Sunday, January 31, 2010

Galloping Turtle

Like every good American, I start each New Year determined to lose weight and get into a less-round shape. This year I hope to achieve my goal by running more. For motivation, my wife Heather and I signed up for a 5K run at the end of January. My main race goals were to; a) run the entire distance and b) not come in last. After several weeks of not-so-grueling training I was confident that I could easily achieve at least part "a" of my goal.

Race day dawned clear and very cold (what do you expect for January 30th?). Prior to the race I announced to Heather and my friend Dave that I’d achieve part "b" of my goal by picking someone from the crowd and beating them to the finish line. To make good on my boast I pointed out the smallest girl I could find—she looked to be about ten. Certainly I could beat her, I announced. (Once at a 5k to support organ donation I chose a lady with an artificial heart as my runner-to-beat. I think the suitcase sized pump she carried slowed her down.)

At 9:15, the starter’s pistol fired and we were off. I started slowly, and then slowed even more--pacing myself for the final uphill mile. At the first mile marker I passed Heather who had stopped to take off her sweatshirt (part "b" of my goal accomplished—I wasn’t going to finish last!). The next mile flew by like an entire week, runners settled into their paces and each of the 12 spectators gawked appropriately as we passed.

From the second mile marker to the finish line, the course turned uphill and into the wind. At this point, my extra pounds felt as if a small child were clinging to each leg--mocking me with each step. My pace slowed from turtle to snail. Near the crest of the hill a rather large women who looked as if she was smuggling basketballs in her tights passed me. Franticly, my mind searched for an excuse; perhaps those “basketballs” were helium filled. I was falling closer to last place and there was no sign of the ten-year-old girl.

With the finish line in sight I increased my pace from snail to galloping turtle–long gone was the lady with the helium-filled basketballs. About ten yards from the finish I was able to speed up to a trot and pass one more person. I'd finished and I was still alive!

I’d accomplished both of my goals; I ran the whole way and didn’t finish last. In fact, I finished third in my age group. (Third was also last as only three hearty men of my age showed up). Following this miniscule success I’ve determined to continue my racing career, after all there is still weight to lose and room to improve—next time I’m beating the basketball lady.

At the awards ceremony I was hoping that neither Heather nor Dave would notice the tiny runner receiving the second place medal. No such luck. Heather nudged me and said; “isn’t that the little girl you said you were going to beat?” Yes, in fact it was the same aspiring track star. And yes I’ve learned my lesson. Next time I pick someone to beat I'm picking someone bigger—much much bigger.

Monday, January 11, 2010


We recently returned from a short business/pleasure trip to San Francisco, California or as I now call it, Calorganica. Californians know everything about health and the environment. Don’t believe me; just ask one. For the California consumer, if it’s not organic, then it’s no sale. After a lot of out-of-state research I discovered there’s also a name for non-organic food—“affordable.”

For example, I wanted to buy a dozen eggs for breakfast; the first grocery store the in-car GPS directed us to was one specializing in organic foods. At the local grocery store back home we generally have one variety of eggs to choose from—white—they cost about $1.49 a dozen.

When you buy eggs in California you have to pay extra just for eating animal products in the first place. If you feel really bad about eating chicken offspring you can pay $7.99 to buy eggs laid by free-range, pasture-fed chickens eating only feed enriched with canola oil and flaxseed. These are really happy hens because they’re making 67 cents for each egg. They use the cash to enrich their diet with candy and soda from 7-11. If you don’t feel quite so badly, you can buy eggs from cage-free hens for about $3.00. Somewhere in the middle are free-range and pasture-fed hens.

After callously selecting the cheapest eggs, I also added a box of “Honey-Nut Os” to my cart. These of course are made with all organic ingredients, including honey. Apparently, organic honey comes from bees who only gather nectar from plants that have not been sprayed with bug killers. My thinking is if the bees came back alive then the pesticide wasn’t harmful. To enforce this requirement, bee police guard all the pesticide-treated petals from the organic bees. This costs extra and is reflected in the price of the honey.

Although many studies show that organic foods have no nutritional advantage over “affordable” foods, Californians sanctimoniously believe differently. At the Muir Woods cafĂ© they offer a variety of dessert choices and all but one are labeled “organic”. When it was my turn to order I defiantly selected the only non-organic item; the brownie. Judging by the icy stare I received from the surly hippie behind the counter she must have thought I’d also brought my chain saw to the park with me. She watched me eat the whole brownie to see if I was going to suddenly clutch my throat and drop dead. I think she was disappointed when I didn’t.

According to recent studies, Utahans are happier and live longer than Californians. Some people attribute this to our abstinence from things like alcohol, tobacco and caffeinated drinks. I attribute it to our abstinence from looking down our noses at people who eat regular food and drive SUVs.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Eau de Joy

In the dusty bottom drawer of the bathroom vanity I have (at current consumption rates) several lifetimes’ worth of men’s toilet water (or “Eau de Cologne” as marketers prefer to call it). You may ask; “Why do you have such a large stockpile of these potions?” Well my friends, I have such a large quantity because I acquired them before I married. After I married, I discovered they don’t work nearly as well as advertised.

In the commercials, the faintest whiff of cologne drives women crazy with desire—causing them to stop what they’re doing, remove some of their clothing and throw themselves at you. In reality, several drops will usually elicit a compliment from my wife but she doesn’t stop vacuuming or doing the dishes and attack me like she should.

In fact, according to my wife, the scent of a single drop of dish soap on MY hands (assuming it was legitimately acquired in the sink with actual dirty dishes) is a better aphrodisiac than an expensive bottle of cologne containing “a masculine blend of botanics, spices, and rare woods.”

If these concoctions worked as advertised I’d have only empty bottles, but over time I’ve discovered that no amount of cologne cures feminine headaches, fatigue or monthly “ills.” There’s actually a web site where they rate colognes by recommended age and use. I searched all of the best sellers for a cologne where the recommended use was “getting your wife to stop doing the dishes and come to bed.” Sadly, my search returned no results. The guy who comes up with this fragrance will make billions.

When men are dating, they believe that several drops of strategically applied eau de cologne will cause women (and their fathers) to overlook acne, strange body noises, bad algebra grades, crappy cars, dead-end jobs and poor financial planning—it doesn’t. Women notice that you smell nice but they still want to see the report card and bank statements. After you’re married you only hope your expensive fragrances will erase your wife’s memory of the aroma you released in the car.

After 1.634784 decades of marriage I have discovered that colognes do work as advertised approximately twice annually (wedding anniversaries and Valentines Day). Strangely, no amount of cologne works as advertised on Super Bowl Sunday. Well, I suppose it might if you mixed liberally with dish soap and abstained from watching football.

Since partially consumed bottles of cologne have limited resale value I guess I’ll save them to hand down to my son once he starts combing his own hair and wearing deodorant. Of course he’ll only get the bottles where the recommended age is “grandpa” and the recommended use is “repelling teenage girls.”

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to the kitchen sink to try some “eau de Joy" on my wife.