"I guess I have a lot of problems, so many that I don't have time to go into them all in detail. Suffice it to say I'm anal, obsessive, vain, quick to temper, overly introspective, lazy, judgmental, insecure, and self-righteous. Probably the most annoying thing about me is that I'm hugely opinionated. But I kind of make up for that by always being right."

Friday, June 30, 2006

Day 25: Three Years And Counting

It is exactly three years since I've had sex. Three years since I've kissed a woman. Three years since I've cuddled up with a woman and told her that I loved her. And though I'm lonely a lot of the time, and horny some of the time, for the first time in my life I'm in no hurry to get into a new relationship.

Everybody tells me this is good. I'm not emotionally stable enough right now for a serious relationship. If I just rush into something I'll end up with the wrong person. Just wait -- things come when you least expect them (I know this last one is true, at least about crabs.).

What my friends fail to realize is that I've never been emotionally stable enough for a serious relationship, or that if I did just rush into something, it would be the woman who would end up with the wrong person, not me. So until I've conquered this depression and mastered my anxieties it wouldn't be fair to put on the funny, smart, sensitive Rick mask and trick some unsuspecting woman into loving me.

It wouldn't be fair to put another woman in the position of having to hurt me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Day 24: All Roads Lead To 'A'

It's my belief that the creators and writers of the TV show "Lost" never thought it would last more than a year, so they never bothered planning the series that far in advance. Like its enigmatic predecessor, "Twin Peaks," it seems -- at least to the average viewer, like me -- that each episode was written with little regard to what had come before and almost no regard to what would come next. It's a mess. But an entertaining and engaging mess.

One installment in particular this past season confused and frustrated the hell out of me. It was one of those clever "special" episodes where they kept jumping back and forth in time, so you could see the dramatic consequences of certain actions before seeing the events that set those actions into motion. I hated it because I just couldn't follow the damned thing. What surprised me, though, is that my 13 and 15 year old sons had absolutely no trouble following it. In fact, they wound up explaining to me what was going on as we sat and watched.

For me, this was yet another example of the overly linear way in which my brain works. I can get from A to B, and from B to C, and from C to D. But if you start with D and move to B, I'm totally confused. Which is why I'm so good at math, but can't learn a foreign language. It's why I can figure out the plot of almost any movie by the end of its first act, but have never been moved by a poem.

It's also why the Happiness Project has hit a snag. I started out at point A -- depression, then moved to point B -- action, then on to point C -- results. At point D I was to take these results and make them a permanent part of my life, which would have led to point E -- happiness. But somehow along the way I got turned around and found myself back at point A. I don't know how it happened. I don't know why it happened. I don't even know when it happened. But for some reason I wondered off of the track. And for the life of me I don't know how to get back.

I'm lost.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Day 23: Lick Sex Crotch Tit

My best friend, Dave, who not only convinced me to do this blog, but actually set it up for me, recently informed me that some people wind up here by mistake, so to speak. What happens it that they'll do a search for something like "oral sex," or random words like "spank" and "naughty." And because those words appear somewhere (though not necessarily together) in my ramblings here, this site will pop up as one of their perverted choices. Sure they're disappointed when they get here, but who knows, maybe some of them actually give it a try and wind up liking it. God knows, the Church Of Rick is always looking for new converts.

So in an effort to woo more of our sick brothers and sisters into the fold, I've put together the following entry for my Happiness diary.

Today I got very sweaty working out on one of those big balls my trainer had me buy. At first I had trouble filling the damned thing up. I would blow and blow and blow even harder, but the air would just spurt back into my face because I couldn't poke that hard nipple into the slippery hole. Yoga isn't going very well for me, either. Crouching on my hands and knees like a little doggie just isn't my style. And I suck at it. Sure, I can stick my ass up in the air a little, but I can't get it up as high as my instructor wants. I'm telling you, this woman is hard on me. I'm surprised she doesn't carry a whip. But at least my diet is going well. I'm eating a lot of chicken - big breasts that are so moist I sometimes suck the hot meat right off of the bone.

And now that I've got your attention.....

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Day 22: Unwanted Visitors

I recently realized that I started this project to kind of paint myself into a corner. If someone beckons to me from outside of this room -- this place I've chosen to make my stand against unhappiness -- I can not go to them as I always have in the past. Not without ruining a lot of hard work and letting down a lot of sincere people who've been paid good money to care about me.

Last night my old friend Gluttony paid a visit. He stood just outside my room -- in the kitchen, actually -- taunting me with a huge bowl of cookie dough ice cream. Bastard. How he knew I was particularly vulnerable at that moment I don't know. But he kept whispering that one bowl wouldn't hurt anything, that I could make up for it tomorrow, that I deserved a little treat for all of the hard work I've done.

