Theater Reviews for London’s West End: The night of the iguana & The Lehman trilogy

The goal, Covid willing — which it wasn’t — was for me to be in London this January of 2022, writing brand new posts. Instead, I’m catching up on the backload of half written ones that were waiting to be finished. Yes, I know, I’m seriously behind in these blog posts, as I’m writing this 2019 one over two years after the fact  …. Remember when we used to tell ourselves that if only we had a few weeks off with nothing to do how we’d catch up on all those tasks we never got to… yah it wasn’t that….

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One of the great joys of the London stage is that at some point or another, like broadway, the great and renowned actors of the screen will want to tread the boards, and this is where they often do it… but at a way that offers far more affordable ticket prices than in what you’d pay in NYC (let’s hear it for government subsidy of the arts!). A while back I talked about the play Sweat, which I saw in London in 2019 starring a lesser known but highly recognizable actress of American movies and TV, Martha Plimpton.

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While she may not be as well known as others, she represents the modern generation of a Hollywood royalty family that stretches back to the 1930’s.

In this post I’m going to talk about two other plays I saw in London back in the summer of 2019 starring famous actors that till then I’d only ever seen on the screen.

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On August 21 of 2019 I went to see Clive Own play the leading role in the classic Tennessee Williams stage play Night of the Iguana (later made into a film staring Richard BurtonAva Gardner, and Deborah Kerr)

E471B7B9-DBDE-451C-8957-02929837B7D3.jpgAnyway, Clive Owen… drool. Granted, he’s not one of my favorite actors but he has always had a sort of bad boy smoldering sexuality that is undeniable, and this was a great play for him to be in… because the lead calls for just that sort of character.

Overall the play was good, his performance was VERY good … although there were a few places in the show where I guess he got distracted or something because he dropped out of character and resorted to just delivering lines (what’s referred to in the business — I have more than a few professional friends who work in it — as phoning it in) but for the most part he was so good that I was able to forget I was watching a play, and instead felt I was watching events as they happened.

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When you first came in to find your seats there was a soundtrack of jungle noises playing in the background and all around us, and there was no fire curtain hiding the stage. Initially I thought that who ever was in charge of the stage design required a pat on the back, although I ultimately decided it wasn’t quite as amazing as they seemed to think it was (I’ll get to that later). The stage held a handful of broken down huts which we soon learned were hotel rooms in a jungle atmosphere, that was supposed to be located up on a mountainside overlooking the ocean. Those steps leading up from the orchestra pit, in the picture above, was how new characters, who had supposedly arrived by boat climbed up the side of the mountain from the beach to said hotel …. and we who sat in the ‘house’ were supposed to be the ocean view they spent most of their time looking out at when not looking at each other…

Before the show started, as those of you who read all my theater posts know that I regularly do, I was taking photos of the empty stage from the vantage of my seat — to show where I was seated and a sense of the theater space, when staff stopped me saying it was “protected”(??). Thing is, it was exactly the same stage shown in the advertising images located out in front of the theater… If my concern was the set design rather than where my seat was relative to the stage, I could have just taken photos of those ads … so I found this prohibition needless, and a bit bizarre (kind of like worrying about your daughters chastity when she’s already pregnant). Not to mention their whole approach of dealing with it was just “unfriendly.” There wasn’t anything all that AMAZING or innovative about the set, other than the fake rock cliff towards the back of the stage… in fact it reminded me a GREAT DEAL of the Louisiana part of Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney … so really nothing innovative of worthy of trying to protect. (And I wasn’t the only one they tried to stop… staff was running around and yelling at a bunch of different people who had taken out their cell phones to take a snap.)

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Anyway, As you can tell from the above photo my seat was VERY good, 7th row almost dead center relative to the stage… and… looking up you can see ….

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I was about a row or two in front of the balcony overhang, so there was no reverb issues with the sound as it bounced around hard surfaces. And this really good ticket was purchased last minute — as in the day before — at a discount from the Txts booth in Leicester Square that I’ve spoken about REPEATEDLY.

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Right before intermission a rain storm broke out as part of the show (the story being located in the tropics), and rather than it just being sound and light effects, there was actual rain falling all over the stage. And I’m not talking just a line of water at the back of the stage either … Clive Owen stood IN it and got drenched by it (yes objectification was real — did I not mention DROOL and how sexy he is) … during intermission I walked up to the stage and you could hear the water dripping off it… not sure how they pull that off without water damage to the stage or folks slipping…. THAT would be interesting to know about but there was nothing visible from the house to answer that question….

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The Next show I saw is one that I’m HAPPY to say is one of the first NYC productions to be reopening in the time of Covid — a limited run that will then travel to L.A. and then on to San Francisco…. and I STRONGLY suggest buying tickets for it if you can.

This was, The National Theater’s production of The Lehman Trilogy. Yep its about THOSE Lehmans, the three brothers who came to America to find their fortune and ended up creating the Lehman Brothers firm, the investment bank that became one of the leaders of the financial world, until it ultimately collapsed, and almost took the entire global economy with it….

 —– Tangent on the collapse of Lehman Brothers
As a former business school professor I think it’s important to note that the collapse happened after the three generations of family control had been handed over to a corporate bureaucracy. Anyone with an understanding of successful multigenerational family owned companies knows that this is a regular process. Companies of this sort are created by an individual — or as in this case a group of siblings, who then usually pass control onto their children. This only happens after he/or she, or they, have personally trained this next generation over the course of their childhoods to takeover the business… usually having them do odd jobs of increasing importance up through their adulthoods that are intended to prepare them and imbue within them a deeply understood awareness of how and why the business is successful. This 2nd generation however tends to not then go on to train their own children as deeply in the ways of the business — often because they resented what their own parents forced them to go through — and instead allow the kids to choose for themselves if they want to be involved — which usually they don’t… and these kids even if one or two of them DOES show interest, by the 3rd generation opt to hand over control to business school types — folks who almost never spent a day working in any factory, let alone choosing to train up individuals who came up through the ranks of THAT company — sending over talented employees off to business school for instance, with the understanding that they were being prepared for management positions (and even if they were they might not have the sort of FAMILY kinship required to keep them in the fold once so invested in). Instead, the heirs of the fortune tend to be disinterested, and prefer to just reap the benefits of the family money and hand over full control to business school graduates with no personal investment in the future prosperity of the company — and once that happens it’s fairly rare for the company to continue to be what it once was, so that at that point decrease of influence to the point of collapse becomes commonplace.  —– end of tangent

That said, the play is not about that collapse and how or why it happened, rather it’s about family, tradition, and legacy, and as such is far more Universal and meaningful. Because the brothers were Jewish immigrants to the United States, recently arrived from Eastern Europe, it helps to bring more depth to the story if you know a little bit about what those traditions are…. although it’s not obligatory. While watching the show I found myself explaining things to the girl seated next to me who was Asian and had no idea why they kept doing things like reaching up to place a kiss on a doorpost, or broke into some Hebrew (praying).

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My cousin, who used to work for one of the major theatrical charities in London, the Mousetrap foundation — they use the profits from London’s longest running hit (excluding a gap for Covid, it’s been playing nonstop since 1952), to introduce school groups from lower income parts of town to the joys of live theater, and as such she continues to stay up to date on what the best shows are in town, and she strongly suggested this one (although she warned they might be fully sold out). As such, I so wanted to see it that I did something I almost never do, and bought the tickets full price… (I tried to get them at TXTs but they laughed at me. I had to buy it at the theater’s box office, and was able to find a good single seat a few weeks out, the week they were due to close).

