Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Ava Gardner Museum

Yesterday Kristin and I decided that we should drive an hour or so to nearby Smithfield, North Carolina, so that I could visit their local attraction (other than the outlet malls):

Ava Gardner Museum (2)

The Ava Gardner Museum.

I've been hearing about this museum from Kristin for several months, starting with a phone call:

"Hey, I was out driving around, and I saw this museum for that old movie star lady you like!"

"Which one?" There's a Bette Davis museum?

"It was a short name... I think it started with an L..."

"Lana Turner?" I'd go to a Lana Turner museum. I started googling while we were still on the phone. "There isn't a Lana Turner museum in North Carolina. I don't think there's a Lana Turner museum at all."

"Are you sure? It was a museum, and they had a sign and everything."

"Where were you?"


"Google says there's an Ava Gardner Museum."

"Yes! Ava Gardner! She was a movie star, right?"

"Yes..." Now, I can guarantee that Kristin has never in her life seen an Ava Gardner film, or if she has she has no idea who was in it. "Remember The Aviator? With Leonardo DiCaprio? And that scene where he was all hermit and creepy and peeing in the jars, and he had to go testify, and Kate Beckinsale has to go in and convince him to shave and clean up?"


"She's playing Ava Gardner."

I know it's a horrible example, and probably an insult to the long career of Ava Gardner, but it was the most recent example that I could think of. Using examples like that is probably one of the reasons why a few months ago I also had to explain to Kristin that Joan Crawford isn't actually starring in Mommie Dearest. I am part of the problem.

Anyway, we were met with slight disappointment when we reached the museum.

Ava Gardner Museum (3)

I knew that would happen.

"It's closed?"

"Yes. I told you when we were going to dinner that the museum closed at five."

"Like we listen to everything the other one says when we talk."

She has a point. I've tuned out a number of stories about her job this weekend. We still looked around a little:

Ava Gardner Museum (1)

Me and the Ava Gardner Museum

We were late to the museum because we spent our day doing other things.

First, before we got on the road to Smithfield, we stopped by the Salvation Army, which we missed during our thrift store tour of town the day before. I don't give money to the Salvation Army due to their abysmal track record on LGBT issues, but I guess I'm willing to buy things from them, because Kristin spotted this:

Shenandoah 401

and it was only three dollars. Shenandoah (released in 1981) isn't normally a Pyrex pattern that I collect, but the 401 is a handy size to have in the kitchen (good for beating a couple of eggs, a single serving of soup, etc.) so I picked it up. Kristin bought a stovetop popcorn popper pan, the fancy kind with the hinged lid and a crank to turn the popcorn inside, and then we got on the road to Smithfield.

Which we detoured off of, because of me.

See, as we were driving along, I saw a billboard for the Selma, North Carolina Antique Mall, "The Largest Antique Mall in the South".

"You want to stop?"

"Yes! Yesyesyesyes!"

So we stopped.

And, oh my God... The Pyrex:

vintage pyrex (1)

Booth after booth of Pyrex:

vintage pyrex (2)

So much Pyrex that in some of the booths they organized it by color, shelf after shelf of Pyrex moving through the many shades of the rainbow. And after a few hours at the antique mall, and booth after booth of reasonably priced (in some cases shockingly underpriced) Pyrex, you're probably wondering how much I bought, and if it will all fit in my car.

Well, here's my massive Pyrex haul from the antique mall:

Early American 441

Early American 441, in gold on brown, which means it is the dip bowl from the Early American chip and dip set.

That's it.

They had a lot of Pyrex, but not a lot of any of the things that I was looking for. This is one of the few non-extremely-rare pieces I was still missing from my Early American set. Early American is my jam:

Early American (1)

My Pyrex jam:

Early American (2)

and now that I have this piece all I'm missing is the 404 mixing bowl (which I could buy online but refuse to pay fifty dollars for), a lid for my 503 refrigerator dish, and the brown on white 963 (I have the gold leaf on brown version in middle of the stack in the second photo above). Everything else in Early American is really, really hard to find and expensive (the 4 quart roaster, the shallow square dish, a gold leaf on brown 443) and will probably never be part of my collection unless there is a magical lucky find somewhere, someday in the wild.