Oddly, all of my visitors seem to have this same uncanny ability to say just the right thing to undermine my determination. Shame, who's been camped outside my door since I first put brush to floor some three weeks ago, keeps reminding me of all of the times I've tried to lose weight, of all of the exercise programs I've begun. Then, cruelly, he holds up a mirror so I can see just how miserably I've failed at both. This is when Self-pity sticks his head in the window and, fighting back tears, tells me how much he misses me. And I have to admit, I miss him too. We were so good together, so comfortable.

But I can't move. I'm stuck in this corner because so many people (like you) are watching me right now, because I have a team of friends and experts supporting me, because a documentary is being shot about my efforts here, because I know that if I fail this time I will forever consider myself a failure.

The problem, of course, is that change happens so slowly it's hard to even notice, especially when you keep looking for it. In fact, it's a little like watching paint dry.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Day 21: All's Not Well

Three weeks have come and gone since I began this project, and so far the results are mixed. On the plus side, I've completely changed the way I eat. I'm losing weight and feeling much healthier. I walk at least half an hour every day and have joined a gym and started playing racketball again. Plus, I write a blog entry every morning, and have stopped watching TV during the day. I've also hired a personal trainer and yoga instructor (both of whom are currently on vacation), and actually - ta da! - started showering occasionally. I used to say "Life stinks." Come to find out, it was actually me.

On the negative side, I'm still paralyzed by anxiety, which keeps me from doing big things - like my taxes, and little things - like cleaning my house. It keeps me from meditating, starting new relationships, getting out of the house, and just plain being happy. Which presents me with what is surely the biggest irony of my life.

I believe that my anxiety can be traced back to my childhood, where I spent countless nights huddled under my blankets, ears plugged, trying to block out the savagery of the beatings my mother was taking right outside my door. I believe it can be traced back to the fact that the only time I can remember my mother even touching me when I was growing up was when she, in turn, beat me.

But I also believe in free will. I believe that I have the power to change. That I can overcome my childhood. That I can do the right thing. I'm betting that by slowly adding some discipline and structure to my life, and by getting my body into shape, my mind will follow, and I'll end up in a better place. And I know how wonderful that place will be. Because my heart is already there.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Day 20: 38-550-660-Hike!

One of the reasons I keep harping on the physical part of this project over the mental, or emotional part, is that it's quantifiable. I can measure it. For example, I own three different sizes of pants. I have some size 38 regular fit (550) jeans, some size 38 loose fit (660) jeans, and one pair of size 40s I bought a while back when I had to leave the house for some unavoidable reason and was too ashamed to be seen in public in some tattered sweats that actually had visible stink waves rising from them. (By the way, if you're thinking, "Why didn't he just wash them?" you're totally missing the point.)

It was when I couldn't even squeeze into these size 40s that I decided it was time to turn things around. At my worst, I was a full three inches away from being able to button them up. I couldn't even pull the 660s up over my hips. And the 550s - forget about it.

In time, though, I could - albeit just barely - button the 40s. Today these same pants fit fine. And this morning I tried on a pair of the 660s and they fit too! A little tight, but still. Not only do the 550s now seem within my grasp, I actually think it's possible - drum roll, please - that I might one day walk out of Mervyn's the proud owner of a pair of size 36 bluejeans.

And though it's true that my stomach will ooze out over the waistline of these skin-tight sausage casings the minute I put them on, I won't care. That's why God, in his infinite wisdom, invented baggy shirts.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Day 19: I'm Broken

As I sit here in my office typing this article, I find it a little hard to believe that anyone will actually read it. That's why I love it when people leave comments, or send me emails. Lately, though, when people contact me, it's clear that some of them either don't understand the Happiness Project, or they're unaware of how severely damaged I am. I'm sure that if I stuttered badly, and began the Stop Stuttering Project, these same people would write to me saying, "Concentrate, and try to speak more clearly." Or, in some cases, "Stop stuttering, you pathetic bastard!!"

More than one person has suggested that you can't buy your way out of your problems. That is, hiring experts is not the solution. For example, I shouldn't hire someone to clean my house, because I would be robbing myself of the satisfaction of cleaning it myself. Problem is -- I CAN'T CLEAN IT MYSELF. It's not that I won't eat right or exercise or meditate or do yoga or shower regularly or be more social. It's that I can't. "Just do it" might sell shoes, but it's a crappy human motivator.

Three years ago I tried to kill myself. I just went two years without drinking a drop of water. In the last few years I've taken a shower maybe once every six weeks. I haven't had a job or kissed a woman for years now. Believe it or not, I know what would make me happy. I know all of the things I should be doing to be a better person. For whatever reasons -- chemical, dysfunctional childhood, ingrained patterns of behavior, fuckupedness -- I just can't do them. Simply put, I'm broken.

So I'm hiring people to steer me in the right direction, to help me build some momentum in that direction. Right now my inertia is carrying me to places no one would willingly want to go. I'm hoping that by shocking my system, both physically and mentally, with the help of experts and professional motivators, I can turn that inertia around.

