Wednesday, December 04, 2019

Carry On ...and Under

In 2013, the United States Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional Chicago's outright ban on handguns, which then opened the floodgates for the state of Illinois — begrudgingly — to legalize concealed carry, the last state in the union to do so.

Having purchased a handgun while I lived in Georgia, and having toted that handgun with me on my several moves since then, I was a little wiggy about trying to register it, concerned about the questions it might bring up, like when I purchased it or where. I was assured by one in the know that it was of no concern, so, also in 2013, I applied for and received my Illinois Firearm Owner's Identification (FOID) card.

Stuff I Should Have Blogged About
Then, some five years after Illinois adopted CCW, my brother, who was in possession of the small caliber revolver my father had owned (given to him by an old friend back in the early 1970s), asked me if I would be interested in going with him to a CCW certification class, which is mandatory in order to legally carry in Illinois. I had told him I was interested, but not at the moment.

With my eye on a handsome IRS refund in early 2018, I laid out my CCW plan. As the handgun I purchased in Georgia some 20 years earlier is just a bit too big for comfortable concealment, I opted to purchase a new, compact semi-automatic. I researched heavily and found the one I wanted, and the dealer from which I wanted to purchase it. That didn't go smoothly, however, as the person with whom I made the transaction (he presents himself online as a firearms shop, however he operates out of his home while he waits for the pieces to fall into place for an actual store) didn't follow through with the arrangement we had made for me to pick it up after the 72-hour waiting period, and he was neither answering his phone nor returning my calls. So I had to work through JPMorgan Chase to negate that purchase. I went instead with an established local shop.

Around the first of the year — Resolution time — I told my brother I was ready to go, and eager to take the class with him. He had just retired, however, and suddenly wasn't comfortable with the cost of the course.

So, in March, I signed up by my own self for the Illinois 16-hour CCW course. As a military veteran, I had the option of skipping the first eight-hour class covering handgun familiarization, but it had been more than 20 years since I had fired any kind of weapon, so I thought it best to take the full class. Despite a few ass-kicker test questions about weapons carry laws, the course was a piece of cake.

As a convenience, a local entrepreneur came in on the second day of class to offer his services in expediting the application procedure for the students. I paid the extra to allow him to do this; all he needed were copies of my driver's license and my FOID (it's pronounced as a word, "foyd.") card. I was told that, after submission of the application, I could expect the full three months' wait for the license to arrive in the mail.

On June 19, exactly three months after the class, I received a letter in the mail from the Illinois State Police Firearms Services Bureau stating that, due to a discrepancy in my application documents, processing of my CCW license is delayed, and if I didn't respond within 60 days, it would be disqualified. The discrepancy? Illinois State Police put the incorrect zip code on my FOID card back in 2013, when I applied for that (because I owned the handgun purchased in Georgia), and the dude expediting the applications used the address from my FOID card instead of my driver's license. I corrected the error on the ISPFSB website within — literally — seconds of reading the letter, and I wound up waiting another three whole months until the CCW license finally arrived in late September, followed two days later by an updated FOID card. Hmmm.

I should have made the whole ordeal a blog series. It would have helped maintain my sanity through the summer and, hey, someone might have read it.

Hypocrisy?
Now, one who stumbles upon this post (since my regular(?) readers have all but disappeared) may wonder, "Why do you, a librul own — not one but two — handguns?! Don't that make you a hypocrite?" (Sorry for the effected grammar ignorance. You just sound like that in my head.)

And no, that does not make me a hypocrite. I have never been anti-gun. I often refer to myself, when the topic comes up in discussion, as a Second Amendment liberal. What I am against is gun proliferation. I am one man. I have two hands. How many guns do I need, how many could I run at one time to defend myself? I am not a hunter, but, were I, I would likely possess a tool for the task. I don't know the number at which a limit should be placed, but I feel there should be a limit. I'm good with two.

