The New Year at the Gym: Here We Go Again…

The new year is upon us, 2016 to be exact. As always, many folks have resolved that this is the year they will lose those unwanted pounds and get in top shape. How do I know? I’ve belonged to a gym for many years, and I see these folks every January. Today is January 1, and I saw them at the gym. Oh, they weren’t working out (after all, it’s a holiday). They were getting tours of the gym, meeting with trainers and signing contracts. Soon though, they will descend upon the gym like New Years Eve revelers.

I used to rail against the Resolvers, scoffing at their half-hearted efforts knowing that they would fall by the wayside within a few weeks. I’ve changed. I welcome them. Everyone should exercise. I am 53 and in quite good condition, especially compared to my peers. I feel good, both physically and mentally. Why should I begrudge that to others just because they get in my way for a few weeks?

Rather than resent the Resolvers, I want to help them. Understand that I am not an athletic trainer. I am not an athlete. I do, however, go the gym quite often–6 or 7 days week. If I’m on the road, I find hotels with gyms. If I can’t find one, I find a local gym that will let me workout for a small fee. I’ve been to gyms all over the country, from New York City to Hawaii. I know the rules, both written and unwritten. If you’re a Resolver, please read on. It will save us all some grief.

BE REASONABLE 

If you haven’t worked out in a while, act like it. “In a while” also means “ever.” Most people in the gym have been there before. They have workout routines that reflect their experience. You, on the other hand, need a routine that reflects your years of sloth. That may sound harsh, but it’s true.

You’ll see people who look like you want to look, with trim waists and rippling muscles. It is tempting to watch what they do and copy it. Stop. These people are working out like trim-waisted, rippling-muscled people. You need to work out like a flabby, doughy person. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Your ideal may be doing 30 pound curls. You might need to do 5 pound curls. Do them.

You also must squash your ego. This is especially true for men. We want to throw around weights like they’re pie pans. We can’t, of course. Don’t worry about how much you bench press. Sure, it’s a tad deflating to realize you can only bench 50 pounds. Hey, 50 pounds is better than nothing. People aren’t watching you. The people who can really lift are concerned only with themselves. They don’t care what you lift. Note how often they look in the mirror. Trust me–they (we?) aren’t trying to catch a glimpse of you.

A good way to learn reasonableness is with a trainer. Trainers vary in skill. Some aren’t very good, but all of them know how to get a new person started on an exercise regimen. Maybe you have a friend who works out regularly. He or she can help you. Start slow. Workout warriors weren’t born that way. Neither were you.

LEARN BEFORE THE BURN

Gyms are full of equipment. A lot of it is strange looking and not easily understood. This doesn’t stop the novice from climbing aboard and fumbling about. Usually, there will be an illustration on the equipment demonstrating proper use. If that doesn’t work, ask a gym employee. Again, a trainer can help.

If you don’t use a trainer, educate yourself on how to exercise. Weightlifting, in particular, requires certain routines for maximum results. You might work different muscles on different days. Rest is important. Strength training is different than toning or even muscle building. You have to know the differences.

Several years ago, I made the acquaintance of a former NFL player who also spent some time in prison. He described what he called a “jailhouse workout.” By that, he meant lifting with no program–a few curls, a few reps on the bench, a few random leg exercises. He said prisoners don’t have enough equipment or time to do it right. Hey, if you’re jail, do what you can. Otherwise, get a plan.

If you’re grossly overweight, you really must learn first. I know–it’s not good to say that people are overweight or “fat.” Come on, we know that’s the case. Losing weight is a process, not an event. You have to attack it a pound at a time. Becoming a crunch beast won’t help much if your six pack is buried under a foot of fat. Talk to a doctor. Get a trainer. Just get to work.

ETIQUETTE

Your new gym will have an array of rules about attire, use of equipment and sundry courtesies. These are all good, but most gym etiquette is just common sense. Here are the big rules:

Clean Up: If you use free weights, re-rack them. It’s simple. Put them back where you got them. They’ll be on racks in ascending order from lowest to highest weight. An idiot can do it, but you’ll be surprised at how many idiots don’t. If you can help it, don’t be an idiot.

Seriously, Clean Up: No one wants to use equipment drenched in your sweat. There’s just no debate here. Wipe down the equipment.

Look But Within Reason: I direct this to my fellow men. Most gyms today are co-ed. Every gym has attractive women wearing attire not normally seen in public. It’s pretty cool. You can look. To some extent, it’s expected perhaps even welcome. Don’t go full-on perv. If you follow a woman around so that you can maintain a good view, it will be noticed. Much as it might surprise you, they aren’t looking back at you.

Silence Is Golden: I’ve been going to the same gym for years. I’ve gotten to know some of the regulars. We’ll occasionally talk, but it’s always brief. Regulars are there to work out, not chat. You should do the same. Most gym regulars are glad to share pointers or answer questions, but we aren’t there to socialize.

Cover It Up: By “it,” I mean everything. No one is comfortable around naked people, even in a gym locker room. There’s no need to be naked for any extended period. Don’t strike up a conversation while you’re naked. Don’t get naked and then start rooting around in your locker. There should be absolutely no bending over. Don’t get naked and stand and watch TV. It’s just weird, and people hate it. Those who parade about naked are also men who shouldn’t do so anywhere. They are usually old guys with a variety of obvious physical flaws which are wholly unappealing.

Of course, I speak only of the men’s locker. Like all men, I imagine the women’s locker room populated by super models who wear skimpy towels when they aren’t showering together. An objective look at most women in the gym reveals that they may have the same unsightly issues as the men.

Dress The Part: Even being clothed can be done wrong. Jeans, khakis, work boots and other fashion failures must be avoided. Look the part. A t-shirt and shorts will work. Sweat pants are perfect. A middle-aged man in a wrestling singlet is not welome anywhere. Bicycle shorts, short-shorts and skin-tight apparrel must all be evaluated with an eye toward aesthetics. What is athletic–even alluring–on one person is vile and revolting on another. In these politically correct times, I realize that it is frowned upon to say that any one person is more attractive than another. Some people look better than others. Get a full-length mirror and judge for yourself.

