Moments of Heat

It’s summer, it’s supposed to be hot.  At least north of the equator.

The Shanghai area, with very high humidity, can seem like a steam bath some days, with temperatures hovering around 100 deg F, and the “feels like” higher than that.  That’s fine by me, no complaints.  It’s just that the other day I was late for an appointment and had to jog a few blocks, in street clothes during midday, which turned the perspiration glands on high.  It’s not ideal being in a meeting with sweat rolling down your face and back.  But, ideal may be overrated.

It brought me back to the first time I had a taste of real heat.

A good friend, B, and I decided to take a road trip to California from eastern Pennsylvania.  We were 21 years young.  B had saved up and had just bought a new MG Midget.  He was so proud of his new purchase and kept it well buffed, always a soft cloth handy to banish any bug or dirt marks.  The British made sportster, an appealing dark olive body with a black canvas top, fit two comfortably, possibly a third with the top down. The engine sounded throaty like a sports car should.  It was without a doubt a cool car for two young East Coast studs to drive to California and back.  We had only two plus weeks, and our sights were on the Pacific Ocean, from San Diego to San Francisco, so we aimed to drive straight through, day and night, rather than dally along the way.

For some reason, we started our excursion on a mid-week just after sunset.  In celebration, we foolishly packed a cold six-pack of beer along with a couple of hefty, expertly-rolled joints.  Being his car, B started the driving trip.  We made it to the middle of Virginia that first night before he turned the driving duty over to me at about 2 am.  The beer was finished, and we had burned through one of the joints.  B said he was tired.  I happily, although reluctantly because I was also sleepy, took command of the new sports car while he slept.  In retrospect, how he might not have imagined, after partying with him up to that point, that I wasn’t also tired, was, unfortunately, not beyond me.

This MG Midget was significantly cooler in the early 70’s.

It was somewhere around dawn when the rumble of the interstate’s shoulder woke me up, just as I was about to smack into a thin reflector post.  To try and avoid it, I over compensated with the steering wheel and the car lurched back into the highway, spinning counter clockwise a couple of times until we landed back on the shoulder, just as a tractor trailer wailed past.  While we were spinning B was screaming, which added drama to the already confusing few seconds.  When the car stopped, we both looked at each other,  steam oozing from the car as I realized I hadn’t missed hitting the post.  We got out of the car.  After surveying his new baby, he was distraught.  The impact with the post cut the front bumper in half, creased the front grill, and the bounce of the reflector landed an ugly dent in the middle of the hood.  I apologized as much as I could have and tried to persuade him to see the bright side, that we were alive and the car still worked.  B was despondent nonetheless as his brand new wheels were suddenly disfigured and we had barely begun our journey.

Fortunately, the damage was mostly cosmetic, so we continued.  But the next few days were accompanied by an umbrella of gloom.  It was like his newborn had been assaulted.  In those tight quarters, I could feel his pain.  Whenever we stopped I tried to steer B away from staring at the car’s new defective look.

By the time we reached Arizona, oil had started spritzing onto the windshield.  WTF, I thought as I happened to have been driving again.  I pulled off at the next exit which luckily was on top of us.  We popped the hood and could see that the oil cooler, which sits right inside the front grille, was leaking, more than likely from the jolt a few days earlier.  We could not continue, especially in the desert heat, without fixing it.

It was late Saturday afternoon, and we were in some podunk town in central Arizona. But luck was with us as we drove slowly and found an auto parts store that had the foreign part we needed.  The problem though, was they were closing in 5 minutes, and we didn’t have tools.  They didn’t install.   The sales guy suggested a garage on the other side of town if they were still open.  We decided to split up.  B stayed to purchase the oil cooler, and I hoofed it to the garage.  I remember a thermostat reading showing it was 120 deg F.  This was no time for walking so I ran block after block trying not to stop, hoping I could get to the garage before they closed.  The next day was Sunday, and we didn’t want to burn two days staying in a small desert town. Bathed in sweat I barely made it, but mister garage guy wasn’t about to stay open to do the work.  However, he was kind enough to lend me a wrench, if I promised to leave it by his door, which meant climbing a fence when we were finished.  No problem, I assured him.

