Nicotine Gum

Nicotine gum

Ah, another piece of nicotine gum.

By the time you see this particular piece, it’s been chewed and discarded — along with many others.

I buy the Walmart generic in quantity and chew it all the time.

I ranted against smoking as a child and then took up the habit in college, during a semester in Venice. Everybody did. And we all thought we could quit.

I did quit.  Many times.  Sometimes for years at a time.  I used the patch, the gum, hypnosis, and Smokenders.  Between 1976 and 1996, I probably smoked about ten of those twenty years.

In February of 1997, I quit for good.  The motivation was coughing, bronchitis, and the fear of pneumonia. Said motivation occurred on closing night of a play, Slient Visit.

Silent visit had a barely decent reception as dinner theatre at The Wrenn House, in Salisbury, NC.  Prior to the Charlotte production, one of the actors fell off a horse and injured herself.  The director simply cut her scenes from the show.

The ten year old kid who had the most lines got the flue a couple of weeks before the show.  Then he got behind in school and decided not to rehearse anymore.  He couldn’t remember his lines anyway, when the show was in Salisbury — so he really didn’t remember them in Charlotte.

It was a fairly bad play already, and this made it perhaps one of the worst plays to ever grace a stage in Charlotte, NC.  It ran for two weeks and the audience size ranged from two to ten.  It got two of the most negative reviews I’ve ever read about any play.  Both reviews singled-out the author as the primary problem.  The author of the play was me.

At one point, during rehearsal, someone asked me what kind of play Silent Visit was.  I said it was a “comedy.”   One of the actors responded that she thought it was a “dark drama.”

At a cast party, an audience member asked me what kind of weed I was smoking when I wrote it.

During the excruciating two week run, I smoked myself silly.  When the play closed, I couldn’t stop coughing and could hardly breath.  The next morning I started chewing nicotine gum and have done so every day since.

Nine years.

People often ask if I’ve tried to quit the gum.  Not really.

I’m a drug addict and content to be one.

Often, during intermission of a show, I walk outside, pop a piece of gum in my mouth, and join the smokers.

I’ve made gum runs to Walmart in the middle of the night.

[Note:  With some heavy revision — such that it’s clearly a comedy and makes sense — I think Silent Visit is a weird enough to actually be a decent play.  One day, I may re-visit Silent Visit.]

10,000 steps a day in 2009

my pedometer tonight
my pedometer tonight
pick-up basketball
Walking tonight: pick-up basketball on an empty Catawba College campus. Spring in NC.

Is it a habit?

An obsession?

Whatever – it’s a New Year’s Resolution.  And certainly the only one I remember fulfilling.

Pedometers are not new to me.  I’ve counted my steps for years.  When I worked in schools, I did a lot of walking – going to classrooms to troubleshoot computers and hoofing it around the computer lab itself.  My feet got tired.  I got in a lot of steps.

When I stopped teaching and started my own business, Coffee News, I delivered the papers and got plenty of steps that way. I once got over 17,000 steps delivering Coffee News.  But that was only a couple of days a week.

I eventually hired people to deliver and now spend my time with sales, layout, and ad design.  Sitting.

When business slowed this past fall (as did everybody’s business), we let lapse our lifelong membership to the YMCA.  Wasn’t using it much anyway.

My exercise used to be tennis.  I’ve spent much of my life on the tennis court – playing and teaching.

About ten years ago, for various reasons, that stopped.

There were many injuries:  knee, elbow, shoulder, feet, wrist, neck, back.  I’ve had surgery, shots, wraps, drugs – and plenty of heat and ice.

I played a lot of tournaments, and spent a lot of time playing with my son.  He got better and wanted to have a little more fun.  He wanted harder hitters and competition.  And, like me, he didn’t like competing hard with his father.

My father was my best practice, and about the time my son didn’t want to play with me my father was forced to stop playing. Often, when my dad and I got on a tennis court, the first rally would last so long that he’d say, “Well, you want to call it a day or hit another ball?” It was a valid question. We had hit so much with each other over the years that we rarely missed.  Neither of us had to run.  We didn’t need a bucket of balls or even a can.  We could have easily used one ball.

When his health declined and he stopped playing, I stopped.

Thus, I noticed last year I was getting a little sedentary.  I was getting five or six thousand steps a day, or less.  Sometimes much less.

On New Years Day, I made a resolution to get 10,000 steps a day in 2009.  The economy seemed to be shot.  Why not get in shape?

