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I was in a work training a few weeks ago with one of our corporate trainers–I actually like the gal–we’ve become good friends over the past five years or so.  She’s funny, she’s outgoing–you come across those people in life that are best described as a dynamo–endless energy–totally the qualities one would want in a trainer, for sure.  

At the start of this particular training seminar, she asked the participants to introduce themselves…maybe describe a little about yourself…and tell the others something about yourself that they wouldn’t know otherwise–like, unless you told them.  I understand what she’s trying to do here.  She wants people to start talking, so that we don’t just sit there all day, not interacting, spaced out, glazed over–she wants people to engage.  To her credit, she started the attempted discussion, so she participated in the exercise. 

I hate this stuff. 

I understand the reason we do this is to get the conversation started.  What do they call it?  An icebreaker?  So I’m just sitting there, running through a list of snarky, inappropriate things to say–just varying degrees of salaciousness.  Hi, I’m Paul, I get life direction through telepathic messages from my cat.  Or Hi, I’m Paul, I’m stockpiling food and ammo for the eminent zombie invasion. Or one I particularly like:  Hi I’m Paul, I work here because I outgrew my career as a professional midget wrestler.  My guess is that all of them might get me sent to Human Resources for a discussion or two.  

So I rack my brain to come up with an answer that isn’t too totally smartass, and attempt to politely get past this portion of the program.  But while I’m sitting there in my mildly comfortable conference room chair, I start pondering the question. How would I really describe myself?  I hate to jump to the morbid, but if I was to write my obituary, what would I say?  Would it be something I wanted to read?  Would I be able to write things that would make me proud?   To what level do I attempt a description?  Physically?  Emotionally?  Spiritually?  

I’m not sure when I last looked into the mirror and took a real good assessment of who I was.  And what I look like.  And how, on whatever level, I would describe myself.  

Let’s start with the easy part.  Physically, this should be a simple question.   If I was describing myself to a police artist, I would start with the obvious.  I’m taller than average–about 6’3–but the body type–that’s the hard part.  My knee-jerk reaction is to say ‘heavy set’ or ‘big boned’ or some other phrase that your mom would use to describe you without actually calling you FAT.  (Personally, I’m not entirely sure what having big bones has to do with having a beer gut at eleven years old, but people seem to accept the description if it comes from your mother.)  I would use ‘stocky’ but I think that’s the male equivalent to ‘curvy’ for women.  It’s a nice way to say she has big boobs, but she’s also carrying an extra forty pounds.  “Stocky” says he has big shoulders and a big gut.  Not sure that works for me.  I wouldn’t say I am fit and trim, nor am I slender…maybe a few pounds over average…but most definitely, I am healthy.  I have dark brown hair that’s starting to turn grey.  My beard is already grey, but as long as the hair on my head stays there, I don’t care so much about the color.  My eyes are light brown; my nose is messed up from too many fights, paired with my inability to duck.  On a scale of one to ten, I think I’d put myself at 6.73.  A solid number.  About a ‘C’ average in the looks department.  I am satisfied with that.  I think I have the average American look.  That’s a good thing–I’m average in many ways–I like classic rock, Coors Beer, and small block Chevy Detroit Steel. 

I guess appearances aside, just looking at the attitude or the Inner Paul, if you will–I’m kinda cynical.  I swear I’ve been working to change this.  I have a sarcastic sense of humor (shocker, I know) and despite my best efforts to change, and be a little gentler, a little kinder–bottom line is that I am a realist, and try not to lie to myself or others.  With respect to intelligence, I think that although I’m not college educated, I have a decent amount of common sense, and I consider myself fairly smart.  My white-collar career can attest to this. 

