A blog about nothing.

Friday, March 31, 2017

HEAVEN ISN'T TOO FAR AWAY


My friend called me today and asked what I was doing. I replied that after taking a one-hour bike ride and meditating (read: napping) in the sun, I had just finished The Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the hopes of one day writing about it. The afterlife intrigues me, and since your personal philosophy of where you go once you die - whether to heaven or hell as a spirit, back to earth in another body, or into the Buddhist Void - influences how you conduct your daily affairs, I think the book would make for some pretty good discussion. Kelly on the other hand was traveling by Uber to work, where she sells overpriced clothing to women while cringing inwardly at the outrageous dollar amount they whip out their credit cards to cover at check-out. 

My dear friend wants to have a life such as mine, one of carefree ease, but she is regrettably stuck in the vicious circle which TIME Magazine fittingly featured this week in the depiction I've attached above. She'd like to quit work, but doing so would require enough money to leave her job, which forces her to continue working, which makes her hate it so much that she wants to quit. Again. Kelly is a few years younger than me. When I was her age I too was on the treadmill, but not making any money. 

In med school I spent thousands per month of my father's money to  work my ass off, by doing a lot of memorizing. It wasn't until after graduating that I slowly made a conscious effort to reduce my expenditures to the point that work might be a non-requisite. With a little cosmic fortune thrown in. One holy man, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, used to urge disciples to pray continuously not to have to work. Because often work, the kind that puts money in your pocket, so dulls the sensibilities and exhausts the body that the day's labors leave no room for enlightenment, which lest we forget is the purpose of our brief sojourn here on Earth. But I did remind Kelly that though I don't make any money, I spend most of my day working tirelessly away, whether cooking, cleaning, gardening, reading or writing these posts that nobody reads. Other than you, and Kelly if I remember to send it to her. 

A life well-led does not need to involve money earned. In the Utopia of tomorrow we will get by working a few hours each week for the collective good, leaving the remainder of the day for reflection and recreational pursuits. The Golden Age doesn't have to be too far away, though from the looks of things, it might never arrive. It's strange. We as a globe have reached an unparalleled, unprecedented stage of technological development, and yet we are more harried than ever. Everybody seems so preoccupied that nobody has any time to stop and smell the roses, much less to trim them, as I did for about an hour this a.m. And I've the thorn in my thumb to prove it. In ancient Greece, Athens was head and shoulders above the rest of civilization as a city that supplied its residents with enough respite from the daily grind of life to ponder the point of it all. It was in Athens that philosophy flourished.

Now smart technology has supplied us with Roombas and a million other gadgets to do our work for us, leaving us time to contemplate the nature of work or to engage in goal-directed action not for money but for enjoyment, and what do we do with our leisure but spend the extra time on social media, which leaves us feeling isolated, aggravated, and alone. All the while appearing to enjoy ourselves, because any Instagram account worth its salt makes its owner look as fabulous as a Kardashian. And Kelly is just as fabulous as her pictures would seem to indicate. By the way if you're looking to spend money, spend it on experiences rather than things. Because doing things rather than owning things is the ticket to bliss. Preferably with company. But I prefer to just be me, even if it means being alone.

Today is the perfect day to start living your dreams 🦄 ✨🔮 #underthepier #dreamerswelcome #unicornlife #lifeonfire



Since I have spare time and don't need too much money and can't always meditate in the sun lest I wind up like Leatherface, I have decided I just might come out with a podcast. I'd devote it to discussing the afterlife, which we're all careening towards, one selfie at a time. I'd base it on the Tibetan book I already mentioned. Because there's a lot of stuff in there that the general population should consider. They say that just hearing the book read to you is enough to guarantee liberation. If nothing else I can recite it aloud and one passage at a time we can fly to forever. As they say, heaven isn't too far away, and we can go there together. Company is sometimes nice.



Thursday, March 30, 2017

THE HUMAN CONDITION


Yesterday I reconnected with a lovely friend I haven't seen in over 10 years. Dear Kelly is the ex-wife of my ex-best friend. But in this case two negatives add to a positive, because she's such a doll. During our several-hours-long walk along the beach in O.C. Kelly wondered aloud how I have managed to stay single so long. Remaining childless for nearly 4.5 decades hasn't been easy, and it has been a conscious decision. I often say having kids is the easy part. But finding someone I could tolerate long enough to raise them with? Not so much. 

But the truth is that looking around me I can only conclude that as a parent you become a hapless victim of consumerism gone wild. The saying used to be that Hallmark invented the holidays to sell cards. It seems that every other company under the sun has joined the smorgasbord, feasting on the collective credit card account. Why else do we start counting down Christmas at Halloween? Do you even know why we give each other gifts? I bet many Christians don't even know what the holiday actually commemorates. It's become a pagan ritual set to the tune of Jingle Bells at your local mall. It's easy enough to opt out of gift-giving and secret Santas and "white elephant." But if you don't buy into the spending spree as a parent you are branded a Scrooge and in some neighborhoods probably accused of child neglect or abuse. And so becoming a parent really means accumulating huge amounts of toys and clutter that your kid will play with once and then leave scattered around the house. I can take dirty diapers. Waste belongs in the trash and is biodegradable. But plastic toys aren't, and they're not cheap.

So, how to escape this? How to participate in conventional life without either being labeled an eccentric or losing yourself. How to be true to yourself and your personal preferences and the same time go with the flow, when it is pretty clear that society is headed towards a riptide at the deep end? 

Can a man marry and have children and still retain his manhood? I joke with my neighbor, Michael, who wants to write a how to get rich quick (in real-estate) book that he should write instead about maintaining manhood in marriage. I don't know whether he has even managed this superhuman feat himself. When I ask him how he's doing, he says not "living the dream" but "living my wife's dreams." Which means redoing the kitchen and leaving work unfinished (and bills unpaid) to run household errands. Such a book has not been written because it's impossible to achieve, or so it seems. Rather than lose their manhood, men divorce, usually by cheating. Witness my boyhood idols, Johnny Depp and Arnold S. And my father. And so many others besides. I wouldn't want to be that guy, and so I don't join the nuptial club.

If life is God's plan why don't I agree with it? So much is wasteful, useless, futile. And I'm not usually a curmudgeon. Yesterday in getting to Kelly I was stuck in traffic for two hours over the span of 50 miles. Once in a year of this gridlock does it for me. To think this is the average person's daily life. So many sorry suckers (and for years I, too, was one of them) are slaving away just to realize the American dream. Whose dream is it? The investment bankers'? The car manufacturers'? The one percent's? Surely not America's or the world's, since from the looks of the air pollution blanketing the Southland we are killing the planet and ourselves. The carpool lane was empty because everybody is driving a single-passenger vehicle. Including me. But how else to get to Costa Mesa? 

