Okay, cue the music.

There’s a serious post in the works, but because I think it’s a post that might grow legs, it will appear at Occasional Songs. Check for it there later if you like.

Today, then, a few observations:

A late night with Mr. Glenlivet haunts you the next day. It’s not a hangover exactly, but it does impart a certain delicate quality. Thank God my husband leaves me curled in the car dozing under Betsey Johnson sunglasses as he stops at the dry cleaner, the hardware store, the pet food place. Those kinds of mindless-but-essential errands are bad enough when you feel strong.

A pink donut with sprinkles can be a beautiful thing. My friend says Kelinda writes: “If people can read tea leaves why doesn’t someone start reading sprinkles? That would be more fun than boring old tea and you could eat your reading later.”

What kind of people risk life and limb to cut in front of you at the car wash? Old white men in Cadillac Escalades and yuppie housewives in black Honda minivans. Honey, it may be a black Honda, but it’s still a minivan. Honestly, both of them floored it to get in front of us.

Maybe these are the same kind of people who fail to flush public toilets? I mean, what’s that about? They can’t touch the handle?  Really, what kind of adult woman walks away leaving a giant corn-filled turd there to confront the next patron? Do they do that at home too?

I can’t tell you how much fun it is to lean out the window of a 70,000 dollar sedan and shout expletives at a group of Lyndon LaRouche supporters. I wouldn’t have bothered except for the giant photo of Obama as Hitler really annoyed me. It’s an insult to those that suffered at Hitler’s hands and it is an unconscionable way to portray the seated President of the United States. Regardless of what you think about the man.

It was deeply satisfying to say awful things to that group of dumpy white men. Certainly as good or better than mediocre sex. I walked around for quite a while grinning about it. My son wanted me to buy him a paintball gun so that he could show his displeasure that way– but I didn’t want to cross the line from Freedom of Expression to assault.

Saturday is the only day they have tamales at the Mexican grocery store. We forgot to stop in.

Even after thirty years, Diner is still an exquisite ensemble piece, and a little gem of a film.  “You know what word I’m not comfortable with? Nuance. It’s not a real word. Like gesture. Gesture’s a real word. With gesture you know where you stand. But nuance? I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.”

Sometimes tunafish sandwiches on toast make the perfect dinner. Even if you had been planning New York strip earlier.

Don’t flatter yourself when people ask you for advice. It’s still all about them.


Stumbling Home

Edward Hopper, “Automat”, 1927


I haven’t been drinking. In a way, I wish I had been drinking.

I haven’t been out. Okay, I have been out: to the grocery, to the hardware store, to pick up dog food.

There’s plenty to drink here at home: half a bottle of single-malt. My favorite small batch bourbon. An unopened bottle of excellent vodka. There’s even a bottle of absinthe. I meant to take up absinthe, but I never got around to it.

This would all make more sense if I’d been drinking.

But I do remember this cocktail of ennui and exasperation. Once, after a death in the family, I went to see a doctor, she was a friend.

“Isn’t there something you can give me?” I asked. “I’m so tired of feeling this way.” She gave me Ativan. She neglected to tell me that I shouldn’t take the Ativan with my usual dinner of extra dry martinis and a dozen raw Malpeque oysters.

I took one tablet. I felt worse. So I took another. “Hell,” I thought as I downed a third, “these things don’t work very well.” Before long I’d consumed the whole bottle. “Uh oh,” I thought and drove myself to the hospital.

There’s no point in recounting the sordid details as to the hospital’s response, except to say it involved syrup and charcoal, and in the morning a long discussion with a doctor about the current trend in biographies of Thomas Jefferson.

Walking out of the hospital into the bright sunshine, I felt restored.

I don’t know what it is this time: no one’s died, thank God.

It’s just like I stepped off the train and watched it pull away. I haven’t been here in weeks. I had made a resolution to make this about the struggle only, and not about all the other things that people my ordinary existence. It turns out I can’t write exclusively about dietandexercise. I don’t want to.

For damn sure, I haven’t done anything in either area of diet or exercise. I have existed everyday on stacks of toast with butter and cinnamon. A little tea. A bit of yogurt. The occasional cheeseburger.

