My New Diary, 12/15 to 12/18/18

By Alan Carl Nicoll

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All Rights Reserved


Sometimes I’m so stupid it drives me crazy.  I could just scream.  When riding the bus on Saturday morning, I cannot get to Dagny’s before 8:20 am.  [My Writers Writing group is supposed to start at 8:00]

I discovered this when I went to the bus stop at 7:00.  When I called the information number and was informed that no bus was arriving in the next 30 minutes, I grasped the awful truth.  I came home and modified the Writing Writers [oops] meetups to start at 8:30, and wrote an email to members informing them that I’m an idiot.

I was starving, had breakfast, went to Dagny’s, arriving at 8:20.  Had a hot chocolate and a good-sized cookie.  Worked on Kick Me for a while.  Got sleepy, nobody showed up, so I left at 9:30 and came home.  Back to bed (i.e., sleeping on the floor because bedbugs) for about two hours, woke refreshed and cheerful.

Story ideas are all around.  Here’s one that popped up after the nap, while I was lying “in bed”:  suppose, on “the worst day of my life,” if instead of giving that woman $20 and walking out of her life, I had decided to help her to the full extent of which I was capable, and she had decided to accept my offer.  I was thinking of letting her stay in my place as long as I could…

That’s a place to start a novel.  It is no better and no worse than the start I’ve had of others.  If I could write it straight through, no matter how long it took, and not have to rewrite or fix the plot or anything, then, why, I’d have a novel if I kept going long enough.  I could work on this right now.

But I’m not going to, though my mood right now says, “Go for it, you fool!”

I just reread yesterday’s blog post, which was yesterday’s diary entry.  It has many starting points for discussion, but as a whole it’s seriously lacking.  So I’ll print it out and take it to the Hemlock Club tomorrow “just in case we have nothing to talk about.”  The previous day’s work seems even better.


{12/16/18}  Weight 219.6.

Four-hour discussion at the Hemlock Club.  D has likely changed my life.  When I asked about his riding a bicycle, he said that he does that wherever he goes, that or walking.  I had never considered such a thing, and now I want to get an adult tricycle.  I won’t necessarily be able to ride it “everywhere I go,” for a while, but I really want to give this a try.  J cautioned me that it would get stolen, given where I live.  I have hopes of preventing that, of course.  I also have hopes that it will get me below 220, to stay, plus other good things.  Of course, it’s also possible that I’ll get killed on the thing, but I’m not going to let that worry me.

Also, D told us about Wim Hof, “the Ice Man,” who climbed Mt. Everest wearing only shorts and shoes.  I said, “Yeah, but it was in summer.”  It was Hof who changed D’s life with his health advice or something, I think.  Then J told a very long story about his adventures going crazy in England—hallucinations, religious fantasies, and so on.  Then Pablo demanded attention from the group, claiming it was “his turn.”  Nobody else does this, they just start talking and assume that people are listening, which of course they are.

But, in all, it was a tremendous meeting, and it looks like the four of us are forming a pretty solid core to the group.  I am the only atheist, the others all believe in some sort of God.  No out-and-out Bible thumpers, though, for which I am thankful.

D arrived almost an hour “late,” and I had been thinking that he wouldn’t make this meeting, but it looks like we provide something that he has recognized as uniquely valuable.  I certainly have never had such discussions; even with Pete and Fred [long-time, decades ago best friends], we generally didn’t talk all that much, more often focusing on games of one sort or another.  Fred and I had some talks, but he always did most of the talking.  I never felt very comfortable trying to talk about my reading, always feeling that I didn’t know enough about the book, or otherwise feeling just generally incompetent.  That has not been the case with the HC.

I started the group, last May, hoping to develop friendships; it looks like that has already happened.

Just told Z about the HC, 5 tweets:

Back in May I started the Hemlock Club Philosophical and Literary Salon, through Meetup dot com. Weekly meetings at a Starbucks-like coffee co. My goal was to make friends, but in fact I’ve had the best conversations of my life, LIKE I’VE ALWAYS WANTED.

Not always terribly intellectual, but I’ve written some amateur philosophy papers & we read them aloud, taking turns, with comments along the way and following. Four men, all seemingly committed to having conversations. I’m the only atheist, but all are open-minded.

Today we talked for 4 hours. I asked one about his bicycle; he rides it everywhere, or walks, because he was battling cancer; told me about Wim Hof. I tried a bicycle a year ago, had a bad experience, now I’m thinking 3-wheeler. Will change my life. 1 more:

Another man told us about his craziness in his 20s (we’re all over 60), delusions, hallucinations, mental hospital, etc. Incredible, hour-long story, totally fascinating. He’s currently homeless by choice, taking college courses, sometimes talks too much. 1 more:

We all have bachelor’s degrees, all are well-read & intelligent. All despise Trump, but we rarely talk politics. Meetup is not cheap, $30 for 6 mo & 3 groups to start, then $10/mo (6 mo lumps). I’m trying to get a writing group going, nobody showing up; 2 others failed.

Then I retweeted the first of the thread, with tags, and added a comment:  Apologies to anyone who isn’t interested. I’m not bragging, just excited.


{12/17/18}  Weight 220.X


{12/18/18}  Weight 219.0.

Reading Edward T. Hall:  Beyond Culture, at 1:00 am, is not conducive to one’s getting back to sleep.  I had to get out of bed and record a small part of the avalanche of thoughts and ideas that this book was stimulating.