For yesterday, though, I got my six dollar 441, so I was pleased.

We also did a little bit of shopping in downtown Selma, which is pretty much all antique stores:

Selma, NC

and I found another treasure:

Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero

Spider-Man: Rock Reflections of a Superhero

The Spider-Man rock opera from 1975, on vinyl.

Now I'll have to get a copy of the CD, so I can listen to it.

So, yeah, after we did antiquing and thrifting and outlet shopping and then had a late lunch/early dinner (Did you know that Cracker Barrel has a light menu? If you didn't, you probably don't want to.) the Ava Gardner Museum was, sadly, closed.

Maybe some other time.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Thrift Shop Tour of Greenville

Yesterday Kristin and I spent most of the day driving all over her city, visiting thrift stores, antique stores:


consignment stores, and the one comic store that Kristin knew of:

Bat mural

We started our day downtown with a nice breakfast at The Scullery:


We met our mutual friend Aaron there, and I had a bagel and cream cheese (the verdict on North Carolina bagels is "not bad; better than Tennessee") and split an order of sausage balls with Kristin. For those unfamiliar with sausage balls, they are a Southern delicacy made of bulk sausage, cheese, and flour or (more often, but it depends on the recipe) Bisquik. They are delicious, but you probably shouldn't eat too many. I've been known to make them for tailgating:

sausage balls

After breakfast we walked around for a while, and saw the cute little downtown area:

painted fence

just these wigs

blue sun

vintage letters

Greenville is a cute little town in the same way that Cortland, where I went to school for my undergrad, is cute. It's an older little town where the college is the biggest thing, so they love their local sports team:

purple pirate

and they have stores and restaurants and places to go, but a limited number of them. There's a definite difference between living in a place like this and a place like Knoxville, which is a small city, but that doesn't make it a bad place. I found their empty streets:

Pepsi mural (2)

former barber

random artwork:

horse sculpture

fire dogs

and Civil War Memorial:

Our Confederate Dead

charming. I found their still-living Confederates:


less charming.

I've heard all the arguments about, "That flag is my heritage!" and "That's our history and culture!" and I don't consider any of them to have merit. It is a history, culture, and heritage built on oppression, slavery, and racism. You cannot subtract one from the other. You can't say, "I love our heritage except for the slavery part" because the slavery part is entwined. The genteel Southern plantation culture collapsed for a reason: it was not sustainable without a slave workforce. If you continue to resist this idea, and still proudly display your Confederate flag, then you are a racist whether you admit it or not. There's no argument.

I still thought the rest of the city was really cute, though.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Every rest stop in North Carolina

Yesterday, at the end of a rather long drive that Google maps said would be five hours but could only actually be five hours if I drove about 110 miles per hour I pulled in next to Kristin's car:

bad parking

Not my best parking job, but I'm in the lines, ok?

Thank God I have a small car.

I stopped at every rest stop on Interstate 40 East, once I crossed into North Carolina:

welcome sign

I realize I've stopped at that particular one before:

Welcome to North Carolina

when we went to Asheville for a day trip, but I stopped at every rest stop but one this time for two reasons: first, that I was drinking a lot of diet Mountain Dew in the car to stay constantly alert, so I had to pee a lot, and second because I was trying to figure out how to get 10,000 steps for the day in while spending most of the day in the car. To do that, I walked a couple of laps of the rest area each time I stopped the car, reading plaques:

memorial highway

checking out vending areas even though I didn't want any snacks (I packed my own):

out of order

and walking down to see scenic views:

short walk

rest stop scenic view

and dead bugs:

dead cicada

On my way back up from the scenic view a pair of ladies stopped me to ask about it.

"Is it worth the walk?"

I shrugged. "There's a little valley. It's only a minute's walk either way."

They didn't look particularly enthused after they walked down there, so I got in my car and drove away before they could walk back up, just in case they wanted to blame me for ruining their day by tricking them into gazing upon boring, unfulfilling mountains. At 249 steps, it was worth it to me, ladies.