This left me worried at the time because the day before I was supposed to go London was in the low 90’s F (33.9ºC)  and the day I was scheduled to go was supposed to be as bad if not worse (in fact that day London and Orlando Florida were having the SAME WEATHER, that’s just WRONG). Thank you global warming …

This might not seem like a big deal to average American Theater goer, but the theaters in London, for the most part are NOT BUILT for hot days — especially the older ones — They have limited if any ventilation and most do NOT have any air conditioning. I am one of those people who is great when the temp is in the 60º’s but suffers horribly in anything above 75º — and these theaters with the lights and the people can heat up into the high 80º’s on a hot day; as such, I am incapable of ‘enjoying’ myself in an overheated room… especially ones with no ventilation… and these old historic theaters in London fall into that category. Normally, I buy tickets a day or so in advance, and know what the weather forecast will be, but in this case I had to buy it over two weeks in advance, so there was no way to know.

I took the tube to get there and that had been like a freaking oven, and then I was running late so I had to run to get to the theater, all of which left me radiating heat. So I was SERIOUSLY worried that the heat in the theater would make me feel so sick that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the show, so I was thrilled to discover that the Piccadilly Theatre in London has air-conditioning! Not only that but it was set to keep the room comfortably cool.  I could hear the system going on and off, and every once in a while the room would heat up just enough that I would start to feel uncomfortable, only to hear the fans comeback on and feel the temperature drop just enough for me to stay focused on the show instead of the sickening heat. (Unlike US theaters, they never over did it so that you wished you’d brought a sweater to the theater in the middle of summer.)

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I can’t remember why, but for some reason I was running really late, and was worried they wouldn’t let me in — British theaters can be sticklers about late comers especially if you were sitting front and center like I was going to be — as always I got a GOOD ticket, that put me just off center and maybe 7 rows from the state, but to my luck …. when I arrived there was a huge line of people standing outside waiting to pick up their tickets –even though the play was supposed to have already started, so I was just damn lucky. I arrived so late however that I wasn’t able to do my normal photo of me holding my ticket and showing the stage in front of me; the photo above of me in front of the theater was from after the show was over — hence why it was already dark. Again a photo I would normally do BEFORE the show started.

The Play is based on a Novel, by Italian author Stefano Massini, available in translation

All that said…. This was quite possibly one of the very best most amazing plays I’ve EVER seen in my 58 odd years of regularly attending the theater!!!! It was an acting Tour De Force … all of the 185 roles were played by three British character actors, excluding the final scene when the family no longer controlled the company and suddenly there’s a collection of faces we’d not seen before… Let me repeat that almost ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY FIVE separate roles, including men and women, which up until the final scene of the play are performed, by only THREE MEN …. and every single role is clear and distinct. If you’ve never respected the title of character actor, you will now. These are not movie stars who are basically the same character in every film or TV show you’ve ever seen them in, these are ACTORS. (This is why saying you need to be gay to play gay is kind of problematic, and diminishes the craft of acting… actually obliterates it. Keep going in that direction and from now on no one will have to develop their craft because you’ll have to be the thing in order to be allowed to play the thing.)

Imelda Staunton, Adrian Lester, Damian Lewis and more at The Lehman Trilogy  West End premiere | WhatsOnStage
Left to right: Ben Miles, Simon Russell Beale and Adam Godley   That said, this is NOT my Image, borrowed from: https://www.whatsonstage.com/london-theatre/news/imelda-staunton-adrian-lester-damian-lewis-lehman_49127.html

So the famous actors I got to see were: (left to right) Ben Miles, to be honest this guy sinks into his characters so fully that I totally didn’t recognize him till I checked his imdb. He’s one of those British Actors that Americans are less familiar with. Of all the shows he was in, I think we in the states would most easily recognize him as having played the part of Peter Townsend, the boyfriend of Princess Margaret in Netflix’s international hit, The Crown), that she was having an affair with, and who when he left his wife the corporation kept finding excuses to keep her from marrying him, until he finally gave up and married someone else.

Simon Russell Beale (the guy in the middle) tends to show up in the sort of historical stuff the BBC is best known for, Americans would best know him as having been on the Showtime series Penny Dreadful and as the Baker’s father in the star studded movie version of Stephen Sondheim‘s Into The Woods, with Meryl Streep and Anna Kendrick.

The actor to the right is probably the one most Americans will most easily recognize, although odds are you never knew his name. The man has been in a LOT of things, He’s currently the Archbishop in Hulu’s The Great, about Russia’s Cathrine the Great; He provides the voice of Pogo (the talking chimp) in Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy, he played Elliott Schwartz in the classic show Breaking Bad, was Nigel Nesbitt in the series Suits (best known as Meghan Markle’s claim to fame before she married Prince Harry), along with a bunch of other roles in popular shows and movies. In fact in the Lehman Brothers Adam Godley did a one character in a scene towards the middle of the show that I will never be able to forget and I wish I could hit the rewind to see over and over and figure out how he did it; the man aged right in front of us from young to a wizened corpse on the table, and did it so believably that the audience couldn’t but break into a standing ovation in the middle of the show.

Anyway, if you ever have a chance to see this show, I strongly suggest it, even more if its with these actors.

 

Liver update… I’m ok

SO, My last post was Sept 23, and its now Nov 29., on Oct 19th I got yet another blood draw, and my liver numbers that needed to drop below 100 in order for them to NOT have to do a liver biopsy had dropped to 88 (still high, but a lot less high) which allowed them to use the non invasive technology (it tends to return false readings if that liver number is above 100).  In this test you can’t drink water or anything for a few hours before going in, and they bounce sound waves off your liver and then measure how much it wiggles to see if there has been any hardening of the liver, aka cirrhosis, because of scaring. There was none… according to the doctor my liver was “nice and soft and fluffy”, her actual words believe it or not. As of this week I’ve lost about 39 lbs since this whole thing started…. I’ve gone from a size X-large to a size medium and have lost enough weight that my BIGGEST pair of leather pants — black suede actually — now fit me. That said I’ve got to loose at least another 40 lbs to get to the weight I should be (and back into my favorite clothes) …. I am however in no particular rush to get there… weight is continuing to come off but no where near as fast as before.

My fault really, it’s not the eating as much as the I’ve semi locked myself down, and am not exercising as much as I was at the start because I am no longer vaccinated enough to risk going to places like gyms where folks are breathing heavily and finding excuses to not cover their faces enough to keep me protected.

As you may recall, my regular readers… The liver doctor wanted ONE final blood test for this year and asked me to hold off getting the covid booster shot until that happened….which I did on the 22nd of November…. of the liver numbers, the one that had previously dropped from over 100 to 88 had creeped up to 89, but the 2nd number had dropped yet another 20 points, so the liver doctor was satisfied at my on going progress. Today is Monday… on Wednesday I finally get the booster, and 2 week after that, covid willing, I’m back in the gym and building my muscles back to where they were when delta spiked in my area.

The larger PLAN was to go to the UK on New Years Eve, covid willing, but the travel buddy has been prevaricating and procrastinating on finalizing the travel plans, dates, budgets, etc, in spite of ensuring me repeatedly that he really does want to go (he’s never been, so I was going to be his personal tour guide — over my lifetime I’ve commutatively spent YEARS in in London).  He’s got a lot of shit going on at home and he’s never been one to manage stress well anyway, so I wait.

 

And now this week we’ve got the omicron variant….