There used to be trains. But mass-produced cars led to companies' needing to unload all the new merchandise on the unwitting consumer, and so the artificial need for your own car was created, and now cars are toys and status symbols. A car commercial is one of every three commercials airing on TV (estimate mine). I don't want to leave the house because entering society is depressing to me. It used to be Skid Row was an isolated place. (And a great band, and how I miss the 80s!) Now the smog and smut infiltrate everywhere. Maybe I'm exaggerating. There still are trains, but the way streets are set up (the grid system in Manhattan is not present throughout LA), getting to the train station requires riding in a car, and possibly paying for parking, and so why not just drive all the way?

Since we're asking so many questions, ask yourself this: What is my purpose on Earth? Other than the general purpose to realize yourself and liberate yourself from the human condition by eradicating desire in your heart. But what was the desire that brought you here to begin with? Assuming the theory that our spirits exist before we take on human form is true, why did you want to be born? I ask myself this question quite a lot. And I don't have an answer. I really don't have any desires, other than the basic ones common to all (food, drink, sleep), and other than the desire that all the beings in the world be happy. So I conclude that I came to Earth to be of service to others, even to uplift humanity. But I'm the one who's depressed! And my efforts, nowadays centered upon these writings, are, judging by their scanty readership, rather futile. Life in a human body is tough. There are aches and pains and lines and spots that come with age. So, why the hell don't I just expire tomorrow? Because food tastes so darn good, and it sucks to be hungry....

I try to comfort myself with an analogy. In soccer, a sport I played through high school, the sweeper doesn't have a specific position. A more versatile type of defender, this player "sweeps up" the ball if an opponent manages to breach the defensive line. The position is more fluid than other defenders who man-mark their designated opponents. While not having a set position could by the spectator be viewed as inferior, it turns out that the sweeper is often the most skilled player on the field. He has to be swift, and to hone in on that area of the action where his skills are needed most. And so I view myself as a sweeper. Wherever I find someone in need, I lend a helping hand. Mindful that giving a person what he wants isn't always serving his best interests. Any parent knows that fulfilling her child's every desire at the supermarket would only result in a mouth filled with cavities. And so maybe we should buy fewer toys?

Ah, the human condition. How often we want what is not good for us. But why should so much bad stuff exist? Sugary sweets. Traffic. Plastic. And the like. Next on my reading list is a book by 20th-century German-American social philosopher Hannah Arendt. I came across it because the title Human Condition flashed across my mind as a nifty one to use for this post. Lo and behold, as with everything it's been done before, specifically as the name of one of Ms. Arendt's books. Let's see if she says all that I want to say, or at least answers some of the questions that sometimes keep me awake at night. Better them than a child's crying!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

NO HAZE IN HEAVEN


Searching for a new hobby? Try necrophilia. It works for me. I know what you're thinking: "Ew gross you surf dead person porn. Wait, is there in fact dead person porn?" There's kiddie porn and doggy porn and every other fetish of the forbidden, so it probably does exist somewhere on the "dark web." If you don't know, the dark web is where I buy my absinthe, a liquor known to induce morbid visions.

But no, I don't have sex with corpses. And while the term necrophilia generally refers to this prurient practice, in a broader sense it denotes the fascination with death itself. Thanatology is another nifty word which means something similar: "the scientific study of death." If there were a course I'd take it. 

Until then I'll rely on good ole intuition and personal experience, with a little ratiocination thrown in. Old-fashioned approach, you might say. Hey it worked for Galileo and Copernicus and Newton and Michelangelo and all the greats, who long before fancy computers simply studied the evidence of their senses and made inferences which they developed into theories that went on to change the world as we know it. And Albert Einstein refused to memorize his home phone number, which he'd never use - because who calls himself? - so he could devote his working memory to physics, and to helping other people build the A-bomb. Einstein didn't know he was developing technology that could destroy the world, so he is excused. But as the man with his finger on the button, and on the pulse, and sometimes up his butt, Trump is grateful for ratiocination I'm sure, though how much of it he uses himself is up for debate. 

We're all gonna die, hopefully not by Trump's hand, however. Nuclear proliferation is so passe. These days it's all about superviruses. They even designed one to infiltrate the Iranian nuclear system and cause it to self-destruct. Maybe superviruses are why Trump is seeking an over $50 billion increase in military spending. Because cyberwarfare is the rage. As is global warming. 

This week's TIME Magazine cover story is about whether truth is dead. It's about the president's tendency to "blur the binary distinctions between truth and falsehood," with his specious claims about Obama's wiretapping, and protests in Sweden, and illegal voting by US immigrants, which he then supports by citing sources such as the National Enquirer. Not exactly the bastion of American journalism. But oddly fitting, as Trump is not exactly the bastion of the U.S. presidency.

Some of what Trump says is false at the time but turns out to be true or to appear true later. He calls it intuition but it could be just a bit of savvy self-fulfilling prophesying. And his claims about global warming could fit this picture. Trump swears that global warming is a myth concocted by the Chinese. Could it be true that 98% of scientists are wrong and that the world is actually getting cooler? True in some places, maybe. Through geoengineering, or weather modification, aircraft can be deployed to fill the atmosphere with dust particles which then attract water and form clouds. This leads to global dimming, or that persistent haze that blankets the sky every morning by around 10 a.m. Except when it's really windy, like today. 

Global dimming counteracts global warming by shielding the Earth from the sun's warming rays, effectively lowering the ambient temperature. But sending aircraft into the sky to seed clouds does nothing to block out the greenhouse gases that actually cause the warming in the first place, and all those gas-guzzlers spew out more greenhouse gases, which further depletes the ozone layer. So while the world (or the part of the world that can afford cloud seeding) seems to cool somewhat and for a time, climate change is actually becoming worse. 

If you hop around discussion boards and browse YouTube videos, or if you just take a moment to look overhead, the consensus is that the planes leaving these conspicuous trails aren't commercial flights. They are military jets. It must cost a helluva lot to deploy these jets over major US cities every damned day. Like $50 billion per year a lot. Some of which comes from cutting funding to the EPA, the very agency that monitors such emissions. All in the name of "keeping America safe." Truth or falsehood? You be the judge. But first tear yourself away from that sitcom and burger. Because distractions only prevent your perception of truth.

