Bloodsport

I saw an interesting post today in a blog I follow… Yeah, that’s right! I also read blogs; I don’t just author one. My point is, the post was about 1988’s “Bloodsport,” starring Jean-Claude van Damme. The movie is about a young boy who is on the cusp of going down the wrong path, when he is taken in by a Japanese immigrant who brought his family to the United States. He teaches him the art of ninjutsu along with his only son. When the son dies, Van Damme’s character takes over as the Japanese master’s protege and learns the martial arts to its full extent.

Years later the boy would grow into a man and join the military, only go AWOL in order to travel to Hong Kong and participate in an alleged tournament of martial artists called the Kumite, which he ends up winning. Of course. The movie is said to have been inspired by the real life events of Frank Dux. There’s a great deal of controversy surrounding Mr. Dux, and he’s been the focus of a lot of attention in recent years, especially in martial arts circles.

Mr. Dux is said to have been born in Toronto, Canada (please don’t hold that against us) and his family moved to the United States when he was very young. This is where Dux was allegedly introduced to the teacher who would teach him ninjutsu. He later went on to serve in the military. There are a lot of claims he made that don’t make sense and that people have been working to discredit. He went on to found his own style of ninjutsu, Dux-Ryu. He made a lot of bold claims about working for the CIA, winning the Kumite and even the existence of his alleged teacher has been disputed.

Despite the controversy surrounding Frank Dux, Bloodsport is still arguably one of the best 80’s martial movies out there and has stood the test of time. It came out when I was 10 years old, right around the time I decided to change the path I was on and join the martial arts. I won’t say this movie was the deciding factor, but considering my age and the fact I LOVED martial arts, it definitely played a role. And who doesn’t love a good story about the good guy winning? This movie definitely carried a number of important life lessons. When you consider the situation the young boy was in and the fact he was given a second chance, which he used to become reasonably successful by serving his country and train in the martial arts… One could do much worse.

There are a few problems with Dux’s story. For those who walk in martial arts circles, we know that ninjutsu isn’t a fighting art as it’s described in the movie. Ninjutsu was mostly developed as a means of espionage and survivalism. They trained with a number of weapons and throwing devices, but there wasn’t so much a structure fighting style associated with it. Arguably, most who have studied and practiced ninjutsu have pointed out that the practitioners didn’t go around advertising what they did or the art they studied. Some have described it as “the art of invisibility.” Not if you go around advertising it, bro!

The next problem is the name of the alleged tournament Dux participated in, the Kumite. Yeah. THAT one… I’ve been studying Okinawan karate for over three decades and I can tell you this: the word “kumite” means “grappling hands” and is a form of pre-arranged sparring that combine techniques learned through katas and structure drills. Considering the “pre-arranged” part, it isn’t something they’d use to describe a super-secret, illegal tournament held in the heart of Hong Kong…

Despite all of that, I still love the movie. Look, you can take the movie in one of two ways. You can accept that most movies are based on fantasy and enjoy the movie with grain of salt. Or you can be bitter about the fact it may be predicated on one man’s lies and boycott it. The choice is up to you. But if you want a solid 80’s action flick with lots of gratuitous fight scenes and some cheesy lessons thrown in, Bloodsport still stands on its own. ☯

Just For Laughs…

I’m nothing if not able to laugh at myself… I think that laughter is the best ingredient for a happy life. SO much so, that sometimes I make my wife question my sanity while reading and/or watching comedy to the point where I have tears coming down while she looks at me wondering what the hell she got herself into… IT’S TOO LATE NOW, HONEY!!!

As a good example, did you hear the one about me getting a coffee at my local Tim Horton’s and trying to sip it while on the way back to the office, forgetting I was wearing a fuckin’ mask? Yeah… That wasn’t COMPLETELY embarrassing to pull off while walking along a busy Regina street… Or the day when I was filling my water bottle at the fountain and when I leaned in to check if the bottle was full, I managed to spray water all over my crotch… Luckily, I was the only one in the office. Nothing like a wet crotch to convince your coworkers that you’re incontinent. But I digress…

Once in a while I manage to find something related to my faith that makes me grin and laugh. Unlike a lot of other people, I can see the comedy in some of those things and enjoy sharing them. Knowing its funny MAKES it funny. Anyway, without further ado… Here’s a funny Buddhist meme I found online:

This makes me laugh, because my son Nathan has said, “Come at me, bro” on a few occasions. So this serves two purposes: making me laugh and reminding me of my son. Both are ultimately important in my life, so I hope you enjoy it, as well. A pleasant laugh on “hump day.” ☯

Couples Who Sweat Together, Complain About The pain Together

One of the more pleasant aspects of working out is being able to enjoy a solid workout with your significant other. I don’t get to enjoy that pleasure often, as between work, the kids and other obligations, we never seem to sync up with the times when we individually work out. My wife has taken to using a program called T25. They’re fantastic circuit workouts that only last… you guessed it! 25 minutes! She usually does these workouts during the morning when I’m at work while the baby naps.