Most of the drive was uneventful, with four exceptions:

1) At one rest stop, a man kept talking on his phone through his entire pee and poop, and didn't wash his hands when he was done. Mister, your caller can hear you. They can hear everything.


2) Beeping horns in tunnels almost got me into an accident.

I don't know if it's a tradition everywhere, but whenever I've driven through a tunnel in the Smokies:


people always beep their horns through the tunnel. I even explained this to my parents when they came to visit, to their amusement, and insisted that they do it as well. Yesterday I found out that everyone doesn't share this tradition. As we started going through a tunnel, I got ready to beep my horn, the semi truck behind me and to the side of me started wailing on theirs (which is really, really loud in a tunnel)... and the car in front of me freaked out, slammed on their brakes, and almost swerved into the tunnel wall.


Good thing I didn't beep.

Also a good thing that I was following at a safe distance (because I am a very safe driver; please remember that as I move on to the next point) and my normally good driving reflexes were supersensitively heightened by a 20 ounce bottle of Diet Mountain Dew.

3) At one point, I accidentally drove 85 miles per hour in a 65 zone.

I know, right? I broke a law.

Most of the way I was doing 70 mph to 80 mph, well within the flow of traffic, but at one point Green Day's "Fuck Time" (sorry for swearing, gentle readers) came on the iPod and I was rocking out and singing along and all of a sudden I was like, "Ooops, I'm doing 85," which is not an acceptable excuse if I should happen to get pulled over.

Nobody's going to pull you over, my inner voice chided. Do 85 for a while. Live a little. Grab life by the balls, dude. YOLO!

Maybe my inner voice is right, I thought, in my other inner voice. Maybe I should do 85 for a while.

Just as I thought this, I drove past a 40 foot tall cross by the roadside.

On the other hand, you're gay, and driving a Beetle, which is like being kind of supergay in the part of the country where they erect giant crosses by the roadside. Do you really want to deal with the kind of cops who work in a place like this?

Suddenly now my inner voice is the voice of reason? What an awful thing to think, full of stereotypes and assumptions and fear of authority.

Why, I should keep going at this speed, just to prove that the police here are good and sweet and kind.

Enjoy getting tazed, bro, voice of reason countered.

I slowed back down to 80.

4) The good people of the Raleigh-Durham area have no idea how merging works. Seriously, is this not covered in Driver's Ed in North Carolina? There's a stretch of road there were there are over a dozen roads merging in from the right. When this happens to you, there are a few different options:

1) Move into the open lane to your left.
2) Maintain a basically constant rate of speed, so that the cars merging in from the right can work around you.
3) If traffic is moving slowly, allow zippering.
4) Slam on your brakes every single time you're approaching one because Jesus Christ, there's a merge up ahead!

If you selected #4, congratulations.

You live in North Carolina.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Arts and Crafty

Last week was one of the rare occasions when I decide to wear my sparkly rhinestone tie. Every time I wear that tie, people are so amused by it, and tell me how sparkly I am and make jokes. That tie makes people smile, and it makes me smile, so I started to think, "Maybe I should get another one."

Not several, mind you. One of the joys of the rhinestone tie is that it is rare. If I wore something sparkly every day, it would stop being charming and instead just become routine. On the other hand, I have somewhere between a hundred and a hundred and fifty ties. Throwing in another couple with a little sparkle to them might liven things up, so I started to keep my eyes open for some.

Finding a rhinestone encrusted tie in Knoxville is a little harder than you might think, but I did eventually come across some last weekend. A lady was hanging some up in her booth at one of the antique stores I go to, so I stopped to talk to her and to look at the price.

"Those are forty dollars."

"Forty dollars?" I'm sorry, are those real diamonds?

"My friend makes them out of vintage ties. She hand glues all of the rhinestones herself. They're art."

"They seem very nice. I'll think about it."

Oh, I'll think about it, lady. I'll think about how I'm not spending forty dollars on a tie just because your friend hot glued some rhinestones to it. Why, if I had some time on my hands and some craft supplies, I could probably just do that myself, and it wouldn't cost forty bucks, lady.