Where am I going with this? Death is one thing you cannot prevent, and the burger may hasten it. We're all gonna die someway or other, be it by atom bomb, global warming, skin cancer, or the mythological natural causes. I hope yours is a peaceful one. But whichever way you meet your inevitable demise, spend a little time thinking about life on the other side. Or at least read on.

There are three commonly held beliefs about the nature of the afterlife. The first is Heaven and Hell, espoused by Christians, including at least 75% of Americans. Then comes the belief in reincarnation, held by Hindus and some Buddhists. Finally, there is the notion of the Void, which atheists hold as true, and some Buddhists, too.

The interesting thing is that amidst such diversity, a common thread runs through all the major religions. Death really does unite us.

Take reincarnation. Hinduism posits that the soul takes many bodies over the course of eons in the relentless quest for perfection, which it finally achieves in freeing itself from desire. Desire being what binds us to the earth and prevents our liberation from the body. Some Buddhists, the Tibetans particularly, also hold this belief, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead was written to help the deceased soul avoid human rebirth. But once upon a time, Christianity held reincarnation to be true. That souls inhabit many bodies throughout their evolution was struck from its teachings at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553 AD. So at one time or another, one or more major sects of each of the world's major religions believed that the soul has many lives. 

Of course, Christianity later replaced reincarnation with the concept of Heaven and Hell. Simply put, at the end of earthly life, an individual is assigned to an eternity in perdition or in paradise based upon the merits or demerits of his actions in the world. Now this may seem illogical. You mean you are created and then become immortal? And it seems unjust and cruel to damn you to an eternity of suffering based on a few bone-headed decisions you made as a mere mortal.

But as otherwordly realms, or interdimensional planes, Heaven and Hell exist in the other major religions as well. The difference is that after a life on this planet, a soul spends a brief time in these realms, not an eternity. According to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the moment it expires, a soul has the opportunity for liberation. If when it sees the "Clear Light" it does not merge its consciousness with the Oneness, it assumes a dream body, at which point it is assigned to a particular realm based upon its actions on Earth. This continues for 49 days, and if it does not free itself from its thought forms and attain liberation, the soul once again assumes a body of flesh and blood, is reborn on terra firma, and in accordance with the laws of karma continues to experiences the fruits, whether bitter or sweet, of prior actions. This Tibetan concept is based on the Hindu notion of identical realms. Buddha after all was raised a Hindu. 

Interestingly, Buddha himself did not believe in reincarnation. His followers only adopted the doctrine after his passing. Instead Buddha posited a Void, which he called Nirvana, a merging with the Oneness that sounds an awful lot like what a soul experiences in the moments of death when faced with the Clear Light. This same Void is also what we experience every night in deep sleep. This Void, then, in which we lose our individuality, and become forgetful of ourselves, bears a striking resemblance to the cessation of existence which the atheist upholds as the true reality awaiting us all, saint and sinner alike, when our time comes to die. 

So Buddhism as taught by its founder is very similar to atheism, and both have roots in real life, since the state of dreamless sleep is common to us all. 

Therefore, the major religions have more in common than meets the eye, and death may bring Heaven and Hell, the calm of deep sleep, life in another body based on your actions, or all of these. It all boils down to your beliefs. 

So what do you believe? Me, I'm all for blue skies, and the wind that keeps them that way. I hope there's no haze in Heaven.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ON SENDING NAKED SELFIES



So I'm reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was first published in 1927. It is purported to have been written in the 8th century AD by a Buddhist master. 

The book is meant to ease the transition of a newly disembodied soul from earth to the realm of the hereafter. It speaks of three bardos or planes. These are the moment of death, the dream-state intervening between two lives, and the prenascent period, prior to rebirth in human form. 

The book's purpose is also to help the dead avoid reincarnation on earth, and the suffering, sin and misery that this world often dishes out. True, life's ultimate purpose may be enjoyment, as transcendental meditator and writer/director of the Twin Peaks reboot David Lynch claims, but so often the effect of our daily affairs is joy's opposite. Life can sometimes suck.

The three periods together comprise the afterlife/prelife period and endure about 49 days, meaning that from the time you breathe your last until the time you're back in the womb is less than two lunar months. But in interdimensional existence the perception of time may be quite different. 

So where is the afterlife? Can we locate it on a map? No, because like the dreams that you have between your waking days, it all goes on in your mind. As the book enjoins: "May I (the recently deceased) recognize whatever visions appear as reflections of my own consciousness." 

And so the souls of long-deceased loved ones that the deceased-to-be sees prior to breathing his last - as many books, such as David Kessler's Crowded Rooms contend - may not be actual visitations but hallucinated  visions. But then again, maybe everything we experience, whether dreaming or waking or dying or dead, may at bottom be simply a product of our mind. A figment of the imagination. A vision. And as such, ultimately unreal. 

In any event, the life well lived can be said to be preparation for a good death. This is why we meditate, why we practice self-control. Why we seek to root out vices and cravings. So that at the moment of death, when we are besieged by figments of our imagination tugging us back into bodily existence, we can easily overcome these temptations and merge once again with the Oneness, source of all that is. Though you may lose your individuality, it is a small price to pay when in return what you get is totality. Or continued existence as a spirit. And a life spent going anywhere and creating anything on a whim seems pretty cool. 

Really if you are fastidious in your living, you do not need a guide or guru or loved one to recite to you from the Bardol Thodol, as the book is also called. You will have done your due diligence to stamp out desire, live selflessly and "love all, serve all" while in life, and are thereby assured of a smooth transition to the afterlife. No more rebirth for you. I think my brother and my mother, both deceased, have decided not to return to physical life. Since long after the 49 days elapsed they have continued to visit me in my sleep. Maybe now they have earned the right to be spirit guides. Or the afterlife's time frame needs updating. It's just a book. The author just a man who trusted his experiences and visions. If you plunge into your own heart, you can do the same, and truth awaits you.

However, since we are on the subject of hearsay, the legal term for an any experience which is "out of court," that is to say not your own and which is therefore inadmissible, this is why book knowledge is inferior to personal experience, personal experience being your go-to yardstick of truth. But when we consider the widely held notion that many spirit guides who appear to lead the deceased into the supernatural realms have never themselves been human, it makes one wonder about the other realms. I imagine that being human would allow one to relate much better with the plight of physical existence. How can a teacher be great without first being a student? 

Some even go so far as to say that there are two types of individuals who are born on earth. The first come to fulfill selfish desires (for fame, money and the like). Others come to serve: that is, if these noble souls can be said to have desires, they are selfless, to help others. And both types can learn lessons during the brief sojourn on the earth plane, which as one philosopher calls it is "but an infinitesimal speck between two infinities." How you choose to spend your second is up to you. 

