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Monthly Archives: March 2011

I have never seen a complete episode of Jersey Shore.  The way the goombahs on that show walk around full of arrogance, treating women like dirt, acting completely self-absorbed–it frustrates the crap outta me.  Love the nicknames, though–and I do think its funny that “The Situation” gave himself a nickname.  If you’re gonna be so self-righteous that you re-moniker yourself, might as well go big, right?  I come from the school of thought that a real nickname has to be organic.  Kinda just has to grow out of a conversation and catch on and go from there, with its own sustainingly powerful life force to carry it to greatness.  It can do this because a good nickname erupts with only one use–and with that one use, if it’s really that stellar, there’s just no putting the genie back on that bottle.  Giving yourself a nickname, however, is right up there with buying a title of nobility–if you have to do it, it really doesn’t mean much. 

I know several folks with nicknames.  Danimal. Limey Dave.  Uncle Steve.  JR.  Stewie.  Little Bill.  Kimbo.  Retirement Barbie.  Ricardo.  Big Lou.  Do-do.  Tequila Sheila.  Odie.  Born out of a random nothing, evolved into greatness. 

Growing up as a fat kid I had more than my share of nicknames–some I liked–and some I absolutely hated.  My friends back home still call me Bubba.  It’s a family nickname of sorts.  See I’m the baby of the family.  (I like to say that my parents just kept having kids ’til they perfected it into an art form; to tell the truth, I’m almost entirely certain I was an accident.)  Anyhow, I have quite a gap between my oldest brother (who is eight years older) and my second oldest brother (who is only sixteen months older) and that second oldest brother used to call me “Ba-Ba.” I think it was his way of saying ‘brother’ as a toddler, but it kinda morphed into “Bubba” as I got older and grew into a big fat kid.  God knows I’ve been called worse, so I’m kinda whatever about it.  My personal friends have started to refer to me as Paulie.  It’s often assumed I’m Italian, so Paulie kinda fits.  Most people who call me Paulie use it as a term of affection.  I’ll pretty much take whatever form of affection comes my way, barring a few exceptions, so Paulie suits me just fine.  It ranks right up there with one of my more favorite nicknames from high school–Rodriguez.  Has nothing to do with my heritage, even though unlike Paulie, it actually kinda fits.  So my hometown had a factory outlet store for Champion Athletic Apparel.  They’d sell sweatshirts, football jerseys, and tee shirts that had misprints or any number of problems–the company would dump these products for next to nothing (what else do you do with a shirt that has three sleeves) and the prices were amazingly cheap.  You could go into the store, dig through these big plywood bins, and fill up a shopping bag for a dollar.  One of the shirts I picked up was a nylon football jersey that was white with purple trim.  Across the back of the jersey in big block letters was the name RODRIGUEZ.

For three years I was known by that name–most of the coaches, jocks, and other wrestlers called me that.  Most of them did, anyhow.  The rest had ugly nicknames they called me.  The worst one–the one that still makes me see red–the one that compels me to break off a car antenna and repeatedly strike the jerk about the head and shoulders, not caring about the repercussions of being charged with fourth-degree assault–I don’t even want to type it…

…”Paul the Ball.” 

Just reading those three words together makes me shiver with hatred.  God, I hated that nickname.  That is the ONE reason why I’ve avoided my reunions.  You’d be correct in guessing that the nickname wasn’t given because of my bouncy, sunny personality.  God help the person who calls me that now–especially if that person thought they could get away with it today, when they hurt me so bad with it all those years ago.   At least one person would wind up in the hospital, and if we both lived through it, we’d see each other again in a Josephine County courtroom, I’m sure.  I just hate hate HATE that nickname more than anything on earth.  You could be anyone.  Someone famous.  Someone respected.  Someone protected.  Doesn’t matter.  Tell you right now–you thrown down a Paul the Ball, make sure you have your affairs in order. 

My very good friend, who has a nickname–Mimosa Mama–explained to me one day that I needed to let go of this anger.  Her theory is that the guys who pinned that horrid nickname on me are most likely not the same guys they were back then–and that like most of us, they’ve changed.  She says that I’m wasting energy on people who probably didn’t realize they were hurting me (which I would argue as being an attack)–and if they were ever told the deal now, they’d probably feel horrible and apologize profusely for their actions.  

