Monday, July 31, 2006

Interview Answers for Kristel

She asked, I answered

1) What is your greatest fear and what are you doing to combat that fear?

I'm afraid of death, and it drives how I live my life.

I've always had a sense and dread of my own mortality. I remember turning 10, and realizing I'd never have a single digit age ever again. I remember when my dad turned 30, and I remember thinking he'd never be in his 20's again. Both realizations have at their core the notion that time moves only in one direction. Which, when combined with the fact that no one is infintiely old, means death is inevitable.

Our Town in highschool drove it home for me. When it's all gone, any moment, no matter how trivial, is precious. Given the choice of non-existence, or existence in any day in my life, no matter how tragic, I'd choose existence. At least pain is real.

So I live to suck the marrow from the bones of life. I try to fill every moment with something meaningful and worthwhile. Sometimes rest and tranquility is worth while. But most of the time, I'm pushing the boundaries of my own potential. If I get in bed and think that I accomplished something, learned something, moved in a positive direction, then I'm ok. And when I feel I’m slacking, I just meditate on my own mortality, that everyone I know and love will some day die, too, and that re-sets my priorities and makes me live better.

2) What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment in life to date?

Putting myself through college.

My parents divorced messily during my Senior year of high school. All through high school, I'd delayed a lot of gratification for the sake of "making it". Friday and Saturday nights I worked at, oh yes, Pizza Hut. I saved almost all of what I made. I didn't work school nights so that I could do my homework and do my extra curriculars. I got into a very good school. The kind with the money to meet my full financial need. I had enough savings to cover the official student portion of my bill for four years. I was looking forward to beginning to grow and explore.

Then my dad sat me down and explained that there wasn't any money for me to go to college. I'd have to cover the parental part and the student part on my own. Which meant all my college savings would be gone in the first year.

So I scheduled my terms on and off, not so much around my education as around my finances. When could I work? And while at school, I worked, too. Less social time. No spring break in Cancun. Spring break meant a week I could go home and work 70 hours at a few just better than minimum wage jobs.

I found one expense I could control was food. I ate one meal a day, at the all-you-can-eat cafeteria. I lived on cereal and PB&J's outside of that one meal.

I allowed myself to order pizza once per term.

It worked. I made it through in four years.

Had someone explained to me at the time that, within a year of graduation, my salary would exceed that of my mother, and that I'd be able to pay off my loans in just four years, I'd have taken out more student loans, and had a more comfortable life. Probably including a little more food. But I didn't understand. When you grow up in one economic strata, it's hard to imagine life on the other side of it.

I admit I got through on anger. I cultivated my resentment of my father, my economic circumstances, and my school's indifference to my situation. School policy seemed to say that I couldn't have been underprivileged in any way, since I was white and had a penis. They didn't seem to notice or understand that I couldn’t afford to avail myself of the "opportunities" that school provided, since unpaid internships and research assistantships were out of the question for me.

So during my leave terms, I'd get up at 6 to work grounds crew at the hospital, then come home, shower, and head out to the restaurant to wait tables till midnight, home at 1 am, repeat the cycle. I'd roll over, tap the anger, and give life a rousing "fuck you, I won't go down easy" and get up and go to work.

I don't run my life on anger any more. It's bad for my soul and bad for the people around me. But I can do it. It got me through college.

3) What motivates you?

Fear of death. A desire to be at the limits of my own potential. Sex. Loyalty. Sensual delight.

4) What are you running from?

Not much. I'm hard to kill. And I don't shy away from much. Even when I'm afraid of something, I can still find a way to turn into my fear. I'm still afraid to let people really know me. I haven't known much unconditional love in my life. I find it hard to believe people will love me if they know my flaws. There are parts of my life I don't even talk about here.

5) You just had the best day of your life. Describe it. What happened?

Every day in my life is precious to me for some reason. So I suppose the greatest day would be the day I can find what's joyful in every moment and be present with what is real.

My best days to date have been my wedding day, and a day in April in High school: I got in to my top choice college and then starred in the musical that night. A good day these days would be a morning with a great row (good conditions, good crew), some great sex and some good food.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Progress and Frustration

I'm ready for my knee to be better.

