The Boiler Room Workout

There are no business hours, cardio equipment, or wall-to-wall mirrors.  There are no shiny chrome machines, rolled-up plush towels, or eucalyptus-scented locker rooms.  Most importantly, at Boiler Room Gym there are no other members which means no selfies, grunting, texting, flexing, talking, crowding, waiting, breathing, or staph infections.  At Boiler Room Gym, located in the basement of my home in Southport, Connecticut there are no distractions whatsoever.  Instead of flat-screen TV’s mounted on the wall, my gym provides a giant boiler and water tank for your entertainment. A light tug of a chain illuminates a single light bulb that creates a dim, murky atmosphere best suited for a low level mob meeting.  The gym has a squat rack, adjustable weight bench, olympic bar, EZ curl bar, and 400 pounds of weights. There is a pull-up bar and ceiling just high enough to permit full range of motion without the accompaniment of a concussion.

As a member of Boiler Room gym for the past two weeks, I can enthusiastically say that it is the best place that I have ever trained.  A typical full-body workout for me consists of squats, bench presses, weighted pull-ups, upright rows, bent rows, barbell curls, skull-crushers, leg raises, and stiff-legged deadlifts.  The airwaves are controlled by an invisible woman named Alexa, who plays whatever I tell her to.  For 45 minutes four days a week, I train hard and then go upstairs and take a shower. I highly recommend Boiler Room Gym but unfortunately, membership is closed.

Rudy the Tourist

Millennials are often ridiculed as entitled members of the “Participation generation,” in which every child receives a trophy, a collective high-five, and leaves the playing field with their head held high.  There are no losers and any speech that be can construed as offensive is off-limits. Though millennials are proponents of inclusion, the true founder of the “Participation Generation,” is Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger, the Notre Dame football player in early 1970’s that was the inspiration for the 1993 film, “Rudy.”   The movie tells the story of a small, awkward undergraduate whose only dream is to play football for the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame.  Rudy’s challenge is simple:  He sucks at football.  At 5’6, 165 pounds, he lacks the size, speed, and ability to be anywhere near a Division I football field, let along the storied gridiron of Notre Dame Stadium.  Nonetheless, he displays maximum effort and enthusiasm in tryouts and earns a spot on the practice squad.  After years of hard work, the head coach honors Rudy’s request and promises that he will dress for one game before he graduates. Unfortunately, this coach leaves and the new head coach that replaces him has no interest in the former's questionable pledge. In Rudy’s senior year, the final game of the season approaches and he has yet to dress for a game. The “real” Notre Dame players deem that unfair and threaten to sit out the game if Rudy doesn’t dress. So he dresses—and after the Fighting Irish have a huge lead against Georgia Tech, Rudy is put in the game for “garbage time” late in the fourth quarter, after a loud chant of “Rudy” echoes through the stadium. In the film, he is in for two plays, though in reality it was actually three. On the last play, one that means nothing to either team, Rudy sacks the quarterback.  The crowd goes wild and his teammates carry him off the field on their shoulders.

The message of the film is clear: You can accomplish whatever you set out to do if you put forth enough effort, heart, and perseverance. Nice sentiment, but not at all truthful. No matter how hard I work and train, I will never win a slam-dunk contest because I cannot jump high. Similarly, I was rejected from an Ivy League college because my grades were not up to par.  In New York City, one may go on fifty job interviews before gaining employment.  Enthusiasm is not enough—one must have a skill set to warrant acceptance.  Winston Churchill said, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”  Rudy was a high school level football player and did not belong on a college team.  That slot on the practice squad should have been reserved for a more talented, worthy player. Rudy’s sack on the last play of the game against Georgia Tech should not be celebrated. In high school and college sports, a similar situation often occurs for student-athletes with various disabilities. A teammate with down-syndrome is handed off the football during a game and runs untouched down the field for a touchdown. That great moment is worthy of national attention and deserves to be celebrated.   A dream is being realized in the face of extreme adversity. Rudy's only handicap was his lack talent and was essentially the first Make-A-Wish recipient to lack illness. Rather than persevere when you clearly lack the wherewithal to achieve a goal, a person should shift focus and do something that they are good at. Rudy could have been the equipment manager or part of team boosters and brought the same enthusiasm to a role more fit for him.   Thanks to Rudy, every kid today wants and expects a trophy, even though in the adult world, only the winner receives one.  Sadly, reality is not idealistic—that only exists in the movies.  