Practice Makes Accurate ...er
After the purchase of the new handgun, I made it to a couple of the local ranges on an average of about once a month until I joined a defensive pistol league through the same organization through which I took the CCW course. I've learned through practice and the league that I'm a pretty good shot, but I'm lazy and impatient. Also, twenty years on, my vision ain't so great, any more. With my one good eye, corrective lens for nearsightedness and a reading magnification, the ends of my extended arms are the perfect length where I can't focus on the front sight of the weapon with my prescription glasses on. Fortunately, the target is supposed to be blurry beyond the front sight, as it's blurry regardless, without my glasses!

Feeling a little more secure in my abilities, these days I carry as often as I can outside of the myriad places Illinois law and individual business owners prohibit. It's a lifestyle that takes getting used to, and I'm working on getting used to it.


# # #

Monday, December 02, 2019

Sharp Curves

It's funny how we humans relate to — and with — music. Some of us barely notice its presence; some of us have a few favorites within a genre or two. Others among us are fully immersed in it and some of us play or even write it.

Me? As with so much else in my life, I'm right in the middle there, somewhere. I can immerse myself in listening; I wish I could truly play beyond noodling around on a keyboard when I get the chance or — these days — the desire. That noodling has in the past resulted in a few tunes pleasing to my ears, though I have seldom shared it. Very seldom.

I got into music later than most people. It seemed my peers as early as junior high were banging their heads to some popular tune or another on the radio, whereas I kind of noticed a few songs I liked. I was also a dork, so, when I did start turning on to music, I didn't like most of what the other kids were into. I liked Billy Joel. I liked Journey. Rush. Cheap Trick. There were only a few others.

But I hated Van Halen.

I hated the smug, "I'm so sexy," self-fellating screech that the lead singer employed in just about every ...no, scratch that ...in every stupid song they got played on radio stations — which, I was certain, they achieved by providing chicks or drugs or money or all three to radio station executives in order to get their brand of shit on the airwaves.

It didn't help that, of my friends, my peers, who were the band's devotees, a good number of them drew, etched, or otherwise festooned their notebooks, jeans, jackets and the school's desks with the Van Halen logo.

And then I entered the Air Force, where I learned many, many important things, among them the sanity-saving practice of immersion into music. Lackland Air Force Base was the only installation that conducted Air Force basic training and, therefore, had a sizeable program for providing escape and places for new airmen to decompress. One avenue was the base library listening room, decked out with cassette and reel-to-reel tape machines, and a wide selection of music to sit and listen to, and even to record and make one's own mix tape. Through 18 weeks and three consecutive military training courses, I spent many hours disappearing between the cups of a pair of headphones exploring new music.

And I still hated Van Halen.

One Saturday morning, on the recreation bus from Camp Bullis, about a 30-minute ride to Lackland, in San Antonio, Texas, some douchebag was cranking the volume up on his boom-box with the unmistakable vocal preening of the lead singer of none other than Van Halen. I didn't have my Walkman with me for some reason, so I had no defense against the narcissism onslaught that none of the other young men on the bus that morning seemed to mind. Sometime later in the ride, I heard the welcome relief of a sort of ragtime jazz tune. I thought to myself that the kid with the boom box had an eclectic taste in music. But then I heard that voice. It was still Van Halen! But ...wait a minute! Acoustic guitar? Is that a clarinet playing on this tune?! And then another tune, this time a cover of "Happy Trails," sung a capella in four-part harmony?! Though done just a bit tongue-in-cheek, it sounded good!

I called over to the other kid. "Hey! What the hell is that?"

"Van Halen," he said. Duh. "Diver Down."