Or is it? If you believe that the entire history of the universe was determined at the moment that matter sprang into existence, then you are free to live at ease, take a load off, and let life be lived. Yes, try your best, but know that ultimately the results are out of your hands. Life will not be controlled. So be like water, which assumes the shape of its receptacle, and always seeks the lowest level, but which all told is powerful enough to pulverize rock - be like water and FLOW. 

How best to prepare yourself for your own death? Live in the now. Watch your thoughts. Fix yourself in the role of detached observer of events including your own words and actions. How best to stay present? Put down your freakin' phone! 

When I was a small boy my mother used to give me baths. She'd sit on a chair by the tub and read back issues of style magazines. I'd always ask her to please put her reading material away and focus her attention on me. I'm not so starved for attention anymore, but that dynamic is at play whenever your awareness is fixated on your device rather than on the person in whose company you find yourself - be she a lover, friend, coworker or enemy. I hope you have no enemies, but if you stay distracted for long enough, you will lose more than a few friends. 



We cannot be in two places at once, unless while dreaming we leave our body and enter the ethereal realms, but those realms exist in the mind which is attached to the body, and the body is not really you. So you're always where you are. And a person in your physical presence is more important, in the sense of NOW, than your twitter feed or inbox. Living in the moment requires that you be precisely where you are, not in some virtual space or lost in your thoughts. We are all children who crave the attention of those we care about. And just as you wouldn't enjoy it very much if I glue myself to my Samsung surfing naked selfies while you're trying to reveal to me your heart's desire, put your shit away when we're hanging out. Sure, if we need a cab, or a reservation, or directions, or to look up the meaning of words like hearsay, whip it out, but otherwise leave that bad boy in your jeans. Or else I swear to God I'll change the WiFi password before you have time to text your next naked selfie, even if you're texting it to me. So consider yourself warned. Now you can send me that selfie.



Saturday, March 25, 2017

YOUR NEW BEST FRIEND


I know why most marriages fail. You may think you do too, and then proceed to site the two common grounds for divorce that everybody knows. I mean infidelity and spousal abuse. And while moral turpitude can threaten even the most ironclad of relationships, there is one thing even more likely than giving your wife a black eye or banging the babysitter to end your plans for happily ever after. It's leaving shit stains in the toilet. 

I remember this one time when a friend of mine, Caroline, who was recently separated, told me by way of self-consolation: "One thing good came out of the break-up: no more skid marks." Having visited quite a few dating sites in my time, I can't tell you how often girls list the following as an absolute requirement in the ideal mate: "must have toilet brush THAT YOU ACTUALLY USE."

Why should leaving fecal matter affixed to the bottom of the toilet bowl be such a non-negotiable? Isn't in the toilet where shit belongs? After all, it's not like anybody is going to come around and mistake the bathroom porcelain for a dinner plate. So why the big to-do? I'll tell you. Leaving shit stains is a tell-tale sign that you're an inconsiderate lover. You just don't care. The fella (I say fella 'cause girls are rarely guilty of this transgression) that is liable to leave skid marks in the toilet belongs to a personality class as deplorable as it is distinct. This fella is also the type to fart or belch in front of his sweetheart. He chews with his mouth open and talks with his mouth full. He routinely leaves the bed unmade and his dirty dishes unwashed and lying in the sink. He doesn't floss regularly, or for that matter brush his teeth. He makes inconsistent use of deodorant. He likely has some combination of back or neck or ear or nose hair, and dandruff. He sports unreasonably long toenails. And this guy is certainly the sort to leave shit stains not only in the toilet but also on his underpants. Gross! In short, this man is impossible to abide with in intimate association. 

And if you are this man, I don't care how much money you make, what car you drive, how big your pecker is, or how giving a lover you are (and such a man is without a doubt a selfish person anyway), it will only be a matter of time before your wife is the one to hump the babysitter and abuse you. Then the marriage will really be over. And you'll deserve it!

So clean the toilet after every shit. And before you flush, take a look at what lies therein. Because really, monitoring skid marks offers a host of benefits over and above merely maintaining a harmonious home front. Inspecting your feces is a good habit to have, as your stool says a lot about you. I can't remember ever going to the bathroom until I hit 25. Either I went very infrequently or my bathroom habits weren't high on my list of interests. But now I inspect every poop for size, shape and hue too. And yes, I note whether after flushing there is any residue. If so, it may simply mean I need to curtail my fat intake. In other words to stop eating five avocados in one day, as I did today. They were small ones, though.

Some pointers. I prefer to spray the toilet bowl with a disinfectant prior to brushing, preferably one that contains bleach. Because scrubbing with the brush alone and then letting it sit in its holder seems unhygienic. The smell of bleach will also take care of any unpleasant aroma. Or you can just give up animal products. I know that some Carolines like to think their shit don't stank; but trust me when I say that if you give up eggs and chicken and the like your farts won't either. The guy who wrote those lines is a vegan, by the way.



Friday, March 24, 2017

MUST GIVE BLOWJOBS


Today I woke up feeling extra ambitious, not in the money-making sense but in the sense of getting things done. Practical things. So after doing about 15 sets of weights I went outside and toiled in the front yard for a couple hours. 

The next door neighbor's gardener, who I used to deplore, complimented me on my weed-wacking skills. "I looked at your yard and I thought, 'He musta hired a new Mexican.'" I paraphrase in the interest of brevity, and hilarity. He didn't say Mexican, being himself one. And I don't deplore him anymore, even though he continues to mow, blow and trim with high-powered tools and make an ungodly amount of noise in the process. "Pass the compliment onto my brother," I told my new friend. "He has been saying that I've butchered the premises, but I tell him things grow back. It's a learning process, and all in due time..." And the platitudes flow.

I like being a do-it-yourselfer. Note to self: Weeds are very hardy, perennially green, and they often sprout colorful flowers, which are also fragrant. They also hardly need any watering at all. I'm all about letting the indigenous flora of Los Angeles take over the environs, especially with sprinklers continually on the fritz. I just wish plants didn't shed. I disdain the blower, and couldn't refrain from mentioning to my interlocutor the racket that resounds throughout the neighborhood for four hours every Friday, courtesy of his power tools. Yes he wears earplugs, but not all of us are so insulated. Not having a blower myself, I get on my hands and knees and rake and shovel the debris into my trash can. It's one helluva workout. I have been doing this each week for the last seven months. My how the time flies.