Twelve Sets

In twenty-five years of lifting weights in countless gyms in four continents,I have never been involved in an altercation with another gym member until yesterday.  Equipped with my heavy-duty, lowbrow powerlifting belt, I entered the weight room with the intention of squatting.  I had thirty minutes to complete my workout, and when I reached the squat rack area, there was a doughy guy using it for shoulder presses—an exercise he can do virtually anywhere else in the gym. So, I did some lunges instead.   Ten minutes later, I glanced over to the squat rack and saw the same guy checking his phone in between sets.  With patience waning, I did some crunches.  Five more minutes passed, and he was still doing shoulder presses so I approached him and said, “Excuse me, how many more sets do you have? ”  He said, “Twelve.  I have twelve more sets.”  He caught me completely off-guard—never in my life, had I heard an answer greater than five.  I said, “You have twelve sets? Why twelve?  What’s the rationale?” He said, “I have four sets of three more exercises to do.” I noticed a woman sitting on the gym floor nearby and asked her if she was waiting to use the squat rack.  She said, “Yes, I’ve been waiting for twenty minutes.”  I said, “Dude, you can’t do twelve sets in a packed gym with two people waiting.”  He said, “Yeah, I can.  It’s first come, first serve.”  I said, “Okay, now you’re just being a dick."  He said, “If you keep talking shit, I’m going to go up to the front desk and  complain.”  I said, “Go right ahead.” I walked over to another bench and did some knee-ins while repeating “Twelve sets, ha!”  He said, “That’s it,” and bolted towards the front desk.  

I followed shortly behind and when my friend at the front desk learned that it was me that he was complaining about, she said, “He’s talking about you, Andrew? No way!”  I said, “Yup, this guy has two people waiting for him on the squat rack in a packed gym and has twelve sets left.  That’s like asking someone on a bike how much time they have left and they say, “Ten hours." If everyone did twelve sets, nothing would ever be available.”  The front desk woman said, “Yeah, no, you can’t do that when people are waiting.  Can’t you share?”  He said, “Fine, I’ll let him work in.”  I said, “I don’t want to work in, I want to work out.  Do your fifty pound shoulder presses somewhere else—you don’t even know what the fuck you’re doing.”  He said, “Man, I’m about to punch this guy in the face.”  I said, “You’re not going to punch me in the face and you know why?  Cause I’ll destroy you.”  She laughed, “Can you guys work this out another way?”  I said, “He has twelve sets left of shoulder presses on the squat rack—he can do that exercise anywhere.  A squat rack is for squatting.”  He said, “Fine, take it.”  I said, “No, the woman waiting takes it—then me. Twelve sets, what a dick.”  

The Best Excuse Around

When you receive a wedding invitation in the mail, you always have the same thought: There goes my entire weekend.  A wedding invitation is just a bill, but instead of Verizon, it’s from Schwarzman.  Thanks a lot, Barry and Jessica.   Like a phone bill, you are given the option to pay the invoice by mail or deliver the payment in person.  A few months before the bill arrives, you receive a preliminary statement known as the “Save the Date” postcard.  Save the date?  Save the trees, just invite me.  All “save the date” means is save some money to spend on me.  This adorable postcard provides you six months to make travel arrangements, purchase gifts, and initiate the anticipatory dread that only builds as the event draws near.  Far worse is when a friend requests that you be in their wedding party.  This paperless bill runs a bridesmaid on average two hundred dollars for her matching pastel gown, and a groomsman a similar fee if the husband-to-be decides to have all of his men dress up like “Men In Black,” in identical suits.  In my lone gig as a best man, I had to buy a suit for four hundred dollars in addition to the train ticket, hotel, and gift that I had already obtained.  Is their happiness worth a thousand dollars to me?  No, it isn’t.

Unfortunately, the golden rule applies to weddings—if they went to yours, you have to go to theirs. You check the books, see what they gave you, and match their donation.  If they bought you a fifteen dollar Bennett Bowl off of your Crate and Barrel registry, you will not be more generous.  If you received a check for three hundred dollars, you will aggregate a gift with similar value. Of course, if you are not married, this tit-for-tat conduct does not apply.