Beyond Culture
Link to Amazon

First, pages 203-205 impressed on me that human beings are primates—intensely physical creatures “capable of running up to a hundred miles in one day.  Man is possibly the toughest and most adaptable species in the world…he can chase and kill any other animal—yet in light of the capacity as well as the need for activity, the way children are treated in schools is sheer madness.”  (p. 205.)  I must have been incredibly lucky in my schooling in the early grades, because I remember that I spent a lot of time on my own pursuits, reading and drawing, in class, while getting good grades and rarely being hassled.  I say “rarely” but perhaps “never” would be more accurate, because I don’t remember ever, say, having a book confiscated or a drawing torn up by an irate teacher.  That’s as far as I was able to read in Hall; the ideas and memories were coming so fast that I had to close the book and think, or calm down.

On page 204 Hall quotes Sherwood Washburn:  “Play is important in the development of all mammals…juvenile monkeys play for years….Through a profound misunderstanding of primate biology the schools reduce the most intelligent primate to a bored and alienated creature.”  (Emphasis omitted.)  I was neither bored nor alienated, though I remember that I was repelled by one teacher in fourth or fifth grade.  My elementary school experience seems in retrospect entirely positive, despite some hammer blows I received from outside school, around ages eight and ten:  Bell’s palsy and the death of my father.

So, up to age ten or twelve, life seemed to me entirely trouble-free and a complete pleasure of outwardly-directed activities.  Yet as a teenager I was mindlessly destructive, a petty thief, and very troubled and unhappy—but also, while I thought it the best of times, I dreaded having to become an adult.  Puberty was not kind to me, and I cannot begin to fathom what went wrong, if anything did.  I guess that I mean physically, because everything was wrong mentally and behaviorally.  A period of a year, perhaps longer, seems completely insane, and I can’t possibly sort out the chronology.  I also remember a stage that seems regressive, when I, around fourteen, and a younger neighbor boy played at running stores, with minor items “for sale,” set up on an inverted cardboard box in the garage, with handwritten cardboard tents with prices.  It was a store with never a customer.  At the same time (it seems) I was stealing Playboy magazines from the local grocery store and discovering how to masturbate, going through a disastrous religious confirmation and setting fires.  My crimes—rebellion?—were of the sneak, as were many of my pleasures.  I surely was in desperate need of guidance, a mentor, a father, someone to talk to who would be interested in listening and helping, though I had a loving mother and a loving grandmother throughout the period, and it’s not a need I was aware of at the time.  Somewhere in there I had also lost my best (and almost only) friend to the effects and aftereffects of encephalitis (he was gone for some months, and returned a mentally and emotionally much-diminished young man).  Certainly, a large part of my problems were sexual curiosity, tension, shame, and confusion.  I turned to books of sexology and possibly psychology, and eventually moved on (muddled through) to a dismal experience of college at seventeen, never having been kissed.

I have explored this period to the best of my ability and at greater length in Kick Me; but I needed to revisit that period now.

Earlier in the chapter in Hall, titled “Cultural and Primate Bases of Education,” he talks about A. R. Luria’s discoveries about the brain, “holographic memory,” the effects of school building design (especially uniformity) on children, and the “eight-to-twelve law” of optimal sizes for working groups.  In other words, a lot of material in a few pages, so I got overloaded and had to dump some of it here.

Now, a change of subject:  I had been intending to buy a tricycle; now I’m concerned that this exercise might be the worst thing for my heart, because I have this nagging symptom of heart failure (swollen ankles, edema).  I need to get myself to a doctor before starting anything that I expect to be physically demanding.  But the snag is that I have a $200 insurance deductible, not paid yet, and it’s just at the end of the year.  I would presume that there’s a deductible carry-over provision in Medicare, but I haven’t looked into it.  It would be hard if I had to pay $200 this year and then $200 next year (i.e., next month).

Getting a tricycle seems like it should be easy; but by not having a car, I’m faced with getting it home.  Research into reviews suggests that I should expect some mechanical problems, and might have to assemble it myself.  I can avoid these problems if I buy it from “the woman on the corner,” but it would be preferable to have some choice of models (which she doesn’t offer).  Walmart and the bicycle shops are all rather distant or impossibly distant.

I went to Trader Joe’s yesterday for the first time in almost fifteen years.  Very little had changed.  Bought Ezekiel bread, low sodium, and toasted a couple slices to go with my burger last night.  It was fine, though as toast with butter I think I’d like it a bit less than Dave’s Killer Bread.  But given that I also bought Ezekiel cinnamon-raisin bread, there’s no need to have that.

I have been taking chances with my pre-diabetes.  I was diagnosed over a year ago, and since then I’ve lost 25 pounds.  The Merck Manual suggests that a 5% to 10% weight loss reduces or eliminates the pre-diabetes, and indeed my symptoms stopped during that year.  The symptoms were numbness, tingling, and sharp pains in my feet, hands, and lower legs.  The toe numbness hasn’t completely gone (I don’t expect it to, ever), but, aside from occasional twinges, the other symptoms have stopped.  The concern is that, by having greatly relaxed my prohibition of sugar, I may be doing additional damage without symptoms, setting myself up for gangrene and amputations.  That seems pretty unlikely, but “you always know less than you think you know” is a rule I firmly believe in.  Because I’ve been burned before.

It would be worth recalling those instances of burning, if I could; certainly, the “bus doesn’t arrive for an hour” fiasco previously recounted here is one example.

So I went back to bed and slept until 8:30.


Diary entries from 10/1 to 10/31 are available here:  link.

Copyright 2018 by Alan Carl Nicoll
All right reserved.

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