Afterwards I went for an hour long bike ride. For those who like to go above and beyond, gardening, which can serve as a stand-alone exercise for the sedentary sort, is also an excellent warm-up to whatever the serious athlete chooses as his "real" workout. Other activities included in my do-it-myself list: cooking, housekeeping, shopping, manicuring (my nails as well as the trees), not to mention washing my car (and my dog, with a blow-dry thrown in) and also haircutting. Which if you've never taken a scissors to your own mop, is well worth the effort. But be advised. Trial and error is the name of the game here. It's all about trial and error.

Like dating, which I don't even try any more. The average date is more like a job interview. We spend two hours over dinner so the girl can determine whether she'll agree to a second date, but by the time dessert arrives, which I didn't order and don't touch, I say "No way." The symbolism is pretty freakin' thick here. It's because the interrogation process is exhausting. Gone are the days when "to date" meant "to drink too much, dance till we dropped, then fuck like banshees till dawn when I somehow manage to sneak out surreptitiously enough so she won't wake up." I miss the good ole times. But not so much that I want an encore. It's not worth it!

Recently my friend asked me if I have any "friends with benefits." An appropriate term, since we used to be this to each other back in the day. 

"Are you kidding?" I replied. "I wish it could be that easy." 

These days in order to get a regular screw you have to put a ring on it. I mentioned this girl up the street I used to fool around with. That is until she called it off, saying just being a booty call made her feel cheap. Whatevers. F-ing prude. This is a woman with an ex-husband and two teenage children, mind you. She's practically menopausal. I was like, "Bitch, what are you saving it for?" Anywho... 

As I see it, fooling around is part and parcel of a solid friendship, or should be. If when I was a kid one of my baseball teammates told me he felt used and cheap because the only thing we did when we got together was play kid's games I'd have slapped his face. Guys play sports and chase chicks. When a guy gets with a girl, they should screw. Or at least play sports of their own. The up and down kind, usually between the sheets.

These days I'm the prude. I don't even get to first base any more. Too many complications. Today at the market I exchanged smiles with three girls, and I left the store feeling better than if I had shot as many loads. One of these, a cashier, is not a day over 55 I swear. Another girl, a shopper like me, I almost even talked to, would have had she not been face to phone in the check-out line. Oh and I waved at the mail career on my way back home. She's old enough to be my mother. Flirting is good clean fun. Smile and the world smiles with you, as they say. And you go home alone and can indulge your fantasies with the bottle of petroleum by the bed. You make of the girls you saw some strange composite involving the mail lady's hair and glasses, the cashier's smile and the shopper's legs - and none of them nag you even once! That's my idea of modern romance. 

Still, I'd love to find a friend with benefits. I'm taking applications, if you're local. Must be cute, spunky, with sparkling eyes, a tight butt, thick hair (a sign of character, and as the gene for hair is passed on by the mother, I don't want bald sons) and a great sense of humor. If you do not appreciate the movie Big Lebowski, we will not get along. Oh, and acting your age, not your shoe size, is a must. As are blowjobs. Skill set not required, but swallowing is. Don't worry, the gesture will be reciprocated at least some of the time. And be at least anal curious. Also, live less than 20 minutes away. My former friend with benefits is all the way in British Columbia. Too far for a guy who disdains traffic or air travel of any sort. Besides, she's not about the butt sex.

See ladies, that's 20 seconds' worth of must haves, not 2 pages or 2 hours. Take note and hope to hear from you. If not, at least please send me some good vibes (and maybe a naked selfie). Good luck with your search, and go easy on the dessert! 



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

HURTLING INTO THE HEREAFTER


Recently I had the pleasure of reconnecting with an old friend from high school. Bryn and I had been what you might call "friends with benefits" during our senior year at Beverly High. We graduated in 1991, years before the term was coined by Alanis Morissette in her '95 smash Head Over Feet.  After seeing each other a handful of times in the first couple years after graduating, we had completely lost touch. That is, until friending one another on Facebook in 2011.

Since then, aside from the occasional comment or like, we hadn't corresponded. I did know however that Bryn had been busy since our kissing days. She had had a pretty successful career as an actress, appearing on such hit sitcoms as Party of Five and Wonder Years. She had married a couple times, had a teenage daughter, and recently lost her younger brother, Warren, who died suddenly of a heart condition in his early thirties. 

When I noticed that in wishing a mutual friend Happy Birthday on Facebook we both called her "lovely lady," it struck me as odd that after so many years apart Bryn and I could still be on the same wavelength. So I sent her a message. You probably think it's pretty typical for a single guy with time on his hands to be reaching out to former flames but I don't attend reunions. And I did see in her status page that Bryn was divorced, so I'm excused. 

My short message led to a phone call the next morning, the first of several several-hour-long conversations spent catching up and then some. The then some included sending each other nakedish pics and playing our favorite songs and reminiscing on bygone times. The movies we had seen together, the gifts we had exchanged, the nicknames we had traded (my term for her, Nymphet, came courtesy of my father) and of course the make-out sessions - that hook-up at Jeff Nasch's graduation party being especially sweet to recall, God rest Jeff's soul. 

Bryn, separated since May, even invited me to come stay with her. And who knows, maybe I will take a trip to lovely British Columbia, where she works in real estate. The weather is supposed to be really nice in May, which is the month of her birthday. Cutie...


Unfortunately, the death of Bryn's brother has really hit my friend hard. And it hasn't gotten much easier in the half dozen years since it happened. We talked of the losses I had experienced in life, specifically of my own brother, Justin, and more recently, my mom. I asked Bryn if Warren had come to visit her, as the recently deceased are wont to do, especially when they die violently or suddenly. "Not that I know of," she lamented.

I told her that sometimes the living aren't sensitive enough to signs, and even when we are aware of the presence of the dead, it may take years before there is any contact. My mom visited me a month to the day after she passed away. But it took Justin, who left his body in 1996, nearly 2 years to come around. And when he did materialize in my bedroom to sit on my bed and let me stroke his arm, I was reminded of one of my favorite songs by his favorite band. Since we're trading tunes...



And so maybe Warren was still surfing the afterlife, catching up with old friends, reviewing his past. Maybe he had merged back with the Oneness, source of all.

The precise nature of the afterlife/pre-life is a mystery, and unfortunately Western medicine has developed a fear-based approach which leaves patients clinging to life and feeling like failures when it's their time to bid this world adieu. Lengthy hospital stays and a pharmacopoeia's worth of drugs do make the establishment a lot of cash, so in our utilitarian age it's not entirely without utility, I guess. But if you read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, as I am currently, you'll learn that the Art of Dying is as important as the Art of Living, and they are interconnected. You can only live fully if you know how to die properly, as for instance one's experiences in the great beyond are governed by one's last thought while alive. This information is unfortunately omitted from the standard curriculum in schools. Instead we learn about the climate and currency of Chile, Bolivia and Peru.