Thankfully, there are extenuating circumstances that afford you the opportunity to salvage your weekend and dodge a friend’s big day.  A destination wedding in Bali, a major illness, or a holiday weekend all lend you this privilege.  As an aside, I fervently believe that a couple that selects a holiday weekend to wed should serve two life sentences in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison.  There is one group of individuals that have been delegated the most seamless route to bypass an undesirable event— they are called parents.  Sure, kids are a miracle, often adorable, and add clarity and purpose to a grown-up’s life.  They also provide their creators with with a vat of magnificent excuses that are impossible to invalidate. “Oh, I’m sorry, Jack has a soccer tournament in Syracuse, we won’t be able to attend.  Mazel Tov!”  “Lindsey has her best friend’s Bat Mitzvah the same weekend.  Sorry but we’re unable to make it.  We wish you health and happiness together.”  As a father to a seven month-old son, I am excited to raise my kid to the best of my ability, love and support my wife, and exploit every opportunity to sidestep a wedding.

The Daddy Workout

Becoming a parent can add clarity, purpose, and several layers of body fat to your waist if you eat when the baby eats, eat when the baby sleeps, and eat when the baby weeps.  All of a sudden, your once fit physique now shares the outline of a garbage can.  In a study at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, more than 10,000 men were tracked over a 20-year period.  The men who became dads gained on average 4.4 pounds and the men with no kids lost 1.4 pounds.

As a former competitive bodybuilder, the challenge of staying fit while being a present, loving husband and father is no easy feat.  The opportunity to exercise is scarce and the motivation to hit the gym when you are exhausted is non-existent.  Deservedly, your child becomes your main priority and your own health becomes secondary.  You eat what is readily available with little concern for nutrition and sleep whenever there is a spare moment.  Unfortunately, this lifestyle can lead to large increases in weight over time, and raise a parent’s risk of diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.  Just as it is your responsibility to love and care for your child, it is imperative to pay close attention to your own health, or the quality and length of your life as a parent and spouse may be reduced.  

Since my son was born almost seven months ago, I’ve had to make several changes to my workouts to accommodate the enjoyable, hectic lifestyle.    First off, no more insanely heavy weights.  My days of 500-pound deadlifts are over because I cannot afford to injure myself.  The muscles that are most crucial when handling a baby are the lower back, shoulders, and legs—a lower back injury makes changing a diaper and lifting my son up a much more difficult task.  I focus on abdominal, leg, and lower back work to keep these areas strong.  Remember, lower back pain can be due to weak or tight hamstrings so it’s important to make sure that they are both strong and flexible.  Spend time stretching this muscle either at home or in a yoga class. 

Secondly, my hour-long workouts have been cut in half to 30 minutes.  If you move quickly from exercise to exercise, you can accomplish a great deal in that amount of time.   When the baby naps or before he wakes up in the morning is the best time to go to the gym—as long of course, as your spouse is home to watch your child.  

Here is my Super Parent Workout that I recommend to everyone with children:

Day 1: Shoulders, Arms Abs 

Lateral Raises: 3 sets of 12, 10, 08 reps 

Upright Rows: 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps

Barbell Curls: 3 sets of 15, 12, 12 reps

Lying Triceps Extensions:  3 sets of 12, 10, 8reps 

Leg Raises - 3 sets of  20 reps

Cable Crunches with Rope - 3 sets of 25 reps 

 * Superset lateral raises with overhead barbell press, barbell curls with overhead extensions, and leg rasies with crunches.  That means two exercises back to back with no rest. 

 Day 2:  Legs, Abs, Lower Back

Squats: 4 sets of 20, 15, 12, 8 reps

Lunges: 3 sets of 15 reps

Stiff Legged Deadlifts: 3 sets of 12 reps

Hyperextensions: 3 sets of 15 reps

(No supersets in this workout)

 Day 3: Cardio - 20-30 minutes of joggin, spinning, or walking on an incline.

Day 4: Chest, Back, Abs

Incline Dumbbell Press: 3 sets of 15, 12, 10 reps

Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets of 15, 12, 12 reps

Flat Dumbbell Flyes: 3 sets of 15, 12, 12 reps

One-Arm Dumbbell Rows: 3 sets of 15, 12, 12, reps

Incline Twisting Crunches (on ab board): 3 sets of 20

Leg Raises: 3 sets of 20 

(Superset incline presses with lat pulldowns, flat dumbbell flyes with one-arm dumbbell rows, and Incline twisting crunches with leg raises.)  

 Day 5 Legs, Lower Back, Abs

Leg Press: 3 sets of 20

Calf Raises on Leg Press: 3 sets of 25

Leg Extensions: 3 sets of 1

Hyperexensions: 3 sets of 15

Crunches: 3 sets of 25

Day 6: Cardio  

Day 7: Rest 

These four weight workouts each week should take no longer than 30 minutes to complete.  If you can’t complete the exercises in that time, your rest periods are too long.  

