The Bears Won

The Bears were doing well and the bar was humming along at a manageable pace. There wasn’t much of a need for me to be there anymore, and the bartender had just accidentally opened a bottle of Old Style, so clocking out was the only reasonable thing to do. I saddled up on the other side of the bar to knock back way too many shots and beers with the regulars and randos I had come to know so well (or at least was very friendly toward with all the shots and beers on board). One of my coworkers got her purse stuck in a bike lock, and I was able to pry it out, which affirmed my functionality and gave me the bravado I needed to start sending out “Hey. What are you up to?” texts.

The first and only person that I really wanted to see was a good friend who lived less than a block from my bar. She was a regular, and we were fast friends as we shared a lot in common. It didn’t hurt that she was (is) incredibly attractive and charismatic, I suppose. She was in Boystown (if you think that sounds like a gay neighborhood, you are correct) drinking with her friend, so I Ubered my way over.

Her friend was nice enough from what I remember, but she and I were both particularly drunk, so as we are wont to do, we started making out and hanging on each other. At some point her friend started hitting on another gentleman and probably got fed up with our overt display of affection, so he excused himself to the stairwell to continue his conversation out of our line of sight. Fingers crossed he got some action – it’d only be fair after what we put him through.

After making the vast majority of the gay folks around us uncomfortable with our hetero tongue exchange, some loud and enthusiastic conversations with the bartender, a brief stint in the stall of the women’s restroom (there was a gender neutral bathroom, but the stall didn’t lock, so…), and repeatedly pulling my friend off the bar after she hopped up there, we decided it was time to move on. No, not just move on, it was time to fucking dance!

“Hey!” we slurred at the bouncer. “We know we’re drunk and we need to leave. Where’s the best spot to dance?!”

We made our way to a cavernous spot nearby that had a large, pulsating dance floor at the back, where “Slave 4 Britney [Spears] Sundays” was in full swing. She led me by the hand directly to the front, and we hopped straight up on stage. The bouncer responsible for the stage said we were cool, so we ground and gyrated our drunk selves through the next hour and a half. There were trips to the bar to get drinks, but most of them ended up disappearing after we set them down to keep dancing. At some point I was so sweaty that I took my shirt off, but like most nights like this, my memory of it is limited to snapshots of the fun and frolicking like a montage under a strobe light. For the sake of mentioning a couple, we danced with probably five or six other people and at some point I picked my friend up for some dancing with an acrobatic tilt. I also remember us drunkenly yelling, “I love you!” at one another, but with lights and music and hormones blaring, it’s hard not to get caught up in the moment.

Anyway, she had work the next day and was conscious of the time, so we eventually hopped off the stage, I put back on my shirt, and we headed back out to the street. After some convincing, I dragged her to one more dance spot with a Latin vibe. We didn’t finish a couple more beers, then I got us an Uber to her apartment. I kissed her goodnight, said an awkward goodbye (my doing, not hers), then walked the half block back to my still-open bar where I regaled the patrons and my coworkers with stories of my exploits.

After sharing a cigarette or two with some guy, we made enough of a connection that he was intrigued by the prospect of an after-hours joint I’m a member of. We made a stop at his apartment to drink some whiskey that was too high quality for how drunk we both were, then I lead him into the dark, dingy world of Chicago’s late-late night crowd. To his credit, he hung in there for a bit, but eventually his head started to nod and he got my approval to excuse himself (not that he needed it, but he asked for it).

Left to my own devices, I flirted with a lovely trans woman for a while, made some random friends, had them buy me my final beers and shots, then walked through the 9am sunlight to the bus stop. A bus and a train later, I was back in my apartment ordering takeout food I didn’t really need. As with most nights like this, it ended with the sun high in the sky, empty to-go containers, and the strong notion that I probably didn’t need to do it again for a while. Though… It has been a while…

The Radio Silence Is Hurting My Ears

Yesterday afternoon around 5:45pm a woman jumped in front of The L in what police are calling an “apparent suicide.” She jumped off the same platform I find myself on most days, as it’s two blocks from my apartment, and it connects me to the rest of Chicago. Per my MO, I was glib when I talked about it with my coworkers last night.

“I mean, suicide is a selfish act already. Why do you have to add to that by screwing a bunch of commuters out of being on time?” I said.

“Right? Plus now there’s a guy that has to power wash the front of that train. He’s fucked up for a good week.”

