I'm your man. VHS copy of Benny and Joon? Hell, yeah, I've got that. Lucky for you, it's all got to go, and I won't be undersold.

What exactly is underselling, by the way? And why should I care if car dealers are determined not to be?

I am torn between separating things out and taking them to trade-in places (books, CDs, movies) and selling them online, or if I should just put it all in a big box (or 12), mark them "happy good plus," and sell it as one lot on ebay or craigslist.

Any ideas? Bids?


Monday, November 14
The University of Tennessee is so lucky. Tomorrow, we get a visit from VP Dick Cheney. Wednesday, we get writer Frank Deford.

And thus we will have, not one, but two visits from men who have names that are euphemisms for "wiener."

Some student group is also planning to put Cheney "on trial" while he is here. I'm pretty sure he isn't actually planning on attending, nor is anyone paying attention (except me, which is sort of worse than no one). And, as much as I sympathize with their impulse, isn't this just going to be a room full of people shouting about how evil Cheney is?

I think this is what frustrated people did before blogging.


I'm overweight. On the order of 40 pounds. Last week I ate well, drank more water (and less beer), smoked fewer cigarettes and biked over 50 miles.

And gained 2 pounds.

Damn it.

The progressification

Sunday, November 13
Last week I decided to keep a daily count of the cigarettes I smoke. I have a dry-erase board on the fridge that we use for grocery lists and the like, so I added a column for "Ashby's Cigarettes." The board sort of serves as an aggregation of all the things we need as the week goes on, and we try to wipe it clean every Monday.

Last week: 9 cigarettes (impressive, right?)
This week: 8 cigarettes (more so, I know)

I've also added a column for miles biked. I travel a few fairly regular routes around town, so, depending upon the reliability of the extremely handy gmap pedometer, I pedalled about 55 miles this week. As opposed to less than 20 last week.

The running begins in earnest next weekend, so I'll have another column for that.

I'm going to need a larger dry-erase board.

Uncle Billy

Friday, November 11
A friend of mine just pointed me to the Nobel Prize acceptance speech of William Faulkner in 1949. It's a pretty tasty little morsel. What have I learned?

"There is only the question: When will I be blown up?"

But I must depart with him on one point. He wants me to write of the heart, not of the glands. And I catch his meaning, but it has been my experience (and I am short on experience) that the beating of the heart is often made bearable through the functioning of the glands.

The lateness

I think I made a critical decision this morning. Well, not critical exactly, but mildly important. I have been riding my bike to work every day. This works because a) I'm poor, b) I need the exercise and 3) it's better for the earth or some such horseshit. And, of course, it takes me longer than driving. Like, three times as long.

So, when I woke up this morning, five minutes after I should have left on my bike, I decided not to get in my truck and drive it. On one hand, I felt bad that I was going to be late. But let's face facts, I'm not exactly rescuing humanity from the brink of destruction at my job, and if I'm ever going to really commit to getting everywhere on my bike or public transportation, I'm going to have to learn to deal with getting up in time to do so.

So, with plenty of time to shower and drive to my office, I called my boss to let him know I had overslept. It felt important at the time.

Man, I sure hope my truck doesn't read this.

New toilet reading

Thursday, November 10
Inspiration: free t-shirts.

My non-running running book arrived today. I read the introduction, and I have to say, I'm pretty pumped. I don't want to go out and run or anything, but I'm definitely excited about my ability at least finish the book. Which is something.

So, I have to wait until the new year to sign up for the Chicago Marathon. This could be a bad thing. I was counting on the committment of registering and paying the entry fees for Faith and me to keep me going. Now I have to find a way to stay focused for another six weeks until registration opens. To that end, I've signed up for two other races: a 10K in February and a half-marathon in March. Also, there's the KTC membership money to keep me focused.