You’ve got to love a new variant that is so incredibly infectious that they were able to discover it in about two weeks. You got the Canadian guy in Hong Kong who was fully vaccinated and in a quarantine hotel across the hallway from a guy from Africa who was carrying the variant, and who managed to get infected even though they didn’t have any face to face conversations… Scary shit. And then there’s the flight of 200 people where one by the end of the 8 hour flight from African to Northern Europe, 66 people who were NOT infected at the start of the flight were by the end.

And yet, according to the Israeli Commissioner of medicine, there have been no serious infections among people who caught it who are fully vaccinated.

For those of you who don’t grasp what’s going on with this one, think of it as though you had an old-fashioned walled city.  And an old enemy has shown up with new new ways of poking holes in our walls, or more specifically new weapons for breaching the defenses that are immune system doesn’t recognize as a weapon, and even if it did it wouldn’t know how to fight it.

You’ve trained troops to do various things. You’ve got troops have been trained to man the walls and to stop people from getting in, but obviously that’s insufficient. If the invaders get past them, they’ll face a bunch of women and children with pitch forks at best… and that would be bad. So in addition, you need to also train troops who specialize in urban fighting — as any member of the US military will tell you (even the vaulted US military was stumbling over its own feet before it started retraining troops in urban fighting during the middle east wars). Urban fighters are trained to go home to home, room to room finding the enemy and snuffing them out without taking out the whole city at the same time….. like Queen Daenerys on her dragon when she gets to King’s landing…. which by the way is what is happening with folks who are NOT vaccinated and end up in hospital on ventilators. The defenders are so stressed out by now knowing how to fight in the Urban style that they end up taking out everything and everybody… i.e., killing you in an attempt to kill the invader — and you end up on a ventilator…. all because you didn’t have specialized troops trained at urban fighting.

When they keep telling us, “yes people are getting sick, but they’re not ending up in hospital” that’s because the vaccine has done some relatively quick (6 weeks) basic training of the troops, with one 2 week refresher course 6 months later in how to take out the invaders without damaging the city or the towns folk.

And apparently even though this is a revised invading force, with newer better weapons for getting through our first line of defense (the guys protecting the city walls) this new one … as far as we currently know… doesn’t seem to be doing any better against the troops trained in urban fighting than the previous invaders… at least from what we know so far …  so yes you get sick, but no you don’t need to go to hospital to get over it…. but we’re only a few weeks in, with only a few hundred fully vaccinated people having caught it. That’s too small a sample to know for sure what’s going on.

As was true before, most of the folks who have it, are unvaccinated — relying on poorly manned city walls and no specially trained urban fighters.

So that said, I’m getting my new booster on Wednesday and hopefully in a few weeks we’ll know if the vaccinated are ok… and if we are, I might go travel on my own till my friend makes up his mind

Medical update, regarding my liver

I just got off the phone with the liver doctor — telahealth, got to love it.

She said it’ll be a few days till all the results from my blood draw yesterday — they took EIGHT vials of blood and are running like 10 different tests — get back to her… 5 to 7 days in fact … and she’ll in some cases need two different results to come back before she can comment, but so far they’ve all come back normal and if that continues to be the case than we need to just wait another 3 months to know for sure what’s happening with my liver.

She basically agrees with me — I had come across a bunch of articles on line saying that seeing a spike in liver numbers during the first 14 weeks of serious weight loss is actually kind of normal, and that you need to wait 16 weeks to see that start to reverse itself and a whole 40 weeks before the liver numbers SHOULD be normal if the person had high numbers due to fatty liver disease caused by obesity. She agreed that (assuming the blood tests all come back normal) we will need to wait another three months and get another liver blood test at that time to see what my numbers are doing.

The fact that they are currently spiking doesn’t really worry her too much. That said…

One of the first things she asked me was “when you started losing all of this weight did you change your exercise routine?” And I said that “yes in fact I had gone from being completely sedentary to working out like three times a week”, to which she started nodding her head and smiling (jee I love video phones) and saying “yes that might’ve caused the spike. We tend to see this sort of thing in people who suddenly start working out a lot in order to lose the weight.” Ironic isn’t it?

So she wants us to wait three more months, for me to continue losing more weight and working out (as I have been) and then get another blood liver panel test. If at that point the numbers have NOT gone below 100 then we will have to do a liver biopsy — eeek. She walked me through the two options of how that might happen and it doesn’t sound TOO awful…

If they HAVE gone down, then it’s all good and no sticking needles though my ribs into my liver will be required.

I told her about how I want to start traveling again like I used to before Covid. That I am currently planning to travel with a friend after Christmas to the UK for 3 months. She didn’t see a problem with that… and then I told her how I intended to get the Pfizer Covid 19 booster shot two weeks before traveling — in order to maximize my immunity. I figure its currently good enough for my current life which is mostly staying home and walking around outdoors and maybe doing some grocery shopping, etc… but airports and planes are a different kettle of fish…

This was interesting: She told me to be careful to get the liver blood test BEFORE getting the booster shot. Apparently they’ve been seeing spikes in the liver numbers in some patients after getting the Covid vaccinations. I already knew about making sure I got my mammogram well after the covid shots, but this was a new one… she said the spikes they’re seeing are very temporary, and as its almost been 6 months since my 2nd shot, NO this spike was not the result of that…

We also discussed my eating habits and she was actually really excited that I had discovered Shirataki noodles (as discussed in my last post) as she suggests those to her patients, and eats them herself. She suggested her favorite brand which she found on amazon — she’s a rice eater and uses them as a rice substitute — and I told her about the ones I’ve been eating from Costco.
We discussed my salt intake and she said there’s no reason for me to be worried about that at this point —  I had read all these web pages on liver health saying we had to reduce salt intake to 1,500 mg a day (that’s like NOTHING); she said this was especially true considering my issues with dehydration — she agrees with the advise of an ER Doctor I saw back in my 20’s who told me that ending up in the ER as often as I did with dehydration was not normal… and that best way to address it was just to eat more salt. (He basically said, we don’t say this to most people, but every person’s body is different and normal averages are not gospel and if I’m ending up in the ER on a semi regular basis with dehydration after drinking a normal amount of liquids, than clearly I need more salt in my system to retain it than the average person does.) She said until they start seeing certain very specific problematic things with regard to my liver, that I shouldn’t worry about reducing my salt intake.
This doctor as luck would have it is from Thailand, and there’s a particular food product that I’ve been worried about which is the oyster sauce from Thailand (makes ALL the difference when cooking Asian dishes at home, it’s like the missing secret ingredient to make your home cooked food taste like restaurant food). The one I have is listed on foodie sites as the BEST oyster sauce on the market, but one you almost NEVER see in American stores (got it from an Asian market in California that sells their stuff on eBay). The thing is when it arrived, it has a warning label on it from the state of California warning about cadmium and lead poisoning from the product. So I asked her is it OK for me to continue to use this one when making my noodle soup. She told me to go ahead, I shouldn’t be drinking it straight from the bottle but the occasional tablespoon of it once or twice a week wasn’t going to kill me or damage my liver.
We also discussed my use of supplements and we went through the list of which ones I had been taking (CoQ10 to counter the effects of the Statin drug I take for my cholesterol, and Glucosamine for joint health + Vitamin D)  and she said none of them are a liver risk and I can go back to taking them regularly…. again I had read on line to STOP taking all supplements, so I had….
The Green tea thing however — I had read on the British and Canadian official health services web sites that address liver health that it is a good thing to drink 10 cups of green tea a day if you have liver issues, NOT to take supplements, but to drink normally brewed green tea  — she wasn’t thrilled with (and keep in mind she’s Thai, where green tea is a normal part of any diet) … she said “if you want to have like 5 cups a day fine… but you don’t need to be doing chugging it like that, or any sort of liver cleanse things or making it the only thing you end up drinking all day” … and she was worried too much green tea could strain the liver.

