June 2007

One thing I haven’t written about which is quite odd considering that this web log is supposed to be about self-improvement (hence the name) is my recent running challenge. About a month ago I believe I wrote about how I lacked the passion I used to have for running. Whether I’ve gained my elan back or not, I’m a running fool lately, having challenged myself to do 100 miles in 40 days. I’m 25 days in and have done 64 miles altogether, which is the equivalent of about 2.5 miles per day. Some days I’ve run only three while others I have done as much as six, so I haven’t run every day. Some days I have a good stride with a quick pace while other times I’m speed waddling, a mess. Regardless of how fast I’ve gone, I have reaped some of the benefits already which include a more relaxed and positive outlook throughout my day, an easier time sleeping at night (although I’m still not doing too well in that department), and smaller troughs and turnaround time in my sour moods and anxiety. That’s not to say running will save my life, but it has made things interesting and challenging to say the least. I weighed in at 208 at the end of last week, which is still much to high. At this time last year I was 224, so there’s some good progress there. It’s early morning here in Albany and I have gone for a run, three miles to be exact. Hopefully, I’ll finish my goal within the next two weeks. When I was 21 I did 100 miles in 30 days! Perhaps that could be my July 11 – August 11 goal….hmmmm….maybe not.

I was really anxious today. My OCD was flaring up as it hasn’t in a while, seemingly jumping around looking for something to pester me about. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is strange like that. It likes to come at times of stress or transition or challenge. It’s rude. OCD can exist in regards to so many different things in just one person’s head: cleanliness, symmetry, health, religion, etc. and bounce from thing to thing in a matter of minutes.

My OCD tends to be about scientific and philosophical questions. It really aggravates me a lot because these are questions that can’t be answered and yet they swirl around in my head. From having this anxiety disorder, which I’ve had since I was 12, I have learned to cope with it better.

Tonight I went and played ice hockey. I hadn’t played in two months, since our season ended, but there was a pickup game up in Troy, New York (about 10 minutes away) and I went up there. I was surprised by how well I skated. I’m in much better shape than I was at the end of the season and certainly at the beginning of the season in October, when I was over 220 pounds and unable to change direction.

When I was a kid, I skated much more than I do now and I had to be forced off the ice, my endurance was that good. At 27-years-old, I suppose my age is showing! I was still happy with how I skated, though. My OCD was relatively powerless over me as I went up and down the ice at the Knickerbacker Arena. I may go again next week. I’d like to get better. I wish I could have some free time to skate with the puck and work on my stickhandling.

There were guys who skated circles around those of us less experienced or less fit players. It was fun though. I really enjoyed playing tonight and I feel my brain is a little cooler than it was five hours ago.

I roll out of bed too often to start my day, rather than rising, getting ready, taking a nice walk to spread the blood that has gone stagnant inside my body from the previous night. As I was getting ready for work (I’m about to leave in a few minutes), I realized that I had a few extra minutes to kill. With the exception of opening a dog food can for my buddy Marcus, I’m all set this morning, ready to take on the world.

Lately, I’ve been down. Things have been a little irritating, workwise, socially, romantically, etc., but the one refuge I feel that I’ve had is my alone time, be it in the mid day or at night. How nice it is to have an hour of this in the morning with which to ready myself for the day.

I made sure to give Marcus a good sized walk and it was nice to see a part of my neighborhood in this city that I never see early in the morning, but through the window of my car as I frantically speed over the cobblestone streets for the expressway. It’s nice to feel prepared for the day.  It’s a great thing.

I’ve been running a lot lately and have shed some pounds that have been tricky to rid myself of. Last week, I ran 21 miles. Yesterday, I ran five. I hope that this isn’t a compulsive thing, but just recently, I’ve found my love of running again, that which was gone for several years. I enjoy running immensely and with my MP3 player, which I shamelessly plugged a few weeks ago, I find the experience all the more fulfilling.

Certainly, I did not have a chance to see the sun come up in the east. I didn’t wake up all that Early. But what I did have this morning I’m thankful for; some respite from rushing out the door and living outside of the moment.

It’s really hard to call myself a runner. Runners are generally skinny people who wear aerodynamic, tight-fitting clothes. I’m a stocky guy with some extra baggage around my mid section. When I run, it’s more of a joke,…errr…I mean a jog and I’m almost always wearing a pair of baggy lacrosse shorts or something else around my thick legs.  The shirts that I wear are generally speaking beat up, worse than anything you’d find on the Goodwill Industries rejection shelf. Nevertheless, with my MP3 player in hand, I’m pretty happy when I’m running.