The bottom line is that you can't be strong without strength, and you can't get anywhere without knowing the way. So if I have to lean on others until I have the strength to live a normal life, and if I have to ask for directions along the way, so be it. That's the Happiness Project.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Day 18: The Root Of All Anxiety

I'm having some money problems. Because I stopped performing my one-man show, and because before that I went three years without working (due to depression), and because women seem reluctant to pay to have sex with 54-year-old fat, bald men, I have all but exhausted my savings. I do have some money in a retirement fund, but there's a 30% penalty for taking it out early, so I'm extremely reluctant to do so.

Things have been so bad, in fact, that last year I was forced to sell my much beloved record collection. The deal was structured in such a way, though, that I wasn't actually to be paid until August of this year. So I'm going to have to try and drive through July on what fumes are left in my bank account.

The reason I bring this up here -- besides a sick desire to have people feel sorry for me -- is that I haven't been able to afford some of the trainers I had planned to use, or classes I had planned to take as part of the Happiness Project.

My friends tell me to just put it all on my credit card. But that would mean I wouldn't be able to pay the card off next month. I've never not paid off my credit card. So what do I do -- put off becoming truly happy for the first time in my life, or send my anxiety level soaring to new heights?

God what I'd give right now for a Three Musketeers.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Day 17: Apologies To The South

The thermometer's been pushing into triple digits here for the past few days, and a kind of lethargy has set over me. It's what I imagine living in the South would be like, without the whole attracted-to-my-sister, evolution-is-heresy thing. I'm reminded of a cartoon I don't remember having ever seen, but I'm sure exists somewhere: Two wretched souls are slaving away in the fires of Hell. One turns to the other and says, "Yes, but it's a dry heat."

Every morning now I wake up with this odiously noxious breath. Since I've stopped injecting sugar and lard into my system every day, a kind of detoxification seems to be taking place with my body. First thing I do every morning -- my apologies to the squeamish -- is scrape about a teaspoonful of this disgusting, mucus-like substance from my tongue. I suppose it says a lot about my inherently lazy nature that I use this same spoon to eat my breakfast.

Speaking of which, that first meal of the day has been the hardest for me to get right. For most of my life I've had a big bowl (3 cups) of raisin bran with a banana and a cup of milk for breakfast. One of the things I'm trying to do now, though, is raise the protein content of my diet while significantly reducing my starches. Three cups of cereal is six units of starch. In that I'm only allowed eight to nine units a day, that leaves precious little room for bread, pasta, rice, mayonnaise, salad dressing, sugar, etc., etc. the rest of the day.

Notice, by the way, that I said "I'm only allowed eight to nine units." This regimen is dictated from on high by my nutritionist. No way I could have come up with this on my own, let alone had the discipline to follow it. So I guess -- as far as my mouth is concerned -- I do live in the South.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Day 16: Food For Thought

Something interesting, and very telling, happened tonight. I had gone into San Francisco to see my best friend, Dave, and his girlfriend, Kellie. We went out to dinner at Max's, a deli famous for its singing wait staff. Luckily their menu included some low-carb meals, and I ordered a chicken melt on low-carb bread that came with a huge chopped salad with a lite, but delicious, dressing. I ate everything on my plate, including the giant pickle, and was stuffed. It was easily the fullest I had been since starting the project.

Driving home afterwards, though, I began to grow more and more despondent. At first I had no idea why. As I unsnapped my uncomfortably-tight pants, I wondered if this depression could be caused by my recent near-encounter with romance. No, that wasn't it. Maybe it had something to do with Kellie rolling her eyes at every crude sexual innuendo I'd made that night. No, that was just par for the course. I loosened the seatbelt around my distended belly and considered the possibility that being in the city had reminded me of performing my one-man show "Happiness," there. Maybe I missed that. But that wasn't it either.

As I pulled into my driveway, I suddenly had this overwhelming urge to rush into my house and make a giant chocolate sundae. "Fuck it," I thought, "I've eaten so much tonight, what difference will it make if I just gorge myself now?"

And then I got it. Even though the meal I'd eaten that night was relatively healthy, it made me feel the way I used to feel when I ate too much crap. I wanted to defy my guilt by rubbing even more food -- even more unhealthy food -- in its face. For a moment I was a defiant child, staring into the eyes of a parent, thinking, "You don't control me! I can do whatever I want!"

Sometimes, when life pushes you to the brink, when you feel as though you can't take any more, you take hold of something you love and break it. It's a childish way of showing how nothing matters to you any more. I'm just beginning to realize that the thing I've been grabbing all of my life, the precious thing I've been smashing to pieces, is me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Day 15: Buddhism Schmudism

I went to a well known Buddhist meditation center tonight, and to tell you the truth I don't know what to think. Part of me thought it was calming, interesting and somewhat enlightening. Part of me thought it was just a bunch of crap.