STICK WITH IT

I believe that no one stays with exercise if he or she doesn’t like it. Experiment with different routines. Maybe you prefer cardio work to weights. That’s okay. Better to do cardio alone, than nothing at all.

Nothing ends an exercise program as quickly as an injury. Injuries are different than some pain. If you haven’t worked out in years, you’re going to have some aches and pains. When you get to my age-53 at this writing–you’re going to have some aches. If you over do it–lifting too much weight, for example–you will get injured. An injury will shut you down. That’s the quickest path to quitting. Even if you get injured, there’ll be other exercises you can do. Do those.

So, there you have it. I welcome you to my world. Now, get out of the way, and let me work out. Good luck.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2016

2015 in review

Here’s my Annual Report. I don’t know which more interesting–that so many people viewed this silly blog or that ONE person in Iran did. Weird.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 21,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 8 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

WITHER GLENN…?

The world is a troubled place. Wars, terrorism, disease, hunger and the like plague us. I have no solutions to any of that. My mind remains clouded by one question: What happened to Glenn?

I am an unabashed fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead. I make no apologies for that nor will I offer any explanation. If you’re not a fan, there’s no point in your reading this. If you are a fan, you know Glenn is in trouble of the worst sort. You’ve likely thought of little else lately.

The last time we saw Glenn (four weeks ago at this writing–Season 6, Episode 3) he was on the ground amid a herd of walkers. (“Herd” is the most common word for a large group of walkers. Personally, I prefer a “stagger” of walkers, but the show’s writers continue to ignore me). Glenn’s fate has been determined by the dastardly Nicholas whose thanks to Glenn for not killing him culminated in a weakly mouthed “thank you,” followed by Nicholas’s suicide shot the head.

At the moment the bullet passed through Nicholas’s worthless head, he and Glenn were standing atop a dumpster surrounded by walkers. Mortally wounded, Nicholas fell into Glenn and both toppled into the walkers below. We then see Glenn silently scream while bloody entrails are ripped from him…or someone.

This looks really, REALLY bad for Glenn.

This looks really, REALLY bad for Glenn.

 

Glenn is dead. Or he isn’t. Or he is. Let’s examine the evidence.

GLENN IS DEAD

Why would I think Glenn is dead? Consider:

  1. Someone got ripped apart. It’s either Glenn or Nicholas. That’s a 50/50 proposition.
  2. Glenn was surrounded by walkers, swarmed even. There’s no reasonable way to escape that. Does he slide (backwards, mind you) under the dumpster which is conveniently elevated several inches off the ground? I just don’t see how that happens without at least a bite or two.
  3. No one has heard from him. No sign. No signals. Nothing. Rick escaped from an RV which was just as surrounded and made it back to Alexandria. It’s been at least days, and there’s no sign of Glenn. That’s bad.

So, maybe he’s dead.

GLENN IS NOT DEAD

How could anyone think he’s not dead? Well, think about it:

  1. Glenn isn’t just any character. He’s not Tyreese, for God’s sake. He’s Glenn freakin’ (whatever he last name is)! He’s been on show since Season 1. He’s the moral conscience of our main group. He can’t die.
  2. We didn’t see him die. As long as we didn’t see him die, he could be alive. Who else died like that? Okay, maybe we didn’t see Merle die either, but Merle was an asshole. We always see the good guys die, and there’s always drama.
  3. There are too many questions. He (and, more importantly, I) deserve some finality, some resolution. Until it’s resolved, he’s alive. Maybe.

He could be alive.

WHAT DIDN’T HAPPEN

If I’m not sure what happened,  I do know some things that didn’t happen–or at least better not have:

  1. It’s not a dream or hallucination. Why kind of writing hack would do that to us? It would be the worst kind of manipulation of a loyal audience. The shark would be jumped at that point with Bobby Ewing riding on its back.
  2. He didn’t fight his way out unscathed. All he had was a knife. Forget that one.
  3. He doesn’t get saved at the last minute. Oh, I know it would be cool if Daryl came riding up on his hog (which was stolen in Episode 606) and drew them all away just as they were finishing up on Nicholas’s corpse and about the tear into Glenn. You might as well have all the walkers struck by lightning.

If none of these happened, how could he possibly be alive? I’m thinking he’s dead again. It’s hard to say, really.

WHAT DID HAPPEN?

I’ve studied this episode like it’s the Zapruder film. Yes, I know that Nicholas and Glenn ran past a fire escape. I, too, have screamed at the TV about this, hoping they’d hear me. They didn’t even look at it. I’ve read that one can hear a distinct “click” of any empty gun after Glenn emptied his, indicating that Nicholas’s gun was empty. If so, it’s all a dream. I’ve watched that scene again and again. Is there a click? Maybe. It’s there if you want to hear it. It’s also not there if you want it to be something else.

I can suspend disbelief with the best of them. After all, I accept the existence of walking dead people. I accept the fact that no one ever calls them “zombies” when, in fact, that is all they would be called in real life. All the dead people wear clothes? Okay. Ever notice that no matter how desiccated the dead are, they rip humans apart–by HAND, no less–in seconds? I don’t think that’s possible, but I’ll accept. It’s the same with tearing people apart with your teeth. We’re humans. We don’t have fangs. Why don’t the dead ever get really weak? I don’t know. It’s a TV show. I’ll accept a lot of things to be entertained. But, there is a limit.

If Glenn survives, it needs to at least be plausible within the show’s context. Consider this aerial view:

The-Walking-Dead-Glenn-Death markup

Artist’s rendering of Glenn’s approximate location.

Where I come from, that’s called some deep shit right there. Where is he going to go? Maybe, just maybe, he slides under the dumpster and then somehow gets out. He has to sustain a couple of bites. Do they do replay of Sophia (one of the best scenes EVER, by the way) with Glenn staggering into Alexandria only to be dispatched by Rick? Wow. That would be lame.

