Friday, February 09, 2018

Endgame: The Last Four Months

Another check-in. (Sorry, this is of absorbing interest to me. Feel free to wander off while I'm obsessed with this project.) I've been at this for nine months, now, and here's what the next four months should look like. I've solidified my next, and last, goal: to get my waist measurement to be 90% or less of my hip measurement.

When I began, last May, I would have thought such a goal absurd -- grandiose -- in fact a plan for failure. How could such a thing even be? And of course it still may be unattainable. But I have yet to encounter real sustained resistance to my new diet, real stubborn hunger. I have no illusions about being able to bull my way through that, and I don't plan to try. But this is what I'm aiming for. If I need to pull up, I'll pull up.

Weight -- the first chart below -- is now second fiddle. I don't really care what I weigh anymore. The blue line is the projection of a pound-per-week loss, all the way from last May, and the red is where I actually am. The current trajectory takes me to the neighborhood of 160 lbs by early June (the exact number, I note with some annoyance, that the insurance charts I have heaped scorn upon suggest for me. Hmph.) But really, now that I'm under 180, the weight ceases to be a very interesting marker. I'm far more interested in the girth.

Weight: The Last Four Months

So below is projected girth. My hips currently measure 37.5", and I don't expect that to change much, if at all -- I'm pretty damn lean there, at this point. So 90% of that will be a waist measurement of 33.75", and I should hit that in the first couple weeks of June.

Girth: The Last Four Months

And what then? What's my maintenance plan?

I don't actually have one. I don't plan to change much at all: I'll go along as I have, eating precisely the same thing every day. I'll nudge amounts up slightly so as to level off. In the long term I have notions of trading in more veggies and olive oil and trading out the red meat: but all in good time. Or never, if never works better. I'm happy with this.

A few weeks ago I stopped eating out, so this is no longer the Tom's Diner and Burgerville diet (on which, be it remembered, I did most of the weight loss: I did not do this by "eating healthier," I did it by eating less.) My diet now looks a bit more like what most people would call a real diet, especially at breakfast -- broccoli and oatmeal with chopped nuts and boiled eggs, rather than the Tom's Spanish omelet with sour cream. But that's mostly a matter of not wanting to put time and energy into food prep. Dinner is hamburger patty and microwaved potatoes and a cup of ice cream, now. Marginally healthier, maybe, than the Burgerville cheeseburger and 1/2 milkshake, but not enough so to fuss about. Mostly, it's just a damn sight cheaper.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Perfection of the Life

The intellect of man is forced to choose
Perfection of the life, or of the work...

So said Yeats. It's "man" rather than "person" not only because of the scansion. Perfecting the work may always end a tragic failure, says the poem: but at least you haven't been a sissy and done something so easy and trivial as perfecting your life.

Well. I suppose it's always the job you haven't taken on that looks like the easier one. It's perfection of the life that I'm aiming at here, or at least improvement of the life. The shadow world of my personal finances and domestic habits: all those things that we all supposedly have under control before we step out of the door and greet the world and present ourselves, but which are actually a shame and a shambles. 

So I hit my both my weight loss goals this month. The next two things I'm undertaking involve habits as stubbornly inwoven as overeating: the restaurant habit and the driving everywhere habit. I have eaten breakfast out every morning since I was seventeen years old; and apart from the glory days of bicycling, when I lived closer to downtown, I've been driving to work for most of my working life. Burgerville every night was a godsend to my weight loss effort, but it wasn't cheap. Not the way I reckon cheap, anyway. 

The arithmetic is simple. Daily, I save at least $10.00 by making breakfast at home; $8.50, reckoning gas and parking, by taking transit; and $6.00 by making dinner at home. In total, $154.50 per week, which comes to a shade over $8,000 per year. These habits are expensive. (And every one of those savings estimates was lowballed.)

By the standards of some people, we were already living cheap. We make well under the Oregon median income, and we've been planing along, just meeting our expenses. This has been fine, because our retirement (at this same modest level) is funded. But I'm a gloomy, conservative person in my financial posture and I've always meant to pad the margins a bit in these last few working years. The padding wasn't happening. 