It started off with a vegetarian meal that really bugged me. Pasta salad, creamy soup, bread, sorbet. Starch, dairy, starch, sugar. Not an ounce of protein in the entire meal. No wonder everybody was whispering as they shuffled slowly around the compound. They didn't have the energy to do anything else. Maybe that's why, after dinner, everybody just sat around and didn't say anything for about half an hour.

I did like that there were a lot of bald guys there, though. Made me feel at home. The "congregation" reminded me of the audience at this Spalding Gray show I went to once -- an odd mixture of ex-hippies and beach bums, all nodding away like crazy while the master (or "head bald guy" as I call him) found poetic ways to say things that we've all known since we were twelve. Instead of "War is bad," he'd say something like, "As wise man Acumba Shake Abba Zabba -- who was the best man at my wedding, by the way -- used to say, "War is like a shoe without a mate, left in a closet that's never opened." Nod. Nod. Nod.

On the plus side, though, I kind of liked meditating, and the 35 minutes went by very quickly. And the bald guy was a good speaker. And though he didn't say anything I didn't already know, I liked the way he said it. And though I felt that the people there were too full of themselves, at least they were making an effort to improve their lives.

So, like I say, I really don't know what to think about the whole thing. Let me meditate on it for a while.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Day 14: Unlucky In Love - Part 2

The following is a letter emailed to the woman I wrote about yesterday. At times you will have to read between the lines, because there are references in it to comments she made in an email to me yesterday, as well as some things I talked about in my latest one-man show, "Happiness," (including referring to masturbation as "mowing my own lawn").


Thank you for writing. I have a lot to say to you, too. First of all I am so sorry for letting you down in an email. It was an act of cowardice. But also of self-protection. If I had tried to do it in person and you had tried to talk me out of it, you would have succeeded. Because I did (and in a way still do) long for you. And this was exactly what my friends were afraid of. I am so needy right now they worry that I will fall in love with the first person to come along, and that that person will be wrong for me. Perhaps disastrously so. Which is exactly what happened with "Patty." (I actually think they feel guilty for not having tried harder to stop that relationship.) I didn't call you for the exact same reason. My resolve was too weak to face a challenge from the very person I'm longing to kiss and fuck and fall in love with. And I did worry that you would go to the restaurant before getting my message. But you had answered my other messages the day I sent them, so I figured you checked your email at least once a day.

Part of me wanted to say "Wait for me." Even though I'm not going anywhere, even though we would actually be seeing each other, "Wait for me." But that was both unfair and unrealistic. No matter how much we assured each other that nothing would happen, it would. At least on my part. It would have also added the intoxicating element of taboo to the relationship. For me it would have been like fucking some sultry nun, or that hot first cousin I always had a thing for. This is also the reason I decided not to try and "just be friends." Who would I have been kidding? First chance I got I'd be on you like lies on Karl Rove. Also, you would have eventually started dating someone else and I would have been jealous, even though I would have had no right to be.

The whole situation was just fucked. So I took the easy (or at least less painful) way out.

Also, you overshadowed the journey I need to be on. My eye wasn't on the prize of happiness anymore, it was on the prize of your heart -- and, let's be honest, your ass. I knew I was in trouble when -- for the first time in years -- I mowed my own lawn imagining a specific person beside me, raking up the grass and putting it in a strange looking trash bag with a recessed tip.

My friends (one of whom was a woman) may not know you, but they do know me. They were only trying to protect me. Hell, if they had met you they might well have said, "Aw, fuck it. Go for it anyway."

This is all about bad timing. If it wasn't so clichéd I'd say that I'll look you up in six months, but by then I'm sure we will have both been carried to far distant shores. So I'll just say good luck. You're a good person, and I hope life gives you -- or you take from it -- everything you deserve.


Sunday, June 18, 2006

Day 13: Unlucky In Love

This has been the first bad day of the project. And really, it has nothing to do with the project itself. It has to do with the foulest of all of our dirty little four letter words: life. The story, as most sad stories do, begins with, "I met a woman." But unlike the usual ending, "She hurt me," this one ends with, "I hurt her."

What's funny is that we had never even dated, let alone kissed. We had met a couple of times and exchanged numerous phone and email conversations. To say I was smitten would be an understatement. She was beautiful, smart, talented, and -- probably most appealing of all -- she actually liked me.

But as we got to know each other better, it became clear that we had almost nothing in common. Also, compared to her lifestyle -- both past and present -- I felt provincial, and even worse, downright square. In many ways I'm still that little boy from Wood Village, Oregon. Only now I've got hair on my wiener.

Speaking of which, our first date was scheduled for tonight. And though I knew we wouldn't have sex, I'm pretty sure there would have been some hand holding over dinner, and some making out later in one of our cars. Which means we would have eventually had sex. Which means I would have fallen in love with her. Which means that the Happiness Project would have failed.