How about this? Glenn is just gone. He never comes back, and we never know. In this world, that would happen, probably often. People would disappear. The problem–and it’s a big one–is that this cheats the audience. We are observers. We should know what’s happening even when the characters don’t.

(At this point, I must note that the comic book has a much different demise for Glenn. That’s a possibility, I suppose. The show has deviated from the comics many times. There’s no reason to think it won’t here, too.)

Oh, hell, I don’t know what happened to him, either. If Rick can get out of that SUV surrounded by walkers (same episode), maybe Glenn got out. Nicholas was a nut. He could have hallucinated or fantasized or whatever you want to call. Did you notice how hard Glenn hit the pavement when they fell? How did that happen? There was no clear space. He would have land on top of the walker herd. Why would Nicholas fantasize about Glenn screaming? Seems like you’d fantasize about yourself screaming. So many questions. I’m more confused than ever.

Oh well. Again, what happened to Glenn? I have a feeling that we’ll find out in Episode 607 (November 22, 2015). Whatever happens, I’m bound to be disappointed as I’ve convinced myself that no outcome can be satisfy me. I hope the writers prove me wrong.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

 

DEAR PETE…A FAN’S LETTER

Dear Pete:

Let me start by saying that I am a fan. I grew up in the 1970s when the Reds were The Big Red Machine. I followed that team as closely as a kid living in Harlan County, Kentucky could, being over 200 miles away. Many nights, I sat in the basement listening to Marty Brennaman and the Old Lefthander Joe Nuxhall call games on WSGS out of Hazard, Kentucky.

You’re in the headlines again for all the wrong reasons. Newly discovered evidence indicates that you bet on baseball while a player for the Reds. You even bet on Reds games. You’ve denied all this in past. I’m sure you will again.

A lot of folks believe you should be reinstated by Major League Baseball and honored as one of the game’s greats. Major League Baseball Rule 21 (D) says something altogether different:

Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.

This is posted in every clubhouse in baseball. There is no gray area. Was there something about this you didn’t understand? Maybe you just thought you wouldn’t get caught.

These new allegations, if true, are the end of the road for you and Major League Baseball. I take no pleasure in this. In fact, it pains me to watch this play out.

You were one of the idols of my youth, along with Johnny Bench, Roger Staubach, Dan Issel and Wilt Chamberlain, sports stars who seemed bigger than life. You, though, were different. You were a regular guy who just happened to be a great baseball player. As a kid, I knew I couldn’t do the things the stars did, but you made it seem that hard work made anything possible.

All Reds fans from those days remember when you left for the Phillies after the 1978 season. We had suffered through the indignity of seeing Tony Perez traded and now you were gone. Of course, we didn’t blame you. We blamed the Reds, in particular General Manager Dick Wagner whom we viewed as a villain on par with John Wilkes Booth.

I was as happy as anyone when you returned to the Reds in the middle of the 1984 season. With you as player-manager, the team responded, playing better baseball for the remainder of the season. A year later, you were the Hit King. By then, I was a grown man, but it still thrilled me to watch you play.

By 1989, I was in my second year as a lawyer. I heard about your suspension at work.  I was outraged. There had to be a mistake. Later, when you were permanently banned from baseball for gambling, I still didn’t believe all the allegations. Sure, you bet on horses. Maybe you even bet on other sports. But you wouldn’t bet on baseball. Your denials rang true to me. You loved the game too much to compromise it by violating its most sacrosanct rule.

That you may have bet on baseball was just not possible, even as the evidence mounted. I continued to believe you even after you accepted a lifetime ban. You accepted this indignity, I rationalized, only to stop the kangaroo court of Major League Baseball from falsely declaring that you had bet on baseball games. You were in the Star Chamber where accusation amounted to conviction. I couldn’t blame you for falling on your sword.

As much I believed you–and I did–two things nagged at me. One, why would the Commissioner’s Office be out to get Pete Rose? You weren’t a bad guy. In fact, you were one of the good guys, a shining example of how to play the game. Two, why was Commissioner Bart Giamatti so convinced of guilt? Giamatti was no dim bulb. He was a man of great intelligence, both a scholar and an avid baseball fan. It made no sense.

Then I read the Dowd Report, the investigative report prepared by former federal prosecutor John Dowd, a man whose named you have dragged through the mud over the years. The report supports only two conclusions: (1) You were guilty as charged based upon overwhelming proof; or (2) you were so thoroughly despised that dozens of people would conspire to destroy you. I was wrong. You lied.

Of course, you remained defiant, that is, until you finally fessed up in 2000. I guess you knew you would never be reinstated unless you came clean, so you admitted to gambling on baseball. In your typical fashion, you didn’t confess in a meeting with the Commissioner or with any humility. Instead, it was part of a book, My Prison Without Bars. Almost immediately, you began hawking autographs with the inscription: “I’m sorry I bet on baseball.” I can buy one on PeteRose.com. Pete, you still can’t get out of your own way.

You know baseball history. Baseball was almost destroyed by gambling in the early 20th century when the Chicago White Sox fixed the 1919 World Series against, ironically, the Reds. After the Black Sox scandal, gambling on baseball was the third rail of the rule book. Touch it, and you’re finished. Anyone who bet on baseball would be banned for life–no exceptions.

You know about Hal Chase, first baseman for the New York Giants. Prince Hal was an early example. He was banned in 1921 for betting on his own team. Chase was a particularly scurrilous character who was also rumored to have fixed games as far back as 1910. The rule was clear–bet on baseball and leave the game forever.

Dowd estimated that you may have been in debt over $100,000 at the time you were banned. The new revelations show that some of this debt may have been owed to a bookie connected with organized crime. Did you really mortgage yourself to the Mob while we were cheering your return to Cincinnati?

This latest revelation isn’t the first indication that you bet on baseball while playing. In his book, Pete Rose: An American Dilemma, author Kostya Kennedy offered several anecdotes of such gambling, even from your own mother! I suspect we’ll now start hearing more such stories. Hopefully, you’ll remain silent. When you defend yourself, things seem to get worse. Regardless, your time for confession has long since passed.