So now -- flushed with victory as I am -- I mean to force the issue. Cutting $8,000 from my expenses will not only allow us to pad the margin: it changes the retirement calculus drastically. If my investments & social security have to generate $8,000 less, the capital required to fund my retirement is $200,000 less, too. (My rule of thumb is: 25 x annual expenses = required retirement capital. There are a zillion other ways to reckon this, of course.) Suddenly my financial future looks downright rosy.

Okay, but. These habits are deeply part of me. The habit of getting out into the public-but-anonymous world of the cafe to write has been essence of Dale for forty-some years. This is going to take some doing. And eating at home requires planning and tracking. It takes a lot of brainspace, especially at first: how many eggs do I have? How long do I have before the burger in the fridge goes bad? These things are not second-nature to me. They take effort. I have to make up new habits: and I already have the weight loss habits to protect.

So it's a stretch. If I end up not being able to swing it, well, I fall back to the old habits and hope I really do have enough savings already: I'm not going to let the weight loss slip away. But I'm ten days in and going strong. Here goes.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

End of Year Check-In

So. 2017 is a year that will live in infamy, but still: a good thing happened for me. In early May, finding myself fifty inches around the waist and 222 lbs, I set myself the task of losing a pound a week, with the concrete goals of bringing the waist down to forty inches and the weight down to 180. Both goals are drawing near, but the most astonishing and heartening thing is that I have actually been eating exactly what I planned to eat for seven months now. Nothing remotely like that has ever happened before -- this has been an issue all my adult life -- and the effect on my morale, even in the midst of sociopolitical dismay, has been remarkable. The weight has steadily dropped.

Weight Loss: Blue Line = a pound per week; Red Line = my weight

It looks like I'm due to hit 180 ahead of schedule, end of January or early February. The loss of girth has been less steady and puzzles me a little -- I keep working on the geometry of cylinders and spheres and it seems like, with a linear loss of mass, my waistline should shrink slightly more rapidly as I become smaller, but instead it's leveling off perceptibly:

The blue line here was just extrapolated from the first couple months' measurements

So that now it looks like my other major milestone of forty inches -- with the typical perversity of the actual measured world -- is due to fall, well, in the end of January or early February.

I have topography now where I have never had topography. The furrow down the middle of the rectus femoris (the front muscle of the thigh) is obvious, and there are engaging hollows under my biceps: I am becoming downright sinewy, which is something I have aspired to, wistfully, all my life. At my age, of course, the distinction between "sinewy" and "wizened" may be a little blurry: but still.

The point, however -- well, one of the points -- is not vanity, but health: to get rid of the visceral fat which is associated with "the diseases of civilization." The reason for the 180 and the forty inch goals was simply that pretty much everyone agreed that a man of my height ought to be under them. Now authority is less unanimous, and I can't really tell if people really think dreadfully aged men like me ought to weigh a little more -- and why would that be? -- or if they just do. If I'm still supposed to have a waist that's 90% of my "hips" (as we euphemistically call measurement around the bulge of the glutes), that looks like a bit of a project. One of the most striking effects of aging is the dwindling of the glutes: they really don't bulge much any more. What used to be the handiest location for fat reserves gets cut off, for some reason, right at the age when you could really use something soft to sit on. 

Anyway -- all in good time. I have still to get to the milestones: another month or so. Plenty of time for planning.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Returning to the Novel at Fifty-Nine

I am no longer beguiled, or even beguilable.
I do not believe your characters, their passions, 
or, except in special circumstance
(marked perhaps by parentheses or 
the uneven join of a thought too vehement
to stay quite neatly in a clockwork mouth)
your thoughts. The limping past
which so enchanted me once seems labored now:
you wheeze, dear, on the stairs. He said, she thought,
and again Sir Reginald decided: no. I am too old
to believe in simple time. Our stories run 
over and over because they must, not
because anything happened. Once, or ever.
But the distance: the shrewd glance back:
the holding of the thing up to the light: your
face backlit with the enchantment you tried
with all your young and desperate strength to cast--
Oh yes, I can love you again. Maybe I never stopped.
At my age it is difficult to tell: and it doesn't matter
nearly as much as anyone ever said. (Least of all
you, dear!)  Sit here beside me, in the glimmer
of a winter afternoon. Conjure up a house,
a family, an inheritance, a war: I will listen
pretend to believe
and love, as I always have, and must, and will.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Games of Chance

A clear, cold hatred, held pure from childhood:
distilled from humiliations received from those despised
(oafs, idiots, loudmouthed fools
rushing to the destruction not just of themselves -- consummation
devoutly to be wished -- but of everything beautiful
things that took years, centuries, aeons to create
were the most fun to destroy.)

