Wednesday, June 11, 2014

"Vomiting is now also off the table. Neutralized it. We're good."

My newest hero is Shonda Rhimes. I first knew her as a contributor and spelling bee fanatic on the eclectic blog "A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago." This was actually before I realized she was the writer for Grey's Anatomy. For those of you who actually know me, this progression makes complete sense.

Online commencement addresses, rife with inspiration and great messages for the future, are a burgeoning phenomenon nowadays, as Shonda acknowledges. But I don't know...Shonda just seems to take the commencement address to another level. I'd be curious to know the last time a commencement speaker (and alum) at Dartmouth used the words "poop," "vomit," and "asshole" so often in her speech. Or the last time any alum so publicly acknowledged lying on the floor of her dorm room the day after her graduation, paralyzed with anguish and crying while her mother packed her things for her. But at the same time, she's incredibly eloquent, and has that poise that sets people at ease immediately. Speaking on what looked like a perfect late spring day at Dartmouth certainly didn't hurt, either. And, of course, the Toastmaster in me counted the number of times she said "um"...and decided halfway through that it was an exercise in futility. None that I heard.

I guess what really made this speech one of my favorites ever was that she threw common wisdom out the window and on its head more than once. Don't dream? You can't do it all successfully? If you try to, you will inevitably be failing? Tomorrow will be the worst day ever? Homo say what?

Compelled? Good. Watch this. It's SO worth the 24 minutes.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

But sweetness follows.

Today, in a nutshell:
  • Thump! The thickest hipster scene I've yet encountered. Imagine taking a time machine and setting it directly for 2014. I mean, it's got everything: handlebar mustaches, toques, artisanal kombucha (whatever that means), local microbrews and wine, suspenders, lattes done with artistic foam flourishes, plenty of journals and laptops, comfy faux-leather couches, a cast iron fireplace, and neo-rustic furniture including metal chairs and roughhewn wood communal tables. The baristas are encouraged to emulate the sartorial excellence of the Lumineers or Mumford and Sons (I KNOW, it pains me too*), and openly admit that they will judge you for drinking herbal tea...or at least so sez the wall art behind them. But a super cool place to go and pretend that you're in Oregon (if you're not actually in the Bend location). Also: a super awful place to go if you are allergic to any of the aforementioned accoutrements. (Mr. Man would go anaphylactic in 0.3 seconds.)
  • Vinyl! Enjoying the turntable, so I made a few other purchases today. Continued my Beatles love with Help!, took a left turn into country with Gram Parson's Grievous Angel, and in the never-imagined-I'd-ever-do-this department, plunked down six greenbacks for a used original print of Tammy Wynette's greatest hits, dating back to 1969. Still sounds fine. All I can say is maybe it was inspiration from...well, refer back to my last post.
  • Clothes! Just the typical getting the new to replace the old...but trying to buy the quality shit that'll last. Now that I'm at a size I'm happy with, I can justify getting stuff I won't grow out of in a year or two. So goes the vision. Oh, and speaking of size...
  • Neck rolls! Weird to say this, but when I roll my head back in a chair, it's kinda comforting to feel the back of my neck bulk up and provide a bit of a cushion for my head. Just thought of that this afternoon...and again just now. Not to mention: on the right man, this can be, hands down, the sexiest body part ever. No joke.
*Of course, as soon as I mock the Lumineers for their threads, I have to look up their video for a quick reminder of exactly how they look. And oh SNAP but ya caught me. T-shirts and suspenders everywhere. And...uh...what is it that I'm wearing now? Oops. So I must admit that yes, I myself may have taken my sartorial cues from the Lumineers unintentionally. But can I defend suspenders real quick here? For a guy who does not care for regular hiking-up of pants - particularly since I already have a proportionally long torso and short legs - suspenders are awesome. Besides, they look classy and masculine. Unless you wear them with shorts, in which case go stand next to Brigitta like we rehearsed, Kurt. So I'm taking every opportunity to wear them nowadays...and at some point, hope to figure out some way to fit them into business wear.

So. Enough for now. I have a Moscow mule or three waiting for me at the local leather bar.

Bitter as kale and goldenseal.

"Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home:
Thou art not my friend, and I'm not thine."
                              --Ralph Waldo Emerson
I'm done with my career. My current one. And I'm moving on to a new one...one that is more in line with my values, my strengths, and my passion. And fortunately, it is in a field for which there is a need, one that will contribute to the betterment of society.

Over the past eight years, I have gone from being the only person in my practice (read: no admin help, no assistants of ANY sort...I was everything and everyone rolled up in one), to being quasikindasortabutnotreally part of another chiropractic practice (and oh boy was THAT not fun), to being business-wise on my own but with administrative support in a building with practitioners of a similar bent (the best situation). Each iteration has resulted in less-than-stellar results to the bottom line, and much personal and professional struggle. It's hard to be in this field when you're surrounded by people (including the spouse you are around more than anyone) who are at least dubious, if not outright skeptical and dismissive of your field and the good you can do/have done in it. Such a lack of support tears at you like daily paper cuts made with a razor-sharp sheet of copper.

I'm leaving this line of work with not a little bit of bitterness. In retrospect, so many of the signs were there all along. I was never that much into the medical field originally. In school, anatomy and physiology never really grabbed me. Nutrition bored me. My fellow students' foul stench of entitlement and political correctness grated on my nerves to no end. The woo-woo component irked the solid, grounded side of me tremendously. Heck, even one of the most prominent members of the naturopathic community, Dr. Michael Cronin, once told me, point-blank, "Don't do it" when I asked him advice about going into naturopathic medicine back in 1997. Maybe he saw something incongruent in me I didn't...or maybe he was just similarly bitter about the profession at the time.

Having said that, botanical medicine and homeopathy were fascinating. (And no, the irony of being enamored by homeopathy while cringing at the woo does not escape me.) I cannot overstate the joy I had upon drinking licorice tea for a week and, as a result, obliterating a cold which otherwise would have given me bronchitis for months on end. Nor can I deny how one particular homeopathic remedy helped me mature tremendously over the span of six months, helping me emotionally feel no longer like a boy trapped in a man's body, but as a full-grown man. And I've seen homeopathy successfully treat - and sometimes end - depression, anxiety, alcoholism, food cravings, allergies, asthma, food poisoning, minor hemorrhages, PMS...the list goes on and on.

Conventional medicine is very well established, with plenty of infrastructure and plenty of opportunity for students, residents, fellows, and doctors to observe, learn, teach, and otherwise apply their knowledge for (hopefully) the betterment of their patients. Unfortunately, my experience - and that of many of my patients - has only borne this conclusion through significantly less often than is ideal. Hence the need for the medicine I have been practicing for eight years. But the support in conventional medicine is profound compared with the brittle infrastructure of much of what I consider traditional medicine. Few residencies exist after school, be it naturopathic, acupuncture, chiropractic, or some similar practice. Hospital privileges are virtually unheard of. Students are graduated and given diplomas and licenses, and are shoved out into the business world to start their practices with naught but the most menial of business education, frequently placed on a quicksand foundation of little interest or acumen in business in the first place.

Bitterness also rears its ugly head when I watch the nightly news and see minute-long pharmaceutical commercials, with lists of side effects that take up half the ad. Pharm companies spend millions to get these commercials out there. And the medicine I practice gets swept under the rug, or at most gets tolerated by the media outlets. So I shake my fist impotently at the universe.

More bitterness? I am sick of playing Cassandra. She was a woman in Greek mythology who had the gift of prophecy, but the curse of having no one believe her. I'm sick of people complaining online about their illnesses while knowing that knowledge I have could help them tremendously, even more than the conventional medicine they rely on. For example, hearing people complain about having the flu for weeks on end grated on my nerves, knowing that a tasty syrup made from black elderberries could cure them of the flu within 3 days, and powerfully alleviate symptoms within 24 hours. And my advice - from a doctor! - to take said syrup went unheeded I can't tell you how often. Lesson learned: I shouldn't dole out free advice on the internet.