You taught me that my heroes do, indeed, have feet of clay. I believed you because I wanted to believe. I wanted to believe you loved baseball just like I did back in those days when you were a hero. Instead, you trashed the game by committing its gravest sin.

Your apologists–and there are more than a few–compare this to steroids. That’s a false analogy for a number of reasons. First, no one ever threw a game because of steroid use. Second, during the so-called Steroid Era, performance enhancing drugs weren’t even banned. Finally, you–of all people–should have been above this.

I’m not suggesting that you ever threw a game. I’ve never heard even a rumor about that. If I did, though, it wouldn’t be hard to believe. That’s where you’ve taken yourself.

What about the Hall of Fame? Contrary to some people’s belief, the Hall of Fame is not run by Major League Baseball. It has its own rules. Frankly, its rule declaring you (and all other banned players) ineligible is, at best, silly. Allow the voters to decide. Prince Hal never got in, even though he was regarded as one of the best players of his day. The Steroid Era stars have found the doors to the Hall closed to them despite none of them being on the permanently banned list.

As far as the ban goes, I have no sympathy for you. You knew the rule. You’ve done well because of your banishment. Unlike some, I don’t begrudge you making money hawking your autographs and photo ops. With your lifestyle, cash is probably a necessity. If you can make money off your own downfall, so be it.

In the twilight of your career, you chased the hits record of another notorious star, Ty Cobb, hanging on well past the point of being an effective player. It is ironic that you were so driven to secure your place in the record book, while so cavalierly disregarding the game itself.

So, make no mistake. You accepted a lifetime ban that was richly deserved. You knew that. Don’t act like it’s an injustice. It isn’t. You knew the rule. You knew the penalty. That’s actually that’s the epitome of justice.

The most surprising part of all this is that I’m still a fan. I’m a fan of No. 14 who strutted with his chest out. Charley Hustle who ran to first on walks. I see you rounding second with your helmet flying off and then diving head first into third. You made kids like me love baseball. It seemed like more than a game. It was important. It mattered. I just wish you’d felt the same.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

How To Win a Fight…or Die Trying.

I don’t fight people, at least not physically. As I write this, I’m 52 years old, and that’s just too old to fight. Truthfully, I never was much of fighter. Nevertheless, I’ve been in a few fights. I grew in Harlan County, Kentucky, deep in the mountains of Appalachia where people have a reputation of being rough and tough. I enjoyed no such reputation and for good reason. I am neither rough nor tough; however, these deficiencies give me great insight into the world of street fighting.

I haven’t been in fight in about 30 years or so. Even that fight was not impressive, as I was forced to fight a girl. You can read about that here. How, you might ask, would a man of such limited prowess ever even get in a fight? In my youth, I possessed two traits which made the occasional dust up unavoidable–a big mouth and small body. Pour strong drink into that mix, and you get in fights. The more I drank, the more I ran mouth. The more my mouth ran, the more people wanted to shut it. They would then size me up and determine that giving me a beating would be fairly easy.

I’m not offering any advice on how to start a fight. Starting one is easy. Mouth off, look funny at the wrong person, throw a punch and other offensive behavior will do the trick. I want you to know how to survive a fight. Here are the things you need to know:

PUNCHING IS OVERRATED

You know how in movies a guy will knock someone out with one punch?  That doesn’t happen in real fights, except by accident. Hitting someone in the face is difficult. Unless you are battling Mr. Potato Head or the Elephant Man, the human head is a small target. Hitting it with one punch is almost impossible, especially if the person is trying NOT to get hit. The exception to this is the Sucker Punch (discussed below). The other problem is that punching a head only works if you hit the face. The rest of the head is very hard as it consists of a thin layer of flesh and a really hard human skull. Punching a skull hurts.

Punching someone can hurt the puncher more than the punchee. I suspect this is because hands are made for such things as holding pencils and tying shoes. They aren’t made for beating things, hence the invention of the hammer. If you punch someone two or three times in the face, your hands are going to be pretty banged up. That hurts.

If you must punch, know your targets. The nose is great because it hurts and bleeds like hell. You will at the very least stun your opponent, if only momentarily. The throat is great, too, but almost impossible to hit. Under the armpit or directly under the rib cage are great, too; however, if you miss even a little, you won’t do any damage.

Real life punching is also goofy looking. You won’t look like Floyd Mayweather throwing a punch. Your punch will more like a close-fisted slap. You also are likely to be throwing the punch off the wrong foot, destroying any leverage you might have had. You likely have the wrong kind of hands for punching, just like me. I have bony hands with sharp, protruding knuckles. I know that sounds good, but it isn’t. I’m not a doctor, but I’ve determined that human knuckles are made of some kind of styrofoam-like material that crushes easily. Hit something two or three times and your knuckles will swell up and be useless.

Note your author's bony, protruding knuckles. These are ill-suited for a fist fight.

Note your author’s bony, protruding knuckles. These are ill-suited for a fist fight.

The best kind of fist for punching is a big, fat one that doesn’t even look like a fist. It looks like meat mallet. If you have those at the ends of your arms, use them.

KICKING IS UNDERRATED

Just as the punch gets way too much credit, the kick is virtually ignored. No, I’m not talking about some fancy karate-like spinning back kick. If you can do that, you should be out fighting all the time just to show off. I mean a kick like trying to kick someone in the testicles or the face.

The kick has several advantages. One, it doesn’t hurt like a punch. Two, it can create valuable space between you and your assailant (or victim, as the case may be). This space can be used for such tactics as running or head down bull rush. Third, if properly executed the kick delivers more force than a punch. The kick best applied when your opponent is on the ground. Despite what you’ve heard, kicking a man when he’s down is perfectly acceptable in a fight. In fact, it’s often necessary.