My habit is to slip in some quick 30-minute workouts of varying types during the evening, when I’ve gotten home from work. I either hit the bag, do some weights or get on the bike. I’ve started hammering out some 10k runs on the bike, which is nice. Considering I was hitting the 60 and 70 kilometre distances last summer, it’s about time I started building that endurance back up. Especially after the harsh winter I just endured.

We’ve been talking about having some workouts together for weeks, now. It just rarely works out. But as I always say, if it’s important, you make the time. So, on Sunday we decided to hammer out a workout. I wanted to try one of the circuit workouts she’s been doing and she agreed to find one that would include dumbbells so we could get some weight work in. Considering I’ve done Meta-Shred, which is one of those 30-minute circuit routines as well, I figured it would be reasonable.

It. Was. Brutal. There we were, each doing our own thing, but doing it in tandem. We were both struggling, but getting through it at our own pace. By the time the workout timer ended I was sprawled on the floor, covered in sweat. My wife was blasted as well. It was loads of fun and it was something we were able to do together. Spending time together can be such a simple thing and it can be made all the more special by working on each other’s health together. Even with the busy schedule of life, one should always make time to share interests with one’s significant other. After all, couples who sweat together, complain about the pain together. ☯

Simplicity Is The True Spice Of Life

I was recently blessed with reading a post by one of my brother bloggers that goes into the topic of critical thinking versus creative thinking. There’s a lot to be said and described on this topic, but one of the important aspects that I took from that interaction was the importance of keeping things simple. This applies to all areas of life and can mean the difference between suffering and relative peace. Allow me to explain.

Critical thinking is an important aspect of life. Without it, we would likely not have a lot of the innovations and technology that modern society enjoy so freely. The ability to recognize, analyze and evaluate any given problem is how progress happens. We’re not quite “The Jetsons” yet, but we’re getting there. A hilarious side note on the Jetsons… I read a meme online that said that the Jetsons are set in the year 2062 and that George Jetson is about 41 years old, which means that somewhere in the world, he’s currently being conceived. That made me giggle a bit, especially since we’re nowhere near to living in the skies with flying cars. But I digress…

There are two basic perspectives to life and almost everyone without exception falls under one of these categories. I’m talking the scientific perspective and the non-scientific perspective. Even with science as a guide through navigating life, it’s important to recognize that the world is more than just what our six senses perceive and that at some point, if you go far enough backwards in the grand scheme of things, science fails to provide an answer. Perhaps it will, someday. But not all things can be compartmentalized and analyzed and there’s something to be said for running on faith.

Let’s take the Big Bang, as an example. No, I don’t mean the television sitcom, I mean the actual event that the title is based on. We know that at some point, billions and billions of years ago, an explosive release of energy resulted in the massive expansion of space that we recognize as our universe. So here’s the interesting question: what came before that? If one were to take the religious approach, then one would be inclined to believe that in the beginning, there was nothing until God said, “Let there be light!”

If one takes the scientific approach, we find ourselves at a loss. Some speculate that our universe is a piece of another, pre-existing universe and that something cataclysmic caused our universe to basically be tossed out and begin to expand on its own. There are a number of theories but I think we can agree that until proven, theory remains speculative. So, which perspective is the correct one? Is it so impossible to think that at some point, far enough back, a single individual or entity is responsible for all that we know? I don’t want to go off on a tangent and start getting into chaos theory, but if the flapping of a butterfly’s wings can cause tsunamis on the other side of the world, then…

Our self-awareness leads us to the belief that we’re at the top of the pyramid of life on our respective little blue marble, but the truth remains that we don’t know what’s out there. Or where it all came from. or even what’s to come, despite plenty of speculation on that, as well. One of my guilty pleasures is watching those YouTube simulations that show the progression of the universe until its end. How accurate those are will remain to be seen, just not by us in all likelihood. But I’m crawling FAR to the wayside of where I was going with this. Let’s see if I can get myself back on track…

When we talk about simplicity, we need to recognize that interaction is part of the human condition, and that we sometimes have to alter, improve or improvise how we perform those interactions. If I were to use employment as an example, when was the last time that you wrote a cover letter and JUST used plain language? When we want to make a certain impression, we have a tendency to “fancy” things up. I’m talking about something like describing oneself as a “master of the custodial arts” instead of just saying “janitor” or “cleaner.” Sure, it sounds fancier but it potentially leaves one open to misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

There is room in this world for both critical and creative thinking. In fact, in most instances they can used interchangeably. The key is keeping an open mind. Keeping things simple in all areas of life helps to guarantee that we reduce the amount of suffering in our own lives and frequently even in the lives of others. And it also ensures better communication in the overall grand scheme of things. Keep it simple. After all, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Food for thought… ☯

When The Pressure Builds

Yesterday, I wrote a post about some of the medications that I’ve been prescribed. These medications started out as preventative, but as the years passed, it became apparent that they were no longer “preventative” and were playing an active support role in my overall health. One of those medications plays a role in helping to control high blood pressure. When people hears “Diabetes,” they don’t automatically think of high blood pressure. But as it turns out, it can be one of those inevitable side effects that eventually catch up to anyone with Diabetes, controlled or not.

it’s no secret that Diabetes damages the body’s blood vessels and causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). That hardening will eventually cause an increase in blood pressure, which is where the problems start. High blood pressure can lead to heart attack and renal failure as well as problems with circulation. An increase in blood pressure can also lead to various eye complications related to Diabetes.