I resent the sentiment that caring about the food you eat is elitist. Sure, people can have a legitimate beef with Whole Foods/Whole Paycheck, which has an undeniable elitist bent. When you bring that sentiment to the realm of farmers markets, though, it's just invalid. Besides, why would you not want to feed yourself with the best food possible, when tremendous evidence exists that pesticides (stored in containers marked with skulls and crossbones) are the basis for a wide swath of diseases? The same claims exist for genetically modified organisms. Or how about the current obesity epidemic? Among a multitude of other factors, it seems pretty plausible that the growth hormones that we give cattle and swine to help them grow to insane and unhealthy sizes for our dinner plates might also be helping us humans to grow to insane and unhealthy sizes, too. Why is wanting to avoid these things elitist?

Tangentially, I had a brother-in-law who was the epitome of the salt of the earth. Great guy, but our politics diverged diametrically, and while I was trying to build a career on optimizing one's diet (among other things), he scorned the idea of eating for your health, and despite a dangerous lifestyle that shot his cardiac risk factors through the roof, he wouldn't budge his habits for the sake of his health - nor for the sake of those around him who loved him. (Whole Foods, I'm certain, represented an unpatriotic way of life, anathema to him.) And six months ago, he stopped having to worry about health forevermore thanks to a massive heart attack, leaving behind a fiancee with a debilitating chronic neurologic condition, bills to pay, and a full house to take care of. Not caring about what you eat can, in some cases, be tremendously selfish and hurtful to those around you.

One more thing that gets to me: had I listened to myself and heeded myself years ago and followed my love of words to its conclusion, I might not be in this situation. Or maybe I might. But I harbor even more resentment about taking to heart the advice of disinterested adults at dinner parties who smiled indulgently at my passion for language, then derided my choice of linguistics as a major as being too boring. Or what about journalism? Oh, but that's stupid, see, because then you'll only write about what other people do, instead of doing those things yourself. (Not a word said about how journalism ends up requiring you in some cases to go out and explore said things, instead of merely reading about them in the newspaper or seeing them on TV.) God forfend I should consider music...total dead end. Only but so I graduated from one of the top music schools in the nation, and while many of my music major friends were being placed into jobs directly out of school, I graduated with a degree that never earned me one penny.

So I give up. I'm leaving the tribe. This profession is made for those with steelier spines than mine, for people who can walk their talk more firmly and passionately than I, for people who refuse to let their world view be tainted with bitterness, for people who are damn near superhuman. These doctors deserve a world of respect and acknowledgement. And more practically, they deserve a world of patients...and patients deserve them. And I will be a lifetime patient of naturopathic doctors.

I have few illusions about the field I'm going into. It is not the most lucrative. It is highly specialized. Heck, I can count the number of professionals in this field on one hand. But there is undeniably a demand, and I'm not sure I will be idle for long. And I can honestly say it is where my heart lies right now. Is it as prestigious as being a doctor? Not really, but what is? I can get used to shaking my fist at the universe - the one I've already used - for the injustice that being a professional educator is a fraction as prestigious as being a doctor. Oh well. I guess the lesson here is that you'll find injustice everywhere you look.

Having said that, I'm adhering to the Tammy Wynette school of philosophy. Despite being so successful in music, she maintained her beautician's license all her life, because...well, you never know what life may deal you, and she always wanted that safety net. I admire that kind of pragmatism. Similarly, maybe I'll come back around to this field in some capacity in the future, so I'll keep my licenses active, quite possibly for life.

But for now, I'm leaving, with a big fat gluten-filled chip on my shoulder and a lot of self-learning to do.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Daisy Buchanan

Earlier this year, I got to enjoy that favorite of dieselpunks everywhere, The Great Gatsby. No, not the book. The Leonardo DiCaprio dazzlefest. Seriously, while I was watching it, I thought the movie had Moulin Rouge written all over it, and whaddaya know? Same director. That movie is one hella blingalicious partay, after the likes of which your eyes will be craving a whiff of coffee beans to neutralize the palate. The Great Gatsby (the movie) was reviled for being...what? artificial? Like the era it was trying to portray? It won an Oscar for costume design and yeeeah. Deserved. When Daisy Buchanan was suddenly crying over never having seen such beautiful shirts, I kinda got what she meant. I could spend a lifetime trying to find shit that looked that good. (And yeah, I know Daisy wasn't really crying over beautiful shirts. Duh.)