I didn’t see this coming, this gap, this work stoppage, this collapse. I thought I’d gotten it all neatly lined out again, ready to start anew. I’m sick of starting anew. I’m sick of the ongoing narcissism it takes to write about yourself everyday. I should really be on my knees in gratitude that I am only sick at heart and not otherwise afflicted.

I think I’d like to get gloriously, ridiculously drunk again one of these days. With friends. I  miss that. I bet that’s the sort of event that blows up those little fitbit things. I don’t have one so it doesn’t matter. I can’t count anyway.

Yes, I’m down. But I’m not sad. I’m just not enthused about anything. I feel like I set out six months ago on a journey to the coast of Maine, and I’ve only traveled as far as Erie, Pennsylvania and I’m sort of trapped here, in my own personal Erie. Eating toast.

So that’s where we are.

I’m going back to making this a kind of online journal. You’re welcome to come along for the ride if you like, though I can’t promise how interesting it will be. I suppose I can promise that it will not be fascinating every single day. It might not ever be all that fascinating. There’s a lot of dull stuff between Erie and the coast of Maine, but I’m hoping for a few high points along the way.









The Doctor is Out.

1930s hanging sign from the collection at the Glenbow Museum

You’d think that having grown up with a doctor in the house that I’d be inclined to visit doctors more often. But I don’t have health insurance anymore, so it’s somewhat impractical for me to spend much time seeking medical advice. But even when I did have excellent health insurance coverage I didn’t go to doctors then much either. My regular family physician in Montana was a bit of an alarmist, and once wanted to send me by care flight to the cardiologist because I felt “funny.” He also suggested that I had leprosy when it was really just poison ivy, but that was a joke I think.

I do have a doctor here: a neurologist I like very much. Her first visit lasted for two hours and cost $250. I see her four times a year at $85 a pop, after which she sends me away with enough samples of migraine medication to last me ’till next time. It’s good value. She’d like me to have an MRI and maybe a few other tests, especially after a few little episodes last spring that seem a little too much like transient ischemic attacks, or “mini-strokes,” which aren’t strokes at all, I don’t know why people insist on calling them that.

But I don’t have health insurance and I haven’t gotten around to calling every MRI provider in the region to see who will give me a good deal. I will, I just haven’t gotten to it yet. She’s the only doctor I see, and that’s the only prescription I have, so you don’t have to do much math to see that my medical costs are under $500 a year.

God help us if something serious happens to me.

I’m not a good candidate for health insurance and I’m hoping that the healthcare reform act may ease that. For a long time, I couldn’t find anyone who would insure me. Then I found that I could get insurance through a high-risk pool. (I fell on my head 34 years ago.) For $800 a month. And an enormous deductible I’d never meet.  So I go on hoping that my lifetime of general good health will continue.

When I was out with a friend the other night, she and I were talking about this. She suggested that if I had health insurance, that I’d see doctors more often, right?  Like the dermatologist?

Ouch. I have rosacea, but I’d never see a dermatologist for it. I can’t stand dermatologists, I think they’re the closest things to charlatans in the medical field. There’s no cure for rosacea. They have found that doxycycline works quite well, but they market it as “Oracea” and charge an arm and leg for a routine antibiotic that’s available for little or nothing. “Oracea” symbolizes to me everything that is wrong with the American Medical system.

No, even if I was well-insured, I wouldn’t be at the doctor’s unless I was too sick to do anything else. Which, I realize, is different from how other people view medicine. We knew this couple, trapped together in a rather awful marriage who each used “illness” as a means of getting emotional support from their partner that was otherwise unavailable.

I’d never seen people who went to the doctor as much as this pair.  They were consumers of medical services. She didn’t just take probiotics to put her gut in order, she went for dozens of invasive and complicated tests that revealed she had IBS and should take  probiotics to put her gut in order. He’s had more rotator cuff surgeries than ten men. A week didn’t pass when one or both of them didn’t have an appointment with the internist, the ophthalmologist, the chiropractor, the podiatrist, the dentist, the gastroenterologist, the orthopaedist, or the cardiologist. Oh, and the therapist.

I have sympathy for them, truly, but this strikes me as a misuse of medicine. They don’t take their car to the mechanic every week, or their dog that frequently to the vet. I don’t think that they’re anymore afraid of dying than any of the rest of us are. I think they’re just lonely. Think about it: the doctor really wants to know how you are. If you’re not as you should be, the doctor expresses concern, and seeks a means to heal you. That could get to be heady stuff.