Increase weights on each set of each exercise (not including abs and lower back) 

Most importantly, enjoy every moment with your child!

The Secret to Marriage is Television

They say the secret to marriage is communication.  It isn’t, it’s television—lots and lots of television.  Seriously, you're married!  What are you going to talk about?  You know everything about them.  “How was your day?”  “Good."  "Yours?”  “Good.”  Fine, we’re done.  What, you want to talk?  What should we watch on TV?  You want to talk some more?  What should we have for dinner?  As long as you have something to watch and something to eat, your marriage stands a fighting chance.  God forbid you run out of TV shows, and you quickly realize just how barren your marriage really is.  Far worse is if you make the fatal mistake of watching an episode of a show without them—“You watched Homeland without me?  That’s it, I want a divorce!” Thankfully, my wife and I trust one another not to cheat with a TV show and we appreciate the time together to bond over murder mysteries.  We even have a rule—if nobody is killed, we won't watch.  However, if the program features serial killers, stalkers, kidnappers, love triangles, mistaken identities, and arsenic, we’re all in!  Together we make predictions and then argue our case, “She killed him for the life insurance and made it look like a suicide.”  “No, I think it was his crazy mistress.” Yes, we are twisted and incredibly fortunate that we found one another. 

Research has shown that couples that watch TV together form stronger relationships, especially when they lack mutual friends.  According to Aberdeen University psychologists, this may be because the couples “adopt” on screen characters and think of them as pals, to make up for the absence of real life mutual friends.  Similarly, they found that reading the same books also strengthens relationships.  

Of course conflict can arise when your partner is incapable of staying awake for the entire show.  In my marriage, I am the one that passes out ten minutes in, and I am lambasted for my poor endurance each time that it occurs.  She was even forced to instill a creed that states “We're not rewinding and don’t ask me what happened."  Far too often, she looks over and sees my eyes closed or far worse, hears me snoring.  “You’re not even watching!,” she yells.  And I snap up quickly, “Yes, I am, what are you talking about?”  She says, “Yeah, then what just happened?”  I say, “What do you mean?  The cop shot the wrong guy."  "Yeah, nice try.” 

It is the responsibility of both parties to constantly seek out shows to watch together, and make sure you have back ups! When you notice that there are only two episodes left of “Big Little Lies,” have “The Sinner” waiting on deck.  Once that show nears completion, have “Mindhunter" in place.  Everybody knows that marriage takes hard work, and maintaining a constant supply of viewing material is a big part of the job.  There is no excuse for having nothing to watch together, so do your research, talk to friends, and avoid a wasted night in endless pursuit of a program. 

Diary of a Helicopter Parent

“Don’t be a helicopter parent,” my wife said to me as I freaked out while our six month-old son held a dirty sock in his mouth.  I asked, “What’s a helicopter parent?”  She said, “You are.”  I said, “But what is it?”  She said, “It’s a parent that overreacts to everything.  You need to calm down.  He’s going to put a lot of things in his mouth—he’s a baby.”  As I strive to maintain composure, one act that enrages me above all others is when a stranger touches my son without asking permission.  Of course, if they did ask permission, the answer would be an unequivocal “No,” but since they don’t, my blood swiftly boils over.  In an elevator, I will be holding my son and someone will say, “Look at those cheeks” and squeeze them.  I’ll be pushing him in his stroller in the park and someone will walk up to us and say, “Aren’t you a little cutie?,” and touch his arm.  We’ll be sitting in a restaurant and the waitress will say, “He has so much hair” and then run her hands through it.  Each time this happens, I glare at the perpetrator until they abruptly realize that the petting zoo is closed.  Immediately, I break out the baby wipes and clean his hands and cheeks, and then bathe him the second we arrive home.

To me, it’s simple—never touch a baby and don’t pet a dog without first asking the owner’s permission.  Since we also have a five-pound, yorkie-poodle mix, on certain lucky days, I get to witness a stranger touch both my son and dog in the same forward gesture.  When this occurs, it takes every ounce of restraint to not grab their arm and break it in several places. I have no idea where that stranger’s hand has been but imagine that it has touched a subway pole, pushed a shopping cart, handled money, shook a few hands, and then flushed a public restroom toilet. That hand is a Petri dish full of germs and now it has touched my son’s hand which will momentarily be in his mouth.  Some parents allow stranger’s to touch only their baby’s foot.  This makes no sense to me as most infants can put their foot in their mouth.  

