Sunday, August 15, 2010

A Journey into the Personal

When I started this blog, my intention was to stay focused exclusively on my journey toward publication. In essence, the writing, the submissions, the rejections, and, ultimately, the acceptances. The goal, then, was to stay clear of the personal except to the extent that it had to do with the world of writing.

Oh, I intended to drop emotion on the page, if I could. To celebrate and/or cry at the results of the process itself, but not the life things that affect the writer ... me. No one wants to read a writer’s angst bullshit splattered all over the page or screen, unless it’s in the form of a well-told tale. I suspect that Stephen King’s Misery came about that way.

So, doing this blog the way I originally intended would have been phony at worst, incomplete at best.

Ultimately, though, one cannot have the journey without the ancillary creeping in like bitter into tea. Be that as it may, I’m going to TRY to make this a little more like chocolate into milk, but either way, here goes.

When I left for Fiji in March 2008, I weighed in at a svelte 185 pounds, a workable twenty pounds overweight for my height. I felt good. My famous (or infamous) aloha shirts hung down past my hips as they should to allow those trade winds to slip underneath. I swam an hour solid three times a week. The pictures of me on this site were taken during that trip, including the one above.

On August 1st, 2010, two weeks ago today, I tipped the scale at 285 pounds, the most I’ve ever weighed in my life, at the age of fifty-two, an age where many healthy folks suffer heart attacks and strokes.

One hundred pounds gained. Holy shit!

No aloha shirts. None fit. No self-respect either. And heart flutterings that have since gone away, but not forgotten. Then I understood, perhaps for the first time, a Benjamin Franklin quote, “Nine men in ten are would be suicides.”

So, while I would love to be compared with Hemingway, I don’t want it to go THAT far. Then several circumstances occurred within the last few weeks that tipped the balance a little. Okay. Tipped the balance a LOT.

First, I had a customer ask me on the phone at work if I was okay. She said I was breathing heavily and wheezing. I THOUGHT I was breathing normally. But how could I have been at 285 pounds.

Second, I read about the death in April of the father of two of my childhood friends, David and Bobby Tamura ( he goes by Bob, now, from what I read). I always held Mr. Tamura in the highest regard and respect. When I would become lazy, or otherwise annoy him, he would laugh, shake his head and say something on the order of, “Rocky, Rocky, Rocky. What am I going to do with you?” When I saw his obit picture, I heard him say it again, as he last did in person nearly thirty-five years ago. He died having been the first person to whom the U. S. Judo Federation ever awarded the rank of Ku-dan, or ninth dan. Only 15 people in the history of the sport have ever been awarded the tenth dan.

Third, last Sunday evening I had a long phone chat with my friend Cathy Rosczewski. Well, it started as a conversation and ended as a Rocky monologue about how I’d never attract a woman in my life blah, blah, blah. I exhaled self-pity. And I hate self-pity. Just abhor it. And I wasn’t even drunk. I’m so sorry to have spewed that kind of bile all over her, and she was so patient in hearing me out, yet again. I’ll have to apologize to her and thank her in the same breath.

I will when I have the courage.

But she did mention, yet again, that I lacked confidence in myself, and I took us around the mulberry bush, yet again, by saying that you had to experience success to have confidence, blah, blah, blah. And, truth-be-told I’m probably never going to have confidence in myself as a man. I can accept that. But I sure-as-hell can have confidence in myself as a person and as a writer.

Make book on it.

And that’s where I start. I can lose the weight. I’ve done it before. Hell, I’ve lost thousands of pounds over the decades. I’ve even been able to keep it off for years at a time. The problem this time is that I lack focus and accountability. That happens when you get older.

So, here’s the deal.

I’m giving myself one year from August 1st to lose one hundred pounds. That’s about two pounds a week, well into the safe zone for weight loss. The focus will come from my conviction that if I haven’t fallen into the safe zone, I’ll resort to surgery. Plain and simple. The accountability is that while I’m writing about character and story and submissions and how far along I am on lucky draft thirteen of Catch a Falling Star, you will see notations on my weight loss progress. A paragraph here and there. Not huge entries. I hope this is the last time I devote a weeks blog to this. But it will be there in the shadows.

In the past, I’ve used a lot of things to motivate me to lose the excess weight, everything from puppy love to acting. So, this time I’m choosing threat of surgery (cutting me open like a cod fish), and weekly blog entries (stripping myself naked). I don’t want to use the ultimate one. At least not yet. But I hinted at it earlier, so I’ll mention it here.

I want to live, and I’m killing myself.

There. I said it. Not easily. I’m going to have to dry off the desk and my shirt when I’ve posted this, but folks, I've been killing myself for more than ten years. Slowly, sometimes painfully, sometimes with a smile on my face, but I’ve been doing it. It’s time to face the fact that my mother and sister are dead, and I have to keep walking down the road.

I want to keep walking down the road.

I crave the adventures, not just in the stories I tell, but in life. So, I may be asking those of you who read this for a little help from time to time. And from others, too. I would be most grateful. And I promise always to reciprocate.

There it is. My heart on a plate.

Please tread gently.

By the way, I wrote a pretty decent 2,500 word short story this week about a family who, once upon a time, had it a whole lot worse than I’ve had it.

I am pretty lucky all things considered. And I learned something else, too, this week. Right now, actually. I can seriously bust pages when I want. I cranked out the first draft of the short story in a day. This blog entry will run just over twelve hundred words, and I wrote it in less than an hour and fifteen minutes. That includes thinking time.

As always, thanks for reading. I’ll let you know next week how I did.


  1. Rock, I had noticed and commented privately that you haven't really been the same since your Mom died, and even more so since Debra passed on. Good luck with the weight loss. Surgery is tough and there's a good chance you won't have to resort to it, but trust me, it's not the end of the world.

  2. Rockman,
    Much like an addiction, figure out your triggers. You've got 75% of the battle won then, old friend.
    I'm here if you need/want anything.
    And by the way, been reading your blog for a while now. :-)
    I hope you don't mind.

  3. Of course I don't mind you reading my blog and commenting on it, Jamie. I'm honored. Keep right on. And, thanks, Chris. I do appreciate it.

  4. Not sure if you've been to my neck of the woods lately but if not, go read Kimi and Kana, Hawai'ian style, I put you in there with us. Beware though, made her sick to go back, heck made ME sick to go back. sigh :-(