I must here mention the martial arts. I greatly respect any person who has mastered one of these ancient forms of self-defense. These people need no advice from the likes of me. Mastery is the key. As I once heard, martial arts teach you one of two things: (1) how to kill someone with your bare hands; or (2) just enough to get your ass kicked.

FIGHT DIRTY

This caption is deceptive. There isn’t any dirty fighting. If you want rules, become a boxer. Regular fights don’t have rules. Here are some moves to consider:

  • Sucker Punch: This is hitting a person when he doesn’t see if coming. This is the mark of coward, but it could win a fight for you before it starts.
  • Eye Gouging: This is an underutilized tactic. There are plenty of badasses who will dare you to punch them. None of them will dare you to gouge their eyes.
  • Groin Smash: If you’re male, I need say no more. If you’re female, well…I just don’t know what to tell you.
  • Clawing: I’m not talking about scratching (unless that’s necessary, of course). Clawing is similar to the gouge, except you can apply it anywhere (see Groin Smash above).
  • Rabbit Punch: This is a punch in the back of the head. This isn’t recommended because of the relative strength of the back of the human skull; however, you might want to just take a shot if you are running away.

These are just a few tactics you can use. During the heat of battle, you may think of many more. Try them all.

RUNNING

Running gets a bad rap. Many times, it is your last, best defense. The shame of running is no worse than the shame of getting a thorough beating and hurts it less. No one call tell you when to run. You must judge when the tide has turned. Profuse bleeding is usually a good sign. Unfortunately, many of us wait one punch or kick too late to utilize this move. For instance, I was once kicked in the stomach while on my hands and knees. At that moment, I thought “I need to run.” That thought was followed by another kick. Too late to run. Use your judgment.

AVOID WEAPONRY

I can’t emphasize this one enough. It’s bad enough to get in a fight. It’s even worse when you get killed. Weapons are good for that. For example, you might think hitting someone with a chair is a good move. You’ve seen movies and know that chairs splinter when they contact a human form. They don’t. They just hurt like hell (This all assumes you are strong enough to swing a chair like a club). You hit someone with a chair, beer mug, nunchucks, etc., and you better hope he doesn’t have access to something more deadly. You might find yourself at a gun fight armed with a chair.

CHOOSE YOUR OPPONENT

You don’t have to fight everyone with whom you have a conflict. If your potential opponent is a large, dangerous-looking man (or woman), you might want to think twice. You can save face by saying something like “Hey, dude, I don’t want any trouble.” That’s not cowardly. It has air of a man who has seen his share of trouble and wants to find a better way. If that doesn’t work, see RUNNING above.

Bear in mind, too, that there are people who actually like to fight. These people are deranged and will kill you. Avoid them. Sadly, usually we only discover this during the fight.

AVOID OLD MEN

I offer this for the young people. When you’re a young man, you feel indestructible to some extent. You are at your physical peak and look with pity at the middle-aged or older man, with his wife, kids, job and mortgage. This false sense of superiority often causes a young man to be mouthy or threatening. I know, for I was once young. Here’s some advice: Leave the old guys alone. Here’s why:

  • Old Man Strong: I don’t why–and science can’t explain it–but old guys are strong. They don’t look like it with their beer bellies and flabby arms, but they are. Even skinny old guys are strong. You will underestimate this, and he will beat your ass.
  • Old Man Don’t Care: Unlike a young fellow, an old guy isn’t concerned about losing a tooth or getting a black eye. He has no bright future ahead of him. He’ll wade right into you. It will catch off guard. Then you’re trouble.
  • Old Man Courage: Old guys don’t scare easily. Maybe it’s because they’ve  seen a lot or maybe they just don’t give a damn. Fights are scary. They get your adrenalin pumping. Old guys don’t get rattled. They just wail away.
  • Old Man Mystery: Let’s say you’re a college age man and you get in a fight over something you said in a bar. Chances are that your opponent is about like you–college guy, drunk, mouthy, etc. You know what you’re dealing with. Now, add 30 years to that guy. For all you know, he got out of prison yesterday after 20 years for skinning some guy just like you. It’s best not to find out.
  • Old Man Army: He could also be Marines, Navy, Air Force or even Coast Guard. If you fight an old fellow, you just might be locking horns with a military veteran. Bad, bad move. These guys are just waiting for someone like you. It’s better to apologize and buy him a drink.

Just as boxers should stay in their weight class, you should stay in your age class. If you are an old guy, at some point, some young guy will mouth off to you. Have at it.

Those are my tips. Of course, none of this applies if you are a large, dangerous person or just psychotically violent. If so, you need no pointers me. I’m certainly not trying to tell you what to do or suggesting that you can’t handle yourself quite well. Take no offense. I’m not looking for any trouble.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

OFFICE FOLLIES

I’ve worked in offices my entire adult life. In fact, I’ve never had a real job outside an office. In particular, I’ve worked in law offices. This is, of course, because I’m a lawyer. Even before I became a lawyer, I worked in law offices, first as an errand runner and then as a law clerk. All offices have cultures, rules and oddities all their own. I’ve thought about writing a book and maybe I will but not now. A book requires names and details, and I’m sure most of the folks with whom I worked would prefer anonymity. Plus, I like a lot of them, and I don’t want to be sued. As far as the ones I don’t like, why give them unwarranted fame? If I ever do write a book, here are some things I’ll discuss:

RULES ARE RULES

The bigger the office, the more numerous the rules. I had it explained to me that “We have these rules because they are important. We give them a lot of thought. We don’t treat them lightly.” Okay.

When I first started working, everyone wore coats and ties. Even women. Their ties were these odd, floppy neck pieces that looked like poorly tied ascots or cravats. Suits were the order of the day, too. Sport coats were a little too reckless. These were the rules. Over the years, times changed and ties became optional in most offices. My office was different. We didn’t have Casual Friday. Nevertheless, I stopped wearing a tie. This was a bad move. Why? Here’s another rule: Don’t stand out. If you stand out, people play attention to you. The more attention, the more likely they are to find something you’re doing wrong. At least that’s what happened with me.