According to a post by WebMD, “most people with Diabetes should have a blood pressure of no more than 130/80.” Although I can admit that my blood pressure is usually spot on or close to that (when it gets tested), I’m sure there are days when it ain’t so great. The article goes on to explain that good blood pressure control can be almost as important as proper blood sugar control.

One of the big problems is that unlike a lot of other complications, a person can run for quite a long period of time without ever knowing they have high blood pressure. This is why it’s important to test your blood pressure regularly. You can purchase your own blood pressure cuff at your local pharmacy for a reasonably low price. They usually run from anywhere in the low $20 all the way up to well over $100, depending on how fancy you want to get. Personally, my blood pressure cuff is about as old fashioned as you can get, without having the old style that also requires a stethoscope. It’s a simple arm cuff connected to a pneumatic tube, which runs into a reader that takes “AA” batteries.

There are a number of things, some obvious and some not, that you can do to help improve your blood pressure. Regular exercise and proper blood sugar monitoring and control are the common ones, of course. But a healthier diet, quit smoking, drinking alcohol and limiting your intake of salt are also important to maintaining good blood pressure. Your endocrinologist will usually smack your fingers if you allow your blood pressure to run rampant.

If you happen to fall under the category of folks who can’t afford or don’t want to pay for a personal blood pressure cuff, you can visit your local pharmacy or big box retail store. They usually have a publicly-available blood pressure machine that you can use. Moderation on some of the more common bad habits as well as healthy diet and exercise are key. Don’t let high blood pressure be your undoing. ☯

Don’t Be A Pill

I can be a bit of a stubborn bastard at the best of times, which comes from a lifetime of having every adult around me dying to tell me how to eat, how to sleep, what medications to take and when to take them. As a child, I would often be resentful of having to wake up on the weekends to take insulin injections, to the point where my mother started getting into the habit of simply yanking down my pyjama bottom and injecting me in the buttock as she felt it simply wasn’t worth the fight. I’ve obviously gotten better as I’ve gotten older, but kids don’t usually understand the NECESSITY of the medication they may be on, and I was no exception.

In 2009, I faced a new aspect to my Diabetes therapy. I had just moved to Saskatchewan and got myself a new doctor. After a couple of appointments to “get to know each other,” he introduced something that I had promised I would never allow: pills. Don’t get me wrong; I have nothing against pills. They’re necessary, required and important. So long as they’re used for their intended purpose, that is. But I grew up watching my brother ingest dozen different pills, first thing in the morning and again around dinner time. And we all know how THAT ended as he passed away in 1991.

When it was suggested, I firmly told the doctor that I had no need or use for pills and that I had no intention starting on them. He then asked me if I took a multi-vitamin. Yes, I did. He was quick to point out that multi-vitamins were pills and I was voluntarily taking those, so why would I object to the ones he was proposing? Mostly, it was because I didn’t know what the pills he was suggesting did, so there was a fear of the unknown. This is where he actually took the time to explain the medications in detail and what they would be for, which if you’re even mildly familiar with doctors in recent years, they aren’t big fans of taking extra time when you visit.

Once they were explained, I learned that I would be taking a medication call “rosuvastain,” more commonly known as Crestor. This one helps prevent raising cholesterol. Not a problem I’ve ever know to have, but okay. The other one is Ramipril, which is commonly-used to treat high blood pressure and renal failure in folks with Diabetes. The explanation made sense until he the doctor pointed out that these were “preventative” measures… What the fuck?! So, I’m basically starting to take pills I don’t need? That’s like getting open-heart surgery IN CASE you eventually have heart disease…

I know, I was a little over-dramatic and it’s not really comparable, but what would think about starting to take medications you don’t need? Although renal issues are a recognized side effect of Diabetes, it seemed odd to me to take medication for it when, by all accounts, my kidneys were clear. Alright, he’s the doctor and I’m the patient, so I trusted him and accepted the prescription. I’ve been taking those two medications as part of my Diabetes therapy, ever since.

Flash forward to over ten years later. I’m still on both medications AND as of last year’s endocrinologist’s appointment, both medications have been increase to satisfy the demand of my body’s condition. In fact, during my last appointment with my endocrinologist, which was las February, tests showed that my kidneys showed some mild level of struggle, meaning that the medication was providing some active support. It kind of makes me wonder where I’d be at and how far gone I would be if I hadn’t accepted these “preventative” therapies.