I think we both had pretty good points there, but I still can’t help but relate to the lady. Lately, I’ve had serious depression gnawing at the edges of my consciousness, waiting for moments of quiet to chew threw my mental walls and say, “Jump in front of that train!” or “You’ve got that gun… Have you considered…”

My schedule is full and my dog always needs walks, so I’m pretty capable of pushing those thoughts back with reasoning or the emotional appeal of sticking around for the pup, but that doesn’t make the thoughts go away. It just delays them – suicidal procrastination, if you will.

The dark thoughts aren’t all about ending it, obviously. That’s just sort of a fun fantasy that the thoughts play around with. The more prevalent rumination is meaninglessness. The feeling that the days don’t matter, that my contribution to society doesn’t matter, that I don’t matter, etc. I’m reminded that all of that isn’t true when I talk to friends or family, but I find it difficult to reach out to anyone, and if someone reaches out to me I tend to reject it, so I strongly encourage you not to view this as a call to arms.

In fact, stop worrying! I’m fine. I’ve always been fine. I’ll always be fine (I mean, we all die eventually, but I won’t be dying any time soon). I can’t always worry about your worrying in my writing, otherwise I’ll just be stuck not writing anything at all. Sometimes I just need to write things down to process them – share where I’m at in order to move forward, which is what I’m doing right now. I’ve been stuck in a quagmire of writer’s block that stems from my concern for your feelings, but I’m pretty sure that hasn’t been healthy for me, so we’re all going to have to suck it up and power through it.

My point – if there is one at all beyond the need to vent – is that I understand that woman. Her choice presents me with a stark contrast between my feelings and her action. It highlights for me the fact that I don’t want to be her. I’ve got very cool things to accomplish in the near future. I’ll be applying to grad schools soon to study things I’ve always had a sincere interest in. I’ll get to research and teach ways of viewing the world that I believe in strongly, and that’s cool as fuck. This little vortex of negativity is temporary.

Mother Nature is wasting no time in driving the point home, as it’s raining heavily outside right now. Annie might’ve been a little overly optimistic, as the most recent weather forecast says it’ll keep raining for a few more days, but the sun will come out again. This storm will pass as all storms do, and unlike our sister on the L, I’ll live to see that happen.

In case they have WiFi in the afterlife, I’d like to take a quick moment to say, “Thank you, you kind, tortured soul. Whatever your misdeeds in life, in death you’ve had a strong positive effect on at least one person, and I appreciate the fuck out of you. Rest easy, dear.”

Becoming Steve

“Steve, do you think you’ll have these reports done by the end of today?” Jarred asked, punctuating the question with a burp.

“Of course, boss.” Steve said, hunching his shoulders to brace for impact.

“Thanks, brother. You’re the man!” Jarred said as he slapped Steve on the back, dislodging his glasses from his nose.

Were Steve the type to mutter under his breath, Jarred would’ve gotten some harsh, inaudible words right then, but he wasn’t. He was a nose-to-the-grindstone, no-nonsense accountant, who – unlike many of his colleagues – was entirely satisfied with his life. His Spartan workspace was the picture of workflow perfection: each piece of paper, each pen, each post-it, all painstakingly placed for optimal efficiency.

His apartment was the same. He bought the model apartment – the one used to show potential buyers what it might look like if Pottery Barn sponsored a living space, but had a low budget. He didn’t want to have to think about where to get the faux-worldly vases or the clocks with just the right amount of quirk. Who has the time for that? – he might say, without irony, if anyone ever asked. When he was home, his TV was always on Fox News or the History Channel, and his central air always kept the room at an appropriate 71.5 degrees.

After completing his reports on time like he always did, he got in his Kia and made his way through the rush hour traffic while listening to sports highlights on his favorite AM station. He liked it because they would alternate between sports and conservative talk radio, and he didn’t even have to change the dial.

He popped his usual microwave meal into the oven and watched it spin as the timer counted down.

*BOOM*

Erland was jolted awake from a deep sleep by the crack of thunder and heavy rain pounding against his tent. He clutched his assiduously cleaned and sharpened axe and looked around at the well-organized pelts lining the interior for signs of immediate danger.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and stepped out into the rain. Today they were scheduled to raid the village, which they spent weeks reconnoitering in small groups, so as not to raise suspicion. Their camp was set up deep in the trees surrounding the village and you had to really be looking to see them in the heavy downpour. He quickly readied himself and joined his companions at the edge of the forest. Under the cover of the storm, they crept up and seeped into the village before the village roosters even opened their eyes.

The attack began, not with a warcry, but with the muffled sounds of blades sinking into the unconscious, extending their slumber indefinitely. Finally, someone in the village sounded an alarm and the fighting commenced in earnest.