When I was in college, everyone had a therapist. (This was Boston, which is also part of that.) It wasn’t until I moved to Montana that I realized that it wasn’t that we all needed therapy (though maybe we did) — it was that we were all narcissists and wanted to spend 50 minutes a week talking unabashedly about ourselves and our real or imagined neuroses.

I’m sorry that single payer health care reform didn’t take hold here. It is a simple means to provide health care for a population– and we already have the mechanics for it in Medicare. (If you’re gearing up to write me a comment about the ills of socialized medicine, let me stop you from wasting your time. I’ve been an occasional patient in socialized health care systems since I was 10 years old, and can find no fault with them that doesn’t exist in our system. I have seen them from the point of view of both patient and doctor. I know it works, that’s why the rest of the civilized world uses it.) But a uniquely American problem with that kind of system would be what to do about the “medical consumers,” those people who seek out doctors not just for health care, but for entertainment.

I don’t know what the answer is. I hope I don’t end up paying more to be insured than I pay for health care, but I probably will. Perhaps there will be peace of mind in knowing that if I had to deal with something really bad, we won’t lose our house to pay for it. In the meantime, I’ll go on taking my probiotic, and eating stuff that makes me feel good and trying to get a little more exercise; whatever it takes to keep me upright.


Target today 71. Steps. 2392

Breakfast: scrambled eggs with a little cheese and a tortilla. Lunch: yogurt with granola Dinner: home-made shrimp tacos with avocado, crema, cilantro. 

Hunting and Gathering

The Challenges of Bringing Food to the House.

If the whole diet and exercise thing comes crashing down in flames, it will be because I can’t get a grip on grocery shopping. For awhile I lived in Tuscany, and shopping for food in Italy was a real challenge. There were a few places that were like little grocery stores, but mostly you had to stop at market stalls in the street or at the butchers, the cheese shop, the bakery  to get what you needed. I didn’t have a car, and rarely enough money for grocery and taxi ride both, so I could only buy stuff that I could carry home in my arms, up the hill out of the city.

English isn’t widely spoken in Italy and though I had a little German and a lot of French, I found it very difficult to translate. So each morning, I would figure what was needed for the day and I would make a list. Then I would look up the translations for the foods I needed and write them next to their counterparts on the list. Sometimes I would write out the pronunciation key too. If I really got stuck I could point to the word on the list.  Bringing home the food was a lot of work and it took hours.

In 1972, when we moved from suburban Connecticut (with its bright and modern supermarkets) to a mill village in the north of England, my mother was horrified at the shopping dilemma. The nearest town with any sort of large market was Huddersfield. It was only about ten miles away, but there were innumerable obstacles. The local shops were merely out the door and 100 feet up Peel Street. It was just the everyday chore of having to go out for bread and vegetables and a bit of meat and chocolate– none of which were in the same shop, of course.

We’ve recreated this situation in this country to an extent and made a trendy entertainment of shopping in specialty stores and farmer’s markets. I can hardly stand it. Maybe it’s the echo of my experience in Europe, but more likely it’s the sense of self-consciousness that drapes over me like a cloak. I hate to ask for things. I don’t want to be helped. All the other shoppers seem so weirdly pleased with themselves about being there.  We will go in occasionally to buy bread. Our friend is the baker and the bread is truly worthwhile, but I hate going to get it.

There are ethnic markets of course, but not for routine shopping. There is a small local chain of upscale groceries called “Dorothy Lane Market,” whose ethnicity is rich and white. I went there the other night for a wine and cheese sampling with my friend Rita. It was divine. They offer to help you there, but you can be utterly anonymous too. Just don’t forget your wallet, and I hope it’s fat if you’re shopping there much. There’s a Trader Joe’s too, but it seems kind of flat after DLM.

But the regular routine staples– the milk and oranges and butter and eggs and cereal, that generally comes from a grocery store here. My husband’s parents ran a neighborhood grocery in L.A.and in between stints at railroads, my husband worked at numerous grocery stores. I think he clocked in at about 50 Ralph’s in Southern California. When we still lived in Montana, people would stop him in the store and ask for help years after he’d stopped working there.