Office rules are rarely written down. This creates flexibility in enforcement. For example, during a performance evaluation, one of my superiors said “You have a reputation for going to lunch.” This was bad, so I stopped. After that, I ate at my desk or in the office kitchen/lunch room. This made me look busy and too important to be bothered with socializing.

At my next evaluation, I was told that I needed to socialize more. Specifically, I was told to get out in the town during lunch and “be seen.” Being seen was important. It might have even been a rule. So, one of my colleagues and I started taking walks at lunch. We were seen by lots of people every day. I then developed a reputation for walking at lunch. This was bad. And so on and so on….

When I first became an attorney, my employer gave us office etiquette advice. These weren’t rules as much as suggestions. Don’t wear any weird ties or flamboyant socks. No saucy lace hose for the ladies (or men, I guess). Don’t discuss client confidences in public. There was even advice on how to act in an elevator (move to the back when people enter, don’t smoke, no loud talking, etc.).

For the past ten years, I’ve worked in a small office. We don’t have rules, mostly because no one wants the job of enforcing them. We work in sort of organized chaos. I recently told one of my partners “One day I’m going to walk in on a Monday morning and say ‘Today is the day we all get our heads out of our asses!'” Of course, I won’t do that. First, that’s exactly where my head is most of the time. Second, that would put me in charge, and I don’t like rules any more than anyone else.

RETREAT, RETREAT!

Big law offices like to have retreats. A retreat is where the partners are forced to travel somewhere for a weekend to discuss the state of the law firm and future plans.You do things like make personal marketing plans, discuss branding and drinking excessively.

My old firm liked the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Indiana. If you’ve been to French Lick in recent years, I understand that it has experienced a bit of a Renaissance with casino gambling. When we went to French Lick, it was primarily known as the home of Larry Bird and Pluto Water. I assume you know Larry Bird. Pluto Water was a popular laxative about 100 years ago before the benefits of fiber were well-known. One of my partners described the resort as a “really elegant Motel 6.” Another said it was “the Place to Be…in 1925.”

frenchlick

My favorite place in French Lick back in the ’90’s.

We’d spend the weekend in French Lick (or the “Lick,” as I called it), more or less intoxicated the whole time.Once, my room was so decrepit that the title floor in the bathroom came loose and stuck to my feet. It’s quite terrifying to wake up from a semi-blackout in a bed full of tile.

Once, we had our retreat at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. This hotel is really nice, but it’s also a sprawling complex which combines Las Vegas sprawl with labyrinth-like architecture. You’d leave your room with no assurance you’d ever find it again. Despite the nicer locale, I still lost the will to live within a few hours of my arrival.

Your author at a law firm retreat in 1999. The sticker on my shirt says "I'M SO HAPPY!" I wasn't really.

Your author at a law firm retreat in 1999. The sticker on my shirt says “I’M SO HAPPY!” I wasn’t really.

I finally concluded that the purpose of our retreats was twofold: (1) Other firms did it, so it had to be a good idea; and (2) Much like when your mother forced to play with a kid you hated, there was a belief that bringing everyone together would foster collegiality rather than contempt. I usually left with new names to add the list of folks I didn’t care much for.

THE NAME GAME

It’s fun to nickname people in an office but only if you never tell them about the names. Here are some of my favorites (I won’t include the ones that aren’t fit for a PG-13 crowd) :

The Egg Man (He tried to buy human eggs in the office)

Chief Speakforyourself (Someone once called our office The Island of Misfit Toys to which he responded “Speak for yourself!” (which, by the way, is what the speaker was doing)

45 (See below)

The Marm (looked like a school marm)

Queen Victoria (Hey, he looked like her)

The Generalissimo (This is a long story. It would be an entire blog post)

Porter Waggoner (The guy came to work with a fancy pompadour)

Catdog (Two lawyers so inextricably linked that we could not tell where one ended and the other began)

45 was typical of how you could get a nickname. We were at our retreat in Nashville, and a group of us younger partners were sitting in the floor outside the hospitality suite bemoaning our status. One of our senior partners staggered out of the suite and asked “You boys seen 45?” “Huh?” one of us asked. He said “Room 45? You seen 45?”

Okay, the Opryland Hotel has 3,000 or so rooms. There could be 200 room numbers including the number 45. Yet, he was insistent. “45? Room 45? Where is it?” Finally, someone said “Yeah, upstairs.” That seemed to satisfy him. From then on, he was 45.

Another favorite involved a guy named Dale Josey. I use his name here for two reasons. One, I have nothing bad to say about him. In fact, I didn’t even know him. He worked in our firm’s marketing department doing something important, I’m sure. Second, the story requires use of his name. Why? Because we called him the Outlaw Josey Dale. That still brings a smile to my face.

A TIME TO PRAY

I have nothing against prayer. In fact, I do it myself. I worked in an office where it was quite popular, so popular that there was a morning prayer group. They’d pray about things. Usually, someone in the office was ill, so that would be a good subject. All in all, it was rather benign. Oh sure, there was the time that someone distributed literature which conclusively proved that the Pope was the beast of Revelation. That aside, the group seemed like a fairly affable bunch.

One of our senior partners like to pray, too. I once visited his office to discuss a personal matter with him. Before I finished, he reached for dog-eared Bible which was copiously marked with Post-it notes. It was kind of what I imagine Mark David Chapman’s copy of The Catcher in the Rye looking like. He started flipping through and said: “Can I pray for you?” What am I supposed to say? “Sure” was all I could muster. So, he did. Right there. I wasn’t sure of the protocol, so I just closed my eyes and said my own silent prayer–one in which I beseeched God to stop the other praying. It probably says more about me than it does him, but the whole scene made me uncomfortable. When it was over, I felt like I had been stripped naked.

I found out that I wasn’t alone. Others had been prayed over, too. It wasn’t like he thought I was especially evil or anything.

