TGAEo2019, the end

We need pie.
— Agent K

The last day of the fast was a little dicey. Luckily, I’m normally incoherent, so it doesn’t seem to make a noticeable difference.

It was 107 here today, and being from Phoenix we’re not used to the heat. When the going gets hot, the Smith Boys go to the mall for their daily walk.

The San Angelo mall opened in 1979. It was a big deal back then, when malls were new and exciting.

I had my first Chick-fil-A sandwich there, back before I knew their politics. My girlfriend got a gig as manager of the running shoe store to lure me with discounts. It worked.

I saw the running movie there that inspired me to jump to long distances, and Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps in a totally empty theater. I asked if they could turn up the volume. They blasted me.

It was the community center, a place where people went to hang out. It was like a second home.

The mall is still in business these days, a smattering of stores and even fewer customers. But the geography is the same, the turns and corners and smells. It was a nice walk down memory lane. Bonus: Mo got to participate in her first rodeo. Rock seemed to enjoy it.

Today was was hard. I felt dizzy and lethargic and ready for things to be over. And then they were.

We went to a taco shop. I had one breakfast taco and a couple of nachos and I was done. Maybe eating is overrated.

Upside: The fast was easier than I thought it would be. I think I can do it two or three times a year. Downside: I sorta like food. Tough habit to break.

Life lesson: Everything changes. Malls, life, health, Neil Young. But maybe Mr. Young missed that one. Burning out isn’t that great. Fading away works fine with me. Hey hey, my my.

I could use a piece of pie.

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TGAEo2019 Day 4

It’s the fourth day of the fast, but there is no moment of clarity. It’s the same muddled mystery it always is.

We’re watching Mo and Laura paint, but something is wrong. He’s restless, agitated. Something about the counters or the walls or things in his head he can’t express.

So we do what Smith Boys always do when the going gets tough: We go to Sonic.

His mood brightens. He has a large Dr Pepper, and I have a large ice water, which only costs 70 cents. Fasting is a bargain.

We drive around the park and through downtown. He points out things I’ve been looking at for six decades. He seems OK again.

I’m now at a point where food doesn’t matter much. So many other things to worry about instead. I’ve lost 10 pounds as of this morning. So why is my soul so heavy?

I suppose I AM having a moment of clarity. I realize how terribly hard this is for him. And I can’t shake the fear I try constantly to repress: what if I’m next?

And there’s not a damn thing I can do for either one of us.

Might as well dance, the prophet Larkin said. Might as well paint.

My head no longer hurts. But my heart breaks.

It’s always something …

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TGAEo2019 Day 3

Mo’s Uncle David is perhaps the coolest guy on the planet not named Clooney. And that Clooney fellow has an unfair advantage,  given that he had a recurring role on “The Facts of Life.”

Ask David sometime about the rocket through the chair in Vietnam. And never forget that he went to work for Microsoft back in the early days when it was just called “Soft” (they hadn’t figured out yet how to make it micro.)

He’s sort of a genius, in a low key Seattle way. And as such, he came up with the perfect solution to my dilemma. The Medium Chocolate Frosty Control Test.

The idea is cunningly simple. I finish the five day fast, and then go directly to the Frosty a Day for Five Days test. This means that if the cancer test after this produces positive results, we won’t know with certainty whether it was the result of fasting or the Frosty. Thus, anytime we do one, we will have to do the other. Plus, alliteration. Fasting and Frosty. So much catchier than carrot and stick. And I don’t like carrots.

How did this guy never get a guest spot on “Big Bang Theory”? Or “Facts of Life”? Life is not fair.

Day 3 was a breeze. 850 mile drive kept me busy. it’s easy not to think about food under a constant barrage of semis and oil trucks. And the caffeine withdrawal symptoms seemed to go away after the third cup of coffee! Cooncidence? Beats me. I’m not a Microsoft alum.

Maybe it’s all a state of mind. If you can just tell yourself food is not an option, then it’s not. Seems like the key is limiting the bombardment of ads and displays luring you like crack dealers. You don’t realize how pervasive they are till they’re off the table.

Just two more days, and word on the streets is things become easier. A sense of mental clarity that I haven’t had since second grade. Damn model airplane glue.

On the other hand, Cheerios never looked so good. Maybe I’ll sprinkle some on my Frosty when I get there.

Anyhow, thanks for the idea, Uncle David. I hope that Microsoft company ended up making a profit. And thanks for that life credo: Never stay in your chair too long. You never know what’s coming.

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TGAEo2019 Day 2

There was a senator — I think it was after my pancreatic cancer —
who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead
within six months. “That senator, whose name
I have forgotten, is now himself dead,
and I am very much alive.”
— Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
said with a smile

Dear Notorious RBG:

Hi. I hope you’re feeling better. I read today you’re under the weather again. I’m sorry this stuff keeps happening to you and cuts into time better spend tweaking Kavanaugh’s nose. They say the treatment went well, so fingers crossed and candle burning bright.

I just finished Day 2 of my science experiment. My oncologist says not eating for five days could be the cure for cancer. Although I wish he had said eating a Medium Chocolate Frosty daily was the cure, I’m giving it a try. At least he didn’t make me take up mountain biking.

Today wasn’t so bad. My body seems to have accepted going without anything for a while. And it turns out coffee is OK, so I’m looking for a three-day buzz from this point. It’s an interesting experiment. I hope it goes well so I can do it semi-regularly. Between Medium Chocolate Frosties.