But it's not. The muscle is still so small and weak. I know it's getting better, but it's frustrating not to be at 100%. I do my rehab work, I try to do as much as I can without re-injuring it. I'm just tired of it being sore.

This morning I did 10K on the erg, at a 1:55.8/500m ave pace, which is faster than anything I've done since before the surgery. So I'm faster than I was post surgery and pre-injury.

The knee doesn't feel unstable, it just gets sore and feels like I can't press as hard with it as I can with my right leg.

The progress on the 10K time is encouraging. I did my first 10K on July 3 and the split was 1:59.7. So almost a full 4 seconds off the split in a month. To be near 1:52 for 10K at the end of August would be amazing. I'd settle for 1:53's. Once I get below 1:55 for 10K, I'll try a 20 min piece. I'll shoot to break 1:50 pace. And maybe start some 10 x 500m workouts, too.

I guess I'm coming back.

I'll be in MN for a wedding this weekend. Wish I was home.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Some news

Not so good, all around.

K's father passed away on Tuesday while I was in NYC. She's handling it with grace and enlightened perspective. She had hoped to prepare herself, feared that she hadn't prepared herself, that it was impossible. In the moment, we found she was very well prepared. All that needed to be said had been said. Everyone was ready for it. Everyone was present.

We chatted on Tuesday afternoon, in between my meetings and then again that night. I called her on my way home from the Oakland airport last night, and she was in good spirits. Laughing and telling stories on her dad. Service will be this weekend.

On Monday, I got word that the job I interviewed for wanted me to do a second round of interviews on Thursday. Then yesterday, they cancelled, citing a "change in business need". Which sounds like standard HR bullshit platitude. I'd like to know the truth. It's possible they didn't want another senior person, given they have a lot of chiefs and few braves, so to speak, right now. Kind of the burger-less burger org chart: Top and bottom, with no middle. And if I'm clearly top, and they need middle, hey, I get it. On the other hand, if I bombed, I'd like to know why. I'd rather learn from failure than be insulated from feeling it.

Which means I need to do a good job on this project in my current job, since I'll be stuck with it. Which also means I need to launch a more disciplined job search. Soon.

I have tales to tell of my weekend. I shall tell them, soon.

Sneak preview:

Boys in drag
Public spanking
Ken gets inked
The kissing booth
Who says Germans are boring?

Monday, July 24, 2006

More bullets

I have much to blog and no time to do it.

I'm in NYC now for work, here till Weds. Maybe I'll write on the plane on Weds and post it on Thursday?

Weekend was eventful, and about 6 billion degrees. Insanely hot. Many stories. Among them:

Suffered the consequences of letting folks in my real life know about the blog: K chose to read again for the first time in a long time, and hurt feeling ensued (about my dates, and the hot German chick). I felt like a toad, on one hand, but on the other, was fine. I haven't ever lied or milsead or misrepresented. I haven't been in her face about my dating life, either. Felt bad because she needed me to be a source of comfort in her life right now, not of conflict or hurt. She's in TX to be with her father in his last days. But we had a good chat (as we always do) and came to some good understanding. I still call her every day to check on her. Her dad's not in good shape at all, now, and it's not expected he'll regain consciousness. Her family is doing the best they can, but it's so hard to lose someone, no matter how they go. So do think of her.

I guess these aren't bullets.

Mediation on Friday went well, and it's likely I'll have a real settlement agreement out of this one. It's really sad where we are. I understand why my to-be-ex is so mad at me. She still doesn't understand me. It's so clear to me now why we never should have married. But I had to learn what I needed by experiencing what happens when it's missing.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My life in bullets