For someone who claims to be a Republican, she sure has some crazy-ass Liberal Hippie ideas about life and karma.

I really blame this kind of thinking on the fact she lives for her nicknamesake, and her brain is slowly turning into orange-flavored champagne.  Then again, all that sit-around-a-campfire-and-sing-Kumbayah-crap about wasting life energy might also be because she lives in Lebanon, just outside of Eugene, which I lovingly refer to as THE dirtiest American Hippie Liberal area north of Berkeley.  Whatever.  I hate it when my friends challenge me in this way.  It ends up sticking with me.  Sticks with you too, doesn’t it?  When you have a friend who tries to hold you to a higher standard?  Particularly higher than the one to which you hold yourself?   The person who edits my blog (whom to my knowledge, has no nickname) is constantly pushing me to write better, write more often, and to keep posting stuff-she sees the benefit it gives me, and she sees the response (and subsequent benefit) it gives people I don’t even know.  Her theory is that it helps me process my journey.  My journey.  Sheesh, what a hippie-dippie new-agey thing to say.   I feel like I should be wearing a crown of daisies on my head or something. 

Okay so the fact that I still have such malicious contempt for the guys who made me miserable for so many years, calling me ugly nicknames, does kinda seem like a waste of energy.  But I’m a guy who thinks holding a grudge isn’t always such a bad thing.  It’s hard to remember why being called Fatso, Fat Ass, Fat Head, Lardass, Fat Slob, and Paul the Ball bothered me so much–but I remember the pain, and I remember I was to the point more than once where I wanted to quit school.  I look back now with fortysomething  eyes and wish I would have been a bigger person back then–let it roll off my back. I am thankful I didn’t let them drive me out of school.  Richard Nixon once said, “Those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them–and then you destroy yourself.”  (See, peaceful hippie Liberals with your free love and your psychology?!?!  I just repelled you with Richard Nixon, dammit!) 

So I found that Nixon quote and got to thinking maybe this was Mimosa Mama’s intent…maybe she hasn’t pickled her brain into bubbles of orange mush after all.  Maybe she is sooo stinkin’ Republican, she follows Nixon’s mantras.   I guess it’s true that if I don’t hate them, it may be the best revenge.  Besides–through all of the verbal abuse, I developed a thick skin–and that, no doubt, has helped me greatly in my career.  I don’t get overly mad with people or upset when I catch someone’s wrath–even when, because there’s nothing left, it turns into personal attacks.  Can’t call me much worse than Paul the Ball, so anything else–hell, even that one–I can take it.  Fire away.  Chances are, I’ll laugh it–and you–off. 

So to prove the other woman I mentioned in this blog entry (my editor) right…in typing this out tonight, I processed a bit of my journey or whathaveyou–and I’ve decided three things:

  1. I will not spend any more time, energy, or thought on the people who teased me years ago.
  2. Although I wouldn’t go looking for the opportunity to drop a beating on any of those jerks, and I wouldn’t be sad if said beatdown got thrown their way–I am content to let the ebb and flow of karma take care of life’s justice.  (Excuse me, my vagina is showing.)  At least I can take solace in knowing they are mostly like fat AND bald now.  How you like me now bitches!
  3. I have started shopping for a new nickname. I will be waiting for new one to come along; all entries gladly accepted.  


Trying to be a better person, inside and out.

His Royal Grace,

PaulieTwoGuns, Third Lord Avalon Place


I had an A-ha moment last week–I guess we all have them from time to time, in different forms–for me, it’s when I catch my reflection in the window of a store I am walking past, or when I try on an old shirt from the back of my closet.  I surprise myself and I’m reminded in an instant that I’m not the fat guy I used to be.

This A-ha in particular (resist the urge to sing Taaaaaaaake Onnnnn Meeeeeeeeee right now; I know I am) I was getting into a friend’s car.  I use the term ‘car’ loosely–it was more like a little Japanese aluminum can.  You know what I’m talking about–a teeny tiny four-door roller skate of a thing.  So my friend had her baby strapped into the five-point NASCAR harness in the seat directly behind shotgun, which gave me absolutely no room to push back.  (Standard Operating Procedure from my days of old, you understand–push the seat back, lean the seat back, whatever gave me the most room.)  The back seat on the driver’s side was already occupied by another friend, so I took a deep breath and folded myself into the itsy-bitsy front seat.