“It’s hard to explain,” Erland said to his closest and only friend, Sture, “The settings all seem foreign and overly bright, the people all seem so… clean, and that’s not to mention the magical carriages and glowing parchments I told you about the other day,” he continued as he plunged his axe into a farmer charging at him with a pitchfork. Careful not to get too much blood on himself, he put his foot on the farmer’s shoulder and shoved the body away from the embedded axe.

“Odin is testing you,” Sture said. “Now, more than ever, you mustn’t let that old trickster distract you.” Sture swung his sword through a wooden door, fortuitously striking down a man cowering behind it. “See, brother, the gods reward focus!”

“You’re probably right,” Erland conceded, but he couldn’t shake how much he actually enjoyed the dreams. Was he born in the wrong time? Did the dreams take place in the past? Was he among the gods in his sleep? Or was it the future? Had man managed to master the ways of the gods? Why do “accountants” kill so few people? What kind of a name was “Steve?” By Odin’s hammer, what was a Kia?!

These thoughts plagued his waking hours. He inexplicably yearned for “oatmeal,” which he knew bore a striking resemblance to gruel, but was considerably sweeter. For the time being, he shrugged it off as best he could, assuring himself that setting fire to the small structures he had cleared of living inhabitants and their valuables would provide sufficient comfort and, he thought with a sigh, distraction.

Erland was tired after a long day of murder and pillaging and asleep before his head even landed on his furs.

*BEEP**BEEP**BEEP*

The oatmeal Steve always ate for breakfast was done. He took it out of the microwave after the requisite one-minute cool-down suggested by the box, then stirred in some sliced banana. He sat down at his designer table and watched the morning news while he ate, sipping half-caf (the fully caffeinated stuff made him jittery).

When he got to work, there was a sign hung over his desk that read, “Happy Birthday Steve!” Honestly, he had forgotten that it was his birthday, and he was deeply troubled that the sign ruined his cubicle’s functional aesthetic.

Gary leaned out of the cubicle next to him, “Hey man! Happy Birthday!” Steve found a way to appreciate that, as he considered Gary to be one of his closest friends. Steve didn’t know if Gary was married or if he had children, if Gary had grown up in the area or moved there, or anything at all, really, except that he liked his coffee black, he preferred the double Windsor knot for his ties, and he also kept mostly to himself. They never talked outside of work, and they didn’t talk that much at work either, but that’s exactly what Steve wanted from a friend.

Steve did not appreciate the Happy Birthday song lead by Jarred at lunch. Most of his coworkers were off key and Steve didn’t like all the attention. He hoped that taking down the sign would stop this nonsense before it started, but no luck. Thankfully, he made it through the rest of the day largely unbothered and went home with a small piece of leftover cake, that he took solely to appease Janet – the habitually disheveled receptionist who bought the cake. He promptly threw it in the trash as soon as he got home and popped his usual evening meal into the microwave.

* * *

Erland was shaken awake by Sture. “The Christians have found us!” He ran from Erland’s tent, sword in hand, followed closely by Erland. His fellow Norsemen were falling all around him as the heavily-armored Christians went from tent to tent, slashing at anything that moved with glinting longswords.

Erland swiveled around and caught one of the knights in the neck with his blade just before the knight caught him. He tried hefting the axe away from the collapsing Christian, but it had lodged itself in the mangled metal of the chestpiece, and he knew if he pulled too hard he’d be spattered with the Christian’s blood. Heavy footsteps came up quickly behind him and they were upon him before he could loosen his axe. He turned in time to see the longsword enter his abdomen to the hilt, then slide back out again, bringing with it a torrent of his own innards.

He collapsed to the floor and stared up at the sky. As the clouds cleared for a moment, he expected to see his life flash before his eyes as the Valkyries came down to carry him to Valhalla. Instead he saw only the sliver of blue sky as it faded into darkness, and for whatever reason, it was the events of Steve’s life that flooded his consciousness. He remembered growing up in the suburbs of Nebraska. He remembered being bullied in high school. He remembered his quiet, study-intensive college career. He remembered the sense of pride he felt when he earned his CPA credential.

*BEEP**BEEP**BEEP*

Steve’s 5:45am alarm woke him from a restless sleep. “What a weird dream…” he said to no one in particular, then he started his daily routine, just as he always did, contented in his clean and orderly existence.

Keto Good News Bad News

I’ve continued my keto journey in spite of not telling all of you about it, and it’s going really well. I feel great, I was able to pump out my weight-lifting routine yesterday just fine (fuck you rib pain), and I’m looking pretty good. I’ve also continued my nonstop research into the hows and whys of this diet, and there’s both good news and bad news to be shared. I’m going to keep it short and sweet, and start with the good news:

Keto can counter certain types of persistent epilepsy.