When friends and family play with our son, we always insist that they wash their hands. With strangers, there is no opportunity to make this request.  Instead, I have been experimenting with different approaches to keep stranger’s hands off of my son.  “I wouldn’t touch him, he’s been throwing up for weeks” seems to work as does “Get your God damn hands away from him.”  If all else fails, I’ll intercept their reaching hand and swat it away like a basketball player blocks a pass.  Until a law exists that prohibits strangers from touching another person’s child, boundaries will continue to be invaded and parents will double as pugilists.  

The Best Day to Die is Tuesday

If there is an afterlife, and the positive attention and recognition that your death receives is a measure of your contribution to the world, then many great men and women have been dealt an unlucky hand.   The day Groucho Marx died, the world mourned the loss of Elvis Presley.  When Mother Theresa passed away, the outpouring of emotion was for Princess Diana.  On November 22, 1963, the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, the deaths of Aldous Huxley and C.S. Lewis went largely unnoticed.  And poor Farah Fawcett— she succumbed to cancer the same day that Michael Jackson left this world.  Like sharing an Olympic gold medal and squeezing together on the podium,  John Adams and Thomas Jefferson had to divide their death day with one another.  And most recently, Tom Petty passed same day as the worst mass shooting in this country's history.  

Lucky winners in the posthumous public recognition game include Prince, who had the Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower, Niagara Falls, and the Superdome all lit in purple in his honor.  Nelson Mandela had tens of thousands of mourners gathered into a stadium, that included over 50 world leaders and Muhammed Ali’s face covered every newspaper, news magazine, and TV station around world.

Of course, if your last breath acts solely as a catalyst to the first stage of decomposition, the subsequent events of remembrance mean nothing.  But if there exists a hereafter, the best day to die in my opinion is on a Tuesday, a day of robotic banality, and one free of any holiday, natural disaster, mass shooting, or Grammy Award winner's accidental overdose. 

 

In Search of Jay Leno 

I was sitting on a bench in Central Park when a man with a camera around his neck approached me and said in a thick French accent, "Excusez-moi, eh, looking for Jay Leno. is he here?"  I said, "What?"  He said, "Jay Leno, he is here?"  I said, "No, Jay Leno's not here."   I thought to myself, "Why would this tourist be looking for Jay Leno in Central Park?"   Again, he pleaded, "Yes, Jay Leno, he is here. Jay Leno, something."  I said, "Wait, do you mean John Lennon?"  He said, "Yes, Jay Leno!"  I said, "John Lennon, Strawberry Fields, yes, that's over there."  I told him to walk down to the end of the canopy walkway and then turn left.  He said, "Thank you so much, sorry to bother," and set out to find Jay Leno. 

Baby Ballet or Infant Yoga?

This morning I endured the colossal line at Starbucks and overheard two women in front of me discussing the summer plans of their 13 year-old sons.  Mind you, we’re only in November.  "Jake is going to Creative Writing Camp because it will look really good on his college application.  You can never start too early," said a woman in her 40's with frizzy brown hair. In agreement, the other mother said, "I know, it's so competitive now!  That's a really smart idea."  I thought, "No, that is a terrible idea."  The child is only thirteen years old and college is a full five years away.  He will have all of high school to stress out about and improve his holier-than-thou college application.  How about letting him run around outside this summer and maybe even hit puberty? 

As a father to a six month-old infant, I already know several fellow parents of twenty-five pound babies that are fanatics-in-training, and have their little ones engrossed in a schedule far busier than any Olympic athlete.  “Today David has swimming class at 10, music class at 11:30, Hebrew at 4, and baby ballet at 5.”  Now swimming and music class, I understand.  But baby ballet?  The kid can’t sit up without toppling over, but he’s going to pirouette like Baryshnikov? And Hebrew?  He can’t speak or understand one word of English—the only language spoken at home—but he’s going to chant "Shema Israel?"    

What is this rush to make a child literally run before he can walk?  Do parents occupy their infants in these activities because they think that they are beneficial or merely to provide a babysitter?  Besides being a gargantuan waste of funds, the infant could be doing something much more productive, such as tummy time or even napping. "Parents need to teach their kids to balance human doing with human being," said clinical psychologist Paula Bloom.  “As parents, we've got to get over our anxiety that we're not doing enough. Creating a sense of safety, helping kids have confidence to try certain things, those are the things that matter.  As adults, your kids are going to tell their therapists, 'Oh my parents never let me play piano,' or some other activity. It's going to happen. Being able to tolerate that is really important.”  