Three months later, now stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Great Falls, Montana, among my selections for my first month of Columbia House Record and Tape Club membership was Van Halen's Diver Down album, their fifth release, and my first step toward broadening a horizon. I had dismissed the band as a loud, brainless, head-banging, three-chord hard rock band. They are those things a bit, but not so much of the brainless, as I learned through listening and research that the lead guitarist, Edward Van Halen, is a classically trained guitarist who, I came to realize as I listened to more and more of their music, is an amazingly versatile, agile, and innovative virtuoso master of his instrument. That clarinet I heard on the jazzy "Big Bad Bill (Is Sweet William Now)" is played by Jan Van Halen, Edward's classically trained father, and the song, though a classic Milton Ager/Jack Yellen jazz tune originally written in 1924, was chosen and arranged by big-haired, big ego lead singer, David Lee Roth.

A new respect for the group opened my mind up to the rest of their music and, barely six months after that Texas bus ride, I was a fan of Van Halen.

Now, some 35 years after that fateful day, I find myself sitting once again next to a stereo turntable, spinning my vinyl LPs (Long Playing records) and pumping them into my computer to convert them to digital files. I had already once, years ago, recorded everything to cassette tape, but as that format faded from wide use and cassette players became scarce and proved themselves less reliable and versatile than digital, I have had to revisit the collection.

When I started, it occurred to me that it has been at least 20, maybe 25 years since I've heard most of this music. It has brought back to me the memories of many moments of escape, cruising the streets of downtown Great Falls, the green pastures of the Hunsrück in Germany, and the restless years after returning home from the Air Force and before embarking on my video production career.

And dropping into the band'sgrooves has brought back this memory of my 180 degree turn on Van Halen, and its lesson to me to always be willing to try the unfamiliar or the uncomfortable. You may come away from the experience with your mind unchanged, but you will nonetheless be changed, as you will have a new perspective, a deeper understanding, and some semblance of an inside knowledge of the thing about which you knew nothing before.









# # #

Monday, November 11, 2019

The Comeback From My Most Recent Comeback

So this is yet another "I'm getting back to my writing" post, but, as has been the case in the past, we'll see. I recently purchased a laptop computer, which, some time after my previous computer purchase I realized would have been the better choice than what I purchased in that previous purchase (a desktop computer and an iPad). This will give me the full mobile functionality of a computer than my iPad gave me which, as I regrettably realized in the afterglow of the purchase, was little more than a glorified iPhone without the phone capability.

Anyhoo, this latest push to return to writing reflects a few new things on my table. Obviously, the laptop. Also, in April I started a new job with the same employer I started with in November of 2016, and am now the Executive Secretary to a department manager. There really isn't much to add about that. It's a desk job moving papers from one pile to other piles.

Late in the summer I started a modest fitness regimen. Seeing as how my foray ten years ago (TEN YEARS AGO?!) into the results-driven world of P-90X resulted in double shoulder injuries which my non-insurance-having status prevented me from getting properly diagnosed or treated, a reader could safely assume I'm not going in that direction again ...unless said reader assumes I'm stupid ...which I am, but I'm not that stupid!

No, this time around I'm getting my cardio in the form of early-morning, hour-long walks at roughly a fifteen-minute-mile pace, three days a week, and a fairly easy routine of weights work two days a week. The specific aim is to strengthen my shoulders, hoping that the injuries I sustained were due more to weak joint muscles than actual tearing of tissue; the general aim is overall fitness and muscle tone, as I have officially reached senior citizen status and I don't want the last vestiges of youth to escape me without a fight. In other words, late-stage mid-life crisis.

There are a few other new things to expound upon, some of which I haven't shared with my regular crowd(?) of friends or family, which will be revealed to the world here.

At first (he says, not exactly fully confident that he will return to Blogger again before another year has passed), this regrettably will amount to little more than an online diary of "whut I been up to," as, admittedly, the years of Facebook and being away from regularly blogging have affected my skill of contemplation. It is my hope that, as I think about writing and write what I think, my thinking will return to thinking and not just thinking about what I will write about next. Contemplation. Reflection. Word craft.