But that's not really what I'm here about. Ladies and gentlemen of the board, I've come up with a new creation, my drink of the summer of 2014, named after she who stole Jay Gatsby's heart. It's basically a dolled-up, sweeter and lighter gin and tonic. Gin squinches the back of the tongue, and for some people, it has far too astringent and bitter a taste to enjoy. Hence the accoutrements to ease otherwise skeptics into how delightful gin can be in the right setting. Besides, if you're gonna make a drink that's an homage to the '20s, there better damned well be gin in there.

So here ya go. The Daisy Buchanan. Drink this and feel like money.

1 1/2 shots gin
1/2 shot St. Germain
1/2 shot Lillet Blanc
tonic water

Add the shots to a highball glass or something similar. Add some ice. Top with tonic water. Stir and enjoy.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

VINYL ROCKS!

Okay...whether it's better than CD...I'll leave that up to the more vociferous and engaged in that debate.

Got a turntable lately. Fun stuff. It's great to sit down at the end of the day and devote all my time and energy to listening to records. Yep...how long has it been since you've heard that word? Albums, yes. But records? That's different. Haven't realistically considered owning records since the 1980s. Yipes. I'm so retro. And so hipster.

Except, well, not.

I don't have any Mumford and Sons. Or whatever y'all hipsters listen to. Not sure I'd know...y'all love your obscure bands, right? In fact, I'll go the opposite way. First two records bought: Rubber Soul and Revolver. About as un-hip as you can get. And about as awesome as you can get. I've owned Rubber Soul in the past, so no musical revelations there. But I've only owned a smattering of songs from Revolver, so songs like "For No One," "Got To Get You Into My Life" and "Taxman," are completely new to me. It's cool to hear them, mostly, for the first time. The individual songs are excellent, but to hear them all together, strung out in the sequence the Beatles wanted, just brings everything to a more awesome level.

Mr. Man brought out his long-lost (and slightly warped) copy of Thriller, and people, I'm a happy kid. Again, if you want to hear the majority of the album, just turn on your local '80s station and wait a few hours for at least one of the songs to appear. But stuff like "Baby Be Mine" and "The Lady In My Life," (which is actually kinda drecky) are great to return to.

I know, I can get all this on CD, rip it to my iPod, and listen at my leisure, whenever I want. So whither the turntable? I guess it's a desire to make listening to music more of an event, more deliberate. It takes time and adds anticipation to pull a record out of its cover, then out of its sleeve, and put it onto a turntable. Then you turn it on, see the stylus move to the edge of the record, drop down oh-so-gently, then hear the pop and some static that announces the imminent experience of some great music about to hit you in t-minus-5 seconds. And you feel compelled to sit down and listen to the thing in its entirety. It's not so easy to skip songs in a fraction of a second, or to return to that cool bit you just heard. Not impossible, but it's a bit of an effort, and kind of annoying to do so. And you know? I like it that way. I have enough distractions and multitasking going on nowadays. I like the idea of sitting down and devoting my energy purely to listening to music. Some music demands that kind of attention. So I'm going about building my collection accordingly.

I got Kind of Blue and A Love Supreme last night, too. The former I've heard a million times...and will never get tired of it. The latter I listened to for the first time last night. Fucking brilliant. I'm usually not a fan of jazz (makes me think of old nasty-smelling smoky clubs, plaid suits, and urbane '70s pastiches like "The Rockford Files" and "Kojak"), but this was pretty awesome. I nearly felt compelled to make a Manhattan and sip it to make the experience complete, but John Coltrane's spiritual liner notes (remember those, kids?) and the feeling he and his band put into the music even made me hesitate to indulge.

So there's my excitement over the past week or so. Next on the list: Random Access Memories. Maybe some vintage Elton John. More classic jazz. Who knows?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Okay. You know bad is bad when...