  • This week I rowed in the 8+ for the first time since the middle of May. It feels good to be on the water, especially on summer mornings. This morning was speed work, up to 44 strokes per minute. I kept up, but was contorting my legs a bit unnaturally to avoid firing with my left. I had to focus on actually driving with my left leg. I think a 32 is all I can manage for now while still rowing correctly. I did 4 x 15 minutes on with 3 minutes off yesterday, 1:59.2/ 500m average for the four. Burned 1081 calories. It's a good sign.
  • Last night I had a match date. Interesting first: First time someone hurt my feelings so badly I had a total emotional shutdown during a date. We were being bold and letting "taboo" first date topics on the table. She asked about the divorce stuff. I can tell she thinks me a bit of an exercise freak. When she teased me that my fanatical devotion to training caused me to neglect my wife which fueled her disinterest in me, it struck a nerve. "5 days a week? Maybe that's why she left". I'd have much preferred her affection to another workout per week. She want to see me again, but I can't take her teasing. I think I'm gonna bag.
  • K is in TX, where her father is in his last days. She and I went through a "let's just be friends" thing (her idea) that lasted about a week. We're back to our unconventional closeness and understanding with some sex sprinkled on top. I'm glad she's in my life, and I don't know how to be with her and not be affectionate. I still don't feel monogamous. I check on her every day.
  • Yesterday I had a job interview for a great position here in SF, and I think it went well. While I haven't done the "get lots of interviews and offers, then make a choice" path, I feel I don't need to. It's a good path for me. I hope I get it.
  • High drama: Work is about to put me on a project in NYC, of critical strategic import. Folks know I'm not thrilled with my current work life. The CEO called me into his office to make sure I'm "On board". Whatever. How about an incentive system that encourages me to be "on board"? If I stay I get... more conversations with the VP of services in which he wonders why I'm at the company? More tedium? Forget it. There's no chance for advancement here, and I don't like my work. But I'm not going to tell them I'm out the door, because then they'll transition me out before I'm ready. And I'm not going to lie and tell them I'm a company guy and chug some Kool-Aid.
  • This weekend I have a crazy dance party in the city with the burning man crowd. I went last year, drank too much, and suffered. This year, I shall keep it under control.
  • There's a screaming hot German chick who's my new neighbor's friend and she and I are definitely interested in each other. She is, however, 10 years my junior. But German. And hot. I need to find a way to transition from our flirty conversations to an actual date, or something. How'd we meet? I'm at home, cooking in just my rowing uni, which is rolled down. So I'm standing there in essentially spandex shorts, and nothing else. She and her friend walk by the window at just the right moment. I didn't understand the German, but it was in the international tone of girl squeal which said "Did you see that hot guy with most of his clothes off? OMG!". I leaned out the window to see who she was. We made eye contact. Now we chat...

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Your sun bonnet makes me horny

Went up north of Healdsberg to the Russian River wine region with my brother and my rowing coach and another friend from the boat house. I knew Andrew wanted to go wine tasting, and I invited the rowing social circuit to include them and to give Andrew a chance to meet them.

I drove, so I didn't drink much. Tried a few things, for sure, but kept it under control.

Most tasting rooms close around 4 or 4:30 PM.

Our last stop of the day closed at 4, and we pulled in at 3:50. It was a short drive from our previous stop, and the AC didn't have enough time to bring the car's internal temperature below 95 before we arrived. So I told the other three to head in while I sat with the car and let it cool a bit. It would have been a shame to let our nice wine languish in the sweltering car.

When I entered, my coach handed me a glass and I took my place at the end of the bar. Walking in, I noticed a group of several young women, attractively dressed. My first impression was "bachelorette party". A few of them ended up next to me at the bar. I checked them out.

One was cute, but trying hard. Lots of make-up, and small black purse with a single gold bar on the side quietly declaring "Prada". She explained to her wine buying girlfriend that she was only using her debit card now so she could get out of debt.

I watched one of her friends, a slender East Indian girl in a lovely white cotton dress with an A-line skirt walk across the room. Lovely.

Suddenly, at my elbow, appeared a decisively voiced question:

"Are you at the end of your day, or the beginning of your day?"

It's 4PM, this would be a stupid time to start. That's a pretty dumb, and hence obviously contrived conversation starting question. This chick is chatting me up.

"The end of our day."

"Where all did you go today?"