Now off to baby yoga!  

While You're Up

My wife is the Queen of “While you’re up” — While you’re up, can you get me my chapstick?  While you’re up, can you fill up my water bottle?  While you’re up, can you throw in a load of laundry?  To rise up off of the couch means to be bombarded with tasks and by the hypersonic speed that she rails off requests, she must comprise her list  twenty minutes beforehand and like a predator, wait to pounce on her prey the moment she detects movement.   

When we leave the city to see friends or family who happen to live in a house, she adds “While you’re upstairs” to the artillery—“While you’re upstairs, can you bring down the phone charger?”  “While you’re upstairs, can you bring down my iPad?”  If I happen to be downstairs and her upstairs, she simply reverses the noun and alters the plea to “While you’re downstairs, can you bring up my Kindle?”  Dare I venture out into the world, I receive a text, “While you’re out, can you get me cereal and milk, and also paper towels, formula and gas drops?”  I’ll reply “Yes,” and ten minutes later receive the text, “When you get home, can you move the dresser to other side of Benjamin’s room?” 

When you are a married man with kids, there are no days off or lunch breaks.  Like a Fitbit, your wife tracks each step and fills in any gap in your schedule with new tasks.

These demands all must be met or you may never have sex again.  Plus, the only excuse to shirk on a task is “I’m too tired,” and that is unacceptable in any house.  When we first got married, my wife and I would compete each night over who was more tired  She’d say, “Oh my God, I’m so tired” and I’d reply, “I know, I’m exhausted, too.”  I think I slept for like two hours last night.”  She’d retort, “Well, I slept for one. And I heard you snoring last night” and I’d protest, “Yeah, well I get up earlier than you do.”  After a few years of pissing her off, I no longer play this losing hand.  No matter the situation and regardless of veracity, my wife always holds the title of  “Most Tired.”  

To maintain a climate of respect, I now preemptively ask my wife if she needs anything before I stand up, go outside, move up and down stairs, or arrive home at the end of the day. This makes both of our lives less stressful, even if it leaves me the more tired one.  

Stay Alive for the Kids

Yesterday my wife asked me if I thought that the Coffee-Mate Hazelnut Creamer that we put in our coffee will eventually give us cancer?  I said, “ I sure hope not.”  She said, “But do you think it’s bad for us?”  I said, “Oh, absolutely, it’s terrible.”  She said, “Great.”  A few minutes later, I asked her, “How much time would you be willing to give up in order to drink Creamer every day for the rest of your life?”  After thirty seconds of silence, she said, “A year.”  I said, “A year?!  She said, “Yeah, cause what else am I going to put in my coffee?  Why, how much time would you give?” I said, “Three or four days—I could always go back to sugar.” Obviously, my wife was joking because today she set out to find a creamer with natural ingredients that lacked hydrogenated oil and known carcinogens.

Unfortunately, there are so many chemical pleasures that are likely to shorten a person's time here.  Research says that smoking one cigarette claims seven minutes of life, about the same time that it takes to smoke it.  Two drinks a day consistently for ten years shaves twenty three years off of your life, a bump of cocaine pilfers six hours, and a heroin addict is robbed of forty-two years.  The use of a tanning bed raises your risk of skin cancer by seventy five percent and each hour of television will cost you twenty two minutes.    

We all know people that resist positive lifestyle changes and will say things like “I don’t care, my grandma smoked two packs a day, ate bacon cheeseburgers for breakfast, and drank Jack Daniels every night of her life, and she lived to be 96.”   Yeah, well that’s her. The majority of the people with that lifestyle don’t see seventy.  As parents to a 6 month-old son, my wife and I are much more conscious of our health, now that we are responsible for this little boy.  That means more exercise, less alcohol, and getting our moles checked every six months.  It means more flossing, less eating, more standing, and less sitting.  It means not sprinting across the street to beat a traffic light or texting when stuck in traffic.  It also means joking more, criticizing less, and keeping our cool about things we have little control over.  Most importantly as well most challenging, it means getting as much sleep as possible. 