One morning in the summer of 2004, I was very anxious and unable to sleep. Waves of panic crossed over by body the entire night. When I finally was so scared that I was descending into a depressive cycle (as I do from time to time), I put on my beat up running shoes and darted for a dawn-time run down to the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn. When I returned home, some time after 5:30 a.m., I was at peace and relaxed. Not only had I seen the first glimpses of sunlight reflecting off of the harbor but I’d managed to do some of my most fervent praying I’d ever done; honest and fluid and helpful and hopeful. There are moments in all of our lives in which we can feel a type of synchronism to life around us and being and that was one. I have been running a lot lately and will soon put on my shoes to go again but lately I’ve not bothered to take as much stock of the world through which I run. Although running is heightened state, there really is no reason one can not be mindful as he pounds the pavement.

Today I finished a graphic novel–if you want to call it that–that I started months ago in attempt to calm down and relax myself. I had read a few chapters of it and put it away and then revisited it today. Walking Man by Jiro Taniguchi is not really a narrative on anything, but glimpses into the life of a young man who walks through the streets, parks and seaside docks of his city, which is somewhere in Japan. We do not know the name of the main character but he is accessible as a calm, clear and curious soul who with his dog, finds great stimulation in the idiosyncratic way that life unfolds, from watching strangers walk through the streets, children playing soccer or people shopping. The main character can best be described as mindful throughout, and although he has nothing of the sort of conflict we expect in narrative, he is revealed as a man who slows his life down in the moment, finding pleasure in the things we take for granted.

Released several years ago, Walking Man is a sensational book to relax with. Staring into the pen and ink frames, I became surprised at how much Taniguchi captured of urban living. He must be a very observant man, for our main character takes stock of the things that are taken for granted.

I loved Walking Man and I look forward to trying to do more of what is actually quite simple: being present in the moment, observing and living life to its fullest.

If there’s one person out there in the public relations field who really creeps me out it’s this guy, Mike Rinder, who leads the “Church” of Scientology’s Office of Special Affairs, the department that handles much of the cult’s public image and persona.

Rinder most recently appeared publicly on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 doing among other things, denying that BBC reporter John Sweeney had been followed by cult members while working on a segment for Panorama called “Scientology and Me.”

Despite the cult’s sickening and outright attempt to intimidate the reporter, Sweeney ended up the most memorable person in the story for his unethical shouting match with the totalitarian cult spokesman Tommy Davis. Although Sweeney’s reporting may not have been the best–he shouted to John Travolta during the London premiere of Wild Hogs–the job he did to illustrate the cult’s fanatical behavior was decent.

During the taping of the program Sweeney is clearly followed by several cars as well as confronted while conducting a private interview by Davis.

Scientology’s fear of sunlight should be clear to most people, nevertheless there’s Rinder last month flat out denying that Sweeney was followed as he denied during an A&E documentary in 1998 although footage of German journalist Mona Boutros clearly shows as many as three cars following her as well.

It’s with a strange and sinister aplomb, reminiscent of Josef Goebbels, that the Australian-born Rinder can flat out lie. It’s as if he wants you to know he’s lying that he simply doesn’t care because in the end it doesn’t matter, his cult will do what it has to do, spin any lie, cover up any controversy, attack any critic and fabricate any story that it must to get ahead.

Although I’ve hardly been the victim of Scientology, certainly I’ve been reached by Scientologists in the last week in harmless and innocuous ways. My Myspace profile has been visited by supporters Narcanon, the drug rehabilitation program founded by the habitual liar and drug user L. Ron Hubbard who Rinder goes through such lengths to defend. Just this morning I found an invite to a profile called “Stop Psychiatric Abuses”. Certainly, my profile being attached to my blog which contains a few shots at the cult, explains this. I’m hardly a candidate for the “church’s” “fair game” policy, although I have been receiving dozens of spam messages into my personal account since I posted my little Xenu contest.

Back to Rinder though, this guy is creepy. I’d like to find out more about him. He seems like a true-believer who speaks through his neck.

I guess something could be working in our counter-terrorism efforts if a Federal investigation into an alleged terror cell turns out to have uncovered a legitimate threat to our nation’s security.

Apparently, a group of Islamic fundamentalists were planning on destroying a fuel line that runs from New Jersey to John F. Kennedy International Airport in southeastern Queens. Jet fuel, which is a variation on kerosene, is highly flammable.

I guess I’m not too paranoid by terrorism. I lived in New York during the attacks and several years afterwards and I never got nervous by it, but if that plot was serious it could by really bad.

It’s true. I never thought I’d live to see the day that the one time intergalactic warlord would convert to the “religion” he inadvertently inspired much less be paroled from the prison cell wherein he spent some 75 million years, but I announce to you, the world of Scientology that your cult can rejoice because today, today, today, the unthinkable has happened. And I have a picture to prove it too.

What do you think?

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