All posts by Giles Scott

Sugar Squared

Peet's CoffeeSo, I just quit sugar, or, at least I’m trying. I’m completely addicted. I come up with reasons to leave the house on some pointless errand just so I can stop at Starbucks for a medium, decaf soy mocha thingy and a pack of those dark chocolate graham crackers they display next to the cash register. Where have you been my wife says, when I came back 45 minutes after going to drop something off at the post office. Oh, the line was horrendous, and then Steve called on his way home and needed to talk about Julia. All nonsense, and that, apparently, the first sign—concealment. I, similarly, constantly, sneak stuff meant for the kids, things like their Halloween candy and the Jaffa Cakes their Nana sends from England, the kinds of things we keep in a cupboard above the fridge, next to the alcohol and the matches.

A part of me wonders if it’s an OCD thing, but then again it’s not my OCD telling me I’m utterly craving a quarter cup of chocolate chips, or I have to eat three fun-size Twix. If it was the OCD, I’d eat all the Halloween candy, leave a few half-gnawed wrappers and tell my wife we need to call animal control. Blaming it on the children seems a little harsh. Maybe that’s the next step. But, anyway, D-day cometh. I had a check-up last week: blood work, prostate etc., and I have high cholesterol, which is unusual for a hard-core vegetarian trying his hardest most days to qualify as a vegan. What do you call that people ask? Failure’s the obvious response, but I hum and haw and say that technically I’m an ovo-vegan who occasionally eats cheese and dairy. “Failure” such a more appropriate response.

But, anyway back to sugar, and the doctor. I’m not diabetic, but I have the high cholesterol thing, like twice what it should be. If I don’t eat red meat, the next thing on the how to lower your cholesterol list is losing weight. And yes I could shed the odd pound in ten, so not massively overweight, but when I imagine putting a ten-pound weight in my back pocket and carrying it around all day, well, that’s a little awkward. I know people who have gotten help for sugar addiction, as in serious help, not just the go talk to a therapist once a week kind of help. I’m not sure where to put myself on a scale (sorry) from 1 to 10. So, there’s the Starbucks thing, and the Halloween, Easter, Christmas candy thing, but I’m not getting up in the middle of the night, locking myself in the garden shed and scoffing down half a chocolate cake. Then again, the minute I feel any kind of stress, sugar is the go-to, either actual sugar or a plate load of carbs. Ideally, both. Carbs then treat. Carbs then treat. And I shovel them in, especially when stress is easy to find with two kids bouncing around the house and pretending that “listening” is a spectator sport.

So, anyway, I’m trying. This is day two. I’m already cheating—convincing myself that fruit isn’t really sugar cause it’s natural, and dried fruit is definitely not sugar because it’s natural and it’s dried. Case closed. So, how do I feel? Pretty much the same as the day before the day before yesterday. Not entirely surprising, really. Especially when I started the day with a decaf mocha thingy (but from Peet’s and with almond milk not soy) as a way of easing into it. More to follow though my four year old just asked when the Easter Bunny’s coming and a little shiver went up the old spine.

Twelfth Night

Christmas TreeTook the Christmas decorations down the other night. It’s always such a sad couple of hours picking up tinsel and Christmas lights and stockings and stuffed reindeer toys etc. Packing them into plastic crates that go back in the garage for 12 months, being careful not to break the tree decorations, nor the spine on the edition of A Night Before Christmas that belonged to my wife’s father. It’s dated 1948, the year Atlee’s Labour government nationalized British Rail, the year of the London Olympics, and CBS’s first broadcast of its evening news show, still the longest running new network show in the U.S.. It’s also the year of the First Arab-Israeli War, and the Genocide convention, but I was trying to start with something light.

So we pack up everything and take down the tree, put a plastic bag over and stick it outside. They’ve been gathering all week, Xmas trees on their sides next to the garbage cans. We always wait until twelfth night, January 5th, a la tradition, though we forego the bonfire. So, another one in the books, and a pretty good one at that. Massive over-indulgence on all fronts. Didn’t exercise once in two weeks, mince pies and cake and beers and scotch and more mince pies and bread pudding and chocolate logs and stuffed dates and on and on. Just stuffing ourselves with food and lots of TV. Of course there’s more to it. The kids had a blast Chrimbo day. The 4 year old got a batman lair thing with moving parts that he played with without interruption for 6 hours on Christmas day, then on Boxing day announced he was done with it and we could give it away. I still have the receipt my wife says, and I can see the wheels turning—trade one in each week for a return of 6 hours of uninterrupted bliss. Certainly worth pondering.