Emotionally…hey I’m a guy.  That’s a tough one.  I guess I’m outgoing, but admittedly, I tend to have my feelings hurt pretty easily–at least in non-work situations.  If I’m in a professional atmosphere, it’s not an issue–but with friends, I do take things to heart.  On more than one occasion, I’ve been described as soft-hearted or sensitive.  Sorry folks, but being called sensitive as a guy is a bit off-putting.  I know it’s not supposed to be a bad thing, but it’s just about up there with being called a wuss.  Other than that, I think I’d consider myself emotionally stable.  Not full of drama, don’t particularly like drama, nor do I get overly excited about bad news.  

Spiritually…whoa boy.  That’s another toughie.  I consider myself a Christian, but I don’t regularly attend a church.  I try to live my life by doing the right thing, and I don’t feel the need to go to a worship service.  It makes me feel like too much of a hypocrite.  My beliefs are pretty personal, and I’ve never understood the desire to share them in a group setting on a Sunday morning.  I am also a strong believer in Karma.  I take comfort in knowing that evil seems to be corrected in some way, and that’s its only a matter of time before that correction happens.  Kinda like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas when he takes a 22 slug behind the ear–ultimately, the bad guys always get it in the end.    

The interestingly introspective thing about describing yourself and really taking a personal inventory is that it keeps changing.  I am so different than I was five years ago–not just physically, but on all levels.  If you’d asked me five years ago if I would have been having this kind of thought process, I would have laughed.  Maybe this is just part of the human condition, constantly evolving–or maybe, just maybe, God forbid–its part of maturing.  I hope that’s not the case.   I mean at 44 years old…why start now?

Paulie

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?

Paul

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.

Paul

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.   

 

Paul

 

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. 

Paul

What a difference 5 years can make…what else can I say.

Paul

It was five years ago this week that I started my “diet.”

I try to avoid calling it a diet because I don’t really think that’s what I have done…more like I made an adjustment in my direction.  I turned it around. I had Mr. Sulu put in a new course, and told him to engage. 

Looking back, it doesn’t seem like five years.  I suppose if I was serving five years at the Gray Bar Inn, it would seem much longer…in retrospect, I wish I would have had a better plan.  I’ve kinda been playing it by ear for the last half-decade.  Working it out as I’ve gone along.  Or maybe I wish I would’ve had a better idea of where I’d be now.   It’s hard to wrap my head around and put into words, I guess.

So I have moved into a more intense workout process–I have to admit I feel a bit overworked by this new schedule.  A friend of mine, who is helping me work out, gave me a 10-week program–and it has been a challenge.  I feel like I am training for an event that is never going to happen.  A couple of guys I know, both of whom were on submarines in the Navy, have said they’d spend five months under the waves in some sort of very boring, stressful routine, never knowing the real story of where they were going, what they were doing, or why they were doing it.  No wonder these guys go nuts when they go on leave!  I’m starting to feel the need to pull a Crazy Ivan myself, Hunt for Red October style–do something crazy and turn hard to starboard.  Unleash my inner beast.  Something.

Training without a defined goal is a bit messed up–I put in the work, and then question why I am putting myself though all this pain.  Maybe it’s time to quit my job, fill up my car, drive as far as possible and…start my life over as a bartender.  Live a completely stress-free life, preferably someplace warm, friendly, and fun.  Exist on nothing but tips and barbecue.  Maybe Key West.  Or San Antonio.  Or that beach in Mexico where Andy Dufresne went  when he escaped from Shawshank State Prison.  Yeah, that’s it.  Someone call Morgan Freeman and tell him to meet me in Zihuatanejo. 

So I’ve been thinking about who I am now, compared to who I was five years ago–I like to think I’m the same person, only magnified.  As if I was boiled down like a broth to intensify my flavor.  Paulie to the second power.  I know that I have made more changes and grown more in five years than I ever did in the previous 25 before that.  I know that I am definitely a stronger version of myself.  In the past 1,825 days I have managed to lose almost four hundred pounds, make a career change, make new (read:  real, dependable) friends, remodel my house, and buy a new car.  I’ve started writing, and I’ve started to live up to at least a small portion of my potential.  Mr. Houghton would be proud. 