I lightly jogged back to the car-parts store armed with the wrench I hoped would work.  The two non-mechanics in us somehow successfully managed to change the radiator-like filter in the parking lot.  After refilling it with the not-easy-to-find special oil, which we stocked up on just in case, we were ready to go.  We drove back to the garage so I could return the wrench where I climbed the fence and, with pleasure and relief, placed the tool by the guy’s door with a note of thanks.  But what garage guy didn’t tell me was that there were dogs loose after hours.  One of them spotted me and started racing toward me, fangs out, barking like he found an intruder (?).  I ran and leapt to the fence, climbing fast, managing to clear enough elevation before the K9’s teeth were able to chomp on its unexpected invader.  I never jumped a fence so quickly.

We both laughed.  I was just happy to see B in a cheerful mood and his baby running well.  It was all hilarious, and lucky.  I was drenched as I tucked myself in the passenger seat.  Even though the sun had gone down, it was still over 100 deg.

Running through a sleepy town in the Arizona desert in full sun during the middle of summer was my first experience with real heat.  While feeling dribbles of sweat during the meeting the other day, I couldn’t help but smile, knowing that at least I didn’t have to rush to change an oil cooler or outrun a mad dog to jump a fence.  It was just another moment of heat.


While it may not be the new verb on the block, hacking has morphed into a new comfort zone, shedding some of its bad rap.

When I was young, the ‘hacking’ I knew was messy.  Hacking a branch off a tree was sloppier than cutting it off.  Hacking was also the loud bursts of a spasmodic cough you could hear coming out of heavy cigarette smokers.  And of course, hacking was the description serious golfers gave to my golf swing.  The fact that I unintentionally hacked off a few plants at the roots with a gold club made me a hacker.

Could this have been the reason I was a hacker?

Then came personal computers, their coded languages, and the unauthorized access to other’s data.  Computer hacking was born.  If you hacked, you were a hacker.  Hackers were, and many still are, devious, spreading bugs, viruses and stealing what isn’t theirs.

Then at some point in recent evolution, we included building something quickly and being able to solve a problem using a shortcut, as part of the hacking definition.  Hacking became a good thing.  You can now find online life-hacking tips.  Dave Asprey, in his book Head Strong, discusses various techniques for hacking the brain to optimize its use.

One suggestion for brain hacking

Vanessa Van Edwards, the author of Captivate, outlines a multi-step approach to hacking the personality traits of others, for enhanced relationships.  I recently read a blog post by a doctor discussing the benefits of exercise hacking to improve workouts.  Hackety, hack, hack, hack.

Many of us are looking for shortcuts and tricks to gain an edge.  That now means hacking, which is okay, if, in the end, we are more productive, efficient, healthier, and good to each other.

If that’s the case, count me in.  I could be down for some serious hacking, wherever I can find it.

October 2, 2017 Update:

The Hacking of the American Mind, by Dr. Robert Lustig, maybe a hack worth considering.

It’s all about balance

Ha.  Just like most things in life.  I didn’t realize how challenging it would be, although I didn’t suspect it was as easy as riding a bike.  I asked the owner of an NYC West Village specialty shop last week if he thought an old dog could indeed learn new tricks.  I knew the answer.  Still, he responded like a good salesman telling me what I wanted to hear.

For some reason, over the years the sport bugged me.  When I lived in San Francisco, they hung out in groups, loud and sort of obnoxious, disturbing casual walkers along the Embarcadero, perhaps because they didn’t have a formal place to play.  Instead, they used benches, railings, steps, and anything they could otherwise jump or slide on, and eventually destroy.

But beyond the racket they made, the sport didn’t make sense.  Incessantly practicing tricks and performing by flipping a wheeled board while not going anywhere didn’t seem logical, or much fun.

My new 32″ low profile longboard

My feelings about skateboarding started to change when I was exercising at Manhattan Beach, in So Cal last year intermittently watching surfers finish their morning bout with the waves, then hopping on skateboards to travel along The Strand.  That made sense — a commute vehicle.  Since then I’ve noticed more people using boards as a form of transportation, not just for acrobatics.