But this time…I didn’t have to fold much of anything.

HOLY CRAP I FIT!  No need for the airline seat belt extension, no need to stretch the limits of the track on which the seat rests by pushing it as far back as I can…didn’t even need to lean the seat back.  I just got in and hooked up.

I don’t know how to explain it to you, but it’s the most wonderfully surreal feeling in the world.  I was just so used to being so uncomfortable.  Never before would I EVER have allowed myself to be put into a position in which I was gonna have to jam my 9XL ass into a car built for three feet tall Asian people decked head-to-toe in Hello Kitty.   I made sure that if I ever went anywhere, I drove.  I ALWAYS DROVE.  My cars (vans, trucks, etc.) were set up for my girth.  I was comfortable in them, and I had a win-win system, because I’d drop people off at the curb so I could go park the car alone.  Totally selfish on my part.  Not only did I score major friend points for my door-to-door chauffeur service, but keeping the car empty when I parked would allow me to hug the passenger-side line of the parking spot, allowing me more room to get out on my side.  It’s a great feeling not to have to do that anymore, you know?

Back in the late eighties, (I know–I still need you to repress that                      A-ha earworm that’s dancing around in your head) I worked for a number of finance companies.  My job was to handle repossessions and collections.  Since one of the companies was owned by Ford, it meant I got a company car to make field calls.  Most of the time, it was either a Ford Tempo or a Mercury Topaz–what I lovingly refer to as a ‘disposable car.’  The American version of the Asian car I referred to above, only slightly larger, as all American things are (and should be, right?!?) 

My location was the only office for four counties, so our service area was about 150 square miles.  Part of our territory included a place called Klamath Falls.  The area is an economically depressed, high-desert basin that is hotter than Hades in the summer–and bone-numbing cold in the winter.  The city is old and blighted; the lumber mills closed long ago and with no other industry to speak of, there wasn’t (still isn’t) much work, which means no prospect for recovery.  I decided long ago that if they wanted to give the planet an enema, Klamath Falls is where they would put it.  It’s also the perfect area for a finance company to feed upon the blue collars who choose to live there.  I spent many days in those parts, chasing down people past due on the payments for their new 4×4 chrome wheels.

During one winter when I was driving the disposable company car over to the city, it took me a bit over an hour to cross over a particularly gnarly mountain pass.  It drops down into the basin, into the snow, and then the road crosses an area with a lake on both sides–but there wasn’t a bridge–it was just a spot where the builders built up the road bed.  It was really narrow–just enough to cross over the wetlands–but during the winter, the angle of the wind always built up ice on the sad excuse for a thoroughfare–which, of course, didn’t have guard rails.  Now I don’t normally get nervous (given my past life as a bill collector) but I was TERRIFIED that I would slide off that thin ribbon of icy dirt road.  Given my size back then, there was no quick escape–I’d be trapped underwater in that coffin of a  disposable car.  I could just see my cause of death on the certificate…drowned in a car. Classy!  I climbed (at  just a tick under 600 pounds) in and out of that little death trap all day.  By the evening my guts, feet and back would ache.  I even did my best to practice escape maneuvers, just in case.  (Heaven forbid that I waste a workday and come back to my office empty-handed, right?)  

So the day I climbed into my friend’s rinky-dink vehicle, it brought back all those memories–all that uncomfortableness–and then I had my A-ha.  I am not that person any more.  What relief!  What freedom!  I wish I could go back 25 years ago and tell myself start sooner.  But the good news is that I did it now.  Better late than never, right?


So in an effort to save some money and combat the rising cost of health insurance, my employer (the State of Oregon) switched providers at the beginning of the year.  The byproduct of that was that I had to pick a different insurance and set up a new personal doctor.  Since I haven’t had a full physical in a few years, I decided it was time to get that done as well.

I went into the new doctor’s office and they handed me a packet of paperwork to complete.  Most of it was pretty standard. Do I take medication, do I have allergies, do I suffer from high blood pressure or any other number of illnesses, blah blah blah.  About halfway down the form was the “Lifestyle” Section.   It asked (and I answered) the following–see if you can figure out where the smartass creeped in:

Do you drink?  Yes

How many drinks a week do you drink?  Maybe one a week, on average.