It's an odd thing. For nearly three years, I dated Donna, a perfectly lovely woman with whom things went sour and definitely not perfectly lovely, at which point we split. Upon parting, she requested that I not make our breakup public, or at least not make it fodder for Facebook posts. Out of respect for her, I honored her wish. However, I realized that, as a creature of Facebook, most of what I had posted during our time together revolved around our relationship. I had stopped, for the most part, parsing my day-to-day experiences to the world and had turned my focus to us. When there was no longer an us, I realized I had forgotten how to share. However, seeing as how, prior to my relationship with Donna, I posted SO MUCH on Facebook, I saw my distance from it as a good thing. The problem was that, as Facebook had taken me away from blogging, Donna and the aftermath of our relationship had taken me away from the practice of daily contemplation and reflection.

I have been desperately trying to feel that drive again.

I hope this new toy will rekindle it.



# # #

Friday, May 10, 2019

A General, Warm Melancholy

It's one thing to regard an elderly celebrity or acknowledge when one passes, but it takes a lifetime of fandom — or at least of frequent regard — to really appreciate the contribution to your life a certain person has had, and the effect you experience when that person is revealed to be, simply, human.

These thoughts crept up on me during a recent concert I attended by the Temptations and the Four Tops. I was a big fan of neither group growing up, but each group had several hits that crossed over into the world of music that reached me during my childhood and teen years. Each group now has only one surviving original member; Otis Williams of the Temptations is 77, and Abdul "Duke" Fakir of Four Tops is 83. With younger, more agile talent keeping each group moving, it was a delightful show.

Perhaps it is just a middle-age thing, but I found myself fascinated and somewhat saddened by these old dudes up on the stage. Immensely talented and immeasurably fortunate, they chased and captured fortune and fame through their lives, but they couldn't outrun time. I found myself regretting that I hadn't followed their careers more closely.

But that got me to thinking about careers I did follow. One in particular is that of Steve Perry, most famously the lead singer of the rock band, Journey. I suppose I didn't so much follow his career so much as I was acutely aware of it because I am such a fan.

I didn't know much about Journey before 1981, when their album of that year, Escape, caught my attention. All I knew about them was their hit songs that had been played on local radio for only the whole of my teen years to that point. What I didn't realize was that, despite being a band since the early 1970s, they weren't a phenomenon until Mr. Perry came along in 1978 and gave them lyrical and vocal prominence. Of course, also little to my knowledge, I became a true fan of Journey just about at the peak of their fame, and about the middle point of Steve Perry's musical arc.

I wasn't much into music as a teen. Perhaps the only record I owned outright, the only record I listened to in my childhood that hadn't been handed down from my older siblings, was "Bohemian Rhapsody," by Queen, which I had purchased on 45 rpm single in 1975, when it was still in regular rotation on the local radio stations. I was 11 years old. Then, in my junior and senior years in high school, popular music truly started speaking to me. I remember asking for — and receiving — three distinctive albums for Christmas, 1981: Dream Police, by Cheap Trick; Permanent Waves by Rush; and Journey's Escape. Mixed in during that time was access to my siblings' handed down albums for already classic rock standards, and my formal introduction to/discovery of the Beatles.

After that, the first group I followed was Journey. In 1983 I breathlessly awaited the release of their new album, Frontiers. When my favorite radio station, after having played their new single, "Separate Ways...Worlds Apart" from Frontiers, for weeks on the radio, switched without mention to the album version of the song, which has a longer vocal/instrumental interlude after the last verse, I had a fan-girl type meltdown!

While in the US Air Force and earning my own money, I back-collected their offerings from their beginnings as an off-shoot from Santana (singer/keyboardist Gregg Rolie; guitarist Neal Schon), and into the Steve Perry era, connecting the dots to Escape.

With the entire library in my possession, I noticed between Departure and Frontiers a gradual deterioration in the overall quality of Perry's voice, and a distinct reduction in, if not his vocal range, then his willingness to go there.