The woman standing on my right is perhaps five feet five or five six. Her age is hard to place. She could be 25; she could be 42. She wears rather modern glasses, the kind you might find on a hot librarian. Her eyes are green and her skin is light olive, though she's been out of the sun so it's light. Her hair is dark, but hard to see because it's obscured by a hat which is the illicit love child of a three-way between a pith helmet, a sun bonnet, and the floppy corduroy hat belonging to Paddington bear. It's dusty yellow with a sage green ribbon around the brim. It's clearly intended to keep the sun off her face, while being "fashionable" either on some planet where matronly is the new sexy, or within some Terran socio-economic strata whose sensibilities are far more sophisticated than mine.

"We started of at Trentadue to try their ports, and then we went to White Oak because they have a great chardonnay. And now we're here." I answer.

Aw fuck, I suppose I should make some conversation here.

"Where did you go today?"

"We went..."

I tune out as I try to size up the situation. She's totally macking on me, and I need to make an assessment. Do I want her to have my number or not? I study her face. How old are you? Are you pretty, and just in a bad outfit? Or should I judge your unconventional tastes in clothes to mean that you're a total fruitcake? I need more data. I look down. She's got an entire color-coordinate ensemble, all matching the hat. This must be her "going outside when it's hot" outfit. She's such an indoor cat that "outdoors" and "warm weather" are strange, foreign lands for her. For her, dressing for today would be like me trying to figure out what to wear on the surface of Venus. Mostly right, yet, somehow, starkly and tragically wrong.

I tune back in...

"...Napa. My co-workers were kind enough to invite me along."

They're not friends, and she's not usually socially included at work... Good to know.

I tell her I'm not as big a fan of Napa. It seems a bit contrived to be what the tourists expect, and it's a bit pretentious. Some wine snobbery. I tell her that here, it's a lot less snooty, though it's definitely been more developed over the last few years.

She agrees with a flourish of language that cries out "I smoked the SAT verbal". Asks where I'm from, I tell her SF area, and give more precise coordinates. She indicates she's from the Bay Area as well. I don't ask for details.

She's intense and cerebral in her replies. She's leading with her brain. Which is fine. I like clever women. They understand my sense of humor and are less likely to think I'm totally weird. But it's clear she lives in her head. And with no detectable sensuality or carnality to her, she's not showing up on my radar, which is being jammed by her hat.

On her feet are canvas-y sneaker-lettes with a ruggedized sole, a rubber toe cap a-la-Chuck Taylors, with gauzey ribbon in lieu of laces. The intersection of high fashion with home crafting. Practical, yet frilly.

She's now got me talking about my family and where they live.

I get distracted, drop my keys and they clang off the bar rail on their way to the terra cotta tiles. My companions pick them up, notice the oar on my key ring is not a port oar.

"When did you start rowing starboard?"

They didn't have any ports, they only make starboard.

Stuck between two conversations, and still trying to assess the significance of her epic chapeaux, I loose my train of thought, and awkwardness ensues. I should probably ask her something to keep the conversation going. But I just don't care. I feel bad for her, because she isn't reading me well at all. She really wants to land me, but it's not happening.

I admit I'm drawn to odd characters. Pretty yet strange girls turn me on. She was strange. Was she pretty?

She was an exotic brunette.

But was she attractive, under that hat?

Who could tell?

Not me.

I focused on her eyes. Yes, pretty. But that damn hat is something a Florida retiree would wear to be classy yet melanoma free.

And she who would wear such a thing is clearly odd. I keep the conversation from heading down the path to revealing contact information.

My friends finish and are ready to leave.

I tell her it was nice chatting. She asks my name, I tell her. She's Leela. She gives me a very formal handshake.

On the way to the car, the ribbing begins.

My coach is more of the "any port in a storm" mentality. He's confused about why I would turn down the interest of an obvious woman. She was, after all, clearly in possession of a vagina.

My teammate (women's team) calls me shallow for shooting Leela down over her look. I explain that the sunbonnet made me both not attracted to her and think she might be strange. My teammate remains mad at me for shooting down a girl who "put herself out there". I explain that I'm a big fan of women being forward. I just didn't dig her.

My brother points out, more profoundly, that I won't get what I want by only selecting from what comes to me.

True, that. Especially if what comes to me is adorned in spectacularly tragic fashion choices.