And it was special to watch the little tykes rip through their prezzies on Xmas day and then look up eagerly with this “wait where’s the rest?” look on their faces though they can barely see over the massive pile of stuff in front of them. Oh, the joy of the season, Slade in the background, followed by Wham, and the sad irony of that a few hours later. But you plough on, cause it’s Christmas, and on Christmas you’re allowed a beer at ten in the morning cause it goes admirably well with stollen and eggnog.

But all done now for another year. The eggnog 50% off down the local Safeway, all the new board games we played once abandoned at the back of closets, and I’ve written out a detailed January exercise program which involves no alcohol whatsoever for the first week, and, then, after that, limited amounts at limited intervals. Friday night without one might as well be a Monday, but definitely dry as an emaciated llama on school nights though we still have 4 or 5 episodes of The Crown to get through, which you really need a drink with as you watch Churchill sipping his whisky with his porridge, and I definitely need something to help me get through the sad sight of that dishevelled tree sitting on the front step wrapped in plastic. So maybe I should shift the start date to the middle of the month?

Not About the Election

So this is not going to be about the election. Just to be different. I’m going to write about my four-year-old’s birthday, which was the Saturday after the election. An important day, Saturday, November 12. Certainly to him. Far more important than Tuesday, November 8. As far as he’s concerned a “Trump” is something you do after too many beans or, in his case, almond butter, which goes straight in at one end and out the other in a rectal tympani. He thought it hilarious that the word kept popping up on the radio, and I love the fact that in each case he’s visualizing an air bubble escaping from someone’s backside—he must think that to be the bedrock of our culture.

But, like I said, this not about the election. This is about us driving over the Golden Gate Bridge into Golden Gate Park on a beautiful fall day. About us stopping at Peet’s first for the obvious, packing some snacks, getting an early start so as we come down 101 we see downtown San Fran coming out of the fog, a fog which lifts just as we get rock star parking, because it’s early, because we prepared, all of this a reminder that there are other currencies.

Oh, and we have a dog. Arrived Thursday. Not a post-election knee-jerk move. It’s been in the works for weeks, which is not to dismiss the welcome distraction though the way he casually lifts his leg in order to allow his tongue to get to his balls serves as a constant reminder. He’s a Havanese, Bichon, terrier mix—the dog that is— and came to us via a local shelter. They think he’s about a year old—another remarkable parallel—and spent a lot of time adapting on the streets. It’s hard to imagine him surviving, but there it is, the unfathomable miracles of nature, and now he’s about to get his first romp around Golden Gate Park, not to mention his first trip on a Stow Lake pedal boat, or any boat come to that, unless he was some variant of stowaway. Same for my four-year-old. This his birthday extravaganza—being pedaled around Stow Lake looking at ducks and meandering turtles, crayfish, waterfalls, pagodas, arched bridges…all under dappled sunlight while sipping on a mix of ginger apple juice and water and slipping grapes sliced into quarters into his eager mouth—positively Elysian.

After this, we walk around the island to get to the top of the waterfall, another first, and a thing of beauty in itself, except for the pipe emitting a layer of sewage scum into the middle pool—a timely reminder, but also a reminder that every bucolic scene possesses its own sting. There’s no place to hide from it, but, then again, as with sewage, it’s a thing of our own making. Nobody put forward reforming the electoral college in Obama’s first two years when the Democrats controlled the world. Why reform one of the most antiquated electoral formats in the first world when it’s working for you? I’m not a history professor but as far as I can tell the electoral college survived because of slavery. Even the most rudimentary online search reveals that in 1787 when James Wilson proposed direct national election of a president, James Madison responded that “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” Meaning, slaves were not allowed to vote, but under an electoral college they counted as part of the state population and, thus, impacted the number of electoral college votes allotted to each state.

But, anyway, I digress. From the wonders of Golden Gate Park back across the bridge, by this time embedded in traffic, but no worries, cause we’re satiated by the wonders of urban nature and we can see all the sailboats. Then, to home, and lunch of hotdogs and beans—more Trump jokes—followed by the requisite singing of Happy Birthday and the vanilla hazelnut chocolate cake from the gluten-free bakery, because he loves a gluten-free cake. This followed by a spot of TV, cause it’s his birthday and an early night. Pretty much the perfect day in a four-year-old’s head when you throw in the new toys and the time spent on the living room floor playing with said new toys while scolding new, adorable dog for treating new toys as chew toys. As I said, perfect. And nothing like Tuesday, though, as I promised, we’re not talking about that.