But I argue that we should spend our lives preparing to die, and that the interdimensional planes of existence should be foremost on our list of areas to which to devote careful study. Because there comes the day for every single one of us that death shall call. So why not know where we are headed? If you decide to go to Chile, Bolivia or Peru you don't just board a plane without any money in your pocket or any plans for when you get there, do you? You at least make some preparations, study a map, talk to locals, book a reservation or two. 

While it's true that you cannot take anything with you when you die, this really only applies to material possessions. The knowledge you accumulate while living, and the love, survive the flight to the other side. So learn as much as you can, and know this: That death is a transition, and the deceased are still alive, just not in a body of flesh and blood. 

Think back to when a dear friend or family member has moved away. Maybe before their departure you'd get together on a weekly basis or if you were really close even every day; but after the move and separated by distance perhaps you are only able to talk on the phone regularly, or at most see each other for the holidays or every few years. This friend isn't dead as in gone forever; only the nature of your relationship has changed. And some find when a friend moves away that where once they engaged in small talk and gossip, their relationship probes profounder truths now that interactions are seldom and time is of the essence. If you and your bestie only get 20 minutes twice a month of phone time you don't want to waste it on the weather.

It is the same with the dearly departed, I mean those who have shed their earthly vehicles. We can still be in touch with our disembodied loved ones, just not as often as before. As individual souls the dead have their own living to attend to. Experiences, jobs, learning, etc. and on interdimensional planes. For example, for me to ask my deceased mother to constantly be with me is a bit selfish when she has a whole universe to explore - the spirit realm is said to be a thought realm where all that is required to go somewhere or do something is to think it and it's done. Besides, no longer in a physical body my mother is less my mom and more a kindred spirit and guide. Because released from her physical shackle her perspective is now much wider than mine.

I told Bryn as a fellow bereaved that we cannot expect our brothers after dying to continue to be just our brothers any more than we could expect them to ignore their duties as sons and friends and lovers while they were alive. Similarly, we must recognize that when a loved one dies, they take on new roles, and the old roles they play, to us, must change. 

We must roll with these new roles or suffer undue grief and the bad habits that often ensue, like drugs, alcohol, prescriptive medication and other coping mechanisms. And we have to be braced for a time after the death of a loved one, whether in weeks or months or years, that we will no longer connect. Because there is the very real possibility of reincarnation. Belief in reincarnation spans centuries and countries and but for a savvy bit of politics was only removed from Christianity in the 6th century after Christ. The soul's journey may very well be eternal and involve numerous births and deaths and an ultimate merging with the Oneness, the finish line at the end of this amazing race called life, where each competes with himself, and your only opponent is also your best friend. That is, you.

And as it's too much to ask a person to be at two places at the same time, we cannot expect that, for example, our dead siblings will continue to call on us when they as new bodies in another life have new siblings to coddle and be coddled by. I sure hope that Bryn, who at 7 years her late brother's senior was like a mother to him in his adolescence, gets some closure with Warren. And I hope I can help her get some. It would indeed be fitting, since I got some (benefits from my friend) all those years gone by.

Maybe I can help. Yesterday while browsing my parents' bookshelf I chanced upon the tome Communicating with the Dead, by Linda Georgian of the Psychic Friends Network. It was written in 1995, same year as Morissette's song. I read the book in a couple hours and put it down with a renewed conviction that the dead are waiting to be contacted by we the living, and that they can help us in our lives - not just with mundane details like finances and where we left the house keys but also with developing a greater understanding of the nature of existence, be it with a body or without.

I also came away with a few pointers for contacting those who, shall we say, have hurtled head over feet into the hereafter. Here they are:

1. Place yourself in a quiet environment: light a candle, burn incense, play music you know the spirit liked.

2. Relax and focus on a feeling of peacefulness.

3. Be open to sending and receiving feelings and messages.

4. Feel love and goodwill.

5. Think of some pleasant moment or something that belonged to the spirit in order to establish contact and an emotional connection.

6. Do not use mind-altering drinks or drugs.

7. Say silent or audible prayers of any kind that reinforce the desire to have contact for the highest good.

8. Meditate.

9. Breathe deeply and evenly.

10. Listen to quiet instrumental music you like.

11. Sit comfortably.

That about does it. I wish you many pleasant communications. And since we're trading favorite songs, this oldie is for you, dear Brynie. See you in BC, baby!



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MEMOIRS OF A SAD MAN


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I once had the misfortune of requiring a root canal. The tooth in question, a molar in the upper left side of my mouth, had recently had a cavity, which the dentist filled, though not without irritating the nerve root and introducing bacteria therein. Thanks much, Dr. Mendelovitz, you schmuck. Kidding. Mistakes happen, even among the UCLA-trained.

But it was at the endodontist in Beverly Hills that I had the unique privilege of viewing a man completely at ease with himself and in love with his profession. His name escapes me, but what zest for life, what gumption and verve was on display for me to see while he drilled into my tooth and extracted the nerve fibers. It also helped that the procedure earned him over a grand in cash. This doctor (as the Hang Over films tell us, dentists are doctors too), with his gelled hair and toothy grin, delivered the news to me that he could "save the tooth" with the profundity of someone announcing the existence of intelligent life on Mars. 

I honestly cannot remember when I've felt so enthusiastic about anything in life as this endodontist felt about rooting around in my mouth. Like the endodontist, I had taken a graduate degree in a medical specialty, but treating diabetes and heart disease as a family medicine practitioner never gave me any joy. It was always grunt work. The moment I entered the hospital each morning at around 6 a.m. I was already itching to leave. The irony is that while the medical profession provided a lucrative career doing something I found depressing, writing screenplays, enjoyable though it was (and sometimes still is) never earned me a dime.

Be that as it may, I don't think I've ever enjoyed creating anything as much as the endodontist enjoyed saving my tooth. And now I'm back at square one. Doing what I (somewhat) enjoy, for free and for an audience of one, thanks for reading. The term writer-turned-doctor-turned-writer is a long way of saying I'm just confused. 

Perhaps I am like the protagonist in the Russian novel Oblomov, fitted to appreciate art, rather than create it. Incidentally if like me you are plagued with ennui, lack a spring in your step, or find life futile or frustrating at least some of the time, peruse the Russian classics. Your life is peachy compared to what you'll find in the pages of such novelists as Tolstoy and Pushkin. In them, every character is a victim of unrequited love. Dreams are dashed. People are betrayed. Misery is drunk to the dregs. Petty officials labor tirelessly to afford a new coat only to have it stolen and then die. In fact, practically every character dies at the end of these books, often unexpectedly and from some obscure and unnamed illness. 