Do you take recreational drugs?  Other than chocolate?  No.

Are you sexually active? Not as much as would like to be!

Are you sexually active with women? Men? Or both?  Well there was that one time, but I was young and I needed the money…

Do you wear your seat belt in the car?  Well I found the one on my toilet at home was too confining…I mean a guy wants to relax in there, right?

Do you have smoke detectors in your home?  Yes, I find they help tell me when the toast is done.

Do you have a fire extinguisher?  Please refer to the previous question.  (Given the way I cook, it’s required.)

Do you have a gun in the house?

And that last question is the one that really threw me for a loop.  I started to wonder why my doctor needed this type of information.  What business is it of theirs if I have a gun in my house?  Then the conspiracy theorist inside me started thinking…maybe this is doubling as some sort of risk assessment for the new insurance.  Maybe they’ll stop insuring me if I answer incorrectly.  What does me owning a gun have to do with going to the doctor?  Resisting the temptation to write None of your goddamned business in the space provided, I left it blank.

Papers finished and returned to the receptionist, it wasn’t long before I was called back and met the new doctor.  She was very friendly, very polite–we started to discuss the medical issues I was having–my sore shoulder, my recent cold, and the excessive skin issues related to my weight loss.  The doctor asked me why didn’t I have the body lift and get rid of the skin. I told her I didn’t have the $35,000 to pay for it.  She said due the issues I was having, it could be classified as a medical procedure–NOT COSMETIC–and that my insurance should cover it.  She said she would see what she could do to get me into the plastic surgeon’s office, and said she would talk to the insurance company directly.  I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it would be fantastic if she can make this happen.  It would mean the world to me to get rid of this extra skin.

So moving on with the exam, she checked the usual suspects (heart, lungs, blood pressure) and told me how I appeared to be in great shape.  Still feeling a little snarky from the questionnaire, I thanked her, and told her she looked pretty good herself.  I was really liking this new doctor. She wanted to help me with my skin problems, she was telling me I was in good health, and she was impressed with my muscle development.   Things were going along swimmingly…and then she said the words.  The words no man wants to hear.  No, not “we need to talk” or “just so you know, I’m late.”  Reaching for the box of latex gloves on the wall, she said quietly, “I see from your chart you are over 40 years old.” Que the music stopping and the car skidding to a stop.  I knew what this meant…the glove and the finger.

It’s not that I am a homophobe or anything like that, but I don’t know too many guys who like this procedure. You don’t want it to hurt–but you really don’t want it to feel too good either, if you know what I mean.  Suddenly, there’s a bottle of lube on the counter.  I mention to her that I know the insurance companies are forcing doctors to cut costs–but please don’t skimp on the KY for this, okay?  I started to get up and spread my legs out a little while bending over and putting my elbows on the exam table–the position I like to refer to as the ‘Jenna Jameson.”   Thankfully, the doctor stopped me and told me to stay seated.  Great.  Now I appear a little too eager for this.  Maybe I wasn’t going to the get finger?  Maybe I would be able to keep my dignity for another day!  No such luck.  I laid down on my side, and she very quickly did a surprisingly easy prostate exam.  I do like the way they explain that you need to relax.  Really?  Just met you twenty minutes ago, and you’ve got a finger two knuckles deep up unchartered territory.  Relaxing isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. 

All in all, the exam went really well–just another benefit to losing weight.  I don’t get the big speech (that I wasn’t going to listen to anyway) about how much my heart was working too heard, how I was at risk for diabetes–none of that.  I got praised for being healthy.  I don’t dread going to the doctor’s office any more.  It’s not a reminder of what I need to be doing–it’s a reminder of what I’m doing right.

Life is good.


I open my eyes and stare at the glowing green digits on the digital clock next to my bed.  It’s 4:29 AM; the alarm goes off at 4:30 every morning.  I reach over and turn it off before it has a chance to bark at me.  That’s when the negotiation starts.  I could just lay here another five minutes and then get up and go.  Or one step further:  ya know, I could just skip today’s workout, hit my diet hard today, and then double-up tomorrow on the exercise.  But I know this isn’t going to happen, and the inner negotiation is as worthless as it is fruitless.  I get up from the bed, put on my robe, and stumble out of the bedroom.  I try not to trip over last night’s dirty clothes and shoes in the hallway as I head to the bathroom.   


