birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

High Octane Life

Approaching a decade ago I stopped drinking alcohol on my doctor’s orders. For the previous three years I had been ballooning up, eating and drinking unhealthy, and generally falling apart. I was a runner and fit my whole life so this wasn’t natural. On reflection I blame it on the toxic relationship that was depressing me. I shed the girlfriend, I shed the whiskey, and shortly I started shedding weight.

Then I started walking. One mile the first time out. It felt good. I tried running and was able to but just enjoyed walking. I walked at a fast pace not a stroll, about 17 to 18 minutes a mile. When I was a runner I ran 6.2 miles in 42 minutes at age 32and 8 miles in 56 minutes at age 50. Running required some recovery time so I chose walking which one can do every day. After a month of walking 6 days a week I had got myself up to 4 1/2 miles and lost 10 pounds. I wasn’t trying to lose weight so that was a bonus. I remember when I got on the scale and was flabbergasted at how much weight I lost. So, I kept going and my energy seemed boundless. I was now walking twice or thrice a day and after 8 months I had lost 70 pounds and was walking 9 miles a day in all, either in one or more outings. The more fit I became the more energy I seemed to have, and I just couldn’t slow down.

I would be exhausted by the mid-afternoon after 9 miles of walking and call it a day only to have an itch to get out there and do another 2 miles. My kids noticed that I seem to be running at high rpm and encouraged me to slow down. Even when I was not sitting around, I was up and about doing things around the house. The kids said I reminded them of the hummingbirds that fed on the roof-deck feeder. In the summer I would also throw in an ocean swim to the exercise mix. I slept like the dead every night. I was on high octane by now and the kids continue to encourage me to slow down, suggesting I smoke more joints and drink a whiskey or two. Nope. Not for me. I have a gaggle of thirtysomething female friends who think I’m a hoot so they wanted to come on one of my walks with me. I said sure, we’ll walk from Santa Monica to a beach side burger shack in Playa del Rey, a roundtrip of 16 miles. Off we went, returning many hours later with 3 crippled “goils” and a superhero 66-year-old ready to do another 8 miles. Of course, I didn’t let them forget it. As my mother, who lived to 95 said, “you can rest when your dead.” I’ve miraculously avoided injury, although hiking would be the more likely culprit behind an injury than walking. On a recent trip to Joshua Tree National Park, my friend and I, she the same age as me and in good shape, decided to hike up to the top of Ryan Mt. The trail was filled with young people and I went into superhero mode. I couldn’t help myself. My friend said go ahead she couldn’t keep the pace. I more or less ran up this mountain, arriving at the top without having broke too much of a sweat. No slowing down for me. I thrive in this pace of life I’ve chosen.

Go Slow!