He is a great shopper of sales. He fiddles with coupons, but finally doesn’t use them for anything except tormenting me. If I should happen to buy something different or shampoo or something he will invariably  say “Why didn’t you tell me you were going to buy that? I have a coupon for it at home.”  Always. But his style of shopping is entirely different from mine. He’s the man at the checkout with 16 cans of green beans and four cases of soda pop, a tower of canned tuna fish, a big box of ramen and three bags of cat food balanced over the top of the cart. He always walks back to the back of the store just before we leave, to get the milk. If he buys fresh produce it’s one or more of these three things: lettuce, onions or bananas.

Then he wrestles with the self check-out. Those machines, they’ve got it in for Elmer. They’re holding a grudge.

There’s nothing particularly odious about grocery shopping here, it’s just so boring. I try hard to adhere to the advice of diet and money gurus to stay out of the middle of the store and just shop along the edges, as the edges are where they keep the fresh food. If money weren’t a consideration, the shopping would be easier. (Hell, if money weren’t a consideration, I’d have a personal chef and they could do the shopping.) But it is, so I’m on the lookout for less-expensive proteins to build a meal around. Before I was so food conscious, this was a bit easier. Kielbasa and noodles are a tasty and inexpensive supper, but really, you know, not all that healthy. Prowling the aisles, I try to find stuff that will help me continue on the right path, and still provide sustenance for the rest of the family.

On good days the cart is brimming with the potential of great meals ahead: tortillas and tilapia, ginger and Bok choy, cilantro, raw shrimp, peppers, chicken, some lean beef, brown cow yogurt, granola, fruit, spinach, avocado, oranges. But then there’s the check-out ahead and hauling it all out to the car and then carrying all the bags up to the house and finding some place to put everything and chucking out all the things that have wilted and rotted and gotten covered in gray fuzz in the refrigerator. The wastefulness of it all really bothers me. I resolve to do better, and use up the ingredients I’d bought in preparing wonderful meals.

But the days go by. We go out to eat. We have a “fend” night, where everyone is on their own to feed themselves. Things age, they wilt, the bloom goes off. And suddenly there you are with nothing in the house to eat again and it’s time to go grocery shopping.  Planning would help, of course. If we could only stick to the plan. Somehow, there’s got to be a better way.

Target today 70  Steps 611

Yogurt with granola. Slice of birthday cake. Six crackers with Monterey Jack cheese. Small slice of pizza. One chicken nugget. 

Buckling Down to Write

As a child, I had stricken with horse fever. Lucky for me, I had access to horses, complete with lessons and a velvet hunt cap. It wasn’t enough to abate the fever; if anything the scent of the horse, the supple leather reins, the melody of hooves on the ground made it more acute. We lived in England and I was 11.

In school, Composition was taught by a wonderful woman named Christine Docker who had hair like Cher, except that it was silver. Her husband had been on university track team with Roger Bannister, the man who broke the four-minute mile. Isn’t it funny what we remember? Anyway, every day she’d write a title on the blackboard and we were to write a story using the title as a prompt.

Every story I wrote featured a horse. Every. Story. Mrs. Docker got creative, and each day’s title would seem to preclude horses: “Marooned on a Desert Island,”  “A Day in London,” “Flying Away,” “Stuck in an Elevator.” I  remember these because, of course, I managed to work a horse (or several) into the plot. One day, she called me up to her desk.

“Larkin,” she said, “you’ve got a real gift for writing.”

“Thank you, Ma’am.”


“Yes, Ma’am?”

“No . . .  more . . . horses!” she thundered and the class laughed, and I laughed too. And I did give her a couple of stories that were horse-free.

Yesterday, I moped about having to write about diet and exercise, but since the raison d’être of this very journal is diet and exercise, I really need to just do it.

When I wrote for someone else’s newspaper, I wrote about groundbreaking for new banks and the oldest veteran in the county and school board meetings and really, whatever else I was asked to write about. Sometimes the best stories were the ones I dreaded the most, but there really isn’t a way to make writing about a new bank into something worth reading. And what I really wanted to write about was murder.

In our tiny town of six thousand people there’d been nearly a dozen suspicious deaths in as many years. And I did write about those deaths, for a while. I may write about them again one day.