Keto can counter Type 2 Diabetes.

Keto can stave off Alzheimer’s.

Keto can stave off some cancers.

Keto can prevent seizures in high-risk, under-water special operations missions.

Crazy right? That’s a lot of shit, and that’s not even all of it. I started linking to articles on that list, but just do some Google Scholar searching like I did, and don’t take any of that as hyperbole – there’s science to back up all those claims, but it comes with all the caveats scientific studies tend to come with. For more information, check out Dom D’Agostino – a tenured professor at the University of South Florida, and a leading expert in the whole keto thing. He’s been doing this research for quite a while, and so have a bunch of other doctors, apparently. We’re all just behind the fuckin’ curve on this one.

Here’s the bad news: I’m not doing anywhere near enough. That’s true in a few capacities. First, I expected to be doing this for about 30 days to test it out, but according to Dr. D’Agostino, it’s reasonable to expect a performance decline for the first two to three months while your body adjusts to using fat as it’s primary fuel source (I haven’t seen declines, but it’s good to have that expectation set). After that you can start to see performance gains, but a lot of the more significant benefits aren’t seen until 6 months to a year after starting the diet.

I am, of course, still tracking my calories and macronutrients, and I’m still killing it with the diet. But I’m also still having like 2 beers after my shift at the bar and usually one shot of some hard alcohol on top of that. There’s no drinking going on on my off days, but I’m sure the amount of sugars and carbohydrates associated with that are fucking with my ketogenic state potential. So how do I fix that?

Well, I’m going to have to start testing my fucking blood. Not for alcohol, but for blood glucose and ketone concentration. I’ll probably end up going with the KetoMojo device recommended by Dr. D’Agostino, though honorable mention goes to Precision XTRA, which is what Tim Ferriss uses and recommends.

Here’s the real takeaway from this revelation: the highest performers in all fields are using biofeedback to maximize their output. If I want to be a peer to these motherfuckers, I see no alternative but to join the bandwagon and start tracking the minutiae of my body chemistry, which is both exciting and daunting. I’ll certainly keep you abreast of all new and pressing information.

Keto Day 10

I promise I’ll actually discuss my diet this time, but first… that was a close one. I just Matrix-dodged the pseudoscientific writings that use the legitimate scientific study of epigenetics as a cloaking device for mysticism (I’m not gonna say his name because unpopular though this blog may be, I’d still like not to be sued). Funnily enough, I downloaded his audiobook and wrote him off as an eloquent quack, but a pretty lady Doctor of Nursing candidate recommended him to me, so I gave it another shot (I have since looked up her school, and it is for-profit… not sayin’, just sayin’, know what I’m sayin’?).

First red flag: he says he’s a neuroscientist, but he earned his “Doctor of Chiropractic from Life University in Atlanta.” Granted, he may have studied neuroscience in his postdoctoral work, but I found very little Google Scholar evidence that pointed to any peer reviewed articles, and his Wikipedia page is mysteriously nonexistent. I’ll even go so far as to say that MAYBE the things he’s saying are accurate in that I can’t directly disprove them (they operate on a lot of separate assumptions that taken individually accurately represent the current understandings of our world), but dude… You can’t just go around calling yourself a neuroscientist. It’s not cool to be misleading like that.

Who knows? Maybe he’s right, and I’m wrong, and thinking positively and imagining yourself as a doctoral candidate in neuroscience is really all you need, then you’ll change your DNA on a molecular level and collapse all potential realities into the singular reality in which you actually are a neuroscientist. Personally, I’m a fan of the more traditional route of finding the people actually doing the scientific research at reputable institutions of learning, and joining them in their efforts until I know enough to help advance the field ethically. Crazy, I know. Whatever. Maybe more people are meditating because of his books, and that’s positive. I just hope people don’t use this strategy to avoid taking actionable steps toward the future they want for themselves. It’s a decent read (gave me some great short story ideas), but I don’t think I’ll be finishing it. I have too many books to read by real neuroscientists and psychologists to entertain myself with that dude’s work for any longer than I already have.

Okay, rant over.

I hate not exercising. I’m taking my dog on long walks and running up the eight flights of stairs each time (four times today) and doing my stretches, but I have so much excess energy! Luckily my rib pain is rather noticable, so I’m pretty quickly reminded why I’m not lifting weights, but it’s frustrating. Also the left side of my rib cage is definitely at a different angle than my right side, but I’m wondering if it was always like that because I haven’t been motivated to notice that shit at any other time in my life.