Mr. Houghton was my Marketing teacher.  I think I had him for Typing, too.  My guess is that he probably had the marketing background and they stuck him with the typing class.  (For reference, typing class was done on a typewriter.  Feel free to take a break from my blog and google the term ‘typewriter’ if I’ve lost you at this point.)  Anyhow, he was my favorite teacher.  To this day, I still remember a random conversation we had after class.  Okay, more like argument.  I was standing at his desk trying to lobby for a better grade on a paper–it was an attempt on my part to snag at least a C on a crucial part of my grade in this particular class.  We ended up having a very honest conversation–he told me I was gifted, and he hoped that someday I would quit looking for the easy path.  Live up to my potential and whatnot.   He said I was one of his smarter students, but that I used my intelligence to just coast through school–his class in particular.  Probably crossing some sort of line at this point, he pointed out a girl in the back of the classroom and said that she was a person that used every bit of her ability–but still struggled.   So if I could just take her attitude, and her and work ethic, and implant it in me with the brains I had been given, there would be no stopping me. 

I wish I would have listened to Mr. Houghton sooner.

Sometimes I look at the last five years–and I’m proud of them and all–but I wonder what I did with the other 40 years I’ve been alive.  Why I wasted them.  Why I didn’t live up to my potential.  Why I let Mr. Houghton be right.  Why I allowed myself to become the man I became–and the size I became.  But then sometimes I look at the last five years and wonder what else I can accomplish.  As I go back and read this entry, I’ve made two prison references.  Am I still living in one?  Where will I be in the next five years?   I’ve taken control of so many facets of my life…but there’s so much more to do…  

Paulie

I was at work a few months ago and a friend of mine (who loves books) called me up and invited me to a reading.  Considering my Southern Oregon eighth grade public school education, I replied to his invite with the next logical question:  “what is a reading?”  He explained that it’s a book promotion tour done by the author–set up at a specific location, the author comes out, meets fans, and reads from his book.  I have to admit I was less than enthusiastic–it was a school night, the book store wasn’t near any good strip clubs (which is NOT an easy thing to do in Portland), and I had a date with myself to watch television. (I mean c’mon–when was I going to get another chance to watch that Two and a Half Men rerun?)  Besides–the “reading” was at Powell’s.  While I like a good musty bookstore as much as the next guy–and there’s (literally) no bigger bookstore on earth, it’s not exactly my favorite place to go.  I’ve been there on several occasions, and every time I interact with the staff there, I feel like I’m coming between them and their vegan cruelty-free soy chai mochalattafrappachinos.   Speaking of the staff, most of them look (and smell) like they could use a good scrubbing–and they have that typical Portland hemp-wearing, ultraslacker, I-always-recycle-and-ride-a-bike-to-work superiority complex that I don’t find particularly pleasant.

My friend strongly suggested that it would be a good thing for me to attend–not just because I could use a little bit of intellectual culture (What?  Two and a Half Men doesn’t qualify???)  but also because the book is on a subject of which I have some interest.   He goes on to tell me that the author lost 50 pounds–and while that’s a great thing to do, and I understand the effort he put into losing the weight, I didn’t really get why it was book-worthy.  I know so many people (including the one I look at in the mirror every day) that have lost the same or more pounds and I didn’t see them writing a memoir….but I got curious, so I agreed to check it out.  

I arrived at the bookstore a little early and saw the staff setting up for the reading, so I grabbed a seat near the back and sat down.  A bit after the starting time, about thirty people were seated and the author came out and introduced himself.  His name is Edward Ugel…Ed.  Right off the bat, he explained that he wasn’t a diet guru, or an inspirational speaker–he was just a guy that wanted to lose weight and wrote a book about it, so that’s exactly what he did.  I’m with Fatty:  Losing Fifty Pounds in Fifty Miserable Weeks is the title of his story, and it turns out the book is a lot like Ed–very funny and very smart.