Two years ago, I would not have used SPF 50 sunscreen, let alone worry about reapplying.  Thankfully, my wife yells at me now and says, “You know who gets sunburnt?” Uneducated white trash.” She may be harsh at times, but she sure knows how to motivate me  Before our son, I was lax on dental hygiene and definitely would not have signed up for an unpleasant procedure known as a colonoscopy. For the record, the preparation is far worse than the actual exam.  Our future is unknown but we hope to stack the cards in our favor to one day meet and run around with our grandchildren.  

WESTERN BEEF

For 12 years, I have lived on the Upper West Side and enjoyed the beautiful architecture, family atmosphere, and wide sidewalks that display a healthy array of double strollers and dog shit. Though my address has changed several times, my supermarket choices always remained the same– Zabar’s, Trader Joe’s, Westside Market, and Fairway. The latter has always been my pick due to the wide selection, decent prices, and convenience in location. Yes, Fairway is a 24-hour earthquake that will raise your blood pressure and give you arrhythmia, but if you can evade the obstacle course of strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and old, indecisive Jews sampling the grapes and seeking out the ultimate cantaloupe, you have a fighting chance of getting in and out in under ten minutes. The first rule of Fairway: Know your route. If you need apples, chicken, oatmeal, broccoli, tin foil, and water, you can move from left to right through the store without breaking stride–which is the second rule of Fairway. Without fail, you will encounter an argument–if you are on the express line, people will lambaste the person who broke the rule and stands their with a shopping cart instead of a basket. One time on line, I witnessed a 90 year old woman yell at an 85-year old woman for cutting her on line. The situation quickly escalated and the 90 year-old took a roll of Bounty Paper towels and slammed it over the head of the other women. Thankfully, nobody was injured.

A month ago, my wife and I moved to West 63rd Street, making the usual stroll to Fairway on 75th street a much larger chore. I explored the area and found “Gracefully,” a gourmet grocery store with a poor selection and sky-high prices. Knowing that this would not work for me, I ventured south and discovered “Western Beef,” a block down from our building. When I walked in, I quickly realized how different it was–Naughty by Nature’s “Hip Hop Hooray” rocked the airwaves and instead of old Jews, Blacks and Hispanics walked the aisles and filled their shopping carts. I loved it immediately. The prices could not be beat–49 cents for bananas, 2 dollar-a-pound chicken breasts, and Swiss-Miss Hot Chocolate - 2 for 3 dollars. In fact, nearly everything in the store was either 2-for or 3-for. The problem was that in almost every case, there was no discount! A gatorade would be two dollars but the sign would read “3 for 6″, and everybody would grab 3! Oatmeal was 4 for 12 dollars (or 1 for 3). The faux deal signs worked as drinks and snacks flew off the shelves in bulk.

When I was finished shopping, I noticed one long line at one of the cash registers. Though six registers theoretically could be in operation, only one was open until close to 40 people stood on line. At that point, another cashier yelled “6 is now open!” In pure anarchy, we bolted to the new register paying little attention to the previous order that existed. From daily trips over several weeks, I would learn that this was a normal day at “Western Beef” I also learned not to ask the cashier how he or she was doing, after one snapped at me and said, “How the fuck you think I’m doing? I’m here!”

This afternoon at Western Beef, I put my ground beef, crate of eggs, 2 onions, 4 sweet potatoes, 8 bananas, and box of white rice on the conveyor belt for the cashier to tally up. When she put the bananas on the scale, she realized that the scale was broken. I said, “Oh man, that’s not good.” She said “That scale’s been broke for over a week! I keep telling them to fix it but no, they don’t do nothing. You know what, just take it, it’s free. It ain’t my money and if they don’t care, I don’t care!” With that, she placed the onions, bananas, and sweet potatoes in a bag. I did not argue. She said, “That’ll be $18.05.” In shock, I thought to myself “Had I known all produce was free, I would have stocked up even more.” Still, I had come out a winner and will return to Western Beef tomorrow for yet another crazy adventure.