Dieting again — with new toys

Back on June 18th I posted about failing my blood test in a big way, how sitting on my ass for essentially a year of Covid lockdown while watching TV and eating comfort food delivered by UberEats (and every other delivery company, I was signed up with THREE of them) every day had resulted in my blowing up to 202 lbs (from a starting weight of 160) into a size XL; so that not only was I resorting to living in T-shirts inherited from my dad and sweat pants purchased from Amazon, but when I finally was fully vaccinated and went to the doctor for blood tests and stuff, my liver numbers (which I had already brought down into the healthy range back in 2018) were once again not only wildly out of control, but were actually WORSE than they had ever been… this was not a huge surprise because my liver was so enlarged that I could feel it like a football under my ribs pressing out — very uncomfortable — after almost every meal, and towards the end it was making it painful to sleep on my right side… so yah THAT bad

AND… just for shit and giggles, my sugar levels, which I had also dieted back into the healthy range in 2018 where now not just boarder-line diabetic, which is where I pretty much had maintained it for years … were now full out diabetic. The doctor said she was giving me a few months to get it under control before resorting to drugs or insulin, but that was where I was headed if I didn’t drop weight.

So that’s what I’ve been doing for the most part these last few months. Last time I posted about this, August 4, 2021, I had successfully lost 17.5 lb (like 2.5 lb a week) and today, Sep 19th, I’ve continued the trend … it’s slowed a tad to around 2.2 lb a week … so I’m now 174.2 (close to another 10 lbs lost). This was achieved on my own, no paying anyone else to help me. The method is a combination of things….

Partial Fasting: Firstly, I’ve been consciously doing something that I had also been doing unconsciously back in 2018, which is partial fasting… I wake up fully dehydrated, weigh myself… and THEN drink black coffee and water… so calorie free liquids essentially …. to rehydrate myself…. and then eat lunch snacks and dinner (in other words restrict all my calorie consumption to over the course of about 8 hours out of 24), and then make sure I STOP eating a good 4 hours before going to sleep (and making sure I get the full 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep a night, as needed).  And when I say I stop eating, I mean not even so much as a grape (to paraphrase Oprah, who is where I initially got the idea)… Oh, and I stop drinking even water maybe an hour before falling asleep …. Be warned, this does tend to send you to bed feeling a bit wanting a snack, but you have to fight it.

From what I’ve recently read about the power of fasting, which is now ALL the rage — like I said I was doing it without knowing I was doing it back in 2018 — your body needs a 6 hour gap from your last calorie consumption to when it starts resorting to using fat instead of what’s in your belly… and the more time it has without food the more fat it’ll burn… so that 4 hours of not eating + about 8 hours of sleep, plus 2 more hours in the morning before I put any calories in my mouth = 10 hours of my day when my body has to burn fat for lack of my giving it anything else to burn.

Before I was eating right up till bedtime, sleeping maybe 8 to 10 hours and eating as soon as I woke up… so I only had 2 hours a day to burn fat … after a day of eating things like a cheeseburger, fries smothered in cheese, a chocolate shake with chocolate cake in it, and topping that off with dessert … and that was just dinner (so yah, no chance THAT was going to get burned away).

I have also found this not eating for four hours before going to sleep did wonders for addressing my acid reflex issues which resulted in GERD (and WITHOUT DRUGS… I had been popping TUMS® Antacid ultra strength before going to sleep during lock down)… because I had been stuffing my gullet till right before I went to sleep…

Splurge days: once a month I get a splurge day… just one… and I eat till I make myself sick. I’m talking completely blowing the diet with non stop shit I shouldn’t be eating till I’m asking myself why the fuck I did it. I’m talking fried chicken wings dipped in ranch dressing, pizza, ice cream, cheeseburgers and brats, go for it. Actors who have to lose weight for roles talk about this … and I find it maintains sanity and tends to line up nicely with things like thanksgiving, Xmas, Jewish holidays, being invited to friends for dinner, etc. It keeps you sane and provides your metabolism with a kick in the ass. Just don’t go kidding yourself that you can do it more than 1 day a month. 

Weighing myself daily: The one thing I NEVER do when gaining weight is weigh myself. To be honest in 2018 I didn’t do that either… I just went by the size of my clothes. And I know they say NOT to do this… it can be entirely frustrating… and can discourage the average dieter who is denying themselves in order to lose weight. HOWEVER the “diet” I’m on is mostly medical (diabetes control and liver issues) so for me low carb and low fat is something I’m probably going to have to do for the rest of my life and if I HAD continued to do it the first time … LIKE I WAS SUPPOSED TO, instead of convincing myself that the problem was “fixed” I would not be in the situation I am now. That said, if you take away carbs and fat, there’s really not much left to gain weight on even on the days you do over eat. Additionally… there’ve been a few days where the weight went up instead of down or staying flat, so it keyed me into things I can no longer buy… Pistachios from Costco are on that list. I like them too much.

To date I’ve been using the same bathroom scale my brother bought me for as a going away gift (I was moving to SF) like 15 years ago. The thing still works, and its impressively accurate… only of late its become sporadically LESS accurate (as in radically different weights within a 15 minute period in spite of not eating or using the bathroom). So I figured it was time for an upgrade, one of the new ones with all the bells and whistles that measures way more than just your weight. At first I was looking at Withings body+ which is sold at the apple store (and amazon of course), ’cause I’m an apple person and it’s supposed to synch with apple health app and its the one a lot of my friends own, but paying $100 for a high tech scale which most likely won’t have the longevity of the my old scale, just didn’t rock my boat. After much hemming and hawing, I opted for Wyze Scale for 1/3 the price, which showed up on a lot of same lists, and sometimes was considered a better scale… especially when I searched for the most reliable scales rather than “best of year options”. Got it yesterday.

I unboxed it, did everything it said to set it up… happily both it and the old scale registered me as being the same weight, so I knew both were accurate, YAY! And then I went over the apple health app on my iPhone and of course, it did NOT synch as promised. Went to multiple web sites, worked my way through the instructions multiple times, tried various suggested fixes… nothing. I got and phone and called tech support but it being a Sunday evening, well no one was picking up, so decided I would try again today. Went to sleep, and when I woke up like 8 hours later…  I did my morning weigh in on both scales, still got the same number both times…. but this time when I went to apple health to input the data manually, to my delight, it was already there.

Apparently it took the scale a few hours to get linked…. the scale comes with it’s own app, and it’s supposed to share with the apple health app, but I have no idea HOW it does that. Hopefully this was a one time thing and from now on going forward it’ll work like clock work… one can only hope.  But it was nice to see things like BMI calculated for me automatically, along with metabolic age, a metabolic rate (it thinks I burn 1421 calories a day minimum), visceral fat, level of protein in my body (apparently it’s too low… I need less fat and more muscle tone), bone mass, lean body mass (apparently I should be weighing in at like 115, not 175… which I knew), body water %, etc.

It’s amazing what these new scales can do for $33 bucks! Granted they’re not 100% accurate but they give you a ballpark idea.

