Bikram Construction

Losing weight and getting into…or should I say…getting back into shape seems a goal that we all to often need to attain. Reaching 65 the other day had me looking at myself in the mirror and wondering how I got those little bumps on my waist. And how my muscles seem to have disappeared from my body. How the years and youth have flown. I guess that I do have the answer to that question, as Jimmy Buffett would say, “it’s truly my own damn fault.” I guess I should make some attempt in getting my running physic back. My wife feels I should and not only encourages me to do it but decides that I am unable to do it myself…where has all that knowledge and maturity of 65 years gone? But now that I have said it and she has agreed,she… as she periodically does… decides that she also must get back into shape and that she…as she always does…has the perfect routine for us to follow and that we must do it NOW. It seems that whenever she gets into the mood to recapture the tone of her youth that I also am in the mood. AND when she gets into that mood she doesn’t do it half ass she goes for broke…no matter how bad the shape we are in is. So, to keep peace in the war zone of exercise, I usually go along with her determination that I am so out of shape I need a personal trainer…that being her…to get back into the same shape I was when I was running 6 to 10 miles a night. That is back when she felt her daily exercise consisted of chasing two exuberant children around all day. Yeah you’re right, I had it too easy.

Back to the present and my self acclaimed state of disrepair.

Over time Angela has tried to get me interested in a myriad of exotic types of exercises which are supposed to get me back into shape quicker than you can figure out when and where she ran across these exercises with names I dare not even try to pronounce let alone put to paper. Her latest, and previously visited, is yoga. Now I have nothing against stretching and twisting my body into previously…and still… unattainable positions, but holding them for a given period of time and them moving ever so painfully to another is not what I call exercise. I have followed her into her desire to bike ride, both stationary and street, walking, usually at a speed I might as well be jogging, swimming, and well you get the picture. I wish she would decide to go scuba diving in Tahiti…that I could get into.

I have belabored the point. So on to her latest craze…Bikram Yoga. Like I said yoga in and of itself is nowhere near my idea of exercise…it is a preliminary event into the main event of joint pain and back spasms. Like I said before, not for me. But now she is taking it to the n’th degree.

Let me set the stage for you. Some one, who ever the leader is, prepares the room where the victims, err participants, are to enjoy this delightful means of self induce torture by cleaning the floor, least one gets an infection from smashing ones nose into the floor while doing the ‘downward’ dog. (I have never seen a dog in this position at anytime, thus I question where they got this name for this so called move of so called relaxation and enlightenment.) And long before the participants have even entered the room the leader raises the temperature to a level one might expect to encounter on the surface of the sun and blissfully await the victims…excuse me…willing participants to arrive. When everyone has arrived and is so informed of all legal information excluding the leader and owners of the building and heating equipment from all legal law suits which may arise from injuries incurred while performing the ‘downward dog’, or any other weirdly named position of self abuse, the ‘class’ begins its incantations and self torture.

Now bear in mind that I tried Yoga…at my wife’s urging, or should I say insistence, “You’ll love it.” NOT… so I was totally secure in my belief that doing yoga at the gates of hell was not going to be any where close to enjoyable. I there for decided to do something more relaxing for my ‘get back into shape and loose some of the excess poundage that has found it way to the vacation spot that in my waistline’ and go to my daughters in Sacramento during the middle of summer and enjoy the heat of the Sacramento valley, twist and contort my body into impossible positions, such as the ‘old stud removal’ or the ‘under the floor plumbing replacement’ and of course the popular ‘balance on the unstable ladder and replace the bad roof joist’ all in the heat of the attic. A much more enjoyable state of self torture…and something gets accomplished before I drag my body into the final ‘drive yourself to emergency room’ position.

My daughter now has a remodeled house in which to entertain and if she so desires do Yoga and achieve bliss and I lost 12 pounds and all desire to ever, ever do Bikram anything except, possibly another stint of ‘Bikram Construction.’b


TO Young To Be Old

I recently read an article where the author was complaining that he was given a senior discount at…well where doesn’t really matter…he was just complaining that he should have been asked if he was OLD ENOUGH to be the recipient of a senior discount, an honor to a senior citizen.