I guess my point here today, is that it can be extremely important to take ownership of one’s health and be clear and understanding about what’s being put into one’s body. By the same token, preventative medicine can be an effective way of putting off some of the difficulties that one may face when dealing with Type-1 Diabetes. Although it can be difficult to take it on faith when it comes to taking pills, well-trained doctors will often be able to identify the need for such prevention early on, where the patient may miss it or be unaware. Food for thought…

A Jab In The Arm…💉

I need to start this post by premising the fact that I’m not a doctor, I’m not a health specialist nor do I have any formal medical training. What I do have is a lifetime of knowledge and skills accumulated through trial and error. And if you read that sentence in Liam Neeson’s voice from “Taken,” I applaud your imagination because that’s what I did as I wrote it. But I digress… You know that if I’m starting my post with a disclaimer, it’ll be something special. But what’s more is, this will be strictly my opinion and should be digested as such. What I want to talk about today is vaccination… (ducks and covers head, realizes no stones are being thrown and gets back up) Alrighty then, here we go!

There’s a significant amount of controversy surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine. And with good reason. With the internet making the world’s news and information literally available at one’s fingertips, everyone researches and “investigates” just about everything in their daily lives before making any sort of a decision. And what’s worse, people have a tendency to suddenly turn into armchair warriors that have a loud and prominent (and oftentimes annoying) voice that would generally be silent if they had to face people in person. And that’s a problem, because these folks are contributing to the dissemination of misinformation, which is often from sources that are offering opinion based on their own experiences and not necessarily hard science.

This is one of the reasons why I take pains to cite my sources when I can and otherwise only speak to my own experiences as they relate to the content I write. But this line in the sand with the COVID-19 vaccines is something special. Given the state of the world and the situation we face, the majority of governments have made it clear that they want a certain percentage of the population to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before lifting all restrictions and allowing the return to some semblance of normalcy. At least, that’s the state of things in Canada. I can’t speak for what may be happening in other countries. Personally, I’m of the opinion that the pandemic has irrevocably changed us all. The world may never go back to what it once was. Between the acknowledgment that many if not most jobs can be performed from home, people suddenly shifting gears in their lives and changing careers, leaving their spouses and all around deciding to live it up as there’ only one life to live (according to them), the world has changed in a way that may never go back to what it previously was.

And that’s fine. Moving forward is the only way to go in life, and is important if one intends on accomplishing anything. But the choice whether to get vaccinated or not is a personal one. For example, I’ve been getting the flu shot for over ten years. Having Type-1 Diabetes means my immune system is rocky at the best of times, so it’s a smart move for me. So, here are some thoughts on the flu vaccine…. If I don’t take it, I can POTENTIALLY get sick. That illness can POTENTIALLY be fatal to me. If I catch the flu, I can without a doubt transmit it to others, who may face the same consequences as I do. People have died from taking this vaccine and others. It all depends on a person’s specific body, biology and overall health. The flu vaccine is not a GUARANTEE that I won’t get the flu; it simply helps my body to create the antibodies that will help to overcome the flu, should I catch it.

Sound familiar? It probably should, because this is all the same shit that applies to the COVID-19 vaccine. It doesn’t GUARANTEE that you won’t catch it; it simply prompts your body’s defences against the virus if you get it. Yes, there are people who have died AFTER taking the vaccine. The question as to whether it was a direct result of the vaccine or not is debatable. It’s right up there with number of deaths due to COVID-19 being argued and disputed because some of the deceased had a pre-existing condition. The internet went nuts when the Provinces were calculating and gathering their numbers, claiming that they were using death due to heart conditions, cancer and other ailments as an umbrella to claim it was COVID-19.

But I’m getting WAY off topic, here. My point with today’s post is that there has already been a shift or a societal trend, where people are beginning to ask the question; “Did you get vaccinated?” Honestly, when you get right down to it, this is almost akin to asking about ANY private, medical history. There are issues arising where employers are starting to test the waters in regards to requiring people to be vaccinated and asking about it. All of that is private information. If someone WANTS to share the fact they’ve gotten vaccinated, good for them. But people honestly shouldn’t be asking others. The other issue is the CHOICE to get vaccinated. I know plenty of people who choose not to get vaccinated against the flu. But you won’t see them posting every five minutes about how the flu vaccine isn’t guaranteed, how it’s ineffective and how it can potentially kill. But this is true of any and every vaccine. One needs to make the personal choice between choosing one path over the other. For myself, contracting COVID-19 will almost assuredly end my life. Taking the vaccine has an infinitesimal chance of being lethal to the person who takes it. So ultimately, I had to make the choice…. Go with the thing that is likely certain to kill me, or the thing that almost impossibly but could possibly kill me.