Gradually the bug bit. ‘ Why not use a skateboard as an alternate form of commuting in China, where it’s relatively flat?’ I started thinking.  GV suggested that I consider a scooter, which is probably a smarter idea.  But I was anxious to try the hands-free wheels.  Hence, I walked into Uncle Funky’s Boards last weekend and left 30 minutes later carrying a new longboard.  They told me the longer the board, the easier to learn, so I picked up a 32-inch model.  The more extended 38 incher I may have preferred was too long to hand-carry on my fight to China.  As it was, I barely finagled the 32 through the Newark airport security process strapped to my backpack.  It was too long to fit in my checked bags.

Unfortunately, the beautiful side faces the road surface

It didn’t take long to gain respect for how fast this board travels.  The four thick 75mm wheels start rolling without much coaxing.  Tumbling on my ass as the board sped away gave me the reason I needed to start slow.  I’m sure it’s simply a matter of TOB (time on board), and balance.

The new toy means I’d better carve out a little time each non-rainy day practicing if I’ve got any hope of seriously using it.

This guy, also featured last week, is as cool as a cucumber on his wheels

As in skiing or skating, part of the skill and confidence comes with stopping ability. Today as I was cruising down a slight decline picking up speed, I realized I didn’t know how to stop without jumping off.  Being a low profile board, the trucks — skateboard lingo for the bracket holding the wheels — are at the ends of the board bolted on top, opposed to typical boards where they are positioned underneath.  These low boards make stepping on the end and tilting the board down to stop, hard to accomplish.

Another challenge is twisting the feet.  While pushing the board for acceleration, both feet are parallel with the board, but cruising, they are perpendicular.  While I was gaining speed in the decline, my feet were in the perpendicular cruise position.  How was I going to twist my front foot parallel and skid to a stop when all I could do was concentrate on saying on the board?  I awkwardly jumped off, knowing I have a major hurdle to conquer.

It will be a while until I’m ready to use the board for a commute vehicle.  The manner in which the locals don’t give much credence to right-of-way means bikes, peds, and cars can end up in your path unexpectedly — requiring immediate reaction.

All in all, I’ve got a new respect for the skateboard tricksters.  Even though I still have zero inclination for tricks, I’m hungering for some of their stability.  But I suppose that will come with TOB.  For now, I’ve got a newfound appreciation for balance.

Still trying to figure out which side to face.  Left foot forward, or right?  Maybe it’s gotta be both, taking turns.




No-Fault Thought

It’s an insurance policy I took out for myself several months ago.  No-fault thought (NFT) — prevents crashing into a wall of nonsense.

Gibberish thoughts tend to badger the consciousness more often than necessary.  Those thoughts are the slight annoyances that occur when, say, someone pulls in front of you, either when walking or driving, or when someone says something or behaves a certain way that doesn’t suit us.

If I feel like this at times, it’s a mirage

Why, I contemplated a few months ago (in a moment when the mud must have cleared), should anyone or anything annoy me?  Because I’m human?  Because I’ve got ego and emotions?  Because I’m right and someone else is wrong?  They are (seemingly) justified rationalizations, but only a mirage.  So I took out the policy.

The essence of NFT is that everyone’s actions or words are justified in their own minds.  If their conduct doesn’t conform with mine, no one is at fault.  If someone crosses my path, utters remarks I don’t appreciate, or otherwise interrupts my rhythm, it’s not their fault. They were acting or moving according to their own tempo.  Our rhythmic waves intersected for a split second.  No one’s fault.

The policy helps curb the voice which insists, periodically, that the universe should act a certain way.   NFT doesn’t mean that some people are not irritating at times.  It just means that in their heads, we’d have done the same thing.  By turning to the policy, it helps to allude a moment of annoyance.

This guy was vexing if only for the time being before I remembered NFT

Being exasperated with anything or anyone is really an admission of impatience, or more often, displays our limited understanding.  Even a flicker of irritation shows us that we didn’t, at that moment, have the capacity to understand.  The NFT policy is a blanket license to admit we actually don’t comprehend why others do what they do.  We can’t.  None of us has the experiences of another.

The clever suggestions in our heads can so easily justify a form of self-righteousness.  The downside — it’s most always ill-perceived and leads to moments of unhelpful grit.