  • This is the first night in over 10 years that I've had two mai tais in one night. (Peruse the New York Bartender's Guide for the liver-crushing recipe. Or just look here.) Somehow (and fifty pounds later), I can handle them. But just barely.
  • I had to improvise with blue curacao with one of them. So the drink turned out to be the color of fungified cement. Yum.
  • I tell Quinn that she is SO hopelessly a fashion don't while she's wearing a kerchief with her matchy-match two-piece bikini while she's poolside with her friends. The only members of the Fashion Club.
  • Yep. It's a olive drab and kelly green PLAID. Even I wouldn't be caught dead wearing such clashing patterns in the local man's man gay bar, even under low lights, even with drunk guys who wouldn't know better. Did I say gay men? Yeah. Not all of them are fashion mavens, but some of them wear fabulous scarves with their impeccable leather coats.
  • Oh, and yeah...Quinn is a fucking CARTOON.
  • I'm spewing advice to said cartoon.
  • This cartoon, despite catering to college-age kids, stopped being relevant around, oh, 1997.
  • Not a mathematician, but let's do the math here. SEVENTEEN YEARS AGO? Oh God...
  • God, I'm old.
  • I'm trying to persuade myself that my predecessors of decades and decades past regressed into their younger years to...well, for one night, to numb themselves into forgetting an annoying day. Despite the lack of said cartoons.
  • La la LA la la...
I should stop now. Before I embarrass myself beyond the hope of recovery.

It's apparently the year of 25 year anniversaries. Three days and twenty-five years ago began one of the most difficult days of my life. In just over a month and a half will commence the 25th anniversary of the most amazing day of my life.

Okay. I really should stop right now. Mark the time. And note the beverages consumed. Also note that it has been over ten years.

God, I'm pathetic right about now. Don't expect this post to last more than a week.

Okay. One more thing. GOD, right now I wish I knew who my birth parents were. Maybe one day.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

No, I should never, ever write erotica or porn. But that won't stop me.

The DJ told me he was turned on to industrial by a Swiss guy who recommended Skinny Puppy, Ministry, NIN, and KMFDM. He turned to leave as he told me he was spinning in ten. We'd met years ago, and he was wild, big, with an unhinged look to his eyes. I told him to spin something hot, hard, loud, and above all, sinister. He slammed his thick lips onto mine and I reached around to grab his ass. A shower of needles went off everywhere. Goddamn.

Then I said, "Make my ears bleed. Make them feel like they've been violated."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

But what in the world is a pantaloon, anyway?

My grandfather was one of my heroes. We did not see eye to eye politically (most of the time), but he was indisputably a great man. Brigadier general in the army when he retired in the early 1970s. But retirement slowed him down but nuthin'. He stayed busy, involving himself in Afghanistan and Pakistan from that point through the late 1980s...literally, sometimes. I think he spent more time abroad than he did stateside in the '80s. His military expertise was boundless. He co-penned a book back in the day called Nuclear Tactics, which amusingly enough, is actually available still. He became a political consultant, spending more time in DC than in his home in Southern Pines, NC. I found it amusing that he chose to live right next door to Pinehurst, a big golf (read: retirement sport) resort town in the nation, until I realized it was also right next door to Fort Bragg, a big army base. Grandpa never wanted to "retire." He stayed as busy as he could, and his energy seemed limitless.

But he and his wife decided to move back to Denver years ago, so she could be near her favorite daughter (my mom). He went into it, knowing that he would no longer be around what sustained him so powerfully. But he figured that Grandma had suffered his travels, being the equivalent of a single mom, then a solitary wife for so long, that he should do what she wanted now.

And cut off from his military links, he began to wither. For such a great man, having lived through three wars and being so successful, his death was sadly unworthy of his life; he slowly wasted away, turning despondent and suicidal before our eyes, until he finally died of natural causes one morning in a nursing home in his wife's arms. He had a proper military funeral back at Fort Bragg, but one of the saddest things I ever saw was his casket being driven away in a small open-framed pickup truck, bouncing around and not tied down. It was so undignified, so unworthy of him.

One of the most profound things he taught me was his view of being a man, based on Shakespeare's famous soliloquy, "All the world's a stage." There were seven stages, Shakespeare wrote, to being a full man: the infant, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, the pantaloon, and finally, the old, doddering man. So drawn into this view, my grandfather was, that he took a picture of a stained glass representation of this, had it framed, and gave it to me as a present. I thought it was nice at the time, and it's packed away in our voluminous basement full of crap right now, but the more I think of it, the more I believe it's true.