Leela is a great candidate for "what not to wear" on TLC. Trapped under that sunbonnet truly is an exotic hottie struggling to be free and tempt men. But for now, the sunbonnet is winning.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Between the work stress, the lack of sleep and, I think, my not getting up and going to bed early, I'm really angry. I've got that seething aggression just under the skin that makes me a bit dangerous. Working out keeps it away. I think my working out again brought it back, a bit. I'm just ready to loose it, and it's bad.

Tonight I'll be at the Giant's game with friends from business school. My brother will arrive, and I'll row tomorrow morning. I hope I'm in a decent boat. I think that'll chill me out.

Oh, and I have a job interview next week.

Actually, I know where it's coming from. One of my independent consulting clients has adopted a rather condescending tone with me, and it's infuriating. I've resisted the temptation to call her out and show her up publically. Because that wouldn't be productive. But damn, I want to. And the unresolved anger wants to get out.

Even if I haven't got the correct outlook, I can say I haven't taken incorrect action. So this is good. By Monday I'll have renewed patience. And I did tack on a "client is a bitch" premium to my fees for this project. So I signed up for this and am being compensated accordingly.

The truly Zen perspective on this is that I'd not be so angry if I didn't have ego. It's my unfulfilled desire to be the expert and to feel respected that's causing my anger.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thank goodness that's over

My week from hell is done, and my project for work is over.

It was less hell because of the actual volume of work that needed to be done when measured in hours, and more hell because of the amount of emotional energy required to motivate to actually do the work which I find so utterly tedious.

But it's done. And I played a lot of internet games.

I've had a very hard time getting on my rowing schedule. I can't sleep at night, stay up late, get up late, don't work out in the morning so I work out in the evening, which makes it hard to sleep... And the cycle continues.

I know I need to break it by just getting up early and suffering. Maybe tomorrow.

Other things are coming together. I have yet another mediation appointment next week Friday to once more try to reach some final divorce agreement. I'm hopeful, but not betting on anything. At this point, I'm pretty much wiling to buy my freedom at any cost. Still, a very sad thing. "Over" is a very powerful word. The finality of it. Stark contrast between how it starts -- happy and optimistic, surrounded by friends and family in a church -- and how it ends -- exhausted, cynical and alone in a government building.

I continue to rethink monogamy. I don't buy it. It's so unnatural. We're designed to get attached, yes, but just long enough to conceive and rear offspring. We're designed to notice other potential mates and to want to spread our genes around. Yes, sometimes we'll want hearth and snuggles and stability. But some times we'll want adventure and newness and attraction. And now that I'm free to pursue each as I choose, I must say I'm happy. Yes, it costs me some relationship management challenges, but it's really working for me.

Confuses the crap out of most people in my life. They presuppose exclusivity. I've relaxed a bit about "coming out" as non monogamous in my social circles. I figure, it'll confuse people, but they'll ask and come to understand. And I have nothing to hide. I'm not sneaking around. I've brought some dates around my rowing circle. I haven't crossed that line with my business school friends. I think I fear their not understanding my choices.

My neighbor lady, who's 82 and had a stroke so she just kind of talks forever, has done me the kind favor of raving to one female friend about all the lovely young ladies she's met in my company. People can usually deal, as long as they're not confronted with specifics. So thanks, Jeanne, for throwing it in the face of my date. Well done.

I forgive her. She's sweet and means well. But not exactly a good way to make a girl feel special. And boy, do girls want to feel special. And they are. Each relationship in my life is as unique as the person with whom I have it. Every friendship, every connection is distinct and valuable. Because I love someone else doesn't mean I love them any less. But few people operate this way, at least in the domain of romantic love. Insecurity means they want me all to themselves. Think my connecting with others raises the odds that I'll want to disconnect from them. It's selfishness driven by fear.

Looking at my friend's sister's wedding pics, which are lovely and happy. I recall all the pre-wedding capitalist insanity of my wedding. Picking a photographer, all the pageantry orchestration. There is no way I'd do that again, at least not now. Good photos don't make a marriage. Style isn't substance.

But I wonder, if I find someone I'd want to live with and have kids with, and she's never been married, will she want all that? The divorced women I date seem to get that a wedding doesn't make a marriage, and are more about the substance than the style. The never married women are a bit more wistful and dreamy about all the manufactured hype.