I was dreading the trip to the store today. I was picking up groceries for our pal Char, who turns 90 next month. She was getting Hershey Kisses and Milano chocolate cookies, and I thought those would be hard to resist. Would she notice if there was a small hole in the bag and half were missing? What can you expect from a free delivery guy. But it was easy. “You can’t have it all, all at once,” you once said. I think I get it. So I’ll plow along with no chocolate for a few more days, hoping for myself and for you.

I look to you as a guiding light. You’ve had so many rounds with cancer now, and you keep kicking its ass.  The only apparent drawback was canceling your yearly trip to Santa Fe. Please know I’ll be driving through New Mexico on my way to Texas tomorrow on your behalf. Let me know if you want some mocassins from the curio store near Las Cruces.

I know you can’t live forever, but please try your best to outlive me. I’d hate to live in a world without you.  So many more Republican senators to outlive.

Feel better soon,
your fan gary

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The Great Autophagy Experiment of 2019, Day 1

I’m hungry
I’m dirty
I’m losing my mind
everything’s fine!
— the prophet tracy bonham


I haven’t had any caffeine in 24 hours. I’m very hungry. They have turned the beloved track into a soccer field. Everything’s not fine.

Today is the first day of the highly anticipated five-day fast, a science experiment in the ability to hallucinate doughnuts. Only when you stop eating food do you notice that TV is basically an endless series of two kinds of commercials: Decadent food, and weight loss programs. So mostly I’m reading a book about a guy who lives happily ever after as the result of him provoking his brother to bash his wife’s  head in with a lamp. Nobody said science was easy.

The rules of the game are simple: Nothing but water for five days. Passing out discouraged but not against the rules. No squirrels.

The hardest thing about not eating is how the normal day is framed by the rituals. Morning coffee, cereal, Subway for lunch, afternoon soda, a banana, all the little things through the day that act as mileposts to the routine. Without them, I’m floating aimlessly in a sea of water. I should have bought a life jacket.

I go to the beloved track in hopes that they forgot they were shutting it down. They have not. There’s a very official sign at the gate and the spots where we would jump the gate, warning in the words of Winnie the Pooh that “Trespassers W.”

It’s such a beautiful place; we have so many wonderful memories on that track. It’s a shame we’re not allowed to use it anymore. I consider running onto the field to steal the soccer ball in a form of social protest, but I’m too weak at this point to hop the fence.

I’m not sure it’s possible to run in this state, but this state is Arizona where we’re breaking record temperatures lately, so it’s not possible to run anyhow. Well, I could if I had a proper hat, but …

Will I actually last five days without cracking? I don’t know. We have 10 Heath ice cream bars in the freezers and Mo doesn’t get home for three hours. But science, dammit! So maybe.

It’s funny. The one thing the barrage of weight loss commercials don’t say is that you could do it the old-fashioned way: Don’t eat. But I suppose that’s not good for business. Also, it’s hard. Maybe don’t start a prolonged fast when there’s leftover pizza in the fridge.

I feel sort of light-headed and lethargic, but it’s not too bad so far. A bit of a dull headache, likely the result of caffeine withdrawals and too many Hallmark movies. Tomorrow should be the worst day, and then over the last three I will be filled with lightness and clarity. Or possibly Heath bars. This could be my next step on the path to spirituality. Of course, the last step was running behind a Hindu wagon, so the path is a bit confusing.

170 pounds this morning. I’m losing my mind. Everything’s fine. Science.

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let it grow until peace comes

“If you don’t take money,
they can’t tell you what to do, kid.”

— the prophet bill cunningham

I wake up in my bed next to a teenage couple.

This is odd, because I never woke up in bed next to a teenage couple even when I was a teenager. I once woke up next to an elderly woman on a Greyhound bus during an icy Christmas holiday, but this seems different. Very different.

I get up, brush my teeth and get back in bed, assuming they will be gone, but they are not. They appear to be 18, thin and bohemian, the Generation Whatever equivalent of presenting themselves as “hippies.” Fallout from the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I suppose.

They seem annoyed that I have come back. They say they’re staging a Bed-In for Peace, having seen it done once by some musician and his weird artist wife. They don’t offer a reason as to why my bed is their staging ground. They are surprised there is no media at the event. I consider pointing out that I AM the media, but mostly I just want to go back to sleep. I ask if they might try a Go Somewhere Else for Peace instead. Given the lack of hoopla currently surrounding them, they grudgingly agree.

Standing at the doorway, the guy wants me to flip him off for a photo for his Instagram account. I do not want to flip him off for a photo, given that I no longer have an Instagram account. I flash a peace symbol instead. He flips me off.

They get in a huge, purple bicycle-like vehicle constructed of tubing, a towering contraption which appears to be a discard from Burning Man. They do wheelies in my yard, which is odd because I don’t have a yard.

Turning to go back in, I notice a pizzeria has appeared, built into the apartment. It’s doing spectacular business despite the early morning hours. There is also a small convenience store, which seems convenient. I suspect this is why they are called convenience stores.

I buy a Dr Pepper, not because I want one but because I want to lecture the clerk on how Dr Pepper does not have a period. Style is important, I tell him. Google Bill Cunningham sometime, I add. And get off my lawn, you kids. Which is odd, because I don’t have a lawn. He appears to be staging an I Don’t Care Leave Me Alone for Peace.

I chug the Dr Pepper as I walk back to the bedroom. I pull the blanket over my head, only to realize I can no longer sleep because of the caffeine, and because of a lingering doubt as to whether I should have caught a ride to Burning Man. Oh, well. There’s always the Greyhound bus.

And then I wake up.

I should probably stage a Bed-In for Peace. But only after I get some pizza.

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living with an artist yin/yang

Yin: Mo sees my news budget is full of death and tragedy. Draws squirrel on it to cheer me up.

Yang: I hate squirrels.

Always something …

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