I admit my feet were a little sore the first couple of weeks.  I’ve only bought one pair of shoes since then – and that was for $12 in the mall, during my walk, on an impulse.  They are completely shot now and I need a new pair soon.  I procrastinate with shoes like I do with haircuts, and with steps.

Some days, I walk to the drug store, or grocery store, or coffee shop, or convenience store, or knock around town calling on businesses.  These steps add up.  A short walk in the evening completes the 10k.

Most days, I walk to my mother’s house.  Sometimes two or three times.  That’s 1200 steps, round trip.

If I sit around all day, the evening walk is fairly long.  Usually, I use the Catawba Nature preserve.  If it’s dark, I walk around the campus.

Sometimes I put the dog in the car, go downtown, and walk there. Once, I walked to the theatre downtown, and back home.

In bad weather, I’ve done my share of walking in the mall, Walmart, and Lowe’s. Boring.

I think I’m in better shape than my dog.  She starts to drag after about twenty minutes, sometimes lagging a hundred yards behind.

But she certainly enjoys every moment — the anticipation, the walk itself, and the aftermath. The highlight of my day is looking at my pedometer and contemplating a walk (I don’t even have to say anything anymore).  She starts to smile, jump, and whine with excitement.

She used to dart after the deer.  She doesn’t try anymore.  She knows she doesn’t have a chance.

On warm days, she takes a swim.  Or two.  Or three.

There have been a few days when I didn’t feel like it – but not many.  It’s basically become a part of my day, like brushing my teeth or making coffee.

Often, I procrastinate.  At 11:30 pm, I pull myself off the couch take a few laps around the Catawba campus.

A few times, I’ve gone uptown for a beer before finishing the steps.  I’ll drink one, walk around the block, and return to the bar.

One cold night, I walked a thousand steps inside Brick Street Tavern. This would have been embarrassing, but it was such a slow night at the bar (Robert Jones, Bobby — the bartender — and maybe a couple other people).

The night Obama spoke to both houses of Congress, I had had a busy day and recorded only six thousand steps.  I wanted to watch the speech and all the talking heads blather afterwards.  That night, I put in four thousand steps walking around my couch, watching the new President.

Sound crazy?  Hey — a goal is a goal.

No, I haven’t lost any weight.

Question is, what about 2010?  Do I increase the goal to 11,000?  I’ll be older, but I certainly don’t want less than 10k.  Maybe I should increase the goal to 12k and then decrease by one thousand when I turn 60 (seven years from now) and then down to 10k when I’m 70.  That should keep me in decent shape for a while.

The great thing about walking is that it’s easy to be consistent.  There aren’t many injuries and you can even do it when you’re a little sick (although I haven’t been sick).  I did have a tooth pulled and took hydrocodone.  I may have walked a little slower that day, but the buzz was rather pleasant.

I find that walking is the most productive part of my day.  Either I’m thinking, which is good.  Or not thinking (better).  I’ve listened to some great books on my iPhone.  I’ve grown to appreciate my neighborhood and taken lots of pictures. I’ve enjoyed my wife, my dog, communed with deer, beavers, herons, geese, turtles, frogs, trees, flowers, grass, water, vines, streets, students, neighbors, parking lots, and sidewalks.

Don’t know where this will go – but at least I know I’ve found my post-tennis sport.  Except it’s not a sport, I don’t think.

Alicia's Graduation — Our Proud Day

I think she started college before we started the family.  But, with three children and always a full-time job (and a full-time husband) — it was always a part-time endeavor.  One course at a time — with semesters off, years off, odd hours, three children, old beaters to get around in, transfers, changes of major.

I remember her taking a course when we only had one car — riding a bike four miles each way.

For years, she had to use vacation time in order to leave work early, two days a week, for a single course.  Which meant no vacation.

She never would have finished if we had not started Coffee News — giving her the flexibility to take some morning and afternoon classes.  It also meant long days, 7 days a week.

She’s an art major.

She would have been done six months ago, in December, except both cars broke down the same week — the first week of fall classes — and the economy collapsed (which temporarily collapsed our income).  It was the first week of her final semester, and she withdrew, putting it off again.

I had all the opportunity in the world and barely got the degree.  She had morsels of support from an otherwise distracted family and graduated cum laude. 3.7 GPA.