Life in 19th century Russia, the life that furnished Gogol and Turgenev (and let's not forget my favorite, Dostoevsky) with material out of which they fashioned their masterpieces, sure was bleak. And yet everyone takes themselves so damned seriously. They march around in a huff, take offense at the drop of a hat, challenge each other to duels, etc. In a miserable world, where you are beaten down and berated at every turn, it would seem that self-importance is one's most valuable asset. And this was before the advent of root canals!

Really, I set about writing knowing I'd never be a conventional success, as in making a living off putting words to page. And still I went about it. I traveled to Brazil in the late 90s to write my first romance based on my own amorous adventures knowing it would never see the light of day, but also to drink beer and have loose sex. So I knew what I was getting into, I guess. Was failure my fate, or is it that I refuse to put enough of myself into any written work requiring me to sit at a desk longer than an hour or two, conveniently the time it takes me to compose these blurbs for you. 

Recently I was rebitten by the screenwriting bug and dashed off two scripts in swift succession, each requiring about a month of my time. Neither is very good. The first of the two, about a fading novelist who fakes her own death in a desperate attempt to increase sales of her forgotten books, I sent to a pretty actress I had happened to see at the Groundlings, that comedic troupe that stages gigs every Saturday night in West Hollywood. Patty seemed flattered that I had chosen her to play one of the leads. She promised to send me notes after reading it. I never heard back. Not even after I wrote her a second time saying that by starring in my movie she could be the next Kristen Wiig! Either my work is crap, or it's so good the bitch is speechless. It's fun to dream. Maybe she saw through my shameless attempt to score a date. 

The second script I can't even bring myself to finish, at least not today. I can't even summarize it in a sentence. I can only say it's a love story. Like every great movie, but this movie of mine is not great. So why write it? To occupy some time, I guess. Get the creative juices flowing (down the drain).

If I were really motivated I'd write a thriller on geoengineering, since conspiracy theories about how "they" are poisoning our air are all over the Internet. But I lack the gumption! Every creative endeavor makes me yawn. I refuse to lose myself in any work. Because I myself am my life's work. To spend 10 hours a day slaving away pasting post-its on a peg board when I can be out swimming and running and eating Swiss chard just no longer appeals to me. I don't want to be pasty and with a paunch. And so I hereby leave award-winning screenplays to the Charlie Kaufmans of the world. Because that poor sucker really looks like he could use some help. The writer of such classics as Being John Malkovich and Synechdoche, New York has more money than I will ever see, and critical claim, and a wife, but he looks as sad as the hoary Russian novelists of yore. Maybe Mr. Kaufman should read their work. Or mine. Both are good for laughs, and either way your life won't seem nearly as bad as you once believed.

Monday, March 20, 2017

THE LAZY MAN'S OPTION


They say nothing worthwhile is without its price. But the pros of drinking enough water far outweigh the cons, which is to say the price of adequate hydration is a pittance, which is to say a rather small price indeed. But not that small, if like me you seem to wake up every hour to pee.

I clearly was not drinking enough water. The fact that I may have suffered a kidney stone revealed as much to me. The discomfort of said stone was not as excruciating as I've heard tell. Of course my tolerance for pain may be exceptionally high. I like being exceptional, and I never resist an opportunity to congratulate myself. Prior to said stone I had been in the habit of consuming about six cups of water a day, more if you include the water in coffee and the soda in a Scotch and soda, which I know you're not supposed to include, so let's not. 

Now, six cups may not sound like much, but my diet is so high in fruits and vegetables, which are 75% or more water by weight, that I considered my hydration on par with a meat eater who prides himself on drinking a gallon of H20. And there are a lot of these meat eaters. Most of them call themselves Paleos and do Crossfit. So all the fluid in my fruit and vegetable intake provided me with yet another opportunity to congratulate myself. But six cups was not enough, as flank pain, burning with urination and microscopic hematuria announced in no uncertain terms. And so I upped it to ten. Now I have about 3 cups in the morning on waking, 3 cups after working out, and 2 cups each before lunch and dinner. And I feel a lot better. I have more energy and feel leaner, and I don't think I'll suffer another bout of nephrolithiasis, which is the fancy term for those stones. But I always need to be within urine-shot of the toilet.

In fact, I'm so well hydrated that each night while sleeping I get up every 2 or 3 hours to pee. Which disrupts my sleep, and causes heath problems of its own. Note that growth hormone secretion is highest during deep sleep. And growth hormone is the fountain of youth. Just ask former Major Leaguer Barry Bonds, who used it well into his 40s, an age at which most ballplayers long since retire, to break the home run record. Less growth hormone means less virility, less libido, less zest for life. Which translates into fewer home runs, in more than one sense of the term, and the ladies know what I'm talking about.

But getting up to pee is a chore and now I remember why I curtailed water consumption in the first place. Prior to said stone I would stop drinking fluids several hours before bedtime, preemptively dehydrating myself so I could pass the night without stirring. But not going to the bathroom for eight hours at a stretch is not good for you. It's arguably worse than getting up several times throughout the night. 

And so I pee. And I'm better off for it. See, nothing without its price.

There is one thing, however, that doesn't seem to come at any cost, and it's fitting since we're on the subject of hydration. Water is free, if you're not some idiot who pays a few dollars a bottle so your friends see you drinking Evian. Nobody cares. If they do, they're not said friends. Drink from the tap, or invest in a purifier.

I'm talking about cold showers. Recently my friend, who is nearing 50, asked me if there is anything he could do to keep his skin tight. Gravity and what not. Said friend likes to take a nightly Jacuzzi, often while enjoying a six pack of his favorite oat soda (read: beer). Said friend also has a pool, which unlike said Jacuzzi is unheated. I advised him to make like the Swedes - or is it the Swiss? - and after his sauna jump into the cold pool. Thirty or so seconds should be enough to make his testicles shrink into his sternum. The jowls would follow. 

But would thirty seconds really make a difference? said friend wished to know. Does doing 50 push-ups a day make a difference in the size and density of your chest? I replied. Said friend said yes. His body responds rather quickly to resistance training. The same principle applies, I advised. 

As is my wont, I'm speaking from experience. This year I began swimming laps in my unheated pool around the first of March. This is much earlier than in prior years, when I'd take my first dip in May. Maybe it's global warming. Each 10-minute session involving 10 or maybe 25 laps is as invigorating as or possibly more than a cold shower, and certainly more so than sex, excuse the non sequitur. Plus I get out with tight skin and invisible testicles, which never happens after sex but which from my research on the subject seems to be the only price to pay from exposing oneself to frigid liquid temperatures. And since it feels so invigorating, and is temporary, testicular shrinkage is well worth it. Much better than blue balls, if you ask me.