All life is choice. We choose to get up in the morning, face life and deal with the issues of the day. The big secret is that most of those choices should be kept to oneself. If you choose to get vaccinated and want to let people know because it’s something you’re proud of having chosen, fantastic. If you choose NOT to get vaccinated and want to let people know because it’s ALSO something you’re proud of having chosen, good for you. But the propaganda and misinformation should be kept out of it. Make your choice, stand by it and move on. An import aspect to consider is that since most governments require we reach a certain vaccinated level before re-opening society, some may say that refusing to get vaccinated is contributing to the problem as opposed to proposing a solution.

As I said in the beginning, this is simply and strictly an opinion. I believe in having the choice. There are a lot of aspects of the pandemic that I feel could have been done differently, perhaps even better. But as I also mentioned, I’m not a doctor. And if we stop trusting the professionals, we may as well ditch society as a whole and just go live off-grid in a cabin in the woods. Granted, some weeks that feels like the ideal solution. All I can do is make the best informed decision for me and my family and stick to it. At the end, that’s pretty much all anyone can do. ☯️

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served At Someone Else’s Buffet…

It’s no secret that I’ve been through quite a bit in the past three years. I always say that life doesn’t care about one’s plan, and I often say this because you can be prepared, trained and ready for any obstacle or issue that you may encounter and still fail. When I look at the course of my own life, I acknowledge that no matter how prepared I was, I certainly wasn’t ready for the nightmarish few years that were to follow. I can honestly say that the issues I overcame (and I DID overcome them!) shook my existence to its very core and threatened the nature of who I was and how I lived my life. Often, I wanted to blame other parties for these difficulties. And make no mistake; there was certainly and undoubtedly blame to be placed on the other person.

When facing any issue or problem in life, it’s important to remember that the cause or the “blame,” if you will, can be attributed to three involved parties. The first is the other person. This is obvious, but actions, words and/or choices made by the other person will certainly be a root cause of any problem you’re facing. The next aspect is fate. I use that term quite loosely and a better word honestly eludes me, at the moment. But it’s important to always remember that some elements of life are out of your control. Most people get angry and try to fix things when fate intervenes, but there isn’t much you can do about it. No sense getting angry at the rain for getting you wet!

The last involved party and the most important, is yourself. It is the height of ignorance to assume, on any occasion, that you have no involvement or responsibility for the problems you face. If we take a simple example, such as being late for work, it may have happened due to traffic, a passing train holding you up or some other factor. But one still needs to recognize their familiarity with the route, traffic and potential delays as well as taking responsibility for the time you left your home. This is a pretty simplistic example, but it goes to show that no matter what the situation, you also hold some responsibility for it. This is usually a hard pill to swallow for most people, as most prefer to place blame on the other individual. Whether this is because they feel better thinking they’re excused from blame or because they want a target to focus their anger is beyond me.

Once you’ve acknowledged that there is SOME self-blame involved and that some of it is out of your control, knowing who else may be responsible will often become irrelevant. And just to be clear folks, I’m not referring to an intentional, criminal act on someone else’s behalf! There is absolutely no reason for one person to commit a crime against another. But this doesn’t prevent some people from using their words, actions or choices in such a way that it causes you problems. The bottom line, whether you buy into this rhetoric or not, is that when people face/overcome any problems in life that involve another party, it usually prompts a comment that always makes me take pause: “Karma will get them!”

Karma has different meanings and connotations, depending on the religious background you follow or are familiar with. In most instances, it describes making your next life better by ensuring the sum of your actions in the current life are positive. Even if you don’t subscribe to the concept of reincarnation, karma can be considered something of a spiritual cause and effect. If you do good, good will happen and vice versa. The problem comes in when people start believing that karma is an instrument of vengeance or revenge. I have some news for you, folks. That’s not how karma works.

There are a lot of reasons why I SHOULD be angry and pissed off against the person responsible for all the grief in my life over the past few years. And despite the responsibility I accept for these issues, the person involved had no right and no reason to cause me difficulty. I have every confidence that karma will eventually catch up to this person. After all, do bad and bad things will happen, as well. But the important thing, which allows me to move on and maintain my sanity, is being able to let it go and walk away. I I were to sit and watch for this person to step off a cliff, that would make me no better and likely worse, than this person was to begin with.

I’ve had a number of people share their thoughts that I should pursue this person, sue them or take some sort of responsive action against this person. Karma is self-regulating and I am not its instrument. At least, I never KNOWINGLY am. And that’s where people need to understand the significant difference between karma and revenge. Revenge involves direct action on a person’s behalf, does nothing to fix what has happened and will only contribute to the suffering of the world. Karma eventually catches up and happens independently, with no vengeful agenda behind it.