I'll tell you why tomorrow. (Apparently blog visitors are incapable of reading anything that takes more than a minute to finish.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Day 12: Meditate On This

It's been pointed out that I'm spending all of my time trying to improve my physical condition, and none improving my mental condition. Which begs the question, "How do you improve your mental condition?"

I'm overweight, so I'm seeing a nutritionist and completely changing the way I eat. I'm out of shape, so I've started walking or hiking every day. And I've hired a personal trainer to help whip my muscles into shape. Those things seem obvious.

I'm also taking yoga, though, which I hope will help me both physically and mentally. For one thing, I seriously need to slow down my mind, which is racing -- seemingly out of my control -- every waking minute of the day. This is also why I'm trying to learn how to meditate. So far, though, I'm not very good at it. Here's an example of what goes on in my mind as I try to meditate:

"Okay, I'm thinking about nothing... But I'm still thinking, right? Only now it's about the nature of nothingness. Maybe what I should be doing is trying to not think at all. Okay, let's try that... Not thinking, not thinking, not thinking. Not working. Is this even possible? The very thing I'm trying to shut down is the thing I'm using to convince myself to shut itself down. Is that even possible? Okay, how about picturing a small creek? That's good, yeah. It's a warm summer day, and I can hear the gentle flow of the water. Nice. I can even hear trout splashing in the water. Wait a minute. Those aren't trout. Oh my god, it's two naked women bathing each other! Now they're beckoning me over to them... Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!... What about that breathing thing? Concentrate on your breath. Breathe in through the nose. "Nose" is a funny word. Not as funny as "schnozzola" though. I wonder how long ago Jimmy Durante died? And I remember someone saying to aim your breath at the back of your throat. What's the difference, though? It all ends up in your lungs anyway. And breathe from the diaphragm. I wonder if some women are still using the diaphragm. What a hassle those things were. "God, I'm horny! Let's stop for a few minutes while you pop in your rubber yarmulke." And do I breath out through my nose or my mouth? Could it really make that much of a difference? Who makes up this shit? Is there any scientific research suggesting one way is more effective than another...etc....etc...etc...."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Day 11: A Cry For Help

Though the Happiness Project has so far made some significant improvements in my mood (I actually feel happier), it has yet to flood other areas of my emotional landscape. For some reason I had just assumed that if I got happier my anxiety level would lessen. Hasn't happened. Yesterday, for example, I started watching the movie "Hitch." At one point it became clear that the woman Will Smith was interested in was going to mistakenly believe that he had committed this really heinous act. And even though I knew he would eventually be exonerated, I had to turn it off. I just couldn't take it.

I still haven't done my taxes from last year. I have most of the forms and information ready to go, but I just can't get it together enough to fabricate the rest of my financial lies and occupational half-truths and send everything off to my accountant. Even sitting here writing about doing my taxes fills me with anxiety.

So I ask myself, how do I fix this? How do I bring my anxiety down to an acceptable level without the use of drugs or the manipulative ramblings of some touchy-feely, over-priced therapist? Could it be that not having sex for three years has somehow backed up my system? Clearly, masturbation doesn't work. Does the secret lie in acupunture and Chinese herbs? Could it have something to do with my being an immature cry-baby addicted to weakness, attention and self-pity?

Hey, you tell me.

If anybody out there has any concrete, real-life suggestions for me about lowering my anxiety level, please leave them in the comments section below. It would be hugely appreciated.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Day Ten: Baby Steps

It's weird how time goes by faster the older you get. I guess in a way that's a blessing. When you're sitting in the home with a turd in your Depends, you don't want it to seem like forever until the orderlies clean you up.

After answering an email or two, writing an article for my blog, taking my boys somewhere they want to go, running an errand, walking a few miles and doing some yoga it's already dinner time. How in the hell did that happen? I had planned on doing so much more with my day. I've also discovered that if I put anything difficult off until after dinner, it never gets done. I think this is why my ex-wife would only have sex with me in the morning.

One of today's chores that took more time than I'd allotted was my visit to my nutritionist. Though she'd told me only to expect to lose one to two pounds a week on my new diet, I'd lost five since my first appointment a week before. And though it seems like it's going to take forever to get to where I want to be, the secret is finding satisfaction in each baby step you take.

The problem is, babies take forever to get anywhere.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Day Nine: All's Well That Begins Well

The people putting together the documentary on this project are a little concerned that things are going so well for me. I think they hoped I would hate the "process," especially in the beginning. That way the juxtaposition between me now and me at the end of the film would be much greater.

Well, tough titties. I'm loving it!

My caloric intake has plummeted from 4,500 a day to around 2,500. I've even devised a way to get it down to 1,500. I'm meeting with my nutritionist today to see if that would kill me. I'm walking, stretching and exercising every day. And though I don't love that, I think I've come a long way in simply not dreading it.