I was a reluctant fan of Steve Perry's 1984 solo album, Street Talk. Reluctant because, shouldn't Steve be working on the next Journey album? Fan, because, dammit, there were some good songs on that album!

Then, in 1986, Journey released Raised On Radio. Indicated by the title, alone, there was trouble. It broke from their long tradition of one-word, themed album titles, certainly since the beginning of the Perry era: Infinity (1978), Evolution (1979), Departure (1980), Escape, Frontiers. Perry's voice was yet more scratchy, and gone altogether were the stratospheric high notes for which he was famous. Then, in the album liner notes, there was the photo of the band: Perry, keyboardist Jonathan Cain, and Schon, the only original member of what had always been a 5-man group. The list of credits for each song revealed the other longtime members abandoning ship and being replaced by studio musicians during the creation of the album. And it sounded more like a Steve Perry album than Journey.

And then there was silence. Behind the scenes there was turmoil and personal strife between the members. Publicly, there were rumors: "Steve Perry has throat cancer" had the strongest legs and persisted for a long time.

And then, 1995 brought Trial By Fire, the first Journey album in nine years! Perry's voice sounded even worse. But, the more-than-one-word title aside, the new album heralded to me the long-awaited return of Journey to the radio, to the arena, to rock and roll prominence.

They officially broke up shortly after the album's release.

And that was the last anyone, for the most part, heard of Steve Perry.

Until 2017.

The internet went abuzz when Perry made a surprise appearance with a band called The Eels at a small Minneapolis, Minnesota, venue. Performing in the band's encore, Perry sang an Eels song, and then two Journey standards, "Lights," and "Don't Stop Believin'." It was his first stage appearance anywhere in 25 years.

In 2018, Journey was inducted into the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Perry spoke on behalf of the band in their acceptance, but declined to perform with them out of respect for their current lead singer, of whom he spoke glowingly in recorded interviews after the ceremony. Then, later in the year, he surprised the music world by releasing a new solo album, Traces, written in the aftermath of the death of his girlfriend, who had succumbed to cancer.

In the collection of mostly mellow, reflective tunes, Perry, now age 70, retains the classic tone of his voice, but it is clearly tattered from the overuse and abuse in his heyday, and from lack of use after he stepped away from the business in the 1990s, not to mention his age.

Seventy years old. As I have mentioned in this blog before, celebrities who step away from — or who are otherwise shunned by — the spotlight don't age in my mind, so when one whose voice still rings pure in my memory and every time I spin one of his old tunes appears suddenly old, it is quite a shock, as it is often just hearing one's current age.

In moments such as these, I'm filled with a melancholy that's hard to shake. Is it their glory years I mourn, or my own? Will their music — or anyone's music, for that matter — ever make me feel like I did that day Frontiers was released?

I felt a brief spark when I learned of, and downloaded, and listened to Traces because I am still a fan, after all, but nothing was ignited.

Maybe it's maturity, or maybe it's just the result of getting old: there are a few sparks, even fewer fires, but, mainly, a general, warm melancholy.

# # #

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Life, Simplified - Part 4: Smile, Redux

I don't think there is one among us humans who has not benefited from being told of, or who hasn't stumbled across a technique or process or a trick that makes life simpler. Sometimes it's an evolution of steps in an activity that we tend to pare down into a more streamlined way, only to be shocked some time later when reminded of how we used to do it. Other times it's a sudden realization that we could do a task in a totally different way that shaves time or effort from our day. Or sometimes it's much, much bigger than that.

In a series of posts — because I think one post to cover all of them would just be too long ...like that ever stopped me before — I will highlight the things I have discovered on my own which have made life better.


A Life Experiment, Perhaps
It has been a couple years since I wrote The Power of the Smile, and a couple more years since I began applying that of which I wrote, and I want to present an update. Go ahead and read The Power of the Smile again (come on! I linked it twice!) and then come back here to finish. I'll be brief. I promise. Go. I'll wait.