SCANDALOUS BEHAVIOR

At some point, all office workers are exposed to scandal, sometimes even their own. Discretion prevents me from offering many details here. Let’s just say that if you suspect two (or more) co-workers of engaging in inappropriate sexual congress, you are correct. In fact, by the time you suspect this behavior, it will have been going on for quite a while, maybe even years. Your suspects are almost always married but never to each other, of course. Just accept their shenanigans and move on. Judge if you must, but understand there are others in the office doing the same thing, and you don’t even know about them. Don’t you feel left out?

Sometimes, things get stolen in the office. The first thing you do is blame the cleaning people. After all, they are a sketchy group with free rein in the office. Only God knows what they do when you’re not working. If you don’t want them stealing from you, then stay at work, you lazy bastard.

Here’s the truth: The thieves are almost invariably someone who works in the office. We had a lady who had been arrested a dozen times for various forms of theft. We didn’t do background checks in those days. She came in and stole from us, too. Quit blaming the cleaning people.

Later, a purse was stolen in the middle of a work day. First, we blamed the cleaning crew. Next, we changed the security codes for the office. It never dawned on anyone that it almost certainly was someone working in the office, since we didn’t really have  problem with drifters roaming the halls. Oh, well, we all felt safer knowing that it was now slightly more difficult for the thief to enter the office.

NO REST FOR THE WICKED

I could write a whole book about office restrooms, maybe not a book but at least a lengthy pamphlet. Even in an office of well-dressed, educated people, the sights, smells and sounds of a public restroom rival your worst nightmares of any poorly maintained highway rest area. I’ll spare most, but not all, of those details. For example, there was the man who steadfastly refused to flush the toilet after making a major transaction. I assumed it was a statement of some kind, a protest against injustice. “This will teach those sons of bitches,” I imagined him fuming as he left the stall. His fiber-rich diet was no mere healthy choice. It was a weapon used to battle The Man.

One lawyer couldn’t hit the urinal. These were the big, trough-like urinals that stick about a foot out from the wall. You could sit on the damn things. Still, he missed it. He would zip up and nonchalantly walk away, unconcernedly shuffling through a pool of urine. The worst was to be beside him at the other urinal. I feared being soaked from the knees down. Fortunately, the privacy divider took most of the offending spray. Most of it.

The strangest–and certainly most disturbing–event concerned what became known as “The Device.” One morning I sauntered into the handicapped stall as I did on occasion. I normally eschew such activity at work, but nature has her own ways. When I entered, I saw it–a white plastic bag emblazoned with the name of local medical clinic. I should have run screaming, but curiosity got the best of me. I just had to look. Using my right foot, I pulled open the top of the bag and saw The Device. It was an orange cylindrical container with a tapered spout on the side. Below is my crude rendering of this dubious medical aid:

dEVIE

The top was sealed and it was packed in ice. Yes, ice. Whatever it contained required ice. What the hell was it and what was in it? I consulted my closest friend in the office, but I wasn’t able to show him because he was out of the office. (For you young people: This was in the ancient days when we didn’t carry cameras or even phones with us at all times). I didn’t dare ask anyone else. What if it belonged the person I asked? I would then have to hear about his hideous health condition which required this contraption. I could only conclude that it was some kind of sampling device to take specimens of God knows what. Based upon my description, my colleague speculated that is what some kind of crude colonic irrigation aid. If you know what this is, let me know. On second thought, don’t. Perhaps it’s best left a mystery.

I HAVE MET THE ENEMY

Offices are full of many different types of people, but they all have one thing in common–each thinks that he or she is the only “normal” person in the office. That’s always been true with me. Everyone else is a weirdo or social misfit of some sort. This is especially true in the law office. Let’s be honest–most lawyers were not “cool” when they were young. One of my partners once confided in me that she had been “kind of a nerd” when she was young. Really?

The sad truth is that each office has a culture, and you contribute to it. Maybe you’re like me and question everything. If so, you’re one of the reasons that they have rules. You have to be kept in line. Maybe you like to make rules. If so, there’s a place for you at the top, assuming you don’t get stabbed in the back on your way up the ladder.

I’ll post other office musings as time goes on. There’s really a lot of material here. Maybe a book is the way to go after all.

©www.thetrivialtroll.com 2015

The Boy Who Loved Christmas

I guess that’s not a very creative title. Lots of people love Christmas. I’m one of them, but I’m not a boy anymore. I’m 52 years old. I still love Christmas.

At the risk of drawing the ire of my Christian friends, I’ll confess that it has little to do with the Christian aspects of the holiday. It’s not that I discount that. That’s just not the hook for me. (Feel free to post your scathing comments below. I also don’t think there is a War on Christmas. Even if there is, Christmas won.

So, here’s what I like:

THE PRESENTS

I have to be honest: I like getting gifts. Admit it–you do, too. I won’t even return bad gifts. I just keep them. Really, I don’t think there are any bad gifts, just unsuitable ones. They way I look at it, no one has to give me anything. I should appreciate the effort.

Okay, sometimes I’ll give one of my gifts to someone else, but I never “re-gift.” I’ll just say: “Hey, someone gave me this, and I can’t use it. Do you want it?” Bourbon chocolates are a good example. Those are big here in Kentucky, and I don’t like them. I never have. Every year at Christmas, I’ll get boxes of them from various sources. If you’re not familiar with this confection, just imagine fudge drenched in bourbon. It’s an alcoholic’s idea of candy. (“Chocolate’s great, but you know what would make it better? BOOZE!!“). I just give them away. Fruit cake works the same way, except I can’t find anyone who wants that crap.

While I certainly appreciate the effort, despite no gift being bad, they’re not all good, either. Clothes are rarely good presents for me.  At I’m 5’ 8” and 160 pounds, I’m the wrong size for a typical American. I am, however, the perfect size for a middle weight boxer. Think about that: MIDDLE weight. This connotes a person of medium size, does it not? Why, then, do people insist upon buying me clothes designed for men twice my size? If a “large” size fits me, what size do actual LARGE men wear? I get sweaters that hang to my knees, shirt with sleeves falling below my hands and pants in which two of me can be stuffed. Even these grotesquely ill-fitting items are greatly appreciated, though. I try my best to wear them. I’ll hang on to them for a while, hedging my bets against being stricken with gigantism or morbid obesity. At some point, I’ll donate them to charities devoted to clothing behemoths.