So after his brief introduction, he read a little from his book, told a few stories–the whole thing was surprising ly entertaining.  The only thing that might’ve made it better would have been a few strippers flanking him, serving up some cold Pabst Blue Ribbon (Question:  if that was the beer that won the blue ribbon, how bad was the beer that came in second?) but otherwise, I had a really good time. 

At one point during his talk, he made it clear that he wasn’t the next Richard Simmons–and the book wasn’t a “how to” diet book.  He wanted to lose the weight and had some personal reasons for it, one of which was (of course) his health.  But he also went into how he wanted to look better.  I couldn’t believe my ears!  Here was a guy that was letting the cat out of the bag!  He wanted to look better!  He was self-conscious and he was a guy.  He didn’t like how he looked, he was starting to have health issues, and he knew it was time to change things.

When most guys start a diet, they just say they “want to get in shape” or something like that.  For a while there,  I would tell people I just wanted to get back into ‘fighting shape.’  But the bottom line was that I didn’t want to look like a fat slob any more.  Sure, the improved health is the real benefit. But for me, at the end of the day, it came down to vanity.  I hate to say it, but that was the real reason behind everything.   When people listen to weight-loss stories, mine included, they want some big spark–some out-of-body catalyst-type experience.  That time when someone hit rock bottom and knew they had to change, like after a heart attack.  Seeing the white light and somehow avoiding it makes for a good motivating tale, doesn’t it?  But for me it wasn’t like that. I just was tired of being tired, and even more tired of being fat.

At the end of the reading, I stuck around because I had a few questions.  I hate waiting in lines, so I held back until the crowd had thinned out a little and walked up to the table where Ed was sitting.  Introducing myself and asking for him to sign a copy of his book, I asked him point-blank:  since he made it clear he did want to be labeled as an inspiration, how did he deal with people who told him he was?  He looked up from the table, gave me a head-to-toe once-over, and replied with, “How much did you lose?”  Letting out a nervous chuckle and stammering for a minute, (which isn’t like me at all) he followed up with, “Why do I think you’re going to throw a huge number at me?”  I didn’t want to take away from anything he had done by trumping his fifty pounds.  We had essentially done the same process, I just needed to do it longer than he did–but the effort was the same.  Afraid of stealing his spotlight, I was also hesitating to say anything because of my number itself.  See when you tell people you have lost, say, 100 pounds, they’re usually quite amazed–but when you tell them you lost 375 pounds, they usually can’t compute it.  People don’t know how to respond.  It tends to scramble their brains for a few minutes.  It’s awkward. 

So I gave in and told him how much I had lost.  His initial response was verbalized as “Really?”  but his very surprised eyes were saying something more like “Bullshit!”  Sensing his disbelief, I took out my wallet and showed him my license.  (I’ve found that’s generally the best way to show people that I’m legit.)   He was very gracious, and that in fact, I was the true inspiration, not him.  He asked me how I felt.  I told him I still felt clumsy and fat.  My self-image hadn’t changed.  It’s hard to explain to someone unless they grew up in my size 14 extra-wide shoes.  I think this is my default mode.  I mean as time goes on, it’s taking a smaller part of my life–I’m so much more active and stuff–but I’m still struggling to lose that fat guy.  Every once in a while, I still catch myself off-guard and think I’m still at my old weight.  When people ask me how much I weigh now, sometimes I slip up and say 328, not my real weight of 228.  The last time I was under 300 pounds, I was about 13…it’s still unfamiliar territory for me.

Since that first meeting with Ed, I have exchanged a few emails with him–he is a great guy and I feel like I am starting to form a friendship.  After reading his book, I am amazed at how similar our experiences have been.  It’s a great read, and I’m not so much a reader–well, except for those times I have to insist I’m reading something JUST for the articles.  So few weeks ago, I attended a Book Club.  I use that term loosely, seeing as how it’s really just an excuse for a group of middle-aged, small town women to get together, pretend they’ve read something, and drink wine at 9 o’clock on a Saturday morning.  The woman who runs the “Book Club” was looking for suggestions about what to read next, so I suggested Ed’s book.  I told them he used small words, he was funny–it would be perfect.  They read the book and everyone loved it–Ed was even kind enough to attend the club via the internet.