 

 We Should Sue 

A polysaccharide found in barley that is used to make Guinness beer is known to boost milk production in women that breastfeed.  For this reason, four cans of Guinness inhabited our refrigerator but went untouched since my wife hates beer and she has had no problem feeding our hungry boy thus far.  When an esteemed, beer-loving friend arrived at our apartment yesterday to cuddle with our two week-old son, we immediately offered her a can of Guinness which she gladly accepted. After about twenty minutes, her beer was three quarters empty and began making a rattling noise as she sipped it. Perplexed, she looked down into the can and saw a large piece of plastic at the bottom.  She said "Oh my God, there is a giant piece of plastic in my beer.  I could have drank it and died."  Immediately, my wife and I suggested that she sue Guinness and that we split the two hundred million or so dollars in half since it was our beer in our refrigerator that nearly killed her.  We became drunk with excitement and discussed the many ways that we would spend the money.  College tuition for our son would be paid for, we'd buy that dream house in Kauai that we always wanted, and then give the rest to charity.  Okay, maybe not the last part.  But first we needed a lawyer -- do we call Cellino and Barnes or Jacoby and Meyers?  Do we call Guinness or let our lawyer contact them regarding the pending lawsuit?  We couldn't believe our luck!  As least a hundred times in the past year,  I had pondered walking right in front of a speeding cab taking a sharp right turn or deliberately slipping on a sheet of ice in front of a bank.  That was my road to retirement!  Now I  wouldn't have to!  Before our lawsuit began, our friend suggested that we Google "Plastic thing in Guinness Cans" and sure enough thousands of search results popped up.  The plastic ball was actually known as a "widget" and was found in all Guinness cans to compress nitrogen so that the head of the beer was thick and foamy once opened.  We were shattered.  Our amazing future had disappeared before our very eyes and we felt like complete losers.  

 

Pull Out and Pray

When you are lifting weights, it is imperative to push yourself to the point of failure --  to that juncture where you cannot muster another repetition and then find the mental strength to knock out five more! Of course, training to failure raises the chance of injury so it is important to gauge the severity of the discomfort and decipher between good pain versus bad pain.  For instance,  if you are doing heavy deadlifts and you feel a twinge in your lower back, put down the weight immediately.  Approach that instant the way a college freshmen thinks about the Pull Out Method -- when you are about to go past the point of no return, get out quick and cut your losses.  

The Amazing Benjamin Franklin

I just finished reading "The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin" and found it both insightful and inspiring.  A true polymath, Franklin  was a great statesman, scientist, author, printer, and inventor.  Among his many inventions were the lightning rod, glass harmonica, Franklin Stove, and bifocals.  It's amazing how many things he invented!  But is it really that amazing?  Back then, nothing was invented yet -- you had free range!  "It's kind of dark in here." Ding! "My milk keeps spoiling."  Ding!  I'm sick of eating with my hands." Ding!  If we were alive back then, I am confident that each one of us would have invented something wonderful.    

Age Gracefully

Aging is a question of what doesn't hurt. After you turn 30, you wake-up each morning and assess the damage.  Does my knee hurt? No?  Great, I can walk.  Does my back hurt?  No?  Cool, I can stand up straight.   Does my shoulder hurt?  No? Wonderful, I can open a door.  Nevertheless, I love getting older and waking up achy, passing out early, plucking the grays, watching my friends become parents, and some other ones go bald. 

Every obnoxious 23-year-old has that moment in which they realize that they are older than the athletes on television. Immediately, they go into a panic and root against every player their minor. These days, I turn on the TV and see the gifted spawn of players that I grew up watching such as Stephen Curry, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Patrick Ewing Jr. Their fathers can usually be spotted sitting courtside with a big grin on their face that says, “Been there, done that, it’s Junior’s turn."   Sometimes the children are better than their parents, but most often, they’re not.  If you're jealous of those younger than you, you are forgetting how ignorant you were at that age. With a little luck, I hope to see and root for the grandchildren of players that I grew up watching. 

Hot Shower and Pajamas

“I wake up dreaming about going back to sleep,” said a friend of mine.  “There’s nothing better than a shower followed by pajamas,” said another.  To many of us, going to sleep at night is the highlight of the day. Of course, some may take exception to this and voice the hackneyed phrase, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”  Great, you enjoy that posthumous nap.  I’ll sleep when I’m alive, thank you very much.  You know, just in case.  

After monitoring my stress level for the past few years, I can declare the following conditional statement  — The earlier I am in pajamas, the happier I am.  I find nothing worse than getting home late at night and having to jump in the shower and then go right to bed.  On the other hand, being in pajamas by 6 PM is pure bliss.  If you find yourself stressed out and feel like you never have a chance to wind down, you need more pajama time.  Cancel happy hour, dinner plans, and that Off-Broadway play that you don't really want to see, and go home, take a shower, and get in your pajamas.   As I type this, I am  sprawled on the couch in my blue Superman pajama pants and gray t-shirt and have never been more relaxed. The secret is out--happiness is found in pajamas.