Tuesday, June 7, 2011

7 Stuffs About Moi

I’ve got a heaping passel of serious blog posts I’m preparing to write up after the cool discussion that occurred in the comments of yesterday’s post. Coral Moore has added more to the discussion with an interesting post on her blog, but I’m taking a minute to do a personal post before I get into all this theory. I was tagged by KC Neal some time back to write about 7 things readers might not know about me. I have complied. I’ve used this blog to talk about my writing and my opinions on writing and arts, but I like to talk about myself, and I’m taking full advantage of this permission.

1. I Lift Weights
I played one sport in high school: debate. When I graduated, I was about 6’4” and weighed at most 165 lbs. It wasn’t until I was like 22 that I got interested in anything athletic. I don’t know why, exactly. The guys I worked with were also all extremely skinny nerds like myself. But some started going to a gym and my workplace got a sort of unofficial discount, and it stuck with me.

My obsessive nature has done good by me in this regard. I’m not a crazy gym rat, but I feel enough of a compulsion that I never let working out totally slip. I even a personal trainer for a hot minute and have written 200 articles for Lance Armstrong’s fitness mega-site livestrong.com. I’ve been lifting for enough years now (almost a decade!) that I know what my requirements are, and I built an affordable gym in my basement. The only downside to it is that due to my height, the ceiling isn’t high enough for me to do standing shoulder presses or clean and presses, which are my preferred shoulder exercises.

You see I’ve even got my own gym sign. Wendy, the delightful lady who designs my covers, made it for me years ago. My gym is called “The Gun Shop,” and the slogan is, “Trade your .22s in for PUMP action shotguns.” Sweeeeeet. Lifting is all about blood and sweat and vomit and aneurysms.

Today I set a new personal best in deadlift, my favorite lift. 385 lbs. It’s not great for someone my weight (235), but pretty good considering that I’m 6’6” with very long legs and unfortunately short arms (not noticeably short for some reason, but definitely noticeable when I spar at Muay Thai), and am in many other ways not built for weight lifting. I’d like to be able to lift twice my own weight one day. I’m 31, and strength athletes don’t peak until their mid-30s, so I think I can do it. Deadlifting is the best single-movement exercise for your entire body. Except for your pecs (which I don’t work anyway) and your delts, you can maintain a physique on a half-hour deadlift workout every other week. If you’re strong enough, it’s also so stressful on the body that immediately following it you get a sedative effect greater than morphine.

A deadlift is one of the 3 powerlifting lifts, along with squat and bench press. It’s just picking a bar up off the ground. One thing I love about it is that there’s no question about whether you got it or not. It can be hard to feel if you’ve really gotten low enough on a squat, and with benchpress you can bounce the bar. But on the first rep of a deadlift, you can either pick the bar up or you can’t. The weight on the pic above is what I lifted today, from the ground to standing to my half rack.

Chewie also enjoys a good workout:

2. I’m Half Black
AKA a halfrican. Isn’t that a weird thing to have to announce when you’ve got author pictures up? Right now, I look more ethnic than usual due to my halfro. Now people must think that I’m part black or a big Dominican. When my hair is really short or when I dry it under a wave cap, I imagine people think I’m Mediterranean or something. I wanted to get some author photos taken with my fro, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. It’s getting too hot out which makes my scalp insanely itchy, and I’m going to have to shave it all off here soon.
Post-workout, with Goody headband holding my hair back.

My theory has always been that if the race of a character isn’t given, assume it’s the same as the author. So all of my non-descript characters are secret, undercover halfricans. Weird, huh? Just kidding! Whenever I’m writing about Kansas everyone is white, because only white people live in rural Kansas. Except my brave dad.

3. I Have an Herb Garden
No, not wacky tobacky you nut! My wife was sent home from a bridal shower with a couple of potted herbs– thyme and basil– and we didn’t have anywhere to put them that the cat wouldn’t get to them and eat them except the window of my office beside my standing desk. My sister-in-law, a licensed horticulturist, helped me expand my herb garden with cilantro and lemon basil and rosemary, and a creepy little gnome!

I grew up in the country and helped my parents with this massive garden they kept for a few years. I considered it torture and hadn’t grown anything since, but I love my herb garden. It smells really nice, and I really like fresh herbs but won’t pay the insane prices. And look, my cilantro is sprouting!