What makes me think this? The soldier. I have fulfilled every role up to this point just fine (currently acting as the justice, so to speak), and I have no question of what lies ahead of me. Every role except for the soldier: "jealous in honor, sudden, and quick in quarrel/Seeking the bubble reputation/Even in the cannon's mouth." I never was a soldier, literal or figurative. I recently wrote about the symbolic solider (or as I put it at the time, warrior) I left abandoned on the side of the road in the wilderness, in his armor and brandishing his sword, waiting for his time to come. I picture him kicking the gravel, walking around, waiting as if for Godot. And I feel a great sense of guilt, of abdicating responsibility to myself. I feel like I should somehow make it up to him. I feel very much an incomplete man without him.

It makes me wonder if it's not too late to rectify this, to somehow turn back and channel that soldier energy somehow. I've done some of it, getting into weightlifting and such over the past few years, and people have noticed that I've gotten beefier, but to what end? Vanity? I think my newfound strength should be put to good use somehow...but how?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

"I don't know what it is, but you gotta do it."

Ten and a half years ago, I graduated naturopathic school. Great job, congratulations, here's your diploma, now get back to work and study your ass off for boards. Five weeks later, I had successfully filled in approximately 900 little circles on papers that would determine whether or not I would be eligible to get a license to practice or not. A few weeks after that, I found out that, yes, I had passed my board exams. Thrilled, to say the least.

But now what? You have your diploma, you now have your license, you have the title...what are you gonna do with it? And suddenly I became fearful for the future. I could complete medical school...but what of it? My bluff was called, and I blinked. Big time.

As it happened, Mr. Man and I had moved from Puddletown to the Chicago area after I completed my board exams. I'd unwittingly landed in the backyard of a chiropractic school that offered an accelerated program for health care pros like myself. It looked interesting. I visited the school on one of their "be a student for a day" programs. The day of the program was gray, rainy, cold, and dismal. The closer I got to the school, the drearier it seemed to get...used car lots, potholed roads, and nothing inviting. The entire day felt wrong. I felt magnetically repelled from the school, as if some huge force were trying to push me away. I came home and told Mr. Man that I couldn't see myself making that drive and going to school there at all.

But apparently I couldn't see myself using my degree right off, either. Despite what so much of my body, mind, and psyche was telling me (and there was no mistaking how wrong I felt about it), I decided to avoid the future, and retreated back into school.

And ten years ago today, on the first day of school, began the worst and most painful year of my life. I drove to school, singing a song that echoed my uncertainty but hope that this was perhaps the best path forward. Then I felt that hope collapse like the industrial dissonance and clamor at the end of the song, just as I pulled into the school parking lot for this first day of school. 2004 was a year that drove me to drink (but only on weekends), that contributed to some major adrenal fatigue (that I overcame years later, though not without effort), and that I would gladly erase from my life if given the option. I learned how cruel some instructors and fellow students can be. I learned how awful it feels to be devoting all your time and energy to a program you don't really believe in, yet one that will be significantly determining your identity, income, reputation, and mindset for the rest of your life. I learned how painful it can be to push forward when it seems that everyone has you in their crosshairs, to eliminate, to ridicule, or to shun. I learned the constant static that you feel when you had a vision for your life, but you chose a path that runs counter to it in many ways. And ever since, I've been trying to push the negative aspects of 2004 out of my brain and take what good I could from it. I've been mostly successful at winnowing the bad from the good, and I am definitely excellent at what I do, but my expertise came at a tremendous psychic and physical cost.

And 2005 wasn't much better.
 


 
 
So here's to having no year worse than 2004, and having every year being exponentially better and more fulfilling somehow. Because I've put in my time in hell...and it's time to turn my back on it. (Despite the fact that, yes, I did just commemorate it very unsubtly.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

So what is it?

Is it "in vino veritas," or is it that alcohol overly amplifies emotions? Because at this moment, I'm leaning toward the latter. And believe me, at this late hour on the first day of 2014, it ain't purty. Fights between me and Mr. Man never are. Then again, we don't really fight. A few bon mots, some insinuations, some passive-aggressive acquiescence, and some stomping off to another bar while the other stays behind. (I'll leave you to guess who stays behind, in a very passive-aggressive manner.) God, but relationships are agonizing.

Oh yeah. And happy 2014. Don't send me any pity. I'm over it.