Carb control; Because of the diabetes, I’m not allowed to have more than 28g of carbs at any one time so as to not spike the sugar in my blood. This is highly limiting but do-able. Last time I did this (2018) the one thing I really missed was pasta. I love pasta. Granted I’ve tried the veggie substitutes, pretty much lived on riced cauliflower… but all of these leave you wanting and feeling like you’re denying yourself … which in fact you are. This time around I got super lucky… while at Costco (and my readers know just how much I love Costco) I stumbled across a new product I’d not seen before, “Healthy Noodles” manufactured by Kibun foods.. a product that for the most part they ONLY sell via Costco, except in a few limited parts of the country, mostly the South/East — and if you live in Colorado I’m sorry, they don’t sell it there.

With this new product I’ve been having every conceivable noodle combination, sometimes twice a day, and losing weight while doing it. And because unlike pasta/noodles this product has 6 grams of carbs, which is a LOT, it leaves you feeling full at the end of the meal. Add veggies in along with it and well… do the math. I’ve had spaghetti with meat sauce (I make it as low fat as conceivably possible, using ground bison instead of beef), fettuccine alfredo with various proteins and veggies added, beef stroganoff, Ramen/Chinese/Vietnamese noodle soups, chicken soup with noodles, macN’cheese, and 5 way chili….. all while losing weight.

For those unfamiliar with it, this is a variety of shirataki noodle, which is something you can pretty much find nation wide in any whole foods or organic section of a supermarket, but….and this is important…  that usually doesn’t quite hit the spot… because firstly, you KNOW you’re not eating pasta; A) it doesn’t feel like pasta in your mouth, or B) it doesn’t SMELL like pasta… and C), most crucially, there’s an actual health risk involved in eating it (which is why in some of the nanny states — socialized medicine — its actually illegal to sell). With THIS brand, none of those things is true … its close enough to the sensation of eating pasta as no never mind, there’s no “fishy smell” (people who are polite call it that, I call it what it is, which is it smells like a woman’s V’JayJay). Where with all the other brands — and I’ve desperately tried pretty much all of them over the years — you feel like you’re eating rubber, with this brand you can feel it falling apart when it comes in contact with the digestive juices in your mouth, and this is a VERY important difference (read on).

Listen carefully, Shirataki in it’s pure form (and there are other manufacturers of this stuff selling it formed like pasta noodles) is something I’ve been familiar with since I was in my 20’s, back when I did two summer internships in a row for companies in Japan. It is a non-digestible carb (you’re digestive system literally can not break it down, only your teeth can do that) that the Japanese make into a cake called konnyaku, and refer to as diet food… because after you’ve swallowed it it’s going to come out exactly the way it went in, as though you had swallowed a marble. It’s great for filling the stomach and your body can not derive any calories from it… in it’s pure form. HOWEVER, if you eat it made into noodles, and you snarf those down without chewing it…. well you know how, if you have a bunch of silver jewelry chains, or maybe bungie cords all bunched up together, how they turn into a gordian knot? Imagine that knot forming in your tummy and completely blocking your digestive track, which your stomach acids can’t eat through… so that the only way to get it out is surgery… I’m not making this up… it happens. Well that’s what can happen if you eat this in it’s 100% Konjac (the name of the root from which Shirataki noodles are made) form, so you have to be REALLY careful about chewing it up before swallowing it… and the texture is a bit like trying to chew up a rubber band, with the same squeak squeak squeak sound happening in your mouth.

I have over the years tried MANY different brands of these sorts of noodles, and NEVER found one that really felt like I was eating pasta, UNTIL this one. ALL of them the texture was just wrong, or my poop came out looking like noodle casserole (which was kind of scary — keeping in mind what I said about the possible need for surgery). This brand is the ONLY brand I have found so far that feels like pasta in your mouth (albeit overcooked noodles, there’s nothing ‘al dente’ going on here), has no smell at all once you’ve rinsed it out (it is stored in liquid in plastic packets) and where you can feel it falling apart in your mouth and your poop looks normal, even if you accidentally snarf them down — so no risk.

The only issue is if you, like a friend of mine who is a breast cancer surviver, can not eat soy for some sort of medical reason; if that’s the case then you shouldn’t eat this. This has NO net CARBS (the fiber and carbs are the same and cancel each other out, more specifically the carbs all come from the Konjac which as I said are undigestible), and the 30 calories is from the protein provided by the soy…. but it does have 30 calories per serving (2 servings in each bag)… but compared to 155 to 190 calories for a bowl of pasta noodles, not to mention the 40 grams of carbs, that’s not really a huge concern.

Low Fat: And of course, because of my liver, and the calories in fat, I try to keep my fat intake low and limit it to only healthy fats, so like Salmon, or Sablefish, occasionally Tuna (which is problematic because of other reasons which most of you are already familiar with, that are doubly problematic with a bad liver), avocado, olive oil, etc.

Exercise: And of course I’ve been exercising… in addition to walking, I’ve added weight training and signed up for a gym membership. I try to get there at 6am when they first open up and almost no one else has arrived. I find that first hour there’s maybe five or six people in a space big enough for 30 or 40 under normal conditions (and that’s including the equipment). At fist I was going to a private gym where you work with a trainer on machines, but now I’ve switched to the University facility (which is ginormous) near my home, and work out on my own. Happily, the University is one of the ones that has mandated full vaccinations for all students and staff, AND they follow the mask mandates as well, so I feel pretty comfortable working out there, especially during the hours when it’s mostly empty.

The movie to show trend in Musical Theater as seen by me, on the London stage: The Lion King, School of Rock, and 9 to 5: the Musical

About two years ago I wrote about how I had seen the stage musical production of Waitress while in London, and you might want to read that review before this one. It was a musical version of one of my favorite movies, so I was excited to see it… but ultimately was more than a bit bit underwhelmed. Ultimately over the course of that same summer I saw FIVE stage musical productions that had begun as popular movies.

According to wikipedia there are 217 musicals that have been made over the years based on movies, and while this is by no means a new phenomena it seems in recent years to be on that is escalating.  The reason generally given is that musicals are so expensive to produce that in order to ensure success producers tend to prefer to fund sure bets. If the movie was a hit — it stands to reason — it already has an embedded fan base who like me, with regards to Waitress, will buy tickets for the stage version simply because they loved the film… and as long as the musical is essentially true to the movie those audiences will be happy and tell their friends. Back in the day, this used to be why books were made into musicals, but now a days not as many people read as in the past (here are the statistics)…  So while for instance Game of Thrones (the books) were a huge hit, I think its safe to say that no where near as many people read the books as saw the TV series, and I’m going to hazard a guess that sales for the books increased a lot after the HBO version was released — but if those purchasers actually took the time to read said books (they all would make good doorstops, and each in their unabridged audible versions take about 30+ hours to complete) I’d be surprised.

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THIS is where you be buying your theater tickets day of show, here or the theater’s own box office, no where else. Those other booths are rips offs for tourists.

All that said, I’m going to write about the Movie to Musical productions I saw in the summer of 2019, partially to give my review of them, but also to discuss the overall trend.

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The mother of this recent uptick in the trend is the long running show, The Lion King. This as most of you already know began as a Disney cartoon/musical and was converted to the stage in an incredibly innovative way that utilized puppetry and dance to bring puppets to life in a really magical way — especially considering the newness of the form. (At this point regular theater goers are more used to it and hence less impressed)

The above video shows a modification of the show done for an award ceremony that gives you a good idea of why, if you buy tickets for this show, you REALLY want to be seated on or near one of the center aisles — and not one of the exterior ones as I was

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… as The Lion King takes on a sort of 360 degree quality with the performers popping up or travel through various locations around the theater, breaking what is called the 4th wall (the line between the viewers and performers). And yes, if you have not yet seen it this show really SHOULD be on your list of of must see’s, even if you have no kids.