But this, Twelve Moons,  is not supposed to be about writing. This is supposed to be about diet and exercise. If I want to really write, I need to focus all of that energy on the book. I should take a leaf from William Faulkner, who wrote “Everything goes by the board: honor, pride, decency, to get the book written.” When I write about things other than diet and exercise then I take the pressure off to write about Orville. I can’t allow myself to do that.

Originally this was just going to be a record of what I ate, what I did and perhaps an observation or two. It’s grown beyond that, and while it’s okay that it has a bit more substance that what I originally anticipated, I can’t allow it to siphon off the best of my literary hours.

So, friends, diet and exercise it will be. And food, too, of course. I have drafts for quite a few things just floating around– fat jokes, a treatise on maple, bad dieting advice, the long-promised sex and peaches. We’ll be okay– and if you have something in particular about diet and exercise, or food, that you’d like to talk about, well, for Pete’s sake, do tell.

Today’s target 70  Steps 2552

Breakfast: yogurt with granola. Lunch: tuna with chili pepper, six Ritz crackers, a smore. Dinner: two cups of brussel sprouts, chicken sandwich, slender piece of birthday cake. 


A few months ago I had a friend request on Facebook from someone I didn’t know.  That’s not all that unusual. Some requests come from people who share mutual friends. Some are from people who have similar interests in dogs or music or films or literature or social issues. In this instance the request was from a man who came from the town in Montana where we used to live.

Since I worked for, and then later published a newspaper in that town, I met a lot of people along the way. I don’t always remember them right off the bat, so I try to err on the inclusive side. I’ll be re-thinking that. Today, on a thread on the Facebook page of a long-time and much beloved friend, this guy attacked me. That’s when I realized that somewhere along the line, he’d “de-friended” me. (Clearly, his absence had about as much impact as his presence.) No matter. But when I called him on this, he replied simply “Drivel.”

Turns out that he thought what I said or posted or believed constituted “drivel.”  Well, apparently drivel has two meanings: “to let saliva dribble from the mouth” and “to talk stupidly and carelessly.” Though I may in fact drool occasionally while sleeping, I think the charge is an unfair one. However, I’m a great fan of Steve Martin, and found his book Pure Drivel quite brilliant, so at least I’m in good company.

You know what this asshat was referring to? My political opinions. Now, I didn’t ask to be his “friend,” I don’t even know him. I used to be relatively discreet about my liberal, leftist, progressive leanings when I lived in Montana– because I didn’t want to have my time wasted by Republicans trying to convert me. (I still don’t, so please, save your breath.) It was like the Democratic Underground, we only talked among ourselves.

Now I live in Ohio, a swing state, and I’m not going to be quiet about it anymore. If you look at the part of my Facebook profile that is available to the public it says right there that I am a “damned liberal.”  If that’s not your cup of tea, then turn away.

However I sometimes worry that I am guilty of producing “drivel”, particularly now that  I’m supposed to be writing about diet and exercise. You might have noticed that I find it hard to stay on topic. Many of the other diet and exercise writers have stopped following the blog. I’m sorry, diet and exercise just doesn’t hold my attention enough to write about it every day. If I can do it once  a week, I’ll be in good form. So I write about other things– but it’s been quite a long time since I wrote about anything essential, and writing about essential things is like having protein in your diet. You go too long without it and you feel like you’re subsisting on intellectual cotton candy.

But my political opinions are not “drivel”. I hope that your political opinions are also carefully considered. I try to avoid conversations about politics with people who think differently than me in this area. If I care about them, I don’t want this to come between us– and if we engage over this we will fight. As for the Other, those I don’t know or care about, I’m sorry but you’re just beneath contempt.

My friend Martha puts up with all manner of crap from her friends and relatives in the deep south. Like her husband, they get all their information from Rupert Murdoch, and cannot be convinced that it simply is not true. I don’t know why she puts up with it. Tonight I came a little unglued with a couple of those “Christian” ladies arguing in favor of voter suppression, as if voter fraud is a problem in this country. It’s not a problem in this country. It isn’t. (You don’t have to take my word for it, click the link.)

Generally I don’t like to come unglued. I’m a great believer in civil discourse, though I will admit to there being a frisson of glee in just letting it fly. Neither of my parents were particularly patient and I have tried hard to improve on that. I do try to listen and be compassionate and inclusive. I’m really a nice person until you piss me off. (Stop laughing, it’s true.) But I am out of patience now. And I really have to find something worthwhile to write about.