I strip down completely and hit the button on my scale.  Every morning I find myself in this place–both looking forward to and desperately dreading what the scale is going to tell me–all at the exact same time.  I step on, take a deep breath, and watch as the red digital number comes to a stop.  Shit.  The scale tells me I am up half a pound.  Maybe if I let out my breath and hold it, I will drop weight?  How much does a lung full of air weigh?  I reach for the pocket calendar on the shelf in front of me.  If I am up weight, the numbers get logged in red ink, if I am down, blue.  Today is a damn red day.  Tomorrow, I decide, that I will switch to the metric system because it’s so much better to be 120 kilos–it just sounds a lot smaller than 238.4 pounds.   


I quickly brush my teeth, gargle, and dunk my head under the faucet.  I comb my tangled mess out into something presentable.  So much for the bouncing and behaving hair my shampoo promised me.  If I am going to go swimming, I put on my bathing suit–but since today is a weightlifting day, I get into my old school cotton sweats, workout shirt and hoodie.


I stumble into the laundry room next to my bathroom and dig through the basket for a clean pair of socks.  Failing to find a any, I scope out the laundry room floor for the cleanest dirty pair.  Quick sniff test and we have a winner–I put on some passable, though slightly dingy, grey socks.   To the office I go–pick up my iPod, check to make sure the battery got a charge, wake up the computer by shaking the mouse, and sync the mp3 player.  Feels like an AC/DC kinda morning, so Dirty Deeds is the choice for today’s workout music.


I sit down and slip on my workout shoes.  They’re size 13.5 Reeboks–I’ve lost a half-size with the weight loss.  My weightlifting gloves are on the end of the counter with my keys–I pull them on and reach for the jacket.  It’s not just any jacket.  I own several.  It’s one of the last remaining articles of clothing from the old me. 

It’s an 8XL.

Yes, I’m sure there’s some subconscious psychological reason why I insist on keeping this–I do have other things I can wear, but I can’t bring myself to get sweaty in them.  Besides, it’s a light color, and it’s nice and quilted and warm–when I am risking my life crossing the parking lot at my gym in the freezing darkness and of the early morning, I want to be painfully visible to the old bluehairs headed for their water aerobics class. 


I get to the gym and back into the same parking spot.  It’s my spot.  Hell I’m here early enough so I don’t have to worry about anyone snagging it. 

This is the worst part of my day–the walk from my car to the front door of the gym.  I absolutely hate it.  The walk is worse that the actual workout.  It’s not far to the front door or anything like that–it’s the anticipation of the pain in front of me.  I know I have to make the walk no matter what.  It’s like the final walk to the gas chamber.  I swear if I listen closely enough to the sounds of the morning, I can almost hear “Fat Man Walking!” coming from somewhere. 


Walk from hell completed, I queue up in the vestibule at 4:55 AM.  They open at 5, and I  go in first thing in the morning so I don’t have to dread my looming workout while I’m at work.  It’s kinda like knowing you have to swallow a toad–best do it first thing in the morning, that way you can get it over with and move on with your day.   


I check in and head downstairs to the weight room–getting there early in the morning is nice, because there are only a couple of guys in there, and they leave me alone.  For the most part, no one in the weight room is here this early to make friends.  Get in, get done, get out.  I pick up the dumbbells and get the bench press work done first, swallowing another toad.  I follow it up with squats, curls, military presses, legs and shoulders–then move to the treadmill.  Run a sprint for a minute, followed by two minutes of walking.  Then sprints again.  I repeat this until I feel like I am gonna pass out and wake up with a Pulp Fiction adrenaline syringe stuck in my chest.  And when I hit that point, I’m finished.  Best feeling ever is when I’m done.  I like that more than anything, because I know I have the most time in front of me before my next workout. 


I head back home, and my first stop inside the house is in the kitchen, where I scrounge up some leftover meat or cheese for a post-workout protein fix.  I grab and drink my first two bottles of water–two of thirteen–for the day.  To the laundry room I go, strip off the sweaty clothes, drop them into the washing machine, and head to the shower.  I get out, immediately get dressed in my work clothes, and go back to the kitchen for breakfast.  Most days I get a piece of toast and some cheese, maybe a small bowl of cornflakes.  Since I eat a good deal of protein, I also like the benefits of the fiber. (Sucks to get old!)    If I’m eating carbs that day, I eat them in the morning.