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Believe it or not I couldn’t find this when first came here because I couldn’t see it

Another show I saw, was School of rock, a musical version of the already music heavy Jack Black movie. In case you’ve been living with your head in the ground, this movie was SO popular that there is now a chain of music schools, with outlets around the WORLD, all called “The School of Rock” in honor of the movie.

C967DFA8-C4B4-430B-853B-06CC99B66E21.JPGIn fact a recent participant on the hit TV show American Idol (entering it’s 20th season/year, so that at this point all the contestants grew up watching the show) was a teacher at one of the branches of the chain.

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In case you’re still confused, these are places where kids can go for after school music lessons of the strictly NON classical variety (to be fair there has always been a hole in the market in that regard; I myself asked my parents for music lessons thinking it would be modern music and got stuck playing classical piano and violin — SNOOZE. REALLY, kids should start out playing popular music and then if they are any good switch to classical and or jazz).

Once you’ve entered the theater it’s CLEAR that this is a show parents take their kids too, simply based on the concessions stand’s offering which included stuff I’d never seen at the theater before, including cotton candy, neon colored slushes, and a photo booth…

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That said, the adults also got THEIR ‘candy’ which included not only the mandatory bar serving hard liquor and wine like in every theater, but also alcoholic ice cream and popsicles — which was a first for me.

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The musical, as the following video shows, is essentially a mirror reflection of the movie only with narrative songs (songs that add to the story) thrown in to supplement all the music that was already there.

In fact my major complaint was that while the show was highly enjoyable it stuck TOO closely to movie in one crucial point. The guy they hired for the role was hired in large part (I’m guessing) because he looked a lot Jack Black, a big chubby guy… RATHER than finding a guy who could channel Jack Black‘s energy, which in large part is what made the movie a hit. That said, it was enjoyable and the audience loved it.

Sort of a cool thing, which allowed for the video above (shot it myself) was that unlike every other theater in London which has multiple signs saying DON’T video or even take photos, in this theater they held up signs saying, ‘go ahead and video!’ understanding I suppose that kids would upload it to their accounts making their friends pressure their parents to bring them.

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The 3rd, movie to musical production I saw that summer was 9-5 the musical based on the iconic hit movie from the 1980’s that at the time was staring Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin with Dolly Parton as an also ran…

Ironically, while Jane Fonda was actually the one who had the idea for and spear-headed the movie, and was the one who reached out to Dolly to bring her into the production…  (at the time Dolly who’d never made a movie before), the transformation of it into a musical is ALL Dolly Parton — notice how in the picture of me in front of the theater the marquee has her name at the top?

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Also part of the production included a huge projected image of Dolly — look at the “o” in the 9 to 5 in the image above — who was not only talking to the audience but was then singing her hit song with the cast at the curtain call— it was kind of surreal.

According to Dolly, see minute 10:04 in the linked video about her life, she’d rejected all previous offers, but figured this was Jane Fonda & Lily Tomlin movie and if it failed it would be on them and wouldn’t blemish her career. Also, she was at that time trying to expand and cross over out of just being a country singer, so her one demand was that she got to write the movie’s theme song, which is still a song you hear today.

All that said, as a musical 9 to 5 was far more successful ‘as its own thing’ than the School of Rock had been, in my opinion. It was essentially the same story but the songs — all written by Dolly (who no one will argue is a very talented song writer) brought their own things to the show, allowing it to stand alone as it’s own thing.

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The musical was playing at the theater of the iconic Savoy Hotel in London — which opened in 1889. The hotel, and it’s theater, were built by the theatrical producer Richard D’Oyly Carte with the profits he derived from his Gilbert and Sullivan “opera” productions as a permanent location for them to stage even more of their works (of which there were many). The English language “operas” of G&S (if you aren’t familiar with them) sort of opened the door for the musical theater art form in England and the United States, and continues to be influential even today.

That said, the Savoy theater is a disabled person’s nightmare. The theater’s best seating, the stalls, is located deepest underground and the building was built in 1889, and there are no elevators for the patrons.

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At the time I found this sign absolutely comical, as there were to elderly people who were even more disabled than I was (I had major issues with my knees and hips at the time that have since gotten better with supplements to help regrow the cartilage and physical therapy). How helpful… only TWENTY-TWO steps to have to negotiate… think about that for a second… the only seats that were marginally accessible to the seriously disabled was the nosebleeds, which are only maybe five or more steps down from ground level
(Someone, I know not whom, uploaded a video of the broadway production to youtube… no idea how long it’ll be up there but it’s have almost 50K views, so if you want to see it you can — till it’s taken down)

Kolaportið Flea Market Reykjavík Iceland

On the topic of… if only I had like a month of doing nothing and going nowhere, I would catch up on all my back log of blog posts that I haven’t gotten around to writing up…

HA HA HA HA

I guess that wasn’t it. We’re a year into Covid and JUST NOW I’m finally getting to this post… Was here September 28th, 2019, and its now August 2021… OOPS…

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The Kolaportið Flea Market in the old part of Reykjavík is, according to Wikipedia, Iceland‘s ONLY flea market.

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It is open on Saturday’s and Sundays (only), and is located inside a large warehouse type building across the street from the harbor.

457EBD16-E3FD-498D-8465-A39FAA67F4C2.JPGGoods sold include used stuff, from clothing to books, as well as brand new hand knit sweaters made by local artisans (intended I think for the tourist market).

I say this because once upon a time, back when I was in high school (almost 40 years ago) we had an exchange student from Iceland and according to her ALL the women in Iceland knit … and did so obsessively. In fact according to her this was so culturally normative that it was a matter of course that they were allowed to do so while in class listening to the teacher lecture — and she found the fact that American schools banned her from doing so off-putting. Without those busy hands she found it significantly harder to concentrate. Now granted, that was 40 years ago, but I doubt things have changed radically in the years since…  As such, I find it HIGHLY unlikely that locals buy these sweaters. In fact I’m pretty sure 99% of what is sold here (with the possible exception of things like the home baked pastries) is really only for the tourist market, and I’ll get back to why I think that that…2A833EC2-0B17-497D-8311-5E03FB1D4042.JPG

Well let me correct myself…. in addition to fresh baked stuff, locals who live or work close to the market might pick up some of the fresh fish type stuff here (which also includes traditional fermented shark — which has to be fermented in order to be edible — a dish so inedible that TV shows use it in food challenges) mostly because it’s convenient.

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BUT… other than those two sorts of things that are sold here, everything ELSE is really aimed at the tourist market… And the way you should know this is … if you were there long enough to do comparative pricing, you wouldn’t buy most of what is sold there. In particular, all the candies that tourists pick up to take home as gifts.

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I will say this however, this is a GREAT place to TASTE said candies, get an idea of what you like…. and then take a picture of the item (you can ignore the name or brand) and then look for the same said item in any of the minimarts and grocery stores scattered around town.

This might seem like an odd comparison but go with me on this… I compare it to buying mattresses in the USA. In the USA, no two mattress stores have the same items in stock (if you’re looking at brands, styles or item numbers), so that you can’t do price comparisons. Don’t believe me? Try it (with the possible exception of say Ikea mattresses and the foam mattresses). We had a close family friend in the business who first explained it to us, and then years later I became buddies with one of the mattress kings of the San Francisco bay area, and he confirmed it when I brought it up. They might all be the same brands… but when you then try to find that one style/item number in a different store… you can’t. It’s intentional to keep you from price shopping.