Welcome Back
Life will always have its ups and downs. Setbacks. Triumphs. Love. Loss. Two years ago I waxed romantic about smiling and finding love and, well, that romance was brief. Though I couldn't keep the girl, I kept the smile and, I must say, my words then still ring true today. Plastering a smile on my face daily no matter in what mood I awake really is the key to smoothing out the day. I have changed jobs since I wrote about smiles, and my daily work stress is probably greater than it was as a valet manager, and I still grumble when things don't run smoothly or when the crap seems to pile on more quickly than I can shovel. But now I take several moments a day to step back from it, look at myself, and smile. It's absurd. It's not brain surgery. It's the stuff of sitcoms. And I laugh.

The practice of smiling truly has changed my life for the better. I feel happier even though the circumstances of my life have not greatly improved. Moments of inevitable anger or frustration at the obstacles in my life don't last nearly as long as they used to. I have learned not to dwell on them. I have learned to smile. If smile dopamine is pumping through my body, anger mojo can't take hold.

It's the easiest self-help in the world: Just. Smile.



# # #

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Life, Simplified - Part 3: Within the Circle

I don't think there is one among us humans who has not benefited from being told of, or who hasn't stumbled across a technique or process or a trick that makes life simpler. Sometimes it's an evolution of steps in an activity that we tend to pare down into a more streamlined way, only to be shocked some time later when reminded of how we used to do it. Other times it's a sudden realization that we could do a task in a totally different way that shaves time or effort from our day. Or sometimes it's much, much bigger than that.

In a series of posts — because I think one post to cover all of them would just be too long ...like that ever stopped me before — I will highlight the things I have discovered on my own which have made life better.


Have a seat. Ease your mind.
Women haven't had to figure this one out....

For about 46 of my 53 years roaming the planet, I had made life more difficult for myself than it had to be. Like most healthy, able men, I had followed the male social norm of peeing while standing up. It's easy, our underwear is designed for it: just open the flap, whip it out, and let it flow.

However, also like most men, I have terrible aim. And really, it's not so much about the aim, but more about the starting and the stopping. What with an eager surge at the beginning and a dribbling finish, we sometimes (usually) miss the bowl and manage to hit the rim. Or the floor. Or the wall.

I got tired of feeling the impulse to wipe the rim clean with toilet paper, often ignoring said impulse, and subsequently got tired of seeing the dried, yellow stains clinging there later in the day ...or week. Yes, I'm also lazy.

So, one day, in an amazing moment of brilliance, I wondered, "How could I make it so I don't have to clean my toilet so frequently?"

A strange voice, unfamiliar to me in the dark, echoing chasm that is my mind, the voice that is rational, pragmatic reasoning, replied, "Stop peeing on the rim, idiot." My rational, pragmatic reasoning voice doesn't think very highly of me.

"But how do I do that?"

"By placing the source of the stream below the rim, you moron!"

Of course! The pee can't get on the rim if it's never above the rim! That's pure genius! ...or common sense. I often confuse the two.

And so, about three years ago or so, I started sitting down on the toilet to pee. I haven't cleaned my toilet since!

I'M KIDDING!

But it has made my life remarkably better. I'm not having to clean my toilet as often, nor feeling guilty for letting so much time slip in between cleanings. And it's better for my friends because I sit down to pee in their bathrooms, as well. My aim is no better there than at home!

Guys, it doesn't make you any less a man to pee sitting down. Do it. Your girlfriend will appreciate it. Your wife will love you more for it. You'll love yourself for it. Your buddies will... well, they'll probably bust your balls for it publicly, but then they'll go home, look at their disgusting toilets, and realize you really are the genius in their circle!

Really. It will make your life better. It certainly did mine!



