Sunday, November 25, 2007

A Thanksgiving Lent

Good Banana Light
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
Perhaps it wasn't the most memorable Thanksgiving, but I will remember this year's installation for its cold, silence and my little post-holiday fast.

Usually by this time in the year, we've been hit by several samples of winter weather, but today's temperatures that never made it beyond 30 degrees were the first of the year. A mild autumn/winter thus far—never mind global warming. While out for a walk, I'm confident that it was probably in the lower 20s—almost a biting cold. But the sun was bright and low in the south as if it was following the contour of the McCullough Peaks. I considered how cold it would be that night once the sun's rays were long gone and of the wild animals that live in this area of the country and wondered how they do it.

During my Thanksgiving Day walk, I found the outdoors unusually quiet in the form of less activity and fewer cars on the roads. Beyond the hustle and bustle of the home where the holiday meal takes place, the world seemed hauntingly quiet. I tried to imagine it as being any other day. Blindfolded and removed from any calendar, I would still sense it was a holiday by the day's silence.

When 8:30 in the evening rolled around and after eating a gummy worm, I decided to go on a 24-hour fast. I'd been thinking about it for most of the week and after hearing a story on the radio the other day about fasting, I was ready to carry on with the project. And what better time to start than after the big Thanksgiving Day meal?

By 10:00 a.m. the next day and more than 12 hours into the fast, I felt OK. I was ready to eat breakfast, but it was just water until 8:30 that night. At first I thought I'd catch myself looking at the clock and thinking about food all the time, so I went about to occupy myself as much as possible and away from the kitchen was my plan.

I spent a good portion of the early afternoon at school and although the building was cooler than usual because there was no school, I was extremely cold the entire time. Nevertheless, it was a cold day—20s maybe, so it's hard to tell if my reaction was related to the fast or just my non-conditioning to the year's first cold weather.

By 4:28 p.m. the presence of hunger was constant, but four hours remaining didn't seem too far away. A nagging headache moved in, but I wasn't so sure it was fast related as I had just started wearing a new pair of glasses on Wednesday and was far from accustomed to the new lenses.

I purposely occupied myself with one of my cameras and some outdated Polaroid film. At that point, I caught myself mulling around in the kitchen as if I was going to eat something. This was a poignant reminder about how we open the refrigerator not because we are hungry, but only because we are bored—I felt both tugging at me. I wondered if my sense of creative venture was dwindling as a result of fasting—certainly my enthusiasm for expending energy had retreated and even sitting in front of the computer was challenging.

In those last four hours I was far from feeling upbeat. If not fasting, I would have surmised that I was getting sick. It seemed I was hitting "the wall" in my deprived digestive marathon. My thermostat seemed to be out of whack and by 5:30, I found myself worthless. A sense of nausea came over me and about all I could do was lay down. By 6:00 I was in bed and trying to ride out the last two and a half hours. That's about all I could do. The headache was massive—migraine-like.

I'd like to think that by the time 8:30 rolled around, I leisurely made my way to the kitchen, but it was pretty direct and purposeful when I climbed out of bed and headed for the kitchen. Tanya had a meal of cut-up steak and rice with some vegis waiting in the microwave. By 8:40, food was entering my system again. I ate as slowly as I could and drank a bit in between bites.

I was in bed by 10:00, but up again to eat an orange around 11:30.

With the fast nearly 20 hours behind me now, I can't say that the recovery time was that of a hangover, but there was some recovery time involved. I'd like to try this again and minimize the recovery by starting my fast following a normal meal rather than the a few gummy worms as a late evening treat.

Miraculously my clothes did not fall off of my frame and I'm still wondering if my pancreas is appreciative of the hiatus it experienced as reported in the story about fasting on the radio. There were no real expectations upon entering the fast, but I would have preferred a vision or some kind or epiphany over a stifling headache and nausea. Nevertheless, I did come away from it with a greater appreciation of food—simple and modest food such as rice, fruit, and a thin strip of beef rather than Doritos, Quarter Pounders with cheese and the litany of other processed foods we consume on a daily basis.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Strong Feelings About Weak Coffee

Coffee Cup
Originally uploaded by mdt1960
In the wake of the coffee craze that has swept this country starting with its origins in Seattle (thanks to Starbucks), one would think that finding a good cup of strong coffee would be an automatic thing by now. Well, it isn't.

In a recent 900-mile-trip to Sunburst, Montana and back, I searched again for that elusive strong cup of coffee that might be found beyond the congested metropolitan communities and their perfectly-decorated, Martha Stewart, wi-fi, ain't-I-cool coffee houses (i.e., Starbucks and its many clones). I was sadly disappointed.

It's not like I'm a total coffee snob either. A little picky to be sure, but I'll settle for a strong cup of Folgers any day over a weak cup of gourmet-roasted brew.

All I can say is that the rural mini-mart/gas stations need to twig on when it comes to making a decent pot of coffee that doesn't rival dishwater that's about to be thrown out with only a hint of coffee flavor. Maverick stores seem to have it solved the problem, but they're not quite as numerous as the Conoco or Exxon mini-mart/gas stations scattered across Wyoming and Montana.

I'm guilty of taking on a cup of coffee in those places that are closer to home while never bothering to express my disappointment over a given low-grade cup that was served. I'm unsure which is sadder—to hurt someone's feelings because you weren't impressed with the coffee they served you or to have your feelings hurt because someone told you they didn't like your coffee. So, like everyone else, I just don't return or I'll order something else the next time I stop by. I suspect there are those out there that simply condition themselves to drink bad coffee as well. We're all guilty of that now and then—conditioning ourselves to drink or eat something that we know deep down is inferior; Bud Light and Cool Whip comes to mind.

I know it's not polite to tell someone that they just served you a crappy cup of coffee, but isn't it a bigger sin to give them the impression that their coffee is decent as they continue to serve others with the same terrible swill? Meanwhile everyone (you and I included) talks behind their back about how terrible their coffee is?

Man, it's just coffee!