And so the hatred runs on, not powerful, not overwhelming,
but more corrosive than ever. My soul withers. I play
games of chance against them
and a bitter smile visits my face
as I turn their stupidity,
their venality, against them:
they will pay. They will pay for all.

And as life narrows, the crows return
and cluster thickly on the housetops, on the wires,
gathering in their thousands on the ruins of the day,
on the fading of the light.

I seek death for them all, and for myself;
I build intricate machines, deadfalls, snares.
What any one will do is anyone's guess,
but what they all will do can be known
to the millimeter and the second.
In the aggregate they are only monkeys, after all,
and not the clever sort. Poor eating,
but the beggared can't be choosers:
we'll feast on better before the year is out.

Friday, November 24, 2017

My Favorite Place in Portland

I'm a bottom feeder, right? We know that. So you'll believe me when I tell you about my very favorite place in Portland. It's this place:

It's the parking garage at 4th and Alder. The fancy glass you see is the elevator. You can ride up and look out over the city, up to the ninth floor! Which would be cool. But that's not what we do. We take the stairs. There are stairs, all the way up to the roof, which would be the tenth floor, except it doesn't get a number. Because it's the roof, I guess. There are four complete stairways, one at every corner. This is important, because if your knees don't really like you going up ten flights of stairs in one go, you can climb a bit and then walk up the ramp a bit to the next corner, climb a bit more, and so on. 

I admit that it's not particularly prepossessing at first. Concrete steps. Sometimes you navigate around someone's abandoned Big Gulp or soda can. And for a floor or two, maybe someone else is on the stairs. But usually not.

This part, honestly? Is not very exciting. But you keep going.

When you get halfway around, you can take a look and make sure the Morrison Bridge is going to be open, and that the traffic's going to be moving. If it looks jammed up, you might take the Burnside or the Hawthorne. (Note: this is what it looks like four days out of five. On the fifth day, the wind has swept the clouds aside, and framed between those two buildings, Mt Hood is brilliant, white, and break-your-heart beautiful.)

And now it's starting to get fun. Cityscapish. If you like that kind of thing. And you see that bit of sky? There's going to be more.

We're about halfway up now. There's more sky. No more people on the stairs: if there are, we'll startle each other.

More stairs and another corner. Those are the towers of the Hawthorne Bridge, against the sky, there.

And hey, the nipple of Pioneer Courthouse Square, peeking out there!

Round about the 8th or 9th floor, not only the people are gone, but the cars, too, most days. Now it's lonesome and a little eerie: the light washes back and forth through empty space.

And then you're on the roof, and it's a splendid solitude. Like the fells above the Lake Country. Well, sort of. With its own sublimity.

And sky. Lots and lots of sky.

And on the way back down -- because you didn't park way up here, that would be a silly waste of energy, driving the car clear up -- you can look down at the holiday shoppers. They're there too, the silly creatures.

I get to climb this glorious windswept tower twice a day, and I have it all to myself. I used to dread it becoming discovered and trendy, like so many other things in this city, but I've finally decided it's safe to tell y'all. I don't think anyone else is ever going to come up here.

Monday, November 20, 2017

A View Few Can Boast

Odd that Perseus, Greek as they come, 
should wear a Phrygian cap, and be fobbed off
by sleight of PR as a prince of Persia. 
These things happen though

to young men who travel imprudently, and meddle
with kings. I've seen it myself. The in-laws lay it down,
and next thing you're filching a timeshare eye,
and talking as fast as you dare. Maybe you're

the proud possessor of a detached, a still wriggling do,
an awesome ride, some troubling debts, and
an incomplete someone with a golden sword:
but still you're hung by your cap in the heavens,

and swung at the end of the pail for your pains.
In season and out your conical crown
points only and ever north, while your legs
climb over your head and your kilt falls up over your hips.

Is it for this, that a man conquers death? Apparently so:
this and passel of kids and a rescued princess
are what a man can hope for. And a pointy hat.
And a view few can boast on a midsummer night.