My ex-wife told my kids that I would only go to yoga about three times, then give up. So I'm going to keep at it the rest of my life. Take that, you bitch! As it turns out, nothing promotes spiritual cleansing more than spite.

I've also come to realize that much of my depression was caused by the shame I felt about the way in which I was conducting my life. Eating nothing but crap, sitting around all day watching TV, not cleaning the house or showering, isolating myself from everybody, wallowing in self-pity. Do that for a couple of years and you become paralyzed by self-loathing.

Having gone from there to here in only ten days makes me -- dare I say it -- happy. And, I have to admit, a bit proud.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Day Eight: Rational Spiritualism

I recently realized that who I am doesn't work. That this whole caustic, cynical, overly-analytical thing forms a kind of wall around me that happiness cannot penetrate. Maybe there's another way to look at the "nature of things" that's both commonsensical (if that's not a word, it should be) and spiritual.

If a man were to rush into a burning building to save someone he doesn't know, a cynic -- such as myself -- might say that he did so to avoid the guilt of not doing so, or to receive accolades for being a hero. A spiritual person might say that he did so because people are good at heart -- that he was responding to the call of humanity.

The truth, as it always does, probably lies somewhere in the middle. Which is why I'm starting the "rational spiritualism" movement. By the way, if someone has already started this movement, fuck 'em, I'm denouncing them and starting my whole new radical branch.

For example, rational spiritualists (or, "rats" as we call ourselves) believe that though it is obvious mimes and vegans deserve to be killed, they should be allowed to live out their full and natural lives. As long as they're not allowed to reproduce, of course. As Jesus, the illegitimate son of a non-existent entity, once said, "Is not the leper my ugly, disgusting brother?"

PS: I don't want to say that vegans are pussies, but I just spell-checked this piece and they suggested I replace the word "vegans" with "vaginas." Maybe there is a God after all.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Day Seven: Happiness Comes a-Callin'

Boy am I ahead of schedule. I actually, right now, feel happy. I'm sure it won't last, but I'm enjoying the sensation while it's here. I'm also sure a lot of this upturn in my mood is caused by my new diet, exercise program, yoga, etc. etc. But I think most of it is caused by the excitement of recently having two great new people enter my life.

One is a famous actor. The other is a dame.

I chatted with the actor guy over the phone for about half an hour last night. It looks like he's going to be involved with shaping my new one-man-show, tentatively titled "Mid-Life At The Oasis." He would also direct it.

I don't know if you've ever met or talked to anybody really famous. I'm not that good at it. I'm always a little flustered, and I can't get over the feeling that I'm wasting their time. But this guy was great. In no time it felt like I was talking to an old friend.

Plus, I'm going out on an actual date this Saturday, for the first time in over three years. And with a woman who is much younger and better looking than I am. In fact, when my 13-year-old son, Jack, met her briefly at a dance recital, he turned to me as we walked away from her and said, "I've got five words for you, Dad - 'Way out of your league.'"

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Day Six: Passionate Advice From A Reader

1) Get a Walkman, Ipod, whatever, and get ready to wear it. After a while, solitary training in the great bounty of nature blows.

2) The human body is only designed to do one thing: walk. The further you deviate from that normality, the more you'll get hurt.

3) NEVER stretch if you're not sweating. DON'T kid yourself by thinking that you remember exactly how to do that stretch. You don't.

4) Get a copy of "Beyond Splits" by Marco Lala. No, I don't think you'll go beyond splits; the tape was made for Karate guys. But it's amazingly effective. The banner in his ads say "Total Body Flexibility at Any Age." He delivers. Helped me so much, I can't tell you.

5) You will need one month of unpleasant training to compensate foreach year of sedentary living.

6) You do not improve your heart's health until your thirty-first minute of cardio. It's OK if it's the most pathetic cardio in history. Just DON'T STOP. EVER.

7) Going for the burn will get you killed. You know how you sometimes hear about a healthy guy, age 37 to 60, dropping dead of a heart attack? Like the Power Bar Company founder? And that it's this big mystery? It's becoming more and more likely that it isn't a mystery. It's frequently due to cardiovascular inflammation. When those tissues swell, they squeeze nerves. Sometimes, those squeezed nerves freak out ,and, well, you know.

8) To avoid cardio inflammation: a) take an aspirin every day b) have your docs 'splain you what your maximum heart rate should be. AFTER you get in shape, you can stay at this level if you choose to push yourself. If you stick with your program, you'll be able to exceed it and stay beyond it. Feels great. Don't do it.

9) Hiking boots cause tendonitis. Often. I had a case that lasted for seven years. Could often not even see the knobby bones on either side of my ankle because of the swelling. Finally, read "Beyond Backpacking" and switched to running shoes, with great skepticism. For walking, they are manna from heaven. Does get a little complicated picking out the right ones from the wrong ones.