If you believe the Internet, cold showers or cold pools or dips into the cold ocean or dousing yourself beneath a waterfall near you (that's me in the photo, thank you Kerstin!) provide a host of benefits which I invite you to peruse for yourself here. Or you can trust me. Which I recommend. Call it the lazy man's option. Sexism aside, the lazy man's option is an alternative I always wholeheartedly endorse. 

By the way, this same friend is himself a lazy man. He once asked me if I'd recommend he take testosterone to slow the effects of aging. I said he should just eliminate junk food and start an exercise program. But then he wouldn't be lazy, he replied. Or aging, was what I came back with. See, nothing without its price. Except cold showers. It turns out that taking them will increase your testosterone naturally. But if you believe that, I have some smart water to sell you.

IN THE SPIRIT OF TRUMP

In the spirit of Donald Trump's releasing a portion of his tax return from 2005, or letting it be leaked, I think it is appropriate that I share with you my recent grocery receipt for the week. What does one have to do with the other? It is fitting that the one who commands private citizens to pay taxes also paid them himself prior to holding public office, just as it is fitting that a medical doctor who once wrote a book recommending that readers eat more fruits and vegetables furnish proof that he himself abides by this injunction. 

We can call Trump a lot of things, but when it comes to those affairs handled by the IRS, a hypocrite is not one of them. Trump's 25 percent tax rate was actually a few percentage points higher than what other members of the top 0.1 percent (you read that right) paid. I hope at the end of this that you can say the same about me.



Before I go into detail about the foods listed on the receipt in the picture, allow me to state that I am aware that the specific items are unreadable. But I have no interest in typing the receipt out because I am feeling lazy - not because the foods, some of which I've just consumed for an early lunch, have failed to provide adequate energy to sustain the effort, but because I just got finished working in the garden for 2.5 hours, and my fingers are sore from all the weeding I had to do. So when I refer to quantities, prices and particular foods, either pull out your microscope or just trust me.

I started shopping at Sprouts at the insistence of two friends, who said that not only are items at this health-food store less expensive than at Ralphs, which is where I used to shop, but the quality is also much better. Jeff and DJ were right on both accounts. Thank you, sirs. 

The local store is in almost the precise location of the market where my mom used to take my brothers and me when we were in elementary school. I have such fond memories of Westward Ho! Mom would let her boys throw anything we wanted into the cart. This meant a lot of sugary snacks, fruit rolls, cookies and pastries, of course. She used to make an extra trip to buy me gummy bears as a special treat when I'd get As on my report card. Gummy bears are aptly named because even as a 13-year-old they would gum me up for like a week. Since those days my taste in treats has changed.

I was able to come away from Sprouts with a week's worth of food, much of it organic, for the very affordable price of about $100. Actually the bill was $108, but that included eight dollars worth of dental floss and dog treats, neither of which I intend to eat. 

Moreover, I don't usually consume so many avocados (the receipt indicates 6). They are cost-prohibitive, even at the low price of $1.99 per large one. So taking into account the $12 in fatty fruit, the receipt could be considered falsely elevated. I also purchased medjool dates, which I've fallen out of the habit of eating due to their high sugar content. But avocados and dates, eaten together for two or three days after shopping, have become my weekly treat. Rather than indulge in something unhealthy like pizza or pasta, I just have more of what I usually consume sparingly and feel my mood elevate instantly. Nevertheless, $12 in dates is rather stiff, but dates are pricey anywhere and Prozac costs much more.

Jicama has become my new favorite snack food. Again, thank you Deej. A large one, 3 lbs, only costs as many dollars and lasts nearly twice as many days. I peel it and eat it raw. I used to complain about the cost of bell peppers. At Ralphs the red ones were usually $1.50 per. But at Sprouts you can sometimes buy 3 green ones for  a dollar, and when it comes to bell peppers, I am color blind. They all are equally enjoyable to me. I have taken to buying organic tomatoes and collard greens, in addition to broccoli. These foods can be coated in pesticides which I am loath to rinse off as thoroughly as I should, so why not fork over a few cents extra per pound. Bananas I almost never buy organic, since the pesticides remain in the skin which even I don't eat. I say even I because I eat the skin of virtually every plant food, mangoes and kiwis and kaboche squash included, eggplant too. 

Thirty bananas is about a week's worth, and it costs $10, which is about a dollar fifty per day. Seasonal food can be less expensive, which is why you see two cantaloupes on the receipt, each costing 88 cents. I have citrus food every morning- clementines and grapefruit particularly - and apples are a daily snack, as are baby carrots. 

Bulk bin legumes are essential, and 2 lbs of pinto beans for 3 dollars is a steal. As are walnuts at $6.99 by the pound. I've taken to eating nuts sparingly. 

Chia seeds are practically the only item I eat daily which I didn't purchase this week, but bulk bin chia seeds can be found for 4 or 5 dollars per pound, and a lb lasts a long time. I'd like to brag about two boxes of strawberries for $5, but they are not organic. And strawberries have more pesticide residues than any other food. So room for improvement there. But you'll notice the red potatoes I bought on the other hand are organic, for the first time in forever for me.

How do these foods comprise the daily diet? Simple:

Morning snack of grapefruit and clementines with a banana and some coffee.

Mid-morning smoothie with banana, chia and strawberries.

Pre-lunch snack of bell pepper and jicama, plus maybe an apple.

Lunch/dinner meals featuring some combination of 1. starch (squash or potato); 2. green veggie (Brussels sprouts, collard greens or broccoli, usually); and legume (I rotate between a lentil or pea and a bean, preferably kidney or pinto).

Banana and carrots and raw nuts for an after dinner snack, if desired.

You'll note the absence of sauces and seasonings, other than white wine vinegar. That's because, other than oil and some vinegar and some salt and/or pepper, I prefer my food unseasoned. Note also the absence of packaged, processed foods. Such a clean bill probably puts me in the top 0.1 percent of a list you hope you'll never be on. Yes, such Spartan habits take a while getting used to, but that's how we as babies all got our start. Fresh clean food, and look how you turned out! Go back to the basics for a change, or for good. It'll do you good.

That's it. So as a fellow non-hypocrite, consider me right in line with Trump. But not necessarily in league. Ah hell, he's not such a bad fella after all. Really all that separates our commander in chief and me is our taste in hairstyles. That and about $30 million.