And then the lightbulb went on above my head.

I don't have to work this weekend. I have no plans for Saturday other than walking and thinking about Cheetos. With that in mind, I ran some errands this afternoon, and then had some crafty time.

I started with this:

Arts and Crafts (1)

Seven dollars worth of thrift shop ties and twenty dollars worth of craft supplies. I got the ties first, then walked around the craft store looking for inspiration. I figured that even if I screw up a couple, the total cost was still less than one of that lady's rhinestone ties, so I might as well go for it.

The blue tie turned out ok, but not perfect:

Arts and Crafts (2)

It's blingy, though. I tried something similar on the orange tie, which is turning out better but which will also take longer than I planned:

Arts and Crafts (3)

I guarantee, though, that people will love that thing when I wear it on some home game Friday.

I didn't just do rhinestones, though. As I said above, less is more in that regard, and there were so many other things I could do.

Terrible things.

Things like this:

Arts and Crafts (4)

Yes. I glued googly eyes to that paisley tie, and I love it now.

I also love the way that stamping and fabric paint worked on the burgundy tie:

Arts and Crafts (5)

Arts and Crafts (6)

It's not a hundred percent perfect, but I think it looks great. I made my own pattern!

I tried something similar on the gold ties, stamping on bumble bees in black, but I accidentally smeared it pretty badly and threw it away.

One out of five isn't bad, and now I have five new ties.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Still More Talking About Walking

"I have this theory that if you cut off all of her hair, she'd look like a British man."

In Mean Girls, the movie that's going to be the lead mention in Lindsay Lohan's obituary, there's a moment when Cady realizes that she can't stop talking about Regina George. She knows that people around her are bored, and that they really wish she'd have something else to talk about, but she explains that, "I was a woman possessed. I spent about 80 percent of my time talking about Regina, and the other 20 percent of the time I was praying for someone else to bring her up so I could talk about her more."

I'm starting to feel like this about my walking. No one has mentioned it, but I feel like lately I have nothing else to talk about. Part of that is because it's August, which is our busiest time of year (this is my third weekend in a row in the office), but the rest is that I am very intensely focused. I check my step count several times a day. When I'm at my desk, I'm checking the clock and my workload to figure out when I can fit in some walking again. And God forbid someone else should bring it up, because I love to talk about my steps. I want to tell you how many steps I have today, and how many I have for the week, and how far I walked yesterday, and if you don't bring it up I'll eventually work the conversation around to it.

I don't mean to.

I just don't have anything else to talk about at the moment.

I haven't gone anywhere interesting or out of the ordinary. I haven't cooked anything exciting, because whatever I cook on Sunday lasts for almost the entire week now, and sometimes longer if I freeze some of it, thanks to portion control. The only issue of "Lois Lane" that I want to write about is the one where she gets fat. The only time I read is on the treadmill, because I gave up my lunchtime reading hour to spend an hour walking the halls instead, and I don't read enough at night any more because I leave work late, then spend an hour walking on the Greenway, and then when I get home I still have to shower and then feed myself.

People keep commenting on my progress, and I'm glad to be making progress, but I also need to figure out a better sense of balance. Right now it's a struggle because the extra time at work is eating up the time that I could be doing something else besides walking, but I'm hoping that after this week I can start to get things back under control.

I might even take a day off.

Not sounding like a step-obsessed lunatic hasn't been my only struggle this week.

This has been the hardest week since I started this in July because this is the first time in over a decade that I have faced fall opening without being able to stress eat. No milkshakes. No candy hidden in my desk. No donut holes from the package by the copier. No candy from my friends' offices and candy dishes. No food from the Admissions Office when I go downstairs. No snacks from the food that keeps showing up at the office. Seriously, just today there were a couple dozen bagels, a coffee cake, a sandwich platter, two dozen lunch-sized bags of chips, and three bowls of cookies. And most of these things are things that I can't have any of, because I know I am incapable of just eating one donut hole. I'm not capable of picking one M&M out of the candy dish and walking away. I know my limits, and I know that I have stronger willpower in forcing myself not to eat any than I do in trying to keep myself from eating them all once I open the door to it.