Don’t even get me started on suing someone. I absolutely abhor the prospect of suing someone. That’s just a personal perspective, but that always seems to be everyone’s go-to, nowadays. “Oh, I’m gonna sue them…” There’s a time and place for that kind of thing and is meant to be recuperative, not punitive. And one also needs to recognize the inherent difference between “revenge” and “justice.” One has nothing to do with the other. Will karma get them in the end? I always tend to believe so. But I’ll draw no pleasure from it and it’s important not to halt one’s life to see it happen. Food for thought… ☯️

In The Absinthe of Good Sense… (A Long Read)

In some respect, I was kind of what some would call a “late bloomer.” I never had a rebellious phase, never got brought home by the police and contrary to the majority of my age group back home, I didn’t spent my teen years partying and drinking alcohol. In fact, I only drank my first beer at the age of 23 when I was training in Okinawa. And during those first few tastes of golden, alcoholic bliss, I was hanging out in a climate that required my body to retain every single drop of fluid I was taking in, which meant I was pretty much drinking beer AND water with impunity. That first little while saw me drinking with little to no after effects (other than raised blood sugars from the occasional high carbohydrate beer) and never a hangover.

Because of that fact, I thought I was somewhat invulnerable to the effects of alcohol. At least where hangovers were concerned. I didn’t learn my lesson until about six months AFTER my return from Okinawa where, on my way to a friend’s party, I couldn’t decide between two brands of beer, and bought a 6-pack of both. And then consumed them all. In one evening. Within about three hours. Ironically, I remember my evening quite clearly and it was a lot of fun. No worries or concerns, really. But the physical pain I was in the following morning taught me the error of my ways and why I should never drink with such impunity again.

I woke up soaked in what I hoped to Light was sweat, and my body sending out warning signals of varying sorts. My blood sugars were through the roof and my bowels and stomach were having an extremely loud argument over who had the right to kick out their unwanted guests first. I decided that my parched and swollen tongue required some water before giving attention to anything else. The water aggravated my stomach further, causing me to rush to the washroom where I managed to sit on the toilet while simultaneously testing my ability to aim by unceremoniously throwing up into the sink next to me.

It was like there was a party in my mouth and everyone was throwing up. I walked away having learned an extremely valuable lesson about alcohol, after that night. Despite being in my early 20’s, it would prove to be only one of two or three times in my life (so far) that I would actually get drunk. Putting aside the story of the staff party where I don’t remember being dropped off at home, the recollection of the third and last instance where I got truly drunk is the topic of today’s post. It involves an unplanned road trip coupled with a legendary and often-feared drink: absinthe.

Because of the first two instances of getting drunk, I had a strict “no getting drunk” policy, which involved never drinking anywhere but the comfort of my own home as well as never drinking enough to go beyond the enjoyment of simple libations and the flavour of whatever I may have been consuming at the moment. That isn’t to say that I don’t have the occasional beer when out at a restaurant or bar with friends. Far from it. But as a personal policy, I never allow myself to drink to excess. I think this is an important self-policy and should be followed by everyone. But my third and last time of getting drunk hammered it home for me. Here’s what happened…

Sometime between my return from Okinawa in 2001 and moving to Ottawa in 2007, I had a friend who lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick. The capital city of New Brunswick, it sits near the south-west corner of the Province and is about four hours away from where I was living at the time. My friend had moved there some years’ prior and had an apartment on the south side of the river. Although some locals may argue this point, the south side is where it’s at. It has the university, the shopping, the coffee shops and the bars. It also has the best comic shops.

Since I had a lull in my career, I found myself between jobs and had recently become single (unrelated) so I decided to pay my friend a visit. I haven’t spoken to him about retelling this, so for the purposes of this story I’ll simply call him “Treats.” If he reads this, he’ll be the only one who knows this involves him. I swear on my right hook that this is how the night went down, but his recollection may be different. I’ll let y’all know if he ends up reading this and reaching out to me. But I left early in the morning and arrived at Treats’ apartment around lunchtime. This worked out well, since we decided to go have brunch at one of my favourite breakfast restaurants called “Cora’s.” Although it’s nothing special beyond the fact they serve fresh fruit with every dish, one of our mutual friends also work there.

Treats had managed to gather a small group of mutual and new acquaintances to join us for breakfast, which included Treats’ brother and made for a pleasant, social outing. That’s right; I can be social. After an uneventful afternoon of coffee shops, comic book stores and good conversation, we discussed what we would be doing for dinner and with our evening. This is where things began to slowly roll downhill. Innocently enough, we decided on a local pub where we could indulge on a dose of unnecessary calories while having a few drinks. Once again, we had a few people with us but everyone kind of melted away as the evening progressed. A combination of university, work and the fact it was a week night made for a quiet party.