With these limited exceptions, I like all gifts, especially if they are gift-wrapped. Socks, neck ties, cologne, fruit, books–you name it–I like them all. No one is obligated to give me anything, so it’s a nice gesture. Sometimes, I get great gifts. One year, my brother and I got like 10 G.I. Joes. I’ll never forget that. I got a baseball glove when I was 10. I still have it, too.

I also like giving gifts to people. In fact, I might like that more than receiving them. I don’t even care if you like the gift. My wife never likes my gifts, unless it’s something she has specifically identified, and I mean specifically. I need photos, serial numbers, model numbers, sizes, colors, etc. In fact, it’s most helpful if she just buys the gift herself. One year, I used a personal shopper to pick out maternity clothes. My wife hated all of them. The fact that she wasn’t pregnant may have contributed to that, but you get my point.

Christmas also makes me want to give money to worthy causes. Well, the tax deduction also motivates me, but it’s great that Christmas comes at the end of the calendar year when a giving spirit and greed combine so nicely.

It’s said that it is better to give than receive. I’m not sure about that, but they’re both fun.

THE MUSIC

Christmas music is great, too. Deck The Halls sounds good whether sung by Pat Boone or Twisted Sister. White Christmas? Bing Crosby, Elvis, Jewel, Leon Redbone—they all can nail it. All of us sing along when we hear these. We sing along to Good King Wenceslas, even though we don’t the words. We don’t know whether there are bells on Bob’s tail or Bobtail. Regardless, we cheerily sing along.

Naturally, not all the songs are great. During three or four Christmas seasons, my youngest son played Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer over and over (and over). I’ll admit that I found it humorous the first couple of dozen times. After that, it became tedious. It’s Cold Outside is a fairly new classic, but its tacit endorsement of date rape doesn’t put me in the holiday mood.

Then there are the Christmas Carolers. I don’t see them as much as in the past, but they still roam about. Maybe they focus more on hospitals and shut-ins. That’s for the best. Honestly, carolers make me a tad uncomfortable. I just stand there and watch them. Singing along seems unnecessary, inappropriate even. Just when I think they’re done, they sing another song. When they finally do finish, there’s an awkward moment of silence. I’m never sure if I should applaud, hand them money or just shut the door. The whole scene makes me uneasy.

Otherwise, Christmas music is always good. It puts me in the Christmas spirit, even if our radio stations start playing them in October. Once Christmas is over, I don’t want to hear them. It just makes think about how far we are from next Christmas.

THE EXCITEMENT

If we’re honest, most of us will admit that we don’t remember a lot of details about childhood. Mostly, it’s just a highlight reel. I remember Christmas. The nerves and excitement bordered on terror. I had a friend who would stay awake all night, practically mad from excitement. He still talks about it. That’s Christmas to me. Christmas made me totally mental.

Even after I passed the Santa phase, I was still excited—maybe even more so. Without the North Pole bureaucracy, my chances of getting cool presents increased. I was a pretty good kid. Besides, I knew my parents didn’t have Santa’s unrealistic expectations regarding behavior.

I was fascinated when I realized that my parents got me all those presents. Certainly, it explained a lot. Now I knew how “Santa” figured out what I wanted. It answered my questions about the seemingly impossible logistics of covering the entire planet. Plus, I had come to realize that reindeer really could not fly. Elves, of courses, were just creepy.

But in those days of Santa, I was full-on believer for years. Sure, there was the Santa at the Sears catalog store whose red hair showed under his cheap wig. I dismissed him as one of Santa’s many “helpers.” That our chimney led straight to coal-burning furnace was no issue for me. I just assumed that Santa had the good sense to come through a window at our house.

I’ll admit that Santa also stressed me out. I worried about my behavior. Like most kids, I only focused on this as Christmas neared. I fretted that my transgressions from earlier in the year might cost me a G.I. Joe. What needless worry!

One year, I was so overcome with joy that I had to remove myself from the living room where Santa left our substantial take. I went the kitchen and promptly downed six glasses of milk to calm my nerves. Then, I vomited. Now, THAT’S excitement! I don’t puke on Christmas Day anymore. I miss that.

I’m glad to say that my own three sons picked up some of this from me. My middle son, in particular, was always so excited that he would cry when saw his gifts. Even now, as a young adult, I still see that he’s thrilled on Christmas Day. Nothing wrong with that.

I’m older now, even old some would say. I’ve passed from believing in Santa to being Santa to retiring as Santa. Regardless, I still get a thrill thinking about Christmas.

THE COMMERCIALIZATION

I’m one of the few who will admit that he likes the garish commercialization of Christmas–the advertising, the lights, the sparkle–all of it. Here’s what my house looks like:

We like to think we strike a delicate balance between festive and obnoxious.

We like to think we strike a delicate balance between festive and obnoxious.

We love it.

I like Christmas movies. I’ve seen Christmas Vacation a dozen times, at least. Elf is a new favorite. I even like Black Christmas, Bob Clark’s classic about a murderous lunatic. I am, however, one of the rare few who does not care for It’s A Wonderful Life. I find the whole thing depressing. Oh, sure, there’s the upbeat ending where George realizes everything is great. Up until that point, it’s like a barium enema–painful, uncomfortable and you just wish it would end. Just when you think it can get no worse, it does. That you ultimately get relief does little to erase the memories. I come away questioning whether George’s life is all that wonderful. Everyone else seems to love it. So, maybe it’s just me.

I know there are folks who don’t like Christmas. They tend to be vocal about it, too. I don’t care. I think I’m still the boy who loved Christmas, just older. In fact, I’ve spent most of my adult life feeling like a kid pretending to be an adult. That’s problematic in many areas of my life. In the case of Christmas, I’m okay with it.

©www.thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2014