10) Throw all the white bread, white flour, white flower rolls, white rice, and all such grain and grain products out of the house. They all cause the brain to do what is does when you eat too much sugar: delay the mechanism in your brain that says: "I've had enough to eat."

11) Absolute Worst Foods: High fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils. The body has no way to cope with these artificial molecules. The h-f corn syrup is far worse than sugar, and it's in EVERYTHING: hot dog buns, bread, relish, ketchup, TV dinners, canned soup, U.S.-made cookies, etc., etc.. Gotta lookit the nutritional labels on packages and make sure you don't eat the contents if HFCS is inside. Men's Health Magazine wrote an article on this stuff. Title: "The Devil's Snack Food." Hydrogenated oils are artificial. The digestive system does not fully process them. Some of the undigested portion winds up smeared all over your heart. Most often found in: U.S.-made cookies(banned abroad), breads, peanut butter(not the natural stuff).

12) Whole grains slow down digestion. The white starch inside is surrounded by a hard husk, and it takes a while for the acid in your stomach to break through it. For this reason, the starch is SLOWLY digested into sugar and released into your bloodstream. Appetite sated. Weight off. Weight kept off.

13) Whole wheat bread isn't. It's mostly white flower. Buy 'yuh that thar hippy bread, not the mainstream stuff.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Day Five: Talk To Me

I often have interesting people email me with suggestions about how to become a happier person. Like me, many of them have been depressed much of their lives, but unlike me they have somehow found their way out of the darkness. I would actually like to start interviewing Bay Area people like this (on camera) for a documentary I'm doing about my own journey. If you're interested, please let me know. I would love to hear what you have to say. Even if your advice wouldn't work for me, it might work for somebody. Also, you should be prepared to have a good-natured joke or two made at your expense. Sometimes I just can't help myself.

Being the reclusive cynic that I am, I'm surprised at how much I've enjoyed getting out in the world and meeting new people. I've also discovered a startling fact: to meet people you have to leave your house. Who knew? I joke a lot about not having a significant other, but unless women suddenly began holding yoga classes in my living room, there was little chance of that ever happening.

I love hearing what people believe. Why they believe it. How these beliefs have helped them. Even if I think they're wrong (or crazy) it's always interesting, and food for thought.

Anyway, if you're at all interested, let me know. The worst that could happen is that you would waste a hour of your life talking to a self-obsessed, suicidal atheist. Well, actually, the worst is that he might become enraged by your opinions and leap across the room and choke you to death. But the odds of that are very low.

Email me at: rick@churchofrick.com

Friday, June 09, 2006

Day Four: The Montage Begins

I had to go to a health food store to pick up some supplements for my new diet, and was reminded of how much I hate health food stores, and especially the people who shop there. Ironically, many of them look anything but healthy, and most have that self-righteous, spiritual glow that makes you want to smack 'em. Also, they all look oddly self-satisfied, as if shopping at a non-organic, processed-sugar supermarket were only for inbred trailer-park hicks (like me).

I have to keep a food diary now, and it's a complete drag. I'm supposed to stay under 2,500 calories, but 8 ounces of strawberry yogurt around 10:00 pm last night pushed me over my limit. Also, I'm hungry all day long now, even after finishing a meal. I can see why some people just say "Fuck it," and let themselves go.

Like many people I have trouble making it through what I call the "montages of life" -- those days, months, and sometimes even years when you're involved in an ongoing process that you hope will some day lead to a certain desired outcome. The problem is that you're so focused on the future that the present seems tedious and neverending.

Much like this blog.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Day Three: Eating Right

I had my first meeting with my nutritionist. I weighed in at 260 pounds, which means I've lost five pounds since I weighed myself a little over a week ago. Oddly, though, she measured my height at six feet three and a half inches. I'd always thought that I was only six feet two and a half inches. I had her measure me again, and it came out the same. Somehow in the last 25 years I've gained an inch. Sadly, however, my penis has shrunk an inch. So, in a way, I guess it all evens out. (By the way, is it normal for a nutritionist to measure a penis?)

At one point she took out these realistic rubber models of food - a hamburger patty, a banana, half a baked potato, etc. - and proceeded to show me the portions I should be eating at each meal. After I finished laughing and got up off the floor, she agreed to up them a bit.

Taking my height (tall), age (old) and body type (simian) into account, she calculated that I should weigh 220 pounds. Which actually sounds a little heavy to me. I think she's setting the bar low, so I'll feel like a success even if I don't get to my real goal of 200 pounds. I can see where she's coming from. I do the same thing when I masturbate. I imagine myself with an unattractive woman, say Janet Reno or Michael Jackson. That way if I score with a babe, I'm all the more thrilled.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Day Two: Reality Sets In

As the project gets under way, I find my initial enthusiasm waning in light of some depressing realities that have been thrust upon me. In looking over some of the footage for a documentary that's being shot of my journey, I can see that I am fat, bald and ugly. I had been living under the delusion that I was simply stocky, thinning and interesting looking. But the camera, bastard that he is, doesn't lie.