My brother Andrew joins me in CA this weekend as he reaches the Pacific terminus of an epic road trip that's taken him though Denver, southern Utah, the north rim of the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, the Sierra ridge and Yosemite National Park, among others. He's taking photos.

It'll be good to hang out with him.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not dead

Just rather busy with work and independent consulting projects and rehab.

I did 10K on the erg last night. 1:57.4/ 500m average. Only three days prior the best I could manage was 1:58.7. And four days before that, 1:59.4. Dropping nearly 1.5 seconds off the average in less than three days is fantastic. The times are still far from where I need to be, but the progress is great. I'm kicking ass. How much ass?

Not quite that much ass. But close.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

It's Hot

And when it's hot my mind tends to drift to other things. As evidenced by what I wrote on a hot day last year.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Coming back

I've been working on getting up earlier and earlier to try to get to the boat house in the morning. It's hard to motivate to get up, knowing that I'm not going out in the boats, since we're training for sprints races, and knowing that I can also do my work out in the evening at the end of the day.

Today I got up and got to the boat house and did 10K. I went even faster than I did on Monday. Monday was a 1:59.4 average 500m, today was 1:58.7. The improvement is good. The times are terrible. But it's progress.

Tomorrow morning I'll go out in the single. The critical task for me is to rebuild the tear drop shaped muscle right above my knee in my quad. It's basically non-existent on my left, while on my right leg, it's bulging. The difference is obvious. So I'll row and bike and do my strength training and be patient.

My coach thinks I'll be back by August. I think he's high. I'm not coming back to racing until I know I can do it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Denise, I love you

Last April my company went through one of those massive "we're changing health insurance plans" things in which we were all compelled to fill out tedious paperwork. We went from small group to large group, or some other such thing which produces no material difference in the type, quality or cost of the healthcare I receive.

So my old card went inactive and I was to receive a new card, which I did, some time in the middle of May.

My appendectomy was May 5. My old coverage expired May 1. My new coverage started May 1. But the card I gave the hospital on May 5, the only card I had, was the old card.

So I started to get lots of stuff in the mail. Automatic computer printouts about claims. Some of which told me I was "ineligible" at the time the claim was submitted.

Then all my providers started billing me, or mentioning there was a problem with my account. And they had dollar amounts with many zeros.

Last week I called Blue Cross, figured out what the problem was. The lady on the phone told me she can't change the claims, but if I call the providers and have then submit a corrected claim with the new info, everything would be fine.

So I started calling. I have one that's going to re-submit the claim. But when the CT scan biller told me the claim had been submitted under the new, correct number, yet rejected, I got concerned and called BC.

Denise answered the phone. I explained the situation, and once she had my Social security number and could see what was happening, I was placed on hold for a very long time.

She came back to tell me she was going to try to forward this case to their research department, who had the authority to move claims around and re-submit them to the correct account. I'm sure she saw how many billers I'd have to contact to fix it.

I was stunned. I've come to expect call center folk to try to pass me off as fast as they can without any regard to whether my problem was solved. Denise just found a way to fix the problem which isn't really their fault. Her Karma balance runneth over.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Internet-enabled anthropology

Logged in to my Match account to update my reading list. Took advantage of my favorite "who's been looking at me link". There's a new attractive brunette. My age. I click on her. She has photos. And in one of the photos she's pictured with a friend of hers. Whom I recognize. As a woman I went out with two weeks ago.

This isn't coincidence. This is my ex-date's friend having heard a story about me and checking me out. What the friend heard, I don't know. It's odd that a single date yields girlfriend conversation. So it seems I'm "that guy".

It's not the first time that a woman's friends have checked me out on match.

Women are weird like that. I take this as a bad omen.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

To the woman in the car next to me

Perhaps you have forgotten
our weary desperation
last spring
when we strained to remember
the exact shade of
in the sky
on a day
without rain.

Now in June
when long golden rays
press through your window
to kiss your face
and welcome you home
you raise your left hand
the intruder
and stare
at the tail lights
of the car in front of you.