My body seems to be adjusting really well to this diet. The frequent urination thing has subsided, so I’m either getting better or not drinking enough water. Not sure which it is, but I feel great. The meat-and-dairy-heavy part is hugely enjoyable, and I’m definitely more lean than I was when I started this thing. I’ve been wondering how much of that is attributable just to the fact that I’ve been very conscious of my food consumption, though. I got one of my highest fat percentages today, but it’s still only 70% and I didn’t even hit my protein goal (108.8 grams). Thank goodness I’m not exercising, amiright?! *crazy laugh*

Tonight is the Night of The Irish. Wish me luck!

Keto Day 9

Today felt good. I got a decent amount of sleep, I had my morning cocktail (water, lemon, Himalayan salt – I’ll just be calling it the morning cocktail from now on and will specify when it inevitably switches back to alcohol at some point), walked the dog a bunch of times, got a haircut, got groceries, got a bunch of shit for my apartment, and got all my art mounted on my walls… Just a fuckin’ good day.

I opted out of jiu jitsu today. I think taking a week off is the best possible way for me to heal this rib thing. The pain still hasn’t subsided much, though admittedly, I’ve not been stretching enough. Maybe I’ll have time for that tonight before bed, but right now I feel like it’s unlikely.

My barber recommended I check out Bad Blood on Netflix. Ugh… Okay, maybe I’ll stretch while I watch that. Fine! I’ll stretch while I watch it! Damn.

Back in December my cousin crashed my car. He rear ended someone, and the front of the car got all:

He was physically fine and the car still ran well enough to get him home, so I was able to write off a lot of my initial concern. Also, the weather was starting to get shitty and I planned to leave it in the garage for most of the winter anyway, so that’s what I did.

When it warmed up I figured, “What the hell? Why not?” (if you’ve been following this blog, you might be noticing that this is a set of questions I ask myself often) and I started driving it again for errands and to/from work. After an extensive phone tag game with my cousin’s insurance company, they finally determined it would be covered under his plan, so I took it into a shop about a 9 minute walk from my apartment.

On Friday I was told that the car was totalled. I have a cornucopia of colorful emotions about this news. To sum up, I’m bummed because I really liked that car and I only got to drive it for like 10 months, but on the bright side, I’ll be able to get an SUV much more suitable to my dog’s size and energy level, and more capable of providing me with the sort of deep nature immersion I’ve been missing so dearly of late.

Unfortunately, I didn’t expect it to be totalled, and I left my 60lb weight vest in the trunk. Luckily I’ve stayed fairly fit, so the most annoying part of the walk back was actually the bag of sundries and not the vest. I clearly need to start incorporating it in my workouts again, though. That thing is awesome.

Oh and I’m still doing the keto thing. It’s going swimmingly.

Keto Day 8

Oof. I drank heavily this morning. I mean… It was when I got off work, but that was at 6am and the sun had risen, so… Three light beers accidentally opened by the bartenders, two or three much better beers I intentionally poured myself, and about four shots of Jameson. Obviously none of that is keto-friendly, but there isn’t much that feels cooler or more satisfying than drinking in a closed bar after a long night.

I was feeling particularly good when I got home, and here’s what I had to say (edited to account for drunk grammar mistakes):

Am I supposed to believe that the version of me that takes more reverence in the sun shining through the leaves of a tree nearby, or gives more leeway to the actions of my hyperactive dog, or laughs off the little things with greater ease is somehow a worse version of me because that version of me is related to my alcohol consumption? What if I truly am a better person as a result of the influence of alcohol? Do the negatives associated with alcohol consumption warrant a complete disregard for all of the positives that alcohol has had in my life previously and to this day? Are all of the relationships I’ve hardened in the kiln of inebriation meaningless?

All good questions, Drunk Sean. Definitely worth pondering.

Anyway, the hangover has not been enjoyable. The water with lemon juice and Himalayan salt helped, but didn’t completely remedy the queasiness and it’s done absolutely nothing about my extreme unwillingness to do things. I took my dog on a long walk, though, so I’m feeling pretty good about my accomplishments for today.

I’ve been watching a lot of Tom DeLauer’s videos to guide me through this keto thing, and he has one on keto-approved fast food items. Thank heavens for that video and Postmates because there’s no fucking way I’m cooking anything today. Tom repeatedly made the point that these fast food options should only be used in a pinch, but so far as I’m concerned that’s what I’m in. Five Guys is on the way and my dog and I are hunkered down in the cool, dark cave that is my apartment – him napping peacefully, me watching the new season of Jessica Jones and dreading getting up to go downstairs via elevator to get my food. It’s raining outside. I call bullshit on it being summer.

The barbacoa is from the 24 hour Mexican place nextdoor to the bar, but Chipotle’s is probably pretty similar.