This is the part where I (once again) remind you that I am not a guru for weight loss.  I don’t claim to have the answers, nor do I necessarily do things the right way.  So with that disclaimer in place…I head to work.  During I drink five more liters of water, most of which I drink in the morning.  Almost every day I skip lunch and head to the mall to walk.  One lap around the mall is about ¾ of a mile.  I don’t really do it for exercise but more for the activity.  It helps keeps my mind off eating lunch.  


At 4:30 or so I head home–I get in about 5:15 and start dinner.  Tonight’s taco night.  I drink my last bottle of water just before I eat–helps curb my hunger.  I sit down to work on my computer or watch TV and just try to relax–sometimes with all the effort to drive my metabolism, I find it hard to slow down and just chill.  I usually get to bed around 10:30 PM–but I actually sleep around four hours a night.  Five, tops.  Like most people, I spend a lot of time laying in bed, staring at the ceiling, trying to sort things out in my head enough so that I can calm down and get to sleep.  The whole process starts all over again, at 4:29 AM.  It’s my own little Groundhog Day, minus Andie McDowell. 



Thereyago.  That’s the big secret to my weight loss.  People ask me all the time how to lose the weight–and over time, I’ve started telling them the same thing.  You have to be willing to do the work.  Every day.  Religiously.  Not sexy.  Not fun.  Not interesting.  Just put in the effort, the time, and the work.  Every day.  It is so very worth it.   




People often ask me what it was like to weigh almost 600 pounds.

It’s hard to explain because for most of my life, it was all I knew.  I realize I’m probably dating myself when I make the following musical reference, but there’s an old Danny Elfman lyric that seems to capture the answer to that six hundred pound question best.

(Yeah I know.  Oingo Boingo.  You young ones go ahead and google it.  I’ll wait.)

Danny Elfman is an amazing musician.  These days he does more movie soundtracks than anything else, but back in 1981, he wrote a song called “On the Outside.” 

They laugh at me aloud
They say I’m just a clown
That I ain’t got no pride
I’m on the outside
The girls look really cute
They really make it work
They think I’m just a jerk
I’m on the outside
I never could sit still
I never was too hip
I never caught the ride
I’m on the outside

I’m on the outside, I’m on the outside now
This is where it all begins right here
On the outside lookin’ in, I’m on the outside

Those lyrics describe it perfectly–there’s no way I could possibly say it better. I felt out of place everywhere I went.  I always seemed to say the wrong thing, and I was always in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I was always looking in from the outside. I watched people living their lives–really living them–and I was envious.  So basically, I just spent my life trying to stay out of the way of people.  (Understand that’s not easy to do when you are as wide as you are tall.)  Looking back now, I’m pretty sure that desire to stay on the outside was mostly self-inflicted, but that’s how I operated.

The worst part of it was the fact I gave up on dreams.  I never dared to dream about a better life.  In the quiet time of the night, when I’d lie awake and stare at the ceiling, I wouldn’t allow myself to have aspirations of a better life for myself–I just wanted to hold the ground I had.  I was so afraid that if I made a change, it would wind up being a step backward.  I never felt deserving.  I never took vacation time…vacations were for the real people.  I had friends who traveled–I would’ve loved to have been able to go with them–but it was, quite simply, out of my comfort zone.  I always felt that I couldn’t (or shouldn’t) move forward.  It is a vicious cycle for one to live in, really.  You can’t stand your current situation.  You want to change, but you don’t dare make a move because you fear it will get worse–and all the while, you’re consumed with the fact that you are desperate to make some sort of alteration to the present.  

So something in me changed five years ago.  I wanted change.  I craved it.  I needed it. I had to make a move.  One day I was ready.  I wanted to get into the game.  Suddenly the drive was there.  I can’t explain the change.  Maybe I’d just had enough bullying.  Maybe I was just tired of having sore feet.  Maybe I was tired of being on the outside.  Maybe it was just plain time to do it.   Once the desire is there to make the change…there’s no stopping it. 

There’s no stopping you

I am no longer on the outside. I am in the middle of it and making a stand to stay there.  It’s so much more fun–and the view is better from the inside.

Life is good.