Also, I had totally forgotten the free t-shirt aspect of running in *actual* road races (as opposed to the fake ones where it's just me and that guy with my wallet). So, even though I'm dropping more money on race entry fees, I'm scoring more t-shirts. And if you've ever seen them, you know that these t-shirts are totally worth it. First, they've got the whole "I ran a race, so blow me" prestige thing going on. Second, they're usually so covered in sponsor logos that they can double as good reading material if you've got some down time (like waiting for me in the hospital because I collapsed at mile 0.8). Third, like those from the Straw Plains race, some of them are actually totally sweet shirts.

It's too bad they don't give free pants too. Cause if I finish even a half-marathon in March, I'm going to shit the ones I'm wearing.

And the final count is

Inspiration: the sweet blessed sleep of the tired and hungry.

Someone do some math for me. Today I had one cranberry scone, one cup of coffee, one soy mocha, four fig newtons, some fries, a chicken sandwich and two beers. And a Camel Light. Also, I biked about six miles.

If anyone sees it tonight, tell Thursday morning there's no rush to get here. I can wait.

Any food is possible

Wednesday, November 9
Inspiration: sweet vending machine lovin.

As far as I can tell right now, I think the biggest hurdle for me to overcome in this whole training process will be learning not to put stupid stuff in my body. Like cigarettes. Or eleven beers. Ten, yes; eleven, don't be ridiculous.

And no less a temptation than the smokey goodness of a cigarette is the crinkly, cellophane-wrapped seduction of vending machines. Vending machines that are strategically placed every 40 inches or so around this campus, so as to ensure the balloonification of my buttcheeks.

So, having brought no lunch with me today, and having no money at my dispoal, other than the coin or six I could rustle up from my trusty paperclip/highliter/rubberband/postage/change drawer (you know the one), I went to the vending machines, determined to find something moderately healthy, bolstered by the faint hope that maybe the vending machine guy had started stocking something healthy and actually closer in value to the $1 or .75 everything goes for.

(That paragraph is all one gigantic sentence. Strunk & White can blow me.)

I found Fig Newtons. I guess they've always been there, but I had never paid much attention to them because, let's face it, what retard is dropping three quarters on something whose manufacturer insists we not call it a cookie? Answer: Ahem...right here.

They weren't bad. No Swiss Cake Rolls (which is what I had secretly hoped was the only thing in the machine - which would be a sign from God), but actually sort of filling. And, as the packaging indicated with a large "Anything Is Possible" logo, it is the "official snack partner" of the Ironman. Or was, at least (mmm...year-old Newtons).

And just when I was beginning to think that these things might be able to hold a regular place in my diet, I went to their website (cause I have a government job). There, for everyone to see, were "recipies" for things one could theoretically make with said Newtons. The list includes such culinary delights as Peanut Butter & Fig Newton Smoothies, Fig Newton Chicken Salad Roll-Ups, and, my personal favorite, Ham & Cheese Fig Newtons - which, as you can imagine, is very popular with triathletes on race day. "Ham AND cheese on a Newton? Don't mind if I do. Pass me another bottle of bottle of heavy gravy, please."

So: Newtons 1, Camels 0.

I wonder how one goes about getting an official snack partner anyway.

This doesn't count

Tuesday, November 8
I haven't written a scrap of poetry or fiction since November began. Why is this? Let's pretend it's in protest, and therefore meaningful. Or meaningless, I can't remember which is better.

Walking is the new running

Inspiration: This dude.

Faith and I decided to get up this morning in time to go for a walk. We would have gone for a run, but we're not really in any shape yet. Mostly, we're just trying to get used to getting up at the crack of dark to move our pasty limbs about.

We took the dog with us. Normally, she's very excited to go outside, and she eventually figured out that this was indeed a walk and not some other occult-related activity undertaken 'neath the cloak of pre-dawn blackness. I, on the other hand, am still not enamored with the idea of morning constitutional when it is that damn cold.

How cold? Colder than a Yeti's buttcheek.