# # #

Monday, August 07, 2017

Life, Simplified - Part 2: Go Juice

I don't think there is one among us humans who has not benefited from being told of, or who hasn't stumbled across a technique or process or a trick that makes life simpler. Sometimes it's an evolution of steps in an activity that we tend to pare down into a more streamlined way, only to be shocked some time later when reminded of how we used to do it. Other times it's a sudden realization that we could do a task in a totally different way that shaves time or effort from our day. Or sometimes it's much, much bigger than that.

In a series of posts — because I think one post to cover all of them would just be too long ...like that ever stopped me before — I will highlight the things I have discovered on my own which have made life better.


With a V8, You Can Really GO!
Back in the aught decade, when Oprah! was still on the air, the Chicago affiliate ran it twice a day: once in daytime, and then again at night after the local news. I was still married then, and we would lie in bed and watch Oprah! 'til we crashed, or until Nightline came on. On one particular Oprah! in 2005 or 2006 she featured one of her regular visitors, then up-and-coming daytime talk TV superstar, Dr. Oz. He came on and made the audience squirm by talking about things we are too embarrassed to talk about to our doctors, one of them being our poop.

I'll warn you right now, this post will briefly get a bit graphic, so you may wish to skip to the end and work your way back....

Dr. Oz talked about how some patients had asked him how their poop should be, what it should look like. He said that it shouldn't be hard nuggets, nor should it be really soft or semi-liquid. What it should look like, he said, is a semi-firm, long, unbroken, S-shaped poop. To my relief, he didn't show photos. And to yours, neither will I.

But I lay there thinking, "Mine aren't like that. They vary wildly from one far end of that spectrum to the other and back." He babbled on about the way to achieve the S-shaped poop, but it all sounded like much effort, and I fell asleep.

Flash forward to 2009, and my earnest effort to lose some weight and get into shape. I hired a personal trainer who tasked me with keeping a journal of my diet. Of course, he gave me guidance along the way, with a focus on balancing the food groups and cutting out the sugary and high-carb things. What I had not been eating with any kind of regularity prior to his influence was vegetables, but he changed that with a stern expression and some kindly advice. Soon I was eating vegetables in two meals daily.

And, before I realized it, I was making two poops daily that were perfect Dr. Oz S-shaped poops. So easy, and so regular! Dr. Oz was right — as were about a billion other doctors! A healthy diet is key!

But, after a while, I hit a wall vegetable-wise; there were (are) only so many vegetables I like or know how to cook, and it had become expensive since the portions on offer at the grocery stores always seemed to be more than I could eat in a week — especially if I was trying to vary the menu — and I was losing a lot of vegetables to mold and decay in the refrigerator. I had to find an alternative.

After reading lots of labels in grocery store aisles, I finally decided on the low sodium version of V8 Juice. Each bottle is a cocktail made of eight different vegetables (in case you didn't know why they call it V8), and the ingredients list — at least for a major brand — is pretty brief. There is some added citric acid, "natural flavoring," and potassium chloride, but they make up less than two percent of the whole. So I switched completely over from buying and storing and cooking and eating vegetables to having an eight ounce glass of V8 juice with every meal.

My body didn't miss a beat. I still squeezed out those S-shaped poops!

I included V8 in my daily food journals, and my personal trainer said nothing about it until I asked him. Though he said he would prefer if I cooked and ate vegetables, he had nothing bad to say about substituting low sodium V8 for vegetables on my plate.

So, eight years later, though I've fallen off the workout wagon, I still suck down a glass of V8 with dinner. It never gets old. I never get tired of it. ...or of easy poops! Sometimes I forget, and sometimes I'll go out for dinner that is light on the vegetables, to an almost immediate and uncomfortable result in the bathroom. However, it takes only about three days back on the V8 regimen to get me back in that groove.

I suppose, with all the money I've thrown in to V8 in all that time, I should buy stock in Campbell's or General Motors or whoever it is that makes the V8. It has certainly simplified my life and it makes my life better.



# # #