If one donut hole goes into my mouth, more will follow. I know this, so no donut holes at all until I can control myself around them.

Instead I have to maintain focus.

And then if I decide it's ok to have a bagel at lunch, and a cookie, and some chips, and a piece of coffee cake, I have to tally them all up in my head and think about how they affect dinner, and whether or not I get a snack today. And I worry about these kinds of thoughts, too. It sounds weird to think that I worry about an eating disorder when I weigh 270 pounds, but right now I have to be very conscious of calories in balanced against calories burned. I have to lose weight, or I will die. Eventually, when I get down to a healthier weight, then I can be a little more flexible and indulgent, because I will be in maintenance mode rather than reducing mode, but we aren't at that place yet. We're still at the place where I let myself get so fat that sometimes I can't walk up a hill without stopping to rest, and that's not a place I can stay at, so I have to be focused. I know that I can be, because I am stubborn and have tremendous wells of willpower and determination (I didn't make it through life as a fat left-handed gay man in glasses without quite a bit of grit in my soul), but it also means that right now I have to be a little intense, and for some people that might be a little scary.

It also means that I have to change some habits. Over the past month and a half, I have come to three realizations:

1) I will have to exercise every day for the rest of my life. I want to eat candy again. I want to eat ├ęclairs again. I want to go to the Cheesecake Factory and order a dessert measured in thousands of calories. If I am ever to do these things again, then I have to stop pretending that these things magically disappear once they end up inside me. If there is give, there also has to be take.

2) I am a stress eater, and I have to stop doing that. When I get stressed out at work, I go to the vending machine for some peanut butter cups. I go across the street to the Pod Market in the Humanities Building for a bag of Gummi Savers. I post on Facebook that I will shower someone with affection and publically call them my favorite if they will bring me a shake from Cook Out. (Orange Push Up is the best flavor on the 40 shake menu. Right now I would push someone into traffic for one, but it is 750 calories and I'm not willing to sacrifice that much of my food for the day.) This cannot continue. I'm working on channeling that stress into other things, like going for a ten minute walk, but it's been a struggle all week, and has probably also made me snappish, moody, and less positive than I should be. I'm trying, and every day it gets a little better, but this week has really been the worst one so far.

3) I have to develop new eating habits. I have been working on this, too. I have to plan meals, and plan time to prepare those meals. I can't decide that I'm going to stop on the way home and just grab a family sized bag of chips and a pint of dip because I'm sad and I don't feel like cooking. Convenience food is often unhealthy food, and I have to stop settling for that. I can still have mac and cheese, but a portion of it, not a box, and not three nights a week. This has gotten easier as my stomach has gotten smaller, because I no longer feel hungry enough to eat the entire box. I'm working on this, and it's paying off. The other eating habit I've been working really hard to break is eating out of habit. I'm learning to recognize the difference between when I am physically hungry and when I am mentally hungry. Most of the time that I want to eat something in front of the TV it's mental hunger. I want to eat because I usually eat a snack in front of the TV, and a "snack" in that case is defined as half a bag of chips, or a whole bag of mini donuts, or half of a container of sorbet. That has to stop. I have to distract myself while watching TV, whether it's with a video game, a book, livetweeting whatever I'm watching, or in the case of tonight writing a long, rambling blog entry. And let's not even talk about the fact that right now both of my bathrooms are so spotlessly cleaned that you could probably perform surgery in the tub and not worry about sterile fields. Anything to keep me from mentally wanting a snack when I know that I physically don't actually need one.

So that's where I am right now. I wish I had something else to talk about, but right now I don't. I'll work on that, but in the meantime I'm working on this, and this week it's been really hard. I'm sharing that because I've committed to being honest about this process, and to publically posting my thoughts. I don't want to look at this next year, or the year after, or whenever else and only see a string of entries where I talk about how excited I am about the distance I've covered and how happy I am about the weight I've lost.

I want to remember the nights like tonight, when I'm not excited.

I have to, so that I don't do this to myself again in five or six years.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

One Month

A month ago, I started a journey to lose weight.