4. I’m Crazy for MST3K
Literally crazy for it. I’ve mentioned my bad anxiety here before, with the agoraphobia. I find Mystery Science Theater 3000 incredibly soothing. I don’t even have to be paying attention, their voices just make me more calm. I usually watch at least an episode a day. I like both Joel and Mike, though I think the robots only really flourished once Mike took over and they didn’t have to behave like children. I really, really love TV’s Frank and wish he had stuck around until the end. I follow Frank Conniff on twitter, and you can too.

 I will qualify all that by saying that these geniuses were all writers first and foremost, and then also acted as necessary. Their value comes from their writing, and when fans diss a cast member for their acting, I think it’s like getting your favorite book signed by the author, then looking down on him because he has bad handwriting.

5. I Have an MFA
In creative writing. I got it from Cleveland State University. I also studied at Kent State and University of Akron. And yes, I workshopped and developed my strange speculative work and never had any issues from either the faculty or my peers for it. The literary world is changing, folks. Michael Chabon ended his collection of New Yorker realism stories, Werewolves in Their Youth, with as pure a Lovecraftian story as you’d ever hope to read.

I would really enjoy teaching creative writing one day. I like leading workshops. It’s awesome. However, I have so far refused to teach composition, so I can’t work my way up, but will have to get there based solely on the merits of my publications. So we’ll see.

6. I’m a Massive Batman Fan
And have been since I started reading comics when I was a kid. I have many theories about Batman, and think he is one of the only true contemporary American myths. George Lucas consciously used Joseph Campbell’s work on the myth to inform Star Wars, but Batman achieved it organically because he’s been filtered through all of the best comic book creators for the past 70 goddamn years, and there’s just something collective-unconscious-y about him. I have many, many theories about Batman. If I’m drunk and you bring up Batman, I will go on at great length and will not let the subject be changed. You’ve been warned.

7. I Own a Cat
My wife and I do. His name is Loki. He’s not usually mentioned here because I don’t really like him or think about him much. Unfortunately, almost no one does. He was a very mean cat for many years. For instance, he has scratched or bitten every single person who has taken care of him when we travel. We always warn people not to touch him. Some have said that cats love them and then found out otherwise. Some were chased down and attacked, so there was nothing they could do about it. He’s very big, weighing about 17 lbs. Chewie and he fight a lot, but Chewie’s thick coat protects him. Occasionally you’ll see Chewie joyously galloping through the house with the cat being dragged along by a pawful of claws stuck in Chewie’s nappy undercoat.

Loki has gotten nicer, but besides being accustomed to ignoring him for like 8 years because he didn’t want being touched, I also during that time developed enough of an allergy to cats that I have to wash my hands if I touch him, so I just don’t. He’s nice to look at though.

There you go! If you would like to make a similar post, I’m tagging you right now. You know who you are.


  1. The best "7 things about me you didn't know" post written to date.

    You grew two inches after high school?

    I was 6'5" and weighed about 175 when I graduated. It's hard to imagine someone skinnier than I was.

  2. Thanks!

    Yeah, I graduated at 17, then I grew slowly until I was probably almost 20. My little brother grew until he was like 22, which sucked because he got taller than me, then just kept getting taller. And being built like the polack side, he's quite huge.

  3. Man, I had no idea Keith was half black! I have a whole new respect for him now.

    Your halfro is pretty awesome. :)

    Loki is a good name for a cat, especially one that likes to start trouble. I love old god names for pets. My dog is named Shiva.

  4. Coral, I've been told so many times that I've gotten what I deserved by naming that cat the way I did.

    But my fav is when people think it's Low-Key, cause that's actually very cool. And I think a Gaiman American Gods reference!

  5. Wow, Alan, what a great post. I agree with Everett: one of the best seven-things I've ever read.

    And, wow, are you TALL. I'm 5' 2", which ain't whopping in the US, but is positively miniature in NL. Sometimes in group conversations I look up and see all the words swirling twelve inches above my head. But you'd be tall even here.

  6. People in NL are tall! I suspect that's why they make such great kick boxers. Have you seen The Skyscraper Stefan Struve? They've been having him fight constantly in the UFC because he's 6'11". My problem is that he's very young and I don't want them to ruin his career with losses he wouldn't get if they'd give him a few years to develop his skills and put on 20 lbs.

    Boy can I get off topic.

    My wife is 6'!

  7. American Gods is a great book. First Gaiman I've read, though I'll gladly pick up more in the future.

    Wow! Your wife is an amazon. I'm in the short-chick club with Grayson, 5'4". Husband is 6'4" though, so I know what you mean about words flying over your head, G. :)

  8. Hooray for tiny cilantro and creepy gnomes.