Sometimes during this journey, I need to remind myself of the incredible experiences I’ve had.  Meeting Ed and sharing Ed’s book with others is just another one of the highs I’ve felt on this weight loss roller coaster.   Who knows, maybe I’ve got a book in me…

Growing up I always felt the pressure of New Years as a time when you had to go out and have fun…even if you didn’t feel up to it. It felt like an obligation.  Now the pressure comes from New Years resolution.  Over the last 5 years I have taken to being very serious about New Years and resolutions in particular. 

One of my friends is really into the whole new beginning part of new years.  I think she believes it’s a fresh start and a chance to build what you want. 

I want to have fun on New Years Eve.  I would love to get knee-walking drunk and blow $300 on lap dances from single moms who dance “to put them selves through nursing school.”  Or hang out with my friends watching them pull jack ass stunts and hurt themselves because nothing it more funny than seeing a guy take a shot to the sack and double over. 

Truthfully, while I like going to a good dive bar or strip club, the allure isn’t the same anymore. It seems like it should be fun but it feels like a waste of time and money.   Maybe that’s a sign I am getting old.  God I hope it doesn’t mean I am getting mature. 

5 years ago I my news year’s resolution was to lose some weight.  I am down about 375 or so.  3 years ago I said I was going to start working out. Last year I said I was going to start lifting weights.  I have done all these things and I think my physical self is in line for the first time in my life.

So I have been thinking its time to get my emotional and spiritual self in line.  Not sure how my new years resolution is going to play into that yet.  As 2010 ended, I did some reflection.  I am pretty happy with how most of it went.  I think of all my changes with the weight loss, the best and the one I am most happy about is that it’s lead me to make some new friends.  Some of it was directly related to the weight, my blog and making some introductions.  Some of it has been because I think I am more open to new experiences and I am not letting the weight hold me back. 

I never suspected that losing weight would be such an awaking for me. I just wanted to look and feel better but how knew this would include personal growth?  I have been trying new experiences and kind of like moving outside of my comfort zone.  Maybe it’s time to look at my bucket list and start moving some of the items off that list.

So here is my list so far:

Have a nice suit custom made for me in Hong Kong

Have a financial negotiation which ends after the amount is set with the type of currency being used…Dollars, Lira, Yen then ending at marks.

Win a long shot bet at the Kentucky Derby of better that 50 to 1

Be involved in a bar brawl that ends with someone being thrown though a window and all of the combatants finding respect for each other and going to another bar for drinks

Use a vending machine in Osaka Japan train station

Dive a wreck in the Greek Islands

Become a trained chef

Hack my way through a jungle with machete

Driving:

I want to drive 100 plus on the autobahn in a Porsche

I want to make a frantic run for the border

I want to be involved in a high speed car chase forcing me to:

                                                Drive the wrong way on a street

                                                Drive though a building

                                                Drive through a huge pane of glass

                                                Drive through a fruit stand

                                                Drive through a locked gate

                                                Jump a car off of a tow truck ramp parked in the street

Lie in a hammock, drink a local beer and quote Hemmingway on a third world beach

Yell “clear”, hit someone with deliberation paddles and bring them back to life 

 Earn a title of nobility maybe, “Viceroy”

Use a stuck elevators ceiling escape hatch

Learn to play great balls of fire on the piano

Hop on a freight train Hobo style

I want to hire a mercenary force and overthrow a Central America country and declare myself “Generalissimo Diablo Blanca”

In a real manner, I would like to continue to make new friends.  Being social is one of the biggest parts of who I am.  I have hopes of continuing this trend.  It may be the best part of losing the weight. 

Paulie