0.0 Miles

It's been a month, and I figured it was time to share some results. When I started last month, I weighed in at 295 pounds. I had just purchased a Fitbit, and was struggling to hit 5,000 steps a day with a daily goal of 10,000. A month has gone by...

...and I'm still fat. Just slightly less so.

I got a lot of feedback after the first blog telling me not to call myself fat, but I am. I am a fat person. I am still morbidly obese. My BMI is still in the red zone. I appreciate that my friends are being kind and want to cushion my feelings, but I try not to do that with myself. Part of holding myself accountable, for me, is being honest with myself, and I'm not good at beating around the bush. I don't have a glandular problem. I'm not big boned. I am fat because I am carrying a lot of extra weight on my body, and I have that fat because I eat too much of too many bad things and don't exercise enough. I'm not saying that's the case for everybody, but this is my truth, and this is the situation that I committed to changing.

And change is happening.

Today I weighed myself before dinner in a pair of boxer briefs, just like I did last month. (Sorry for the mental image if you never wanted to picture me that way, or if you are now because I just suggested it.) I weighed in today at 273. I have lost 22 pounds. Since I got the Fitbit, I have walked 324 miles. You know what's less than 324 miles from me?

Nashville and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Atlanta, Savannah, and Augusta, Georgia.

Charleston, Ashville, and Charlotte, South Carolina.

Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky.

Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus, Ohio.

Indianapolis, Indiana.

So, what does losing 22 pounds look like so far?

For starters, I'm sleeping a lot better. Part of this is that I am often exhausted when I finally go to bed, but part of this is also that I can get more comfortable now. My whole life, I have always slept best on my stomach, but for the past few years I haven't been able to. If you're not sure why, lay down on your stomach on top of an inflated beach ball and try to go to sleep. After a few minutes, your back is going to hurt because it's forcing your spine to curve the wrong way, and you will probably give up and roll over onto your back or side. I'm still sleeping on my back and side, but it feels more comfortable.

Also, my towels fit around my waist now. You know how sometimes (at least for guys; I have no idea what girls do after a shower) you get out of the shower and wrap the towel around your waist and tuck in the corner, and wear it around the bathroom for a while? I haven't been able to do that for at least a year, even with extra large bath towels. (Bigger clothes aren't the only upsized items I've had to buy in the last year.) I can do that now. It feels like an accomplishment.

There's also the time that my shorts fell off in public.

Yeah, that happened. I was going to walk to the mailbox, and thought, "It's just a ten minute walk. I can throw on these shorts and a t-shirt and it'll be fine." As I was walking down my steps, it was fine, and then I started to think, "Hey, these shorts feel a little loose." Not catastrophically loose, but riding a little low. Then I turned out of my parking lot and started walking uphill, and I started walking out of them. I had to grab them with one hand and jerk them back up as I hurried back to my apartment, and then when I started climbing my front steps they started to fall again. Thankfully, I make it a point to always wear underwear, so everything was fine, but still, I've lost so much weight that my shorts fell off in the middle of the street.

This is an accomplishment, I think.

And also almost an embarrassment.

This is not to say that the last month has been all positives.

For one thing, I am hungry all the time. Even after I eat dinner, there is still a constant low grade "I'm hungry" burn in my stomach. I'm told that it will shrink as I continue this, but right now I spend a lot of time trying to think about something else.

I've also learned that portion control is un-American. I'm not being sarcastic. I mean that every time I've gone out to eat this month, during which I have been painfully conscious of my portion sizes, the first thing I want to do when my order arrives is put half of it in a to-go box. Plates of food, at least at the restaurants around me, are enormous, and that's not even counting appetizers, sides, and maybe dessert. I've actually found myself reading the nutritional information for restaurants, and some of it is a little disturbing. Before I started this, I seriously think I was eating 3,000-5,000 calories a day, and then going home to sit on my couch. Is that what everyone's doing?

I also have a blister on one foot because I didn't lace my shoe tight enough the other day. I'm trying to walk through it.

So, that's where I am with the diet and exercise.

22 pounds down, 73 to go.