We got bored and didn’t want to spend a fortune on every beer we got, so we stopped by a local liquor store and got a case of beer for the apartment. We decided to binge watch some Family Guy. This was before Netflix was the big thing, and Treats actually had all the current seasons on DVD, so we watched and giggled like drunken school girls until we watched a scene involving Peter Griffin and the giant chicken. This prompted a heated discussion about fighting and martial arts, as I had been training in karate and he had apparently been doing kickboxing for quite some time. We already had quite a few drinks and despite being heated, it was nothing but conversational until Treats spoke the words that would change the tonality of the evening: “We should do a shot of absinthe…”

Folks, absinthe gets a reasonably bad rap. There was a this misconception that it had hallucinogenic properties and was mostly banned in North America, as a result. This concept has been mainly disproven in the past twenty years, and you can now buy the stuff at most liquor stores. Its no more dangerous than consuming any other spirit. Treats had brought over bottle from his travels in Europe over the previous couple of years and wanted me to experience the stuff, since I had never tried it. On the flip side, this shit is about 150 proof and is meant to be consumed by sprinkling sugar over ice and combining the absinthe with water. Treats took out two shot glasses and poured straight from the bottle. Asshole.

We were already drunk and bearing in mind that both of us had likely consumed close to a 12-pack each, albeit over the course of several hours, I wasn’t keen on the prospect of downing a shot. My previous experience with spirits hadn’t ended well. But I figured, what the hell was the worst that could happen? We were in the relative safety of Treats’ apartment and weren’t planning on going anywhere. Famous last words…

I take an experimental sniff of the greenish liquid and compared it to a bad combination of surgical-grade antiseptic mixed with antifreeze. I watch Treats throw his head back and down his shot. Suddenly, my self-confidence is shaken since Treats is about half my size and weight and he’s drank as much beer as I had. I do my best not to be a prideful person, but booze makes all the smart thoughts go, “Fuck it, I’m outta here!” So, like a true drunken idiot, I also throw back my shot and down it in one gulp.

It almost felt as though my entire body went into panic mode as every molecule in my esophagus was suddenly screaming at me and asking why I had brought this unwanted guest to the party. My stomach responded in kind, akin to a bouncer trying to tell someone they weren’t on the list and didn’t belong in the club and to get out of there. My stomach threatened to reverse impulse engines and expel right there in Treats’ kitchen. Sharp beads of sweat break out on my forehead and my knees buckle as I get dizzy, wondering what the hell I just did to myself.

Treats is laughing at me, mostly because he’s drunk and he sees me swaying in place but also because half the absinthe bottle was empty. This meant it wasn’t his first rodeo and he intentionally wanted to see what effect it would have on me. This makes me indignant and I consider this a slight against me the likes of which karma needed to correct. Once my momentary weakness passes, I decided it would be a good idea to test my blood sugars. This is a true testament to my muscle memory and control over Diabetes. Most people would have put that shit on the back burner.

When I come out of the guest room, Treats is back on the couch and has continued to watch Family Guy without me. This makes me morose as I sit in silence and begin to watch with him, having missed a portion of the episode. Somehow the conversation returns to our respective fighting styles and becomes more argumentative over the value of certain methods and techniques. I pride myself on being open to others’ interpretation. But as I mentioned earlier, drunk Shawn has a much different perspective. I berate and belittle his perspective. This makes him openly angry. Absinthe has joined the argument!

Treats finally decides he needs to demonstrate the effectiveness of his kickboxing prowess and invites me to spar in his entryway. We’re talking a less than ten-foot by ten-foot space inside an upper floor apartment. I start picturing Jean-Claude Van Damme’s drunken fight scene in Kickboxer and decide that this is a fantastic idea. We move his dining table slightly and square off. I can only imagine how ridiculous we must have looked; two grown-ass men, drunk beyond reason on beer and absinthe, planning to “spar.” I use the quotation marks because of what was to come next…

He starts with a couple of simple jabs. He’s using the typical boxer’s stance that I despise; his guard is firmly against the side of his head as he delivers his jabs. I block the first one. Then I block the second one. I begin to realize that my excessive martial arts training allows me to operate almost on instinct and I stop TRYING to block and simply let the blocks happen. I am in the zone. He delivers a couple more jabs and punches without any success. Although my guard is still up, I start laughing. And that’s when it happened.

Because of my drunken stupor, my laugh involved my eyes squinting shut. This is not a good thing during a fight. His next straight jab catches me right in the face. My eyes were no longer closed, let me tell you! I look at him in shock and surprise and try to deliver a jab of my own. As I do, he suddenly remembers the “kick” aspect of his art and delivers a firm, roundhouse kick to my right ribs; right underneath the arm I was jabbing with. I fold over on the injured side, which opens up the left side of my face. BAM! He delivers a right hook to the left side of my face.

The hook jars something loose as a flood of all the times I had been bullied and beaten up in school came flooding to the surface (Yes, I was bullied in school! One story at a time, people!). I was drunk on more alcohol than I should have consumed and my inner filters and controls melted away by Mr. Absinthe, and I saw red. I threw a quick rounded punch into Treats’ gut. He grunts. I am displeased at his lack of folding over, so I deliver a front kick to his solar plexus. As he doubles over, he guards the left side of his face. Since his fist is firmly against his head, I strike and it’s as though the fist isn’t even there. I bring a knee up into his abdomen and back kick him into his living room, sending his sprawling over the coffee table.