I also rode the bike to work, so I've gotten a decent amount of blood-pumping activity in already. Plus, I've got a pile of thrill-a-minute data entry staring me down for the rest of the day. I should probably take an aspirin just in case.

I also ordered a book from Amazon last night. That's right, my first money spent in the marathoning endeavor. Big time stuff. I'm also about to mail off my KTC membership form so Faith and I can join in on all the fun.

We're in it now. Huzzah.

Progress: run a what now?

Monday, November 7
So, I haven't done any *actual* running since I decided to enter a marathon next year. And, while I've heard running is a somewhat significant part of training for a marathon, I don't want to get burnt out. You know, like Barry Sanders did. That would be tragic.

I did manage to take a little bike ride on Saturday, though. It was over 10 miles, but it's exercise benefits were probably marginal at best. Especially when one considers the two egg mcmuffins (hey, I needed fuel and they're cheaper than gas) I wolfed down before the ride and the pizza and pints I had afterward.

Sunday: nada. Unless you count the laps across the house as I spent half an hour with the geniuses at the New Delhi Radio Shack Belkin, trying to re-install my router. At one point, their solution was to uninstall Firefox and use only Internet Explorer. Because my browser might be screwing up the router? I suggested it might be because I was wearing pants. Because I like to think getting naked fixes everything.

Today: so far, not much. My wife came to my office for lunch and we walked about a mile. I've eaten pretty well (veggie lasagna, apple, Naked Juice), and if I pretend I didn't have a cigarette and a fritter after class this morning, then I'm doing pretty well.

My buddy Pervis was down for the weekend and gave me some enlightening tips on training for a marathon. He's completed four marathons and has that annoying lean, tall build that makes me want to just beat the hell out of him for being healthy. Which I totally could do if I could only catch him.

So, per the advice of Perv, I'm getting a subscription to a magazine, training with a buddy (Meine Frau), focusing on cross-training as well as running, and scheduling a race or two between now and the marathon.

Pervis, does smoking a cigarette while walking count as cross-training? What if I'm wearing trail-runners?

What, you don't think I can?

Thursday, November 3
Inspiration: the sight of my belly wobbling when I brush my teeth

While I only have the second most manias per month (MPM) of anyone I know, I think I am actually going to go after this one with a little more dedication than the others normally get. What is this one? A marathon. And just to make it more exciting for me, I've chosen a marathon that meanders through a city that is filled to the brim with the most delicious hot dogs on earth.

I played basketball in high school and soccer in college (version 1.0), and I actually used to be in great, not just good, shape. And I ran a lot. And it was fun. And then I met beer and cigarettes.

I've wanted to get back to running for a few years, but I haven't actually done anything about it. You know, cause it's hard. And there's a football game on. And I need to preserve my energy for when I go out carousing later tonight.

But now my wife wants in on it (the running, not the carousing). And whether it's genuine interest in running on her part, or a concession she's making to get my ass off the couch, it is a good thing.

We are doing Chicago because it is almost exactly a year from now, we love the city, and there is a pretty good chance that I'll be in grad school somewhere in Illinois by next August. Also, the hot dogs. I suspect there will be at least one trip to the city of big shoulders to scout the route any possible race-day distractions.

So, only 11 and a half months left. I'm drinking my last coke as I write this. Expect a lot. Of something.

Things that don't make me feel better about me

Tuesday, November 1
I love the Writer's Almanac. Who wouldn't like to sit down and listen to Garrison Keillor read a poem everyday?

Except today. Because today is the birthday of Stephen Crane. Stephen Crane who played baseball, and decided to become a sports writer. Who decided to write a book about a disgraced young woman and a book about a somewhat unwitting war hero, two things he never was, and managed to write them as well as anyone ever had. Who became a war correspondant and survived a shipwreck, which inspired him to write one of the best short stories in the English language.

And who, by the time he was my age, had written just about everything he ever would.

And all I got is this blog, damn it.