An accomplishment in its own right but also a great example to her children, demonstrating first hand the benefits of showing-up and perseverance.

Drama in the front yard

The dogwood blossoms are gone.  The azaleas are browning.

Sometimes I fear the rogue rhododendron could eventually crowd out the azaleas. I’m very meticulous about the way I ignore care for these beautiful plants. Haven’t pruned, fertilized, or anything else in 24 years. Since I don’t know how to do it properly, I’m afraid an attempt would do more harm than good.

The blossoms, however, are more than adequate.

The last photo shows Jackie Mudpie, as she reclines on “the lawn,” enjoying the sun.





Fond memories of my father

Yesterday would have been his birthday.  He would have been 87.  Third one he’s missed.

Dad always went for the humor.

Here is a picture I really like — taken in the hallway of my house, with an older Treo PDA.

My sister emailed these pictures yesterday (his birthday):




Remember the First Earth Day? (I do, barely)

Anybody else remember the first Earth Day?

I think I remember taking time out of school (Knox Junior High) and roaming the neighborhood with an army of other eighth graders, picking up trash.

I think I remember it being normal, before Earth Day, to toss any kind of trash out the car window.

I think I remember a lot of trash on the ground.  Basic city streets.

Here in my neighborhood — in Salisbury, NC — we’re blessed with natural areas.  Back then, there was already a nature trail, behind Knox, but we enjoy a much bigger area now.

The nature trail is now connected to the city’s greenway, and to the nature preserve behind Catawba College (where I enjoy walking almost every day).  I remember when this area was a dry pasture.  Now there are lakes, trails, and wildlife.  All this less than five minutes, walking, from my house.  Or from Food Lion, or from the hospital.

One could argue that we’ve damaged the planet significantly since then.  But not everybody looks at the past.  Some foreward looking people have created some wonderful spaces.  We’re far more aware that we share a planet.  And we’ve got our first Green President.




Tough to work when it's this nice outside

I spend a lot of time in my messy office, working at my computer.  My dog, Jackie Mudpie, likes to be with me.  She stares out the window.  Usually, she keeps her face inches from the glass.  Today, she’s a few feet back:

Every so often, she asks to go out.  Either she jumps, because she’s seen a squirrel she wants to chase, or she cries, because she’s seen a squirrel she wants to chase.

A few minutes later, she tells me to let her back in.  She does this with a bark.

This is a neglected yard.  An azalea forest that rarely gets pruned or fed.  Nevertheless, it’s particularly beautiful this time of year:

It’s always a little harder to get work done when the weather is this nice.  That was the paradox of exams in school.  The most important week of the year to work was the week when one felt least like working.

Not much different now.

Like 7th Grade

Facebook logo

Facebook is like being in 7th grade again, but a lot easier.

With many friends, we’re really connected – before, during, and after Facebook.  Family, school, work, weddings, funerals, births.  Several of my Facebook friends have given me a ride home when I’ve had two too many — going back a number of years.  If that’s not a friend, who is?  Some of my friends are actually my closest relatives — like my wife and kids (not the 16 year old; I’m much too uncool).

Other friends become friends – after running into them on Facebook and deciding to be friends.

Add. Confirm.  A web 2.0 relationship has begun.

Next time we see each other, not only have we mutually confirmed the fact that we are, indeed, friends — but we’re more familiar than ever.

Some I’ve known online for years.  Good friends indeed.

Then there are those I’ve known in real life forever – but not sure if we’re friends.  They show up on my Facebook.  I probably show up on theirs.  I see them in real life.  They see me.  It’s a small town.  In The South.  We appear on walls, wondering (at least I am) who will make the first move?  They probably think I’m really messed up.  Damn, are we friends?  I don’t know.  We’ve seen each other a lot but really don’t know each other very well.  Nobody clicks and we leave it at that.

Exactly like seventh grade.

There are the former students.  We’re all adults now, and we’re friends.  Such pleasure.

Then there’s the one who used to be a real friend in real life.  Thinking it was high time we patched things up, considering the spat took place in the mid-1990’s, I thought Facebook might be the perfect opportunity.  Did not get confirmed.  C’est la frickin’ vie.

Then there are those from high school and college – so easy to locate on Facebook.  Potentially a great friend – going back that far – I think.  Except my 52 year old brain cells don’t remember the name or face.

With social networking from the start, the younger generation will experience life and friendship in a different way.

Perhaps they won’t forget anybody, unless they do.