(Instead what you need to do is to get down the specifics … how many springs per square inch, what tensile strength are the springs, how much padding, what type, etc., all the info most people never pay attention to… and then go to other stores finding the mattresses that meet those specifications)

With regards to the candy sold at the flea market, it’s pretty much the same thing. They take the candy and ‘rename’ it and repackage it…. and then double or triple the price. It’s why they can afford to give it away as samples.

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So for example, the Puffin Eggs (black licorice covered in chocolate and than a white candy coating), which I totally fell in LOVE with and could not find anywhere else…. however, upon researching on line as to where else they might be sold, I discovered it was ONLY available in the flea Market and some gift shops (also aimed at tourists) — but that it was just like what I said about the mattresses. What they really are is a candy called Djúpur, which is common as dirt in Iceland, and you can pick it up at 1/3 the price at any normal food market or gas station in small single serve bags … it is also sold in massive bags at the duty free as you’re leaving the country (and even cheaper if you pit stop at Costco, which if you’re in Reykjavík is pretty much on the route to the airport — for those who don’t realize it, your membership is good world wide at ANY Costco, the only issue is which credit card they use which varies — also make sure to check in at the membership desk first where they might have to issue you a temporary card– again depending on the country).

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With puffin eggs (and the other candies of that sort) what you’re paying for is the picture of the puffins and cute name… which is heck of beans more impressive to kids than the actual packaging which is kind of plain.

Icelandic sweaters and products - Freyja Djúpur Liquorice and Chocolate Pearls (150gr) Candy - Shopicelandic.com

Returning to the flea market, if you chose to buy there keep in mind that most vendors only accept cash. There is an ATM located inside the market but the line can be quite long, so it is recommended to get out cash in advance

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Hello from the Chicago suburbs

Well we live in “interesting times,” don’t we?

My last post was June 18, when my doctor said that the post lockdown damage was that I was now diabetic and my liver had grown (WAY much) during that time because of fatty liver disease. On that day my frame, which should be a size 4, weighed in at 202 lbs. Since then, about 7 weeks, I’ve successfully lost 17.5 lbs (like 2.5 lbs a week)… a few more and I’ll have lost the 10% body weight the doctor wanted to see before I have all my blood tests and such redone.

Instead of traveling I’ve been working out three times a week. I started out at a “prestige” gym, where you can ONLY work out with a trainer, on specialized equipment designed so that you couldn’t work on them independently even if you wanted to…and the main requirement for staff members seemed to be some experience with the equipment and being attractive and a size 4. That said, I went from being unable to get out of the sofa without flopping around like a fish out of water — because my core muscles were THAT weak — to feeling better than I had in months…

Since then the local university (which I live walking distance from) has opened their gym memberships back up to community members (during lock down they limited attendance to staff and students only, and extended other memberships for the period of the lock down). I signed up… it was $500/year and personal trainers were the same price for TWICE the time!! Where the prestige place charged no membership fee but $55/half hour, this University gym (which has AMAZING facilities, 80% of which I’ll never use) was $500 year, but you can always come in on your free time and work independently for as long as you wish, where you couldn’t at the other place, and here personal training is $50 for full hour.

Probably more importantly, my personal trainer here (while also being cute and a size 4) is a TRAINED trainer; as in she is a few credits short of being a physical therapist, and specializes in sport rehabilitation for the school’s athletes. So SIGNIFICANTLY more skilled than the other woman. While she still has me doing machines (this time, on my own time — after showing me how to set them up and telling me which weight to start at and being sure my form was right)… She instead spends our together time doing stuff to help with my particular issues, such as the right foot having developed a mind of its own ever since I had that horrible concussion back in australia so sever that it dislocated my jaw and damaged the speech centers of my brain … , it’s why I kept falling down and going boom over and over again in the months after my concussion… it turns out towards the right and starts dragging, which has caused me to trip on things like uneven pavement and door sills/thresholds.

Beyond that….
A friend and I have decided to do some “staycation”ing, in large part because right now the Chicago area is just SAFER than most of the rest of the country (vaccination rates here are high, in some cases VERY high, and as such we’re not seeing a lot of Covid cases) … so like a few weeks ago we went to the Museum of Science and Industry for the afternoon (after I was done working out) and we’ll go again next week to see a special exhibit we bought tickets for while there, focused on the Marvel Super Heroes franchise (tickets were sold out weeks in advance, so we couldn’t see it then). I’m not going to talk about the Museum of Science and industry much, as it’s sort of a Chicago fixture and world famous… other than to say, while they have updated stuff, they’ve essentially kept most of the classics I remember from my childhood. So they still have the coal mine ride (but I wasn’t interested in being cooped up in a badly ventilated space during Covid), and the the doll house is still there — it used to belong to a former child movie star of the 1920’s and she donated it to the city upon her death. For those unfamiliar, everything in it is real gold and gems, the books are readable under a microscope and the castle’s church has what is described as a sliver of the true cross. So NOT your average dollhouse. The craftsmanship in miniature is mind boggling.

Central hallway of what used to be the ground floor, with Thor flying over my head



While there I was making a point of telling anyone who happened to be hanging out by the back doors, which lead to stairs that face a little canal, that THAT was in fact the original entrance. The building which houses the museum was built as the “Palace of Fine Arts,” a part of the historic Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and was designed so that you took a boat via that canal to the now unused landing, and climbed the stairs to what is now a set of unused glass doors… that people unfamiliar with its past think is just a back entrance. Nowadays we all enter via what was originally the back doors… Well, actually we USED to… They have since my last visit (maybe 15 years ago?) turned the parking lot into a huge lawn and instead dug down and created a multi storey parking lot beneath, and you now enter from there into the building via the basement… So for me it was revisiting a childhood favorite and appreciating how the city has tried to beautify itself, and increase practicality, while maintaining its historic value. Not sure what amount of our tax dollars went into this improvement but I think it was well done.

That said, we’re going to try checking out other smaller less famous museums that are in the area, places I’ve never gone to before and that most tourists never see… I WILL do dedicated posts about those.

OH! So… THAT’s why sitting on your ass watching TV while having delivery of all the comfort foods you could possibly want brought to your door — for a year and a half –isn’t good for you… she says facetiously

I have failed my blood test BIG TIME … my liver numbers (remember the fatty liver I got under control before covid?) are now so high that they couldn’t even do the test to see if I had cirrhosis because the machine would have given a false positive… AND my blood’s glucose levels doubled… for years they’ve sort of wiggled around type 2 diabetes sometimes edging up to pre-diabetic, sometimes back down in healthy level levels… well since Covid started, they’ve actually DOUBLED and are solidly in diabetic range … between the liver number and the diabetes… guess who’s in diet mode again…

Granted I was fully aware of the fact that I’d pretty much “outgrown” what had been my fat clothes and was now living in sweat pants and X-large Tshirts….AND back to my top weight (same as in 2015 when I discovered my weight by standing on a scale outside a grocery store — 200 lb) … but even considering all that … till I saw the blood numbers I was living in a sort of denial that things hadn’t gotten THAT bad. I hadn’t caught Covid … so I “still had my health”

HA HA HA HA

Well that’s over… I’ve been in diet mode all week, and combining it with the modified fasting I had been doing last time I lost weight without even realizing I was doing it (16 hours a day of no food — last eating anything is 6pm then breakfast at about 10am — every day) … hopefully between that and the working out 3 times a week with a trainer, I’ll have lost enough in the next 3 months that the liver doctor can do the cirrhosis test without having to put in paperwork to my insurance company asking for permission to do an MRI

Time flies while you’re NOT in lockdown

Was fully vaccinated by the end of April, yay team Pfizer, and May has flown by in a blink. For most of it just going to gym two to three times a week (my physical trainer is very proud of me even though I’ve not lost a single pound) was about as much excitement as I could bare. Got a flat tire fixed, and had my car’s starlink system updated (the satellite system that allows the car to automatically call for help in case the airbags get activated, irrelevant of if there’s cell coverage or if I’m conscious)… which was a major pain in the ass… TWO WHOLE DAYS of sitting in the dealership with them saying, any time now….