Target 70 Steps 1938

Breakfast: two eggs, plain waffle, three rashers of bacon, blotted dry. Lunch: Lean Cuisine Spring Rolls, a cup of raw carrots. Dinner:  Red beans and rice with two ounces of sausage. A package of m&ms. 




The Pedometer Wars

In February, before I even really got started on this, I bought a pedometer. I did some research, read quite a few reviews and settled on a tiny one (about the size of a book of matches) made by Ozeri. I recommend this odometer, it is completely reliable and very tough. Here’s the link, if you’re interested. Day in and day out, I counted steps. I wear the pedometer from the minute I put on my clothes until I take them off at night, so I also end up wearing it on the treadmill sometimes. Because I wear it on the treadmill, I know that it’s accurate. My regular walking stride is two feet. It takes me 2640 steps to log a mile.

The biggest day I had in terms of steps was around 14,000– and it was one day last March when I was at the Louisville dog show. I was there with three dogs– an Irish Red and White setter, a Chesapeake Bay Retriever and a Scottish Deerhound. That morning I hand walked each dog for a distance of about 8 blocks. Each. Louisville is a huge show, and on this day, my parking spot was about a quarter-mile from the door. I had to make three roundtrips to unload the dogs. The various rings were scattered all over the building and the Scottish deerhound judge was a little on the sadistic side, making us “go around” the 50 foot ring (at a run) about seven times. Once the showing was done for the day, my friend and I made the rounds of the vendors. Then it was more trips to the car to load up the dogs, and back to the hotel where they were all walked again. Then I had to run out to Target to pick up some things and being it was an unfamiliar Target, I wandered round and round.

Most days though, I manage to log about 5,000 steps, provided I’m not sitting all day doing research or writing. It was a wonderment to me though how so many people were logging 10,000 plus steps per day even though they sat a desk all day underwriting insurance, or serving as a receptionist, and going home at night to flop in front of the television. One of them said she walked in place in front of the tv. What do I know? Different strokes for different folks.

Then last week my husband bought a pedometer for six dollars at a Tuesday Morning store. (If you’re not familiar with Tuesday Morning, they are an upscale salvage retailer, who sell nice merchandise at a fraction of its list price. Interesting place, you never know quite what you’ll find.)  I looked a bit askance at him when he said he wanted it, but really, fine. He’ll see how hard it is to rack up 5,000 steps.

The first day he had 14,000 steps.

Friends, he never left the house. Yes he went down to the basement two or three times. He walked out to the garage. He went upstairs once or twice. These are things that I too do everyday, and I can assure you it’s not five miles worth. He insisted that the pedometer was accurate. He swore up one side and down the other that it didn’t count as steps the Saab lurching in and out of potholes down Salem Avenue.

He said “See, I told you I was putting in as many or more steps than you.”


My husband is past retirement age. He is reasonably fit. He has the kind of metabolism that allows him to sit down and eat a half-gallon of ice cream in a single sitting and not blow up into some kind of balloon. There’s no competition here. I am just trying to stay active. I don’t want to have a contest of who is walking more steps, and certainly not with someone wearing a pedometer that counts steps when you jiggle it in your hand. Encouragement would have been nice, instead of having to deal with someone else’s competitive drive.

Weirdly, all this corresponded with the clip breaking off my own pedometer. I’m waiting for the replacement to arrive in the mail. I still wear the pedometer, but I know it is only logging about half the amount of steps. I have checked it by simply counting steps as I walked, and by measuring it against the treadmill. It’s too snug in my bra, apparently.

Then one day, my husband’s pedometer turned up on the dresser upstairs where it has stayed ever since. I appreciate that he thinks some things are worth arguing about. On the other hand, it rests there like a toad, mute yet accusatory. Maybe I’ll get him an Ozeri for Christmas and we’ll really see who’s walking . . .

Today’s target 70 Steps (not accurate) 2183.

Breakfast: yogurt with granola. Lunch: Spring rolls by Lean Cuisine (not as awful as it sounds) half a bell pepper, half a cup of frozen yogurt. Dinner was off the diet: two glasses of red wine, a few ounces of cheese, some grilled vegetables, a bit of pate, a bite of brownie, a tiny tart, a little puff pastry, three bites of a grilled sandwich. But I enjoyed myself.