At one point the camera was following me up a hiking trail. A gust of wind hit me, and what little hair I do have on top of my head lifted up like the tab on a beer can. For a frightening moment I looked like some gigantic, grotesque cockatoo.

It's also clear from the footage that I'm annoying. I talk a mile a minute, and appear to find myself terribly amusing, even when I'm not. I had been living under the delusion that I was engaging and quick-witted. But the microphone, bitch that she is, doesn't lie either.

At first I thought, "How successful could a documentary by an annoying, fat, bald, ugly man be?" But then two glorious words came to mind: "Michael Moore!"

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Day One: A Letter To My Nutritionist

Dear Leslie,

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me over the phone this morning.

I am 54 years old. I weigh 165 lbs. I am six & 1/2 inches tall. I currently take no medications and have no diseases or physical ailments that I know of. I do, however, suffer from depression, which I'm sure is partially physiological (my mother is depressive and has undergone shock treatments), and partially psychological (I had an extremely dysfunctional childhood: beatings, poverty, alcoholism, etc.).

I am currently single and have not had sex for three years (at least not with another person in the room). I am compulsive and have an addictive personality, though I have never drank (or, of course, been drunk), or done drugs. I eat as a substitute for happiness.

In a typical day I would eat a large bowl of raisin bran (I just measured and it's a whopping 3 cups, which comes to 600 calories), with a banana and 2% milk (about a cup and a half - another 120 calories), around 7:00 in the morning. I often add a small handful of raisins to the bowl. I sometimes don't eat an actual lunch, but rather will snack on cookies (probably about 8 Oreos) and some potato chips. When I do eat lunch (maybe half of the time), I'll have another large (3 cup) bowl of a different kind of cereal (always something sugary), or a couple of hot dogs, or two tuna fish sandwiches (made with an entire can of tuna fish, a large dollop of Miracle Whip and some relish, on white bread) and a can of very rich soup. My current favorite soup is Progresso Chicken Cheese Enchilada. There are 380 calories in a can (that's supposedly two servings). It's actually in their Carb Monitor line (7 carbs per serving - 14 carbs per can), but that's not why I buy it. For a canned soup, it's really unbelievably good. I'll eat dinner between 5:00 and 7:00 pm. I eat fast food once a week with the boys (either Panda Express, Subway ((I get the meatball & mozzarella foot long)), or burgers (2 Whoppers or Big Macs). I sometimes make french toast (six pieces, lots of margarine and syrup), or chili dogs (2 hot dogs smothered with a can of chili), or the aforementioned tuna sandwiches and soup, or barbequed chicken (4 thighs) and Rice-a-Roni. These five meals (including fast food) probably constitute 75% of my evening meals. Later in the evening I'll have a large bowl of ice cream (2 cups?). If I stay up late, I'll have more cookies, or a bag of microwave popcorn with added melted butter (or both).

It's a wonder I'm not dead, right?

I do sometimes go off the deep end and eat until I'm nauseous. I will buy a dozen donuts and eat them in a day. I'll bake a frozen pie and eat it for dinner, along with a pint of ice cream. Really, the examples of this kind of eating are too numerous to mention. But they almost always have to do with sugar. I also drink a lot of diet soda, but beginning Monday plan on switching to bottled water.

Your mission, Leslie, if you decide to accept it, is the turn this disgusting, blubbery eating-machine into a slim, trim chick magnet. Are you up to it?

I'll see you Wednesday, and we'll get started.

Remember, a very wise man once said that "A trek of a thousand miles begins with eating a huge breakfast, packing a really good lunch, and planning on getting to a fantastic restaurant by nightfall."

your chubby client,


Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Happiness Project

I’m tired of being depressed. I’m tired of feeling numb. I’m tired of eating crap and doing nothing. I’m tired of complaining. I’m tired of wallowing in self-pity. I’m tired of my life. I’m tired of me.

So I’m going to change.

Beginning Monday, June 5th, I’m embarking on a six-month journey toward happiness. And I’m doing so without the aid of drugs, God, psychiatry, spirituality, or any other touchy-feely crap. By the end of the year I plan on being mentally and physically fit, losing 65 pounds, developing skills to lead a better life, and on finding true and lasting happiness. And, God willing, finally getting laid.

The basic concept of the Happiness Project is simple –- to dedicate six months of my life toward becoming a happy person. Toward that end I’m going to stop performing my one-man show, join a health club, hire a personal trainer and a nutritionist, take yoga, dance, and martial arts classes, have my filthy house professionally cleaned, stop watching so much television, start getting out of the house more, develop a social life, meditate (without the spiritual trappings), study a lot of related subjects, take a long hike nearly every day, develop better personal habits, etc., etc., etc.

I also plan on keeping a daily journal of this journey, right here on this web site. So stay tuned.