Other than that, nothing exciting has happened… life is slowly returning to normal, and mask mandates have been lifted for those of us who have had the jab.

Friends and I are starting to talk about some group travel. Now that they’ve been wholled up a full year, some people have reached out to me asking if they can join me once I decide it’s safe to get back on a plane. Till then I’ve suggested we turn our attention from travel away from home to staycation … My intention is start checking out things around the Chicago area and writing about that… as well as catching up on the about 125 location posts from when I was traveling that I THOUGHT I’d writing about during lock down but couldn’t bring myself to do… preferring instead to watch infinite amounts of television….

Am fully vaccinated!!!

Hello from Chicago! It’s been a good 4 months since my last post.

Today I am officially good to go! It’s been exactly two weeks since my 2nd jab and I am now fully vaccinated — according to the experts at the CDC (at least for the next 6 months based on current data). I celebrated this momentous fact by doing what before covid would have been the utterly mundane… I signed up with a personal trainer for a session in a gym to try to get back some of the muscle tone lost over the past year of barely moving…. without hurting myself. It was GLORIOUS! I was smiling uncontrollably for two hours after the half hour session was over… and then topped it off by making an appointment with the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. The prosaic has never been so exciting.

Got my first covid shot (Pfizer) on March 18th at a local walgreens. Signing up for it was a bit of a challenge. I had registered with my city but a few weeks had passed and they had not emailed me back with a when, so I started looking around and discovered the city where I lived was actually WAY behind the local pharmacies in handing the stuff out…. so that even though my obesity and other issues qualified me with my state to be getting a jab, the city was still only trying to finish vaccinating the older than 65 year olds. A friend suggested bypassing the public efforts and to go private instead, and suggested signing up for it online at midnight, and then again at 6am with a pharmacy, saying “if you wait till 12:15 am or 6:15 am they’ll be all gone.”

First thing I did was I compiled a list of all the local pharmacies in my area (ones with outlets within a 1 hour commute) that were offering vaccinations — some of which were via grocery stores, and included the hyperlinks direct to their various sign up pages. This was to not waste time navigating through to those pages during the aforementioned 15 minute window of opportunity. For a few days I tried it repeatedly, but with no wins. Then on about the 3rd day I decided to try again at 8am… after a complete fail at both midnight and six, to discover the Walgreens pharmacy chain was offering a handful of appointments that were scattered around the state … 1 here, 3 there… And as I was refreshing the page trying to find a time and location would work for me including the possibility of having to drive an hour to and from the location (my body clock being pretty screwed up at the point, so that I was falling asleep at noon and waking at 9pm). Then, suddenly at about 8:15am, 22 appointments suddenly appeared at a walgreens not 15 minutes away from my home — I shit you not! I tried to grab the first appointment of the day but between clicks someone beat me to that one, and had to settle for the 2nd appointment — I checked back and by 8:30 almost all of the 22 openings had been filled.

A word to the wise, I now know having discussed it with the pharmacist that they arrive in the morning, find out what shipments they’re due, and then leisurely upload appointments into the system, based on how many staffers they have who can give jabs and work schedules …  According to him this can happen anytime between 6am and about 8:45am… and I just got dead lucky having refreshed by screen at about 8:10, because once they go up they do tend to be snatched up within about 15 minutes to a half hour — to his experience.

Now here’s a thing, Walgreens, the pharmacy chain I used told me the 2nd shot instead of being 3 weeks after the first, would be administered a whole month later. I called them up and asked, as it seemed wrong, and they said it was perfectly ok and that the 2nd shot could be done as late as 6 weeks after the first with no negative affects. So I waited. On my third week the American CDC (Center for Disease Control) bitch slapped the company and told them in no uncertain terms this was NOT ok. According to a New York times article that I read, they were doing it because it made it simpler for THEM to schedule the appointments using pre-existing software, and that it had nothing to do with supply and trying to get as many first shots into as many people as possible as quickly as possible (which was the explanation they gave me when I asked). Once this happened, I called them to see if I could get it rescheduled to the next few days they said NO, because there were no openings. SO my 2nd shot was a whole month after the first making the process from first shot to full immunization last tedious 6 weeks of waiting, for as we all know a watched clock runs slow.

But it’s over now … at least for the next 6 months…  I have marked my calendar for mid September to remind myself just in case a booster is required at that time. Granted we still need to take the same precautions, but here’s the thing. Till now any time I went out to a grocery store or some such (which I did rarely) it was stressful as all hell. Invariably some idiot was either not wearing a mask, or wearing it with their nose hanging out, or worse on their chin. Even among those with masks, a good third were NOT wearing effective ones. There was no shortage of people with bandanas over their faces… or wearing masks made of materials that did nothing, or worse actually broke up the moisture they breathed out into smaller droplets that made them MORE likely to stay suspended in the air, and for longer… which increased the risk of spreading the disease.

Having lived in Asia for a while, there they understand basic science and know you wear a mask because it is not only rude but inhumane to infect the people around you with whatever germs you might be carrying. As a result they will as a matter of course wear masks even if they feel ok, but know they’ve been in direct contact with someone who was sick. Masks in Asia are so common place that I many years ago picked up a few child sized ones while visiting Tokyo Disneyland. Americans however can’t seem to grasp this concept, and think the mask they are wearing will protect them for other people who are not wearing masks. THIS meme which was making the rounds a while ago was probably the BEST explanation of how masks work

Why wearing masks is important: the Urine Test.

But here’s the problem… Americans are not exactly known for their politeness, especially if it means inconveniencing themselves. They’ll wear a mask to protect themselves, but they don’t really care about others… and if they don’t believe the mask will protect them (on top of not believing covid is a real thing) then they won’t wear one, or if forced to will sometimes INTENTIONALLY wear something that obeys the letter of the law but is actually a fuck you to the people forcing them to wear a mask because they know full well its NOT the right kind of mask.

As such, leaving the house would FREAK ME OUT, and I would return from quick trips to the shop completely stressed. Today I was able to go to the gym, and afterwards to pick up food from Macdonalds, with NO stress because I now believe (fingers cross, no evil eye) that even if I should become infected with covid, the statistical likelihood of it killing me has dropped significantly. Where the Spanish flue we know in retrospect had a mortality rate of 2.7% of the population, with the highest mortality rates among children and young adults, we know that Covid kind of flips that… the mortality rate for covid is about healthy young people is only about 0.9% (but that varies with age, health conditions, and how well prepared and or equipped the local hospitals are to deal with being overwhelmed with patients). For someone my age with my health conditions… and my obesity… the death rate is about 10% … TEN PERCENT!!!!

And even among those who don’t die, another 30% might end up as long haulers with permanent damage to their heart, lungs, etc., and most frighteningly … their BRAINS. The medical community has just started documenting a massive uptick in psychiatric issues among people who had mild cases that they were able to overcome without hospital assistance.

How scary is that!!!

So yes, going out today fully immunized knowing that my risk of any of that has dropped to about the likelihood of being hit by lightning … something I don’t go around worrying about … and being able to actually ENJOY being around other people (even with the precautions of masks and social distancing — which is not unlike taking normal precautions during a thunderstorm) was just WONDERFUL!