Have there been times I’ve forgotten about NFT?  Sure, fog runs thick between my ears more often than I care.  On the bright side, NFT has been seeping into consciousness with more frequency since I picked up the policy.  It must be, like most things, a matter of practice.

Until I can find a way to paste No Fault Thought in my frontal cortex, the times that I can recall the policy helps to serve as a reminder that I’ve got a limited capacity for understanding others, and I am better off nipping tiny worthless thought spirals in the bud.

4 Capitals — 10 days

There are a couple of places in the world where you could visit four capitals of different countries in 10 days with reasonable time for exploring each and one of those is touching the western Slavic area of what was once Czechoslovakia.  It helps to have a car, although you could probably train it.

One amenable option is flying into Budapest, Hungry, hanging for a couple of days, with plenty of time to crisscross the city on foot while slurping down homemade goulash and rich local brew.

After BP, you could head to Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, about five hours away, with a several-hour stop in route exploring Bratislava.  In comparison to the other capitals, Bratislava, Slovakia, is by far the smallest, making the trip to Prague an easy one-day journey.

Following a few days consuming paprika-laced grilled sausages, roasted pigs knuckles, and tasty frothy beers in Prague, you could zip down to Vienna, the capital of Austria, only a 3.5-hour drive, to round out the tour.

Buda and Pest

It’s a relatively tight circle.  And although all four countries are part of the EU, you’ll need three different currencies as Hungry, and the Czech Republic have resisted submitting to the euro.

However you might “do” the trip, it’s worth the investment of 10 days just for the food and drink.  Throw in the impressive architecture, the walking culture of each city, and easygoingness of the local inhabitants, and it makes for a sensory-filled, non-stop, yet relaxing and memorable excursion.


Budapest, split by the Danube River

Backstreet Bratislava

A small window looking down at Prague city center

Along the river toward central Vienna

Always a time & place for exercise

Goulash, paprika, fresh peanuts and home brew make the “For Sale Pub” an ideal lunch spot in Budapest.

And an image of building art from Chelsea, NYC for good luck.

Faint Winds

Faint winds blow warm, cool; warm, cool,
No sign for the reason why,
Captured by welcome fascination,
With moments of sparked elation.

Circulating, embracing, raw, and fleeting,
Drawing on colored boundaries,
Subject to induced reception,
Growing in an instinctive direction.

“In my heart of hearts, I believe…,”

Says the guy to the woman he was walking with as I passed them on a busy crosswalk of 23rd at 5th Ave/Madison Square Park in New York yesterday.  Since we were moving in opposite directions, a split-second glance at his face told me that he was engaged in an intent explanation.  And who wouldn’t look purposeful uttering the idiom ‘my heart of hearts.’

Whoever wrote this didn’t add the heart as a source

Shakespeare supposedly gave us this phrase, but he used the singular version, ‘my heart of heart.’   We like many hearts to proclaim something at the core of our beliefs. As emotional beings, we like to express depth and profundity.  It helps convey a level of certainty.

We invoke the heart, or hearts, because we love believing in things. Believing in something self-assures us that we are not idiots.  And if we can believe profoundly, it helps us feel that we are not on shaky ground.

It’s said though, that the only thing we can truly believe is our ability to change.  All other beliefs are built on experiences, which are somewhat like fantasies.  And like snowflakes, everyone’s belief structure is unique.

Heart of hearts or a 10 of hearts, we love our hearts

I believe that the world is flat until I find out it’s round and that it’s round until I learn it’s a spheroid.  And, I believe that what I’m doing at this very moment is positive and healthy.  In fact, I believe from the bottom of my heart, which must be somewhere near the gut, mixing itself in the intestinal instinct fluids.

A belief that reaches the depth of our consciousness, the core of our hearts, helps conquer empty space.  The trick, since beliefs are self-constructed, quasi-realities, is to prevent them from growing too rigid or giving them too much validity, lending them to be more heart healthy.

I’m not sure where my heart of hearts lies.  I can’t think of a conviction I’ve got that is so profound.  If I had a gun to my head, I would proclaim with a certain degree of certainty, ok, my heart-of-hearts, at least for the near future, that the New York Yankee’s will win (something) and that dogs will remain man’s best friend.