Maybe I should have mentioned that his girlfriend was also there at the time. Did I mention his girlfriend was sleeping there, at the time? She got up and was not impressed. We were both battered and bruised, with fine rivulets of blood at our nose, mouth or both. Everything had happened over the course of about five minutes. She used a rather matronly voice to “suggest” that we quit our bullshitting or she’d get “involved.” This this day, I don’t know what she meant. I didn’t want to know then, and I don’t want to know now. We watched a couple more episodes and the mood lightened significantly. Probably because we had drained out all of our testosterone in those few moments. Who knows?

I awoke the next morning and staggered my way to the washroom. The left side of my face had some mild swelling and it hurt to move my rib cage. I stepped out into the kitchen and found Treats seated at the table. He offered me coffee, which I gladly accepted and then grinned devilishly while making some off-the-cuff comment about how I couldn’t handle my booze. I left it alone. I didn’t know how much he remembered from the previous night, but I have the significant advantage (or disadvantage) of always retaining full memory of what I’d done despite the alcohol.

We decided to have a second round of brunch at Cora’s before I got back on the road to home. I had a reasonably low after-effect and little to no hangover, considering the amount of alcohol AND the strikes to the head. We chatted, we laughed and I got back on the road having thoroughly enjoyed my time with Treats. Good times and good memories. It would prove to be the last time I would ever consume that much alcohol of any type, and one of the last time I ever went beyond “tipsy.” Even though I didn’t have a rambunctious youth, I recognized that my capacity for violence when inebriated was significant. And I didn’t want to ever chance inadvertently bringing harm to someone.

So there you have it! A little insight on lesser moments in my 20’s. I definitely wasn’t proud of how I was that night. Anymore than I was of the other two instances when I allowed myself to drink outside the home. But this is why I make a point never to consume to intoxication. And for the most part, I never drink outside my home. My personal and professional life have taught me that there’s too much room for error. To this day, I enjoy my wine. I also enjoy beer much the same way many folks do: cold and while barbecuing. But sometimes we need to learn about moderation the hard way. Maybe some of you will see my story as a way to learn that lesson. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll need a couple of hits to the head, like I did. ☯

Weigh In On Your Food Groups…

I’ve been trying to thin my gut for the past few years, now. The current pandemic hasn’t helped. I’m sure that I’ve gained almost twenty pounds in the past two years. I call it my “COVID-19,” as in 19 pounds gained. My father is an extremely heavy man, sitting at roughly 330 pounds. Through my teens and my 20’s, my goal was to never allow it to happen. In my father’s case, his genetic predisposition and the fact he’s paralyzed and wheelchair-ridden contributes to his overall condition.

The point is, I’ve allowed my fitness to take a seat (pun fully intended) as I started a new job a couple of months ago and felt that I should focus on THAT. It’s been great and wonderful and I’m happier in my weekly grind than I ever have been before. So that part is not the issue. But finding myself suddenly rooted to a desk for 45 hours a week has had a negative result. This is in contrast to the previous year, where I was home and could contribute full afternoons to cycling for 80 kilometres and train when I wanted.

For the past few weeks, I’ve indulged in a reduced-carb diet. I haven’t eliminated carbs, mind you. It’s important to remember that carbohydrates are a source of fuel for the body and are necessary for the proper energy levels required to maintain one’s daily life. Although insulin acts to reduce the blood sugar levels caused by the consumption of carbohydrates, there must be a balance. Not an elimination.

There’a lot you can do to improve things, from a carbohydrate standpoint. I, for example, focus on having two out of three meals a day without carbs. A good example is the breakfast I have shown in the photo above. What you’re looking at is six scrambled eggs with ham, lightly sprinkled with some grated nacho cheese. Completely crab-free (although not entirely fat-free) and filled me to last until lunch. Another important detail is that I don’t always eat six eggs in one sitting. I just happened to make breakfast on a morning that I realized my eggs were expiring the following day.

Full meals can be had on lean proteins and vegetables. It’s important to remember that some types of dairy DO contain carbohydrates, like milk for example. And not al vegetables are carb-free. Starchy vegetable like potatoes and some other ones like corn, are also ridden with carbs. It’s important to recognize those facts when meal planning, so that you don’t get caught by surprise with a sudden blood sugar spike. My final meal of the day will usually include some bread or a small portion of pasta. Even though I SHOULD include carbs, it doesn’t mean I consume a massive amount.

What’s the point, you may ask? Good question, and the answer is simple. Through reduce-carb meal planing, I’ve shed almost ten pounds in the past month. It fluctuates on a day-to-day basis, as it does with most Type-1 Diabetics. But having reached almost 220 pounds when I last visited my endocrinologist, I was tickled pink to see the scale stop at 208 pounds, just last week. Fitness needs to be included in this, of course. I did a nasty workout last week that still has my legs feeling sore. But my motivation is strong and my focus is true. Not elimination but reduction can be a way of helping you reach your weight and fitness goals, Diabetic or not. ☯