Maybe I give him too much credit here calling it an honor. Maybe he felt he was ‘too young to be old’. He just didn’t want to be seen as an advanced aged human being. Really! Is it such a ‘dishonor’ that someone working at a menial task job…one that took no more brain cells than it takes to tie ones shoes in the morning…to recognize that a person standing before him, with a cheap, badly self applied, no name blue hair die, guaranteed to cover the grey, comb over was old enough…at least over the age of 55 or even 65…to be qualified to receive a “Congratulations for living so long and having survived so many presidential elections that you should be nominated for sainthood’ and are deserving of a monumental 5% discount on your purchase of 5 cases of extra large adult diapers overflowing your cart…and the 3 case limit that I will over look because of your terribly died blue hair comb over.

Sorry for the run on sentence but the mood just struck me…and the obscurity of this ‘gentlemans’ reaction to an act of honor put me in the mood to ramble. I mean seriously, are we so ingrained not to honor our elderly, that when we reach our golden years we take it as an insult when some one…some YOUNG someone…decides to give us the benefit of the doubt and not embarrass us, making us of older years, beg for the discount most stores now offer. I think if the gentleman wanted so much to be asked…like a child of 12 attempting to get into a PG13 movie… “Are you old enough to receive the 5% discount we offer to seniors.” Should the honor be removed from all who appear to be over the age to which this ‘gift’ is given? Maybe the ‘gentleman’ would have felt better if the overworked underpaid cashier had not offered the discount.

And maybe the ‘gentelman’ would have been happier if when asked IF he was old enough and IF he was over the appointed age, he had been asked for three forms of government issued picture ID’s and a note from his 3 year old grandchild proving his eligibility for this honor…one, by the way not required by any law or presidential dictum.

I am an advanced aged citizen; one whose original expiration date was extended thanks to a great heart surgeon and the advances of modern medicine. And I accept the fact that my weather worn face and child induced grey hair give me that distinguished look that comes with age. (Yes darling…aged like a fine wineJ)

I am also a veteran who appreciates the companies that give price consideration and a “Thank you for your service” to us who have stood the wall for our country and it’s citizens.

So I ask those who do not want to be seen as deserving of the honor given to the older generation because it…well it makes them feel ‘OLD’ to simply say no thank you to the honor and shuffle along with your overflowing basket of adult diapers and guarantied to make you look younger blue hair die and go about your life.

I for one feel that, yes I am “To young to be old” but I am not to proud not to accept the recognition of the celebrity status given to the elderly in other countries…now being given here in the USA.

Which Came First

We all have grown up with the rhetorical question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg”. The question has been posed for a myriad of circumstances; good grades and study…or bad grades and no study, hard work and rewards…or no work and no rewards, love and returned love…or, wait that one really doesn’t apply does it. Any way you get my point.

My parents put forth a measured amount of effort and received a measured amount of rewards ,basicly a fourty hour a week job with a retirement attached; Likewise my grandparents. My four brothers are a mixed bag of hard work and not so hard work; measured amount of effort and measured amount of rewards are the result.

Myself, in all honesty have only bones for fingers…you know, work your fingers to the bone and what do you get…sing it with me “Booooney Fiiingers!” But if you do it diligently and repeatedly you do reap the rewards. Some of those rewards are yet to come, and I am still working on boney fingers. But as I look forward to turning sixty-five in ten days…May 30, 2016…I must say that I am much better off than my parents were at this stage in life, but still hope to make it to ninety as my mother will this July. I am one of those the news, the proponents and the politicians say that are the last generation that will be better off than their parents. Have to disagree with this statement.

With four brothers who are of my generation…Baby Boomers Unite!…I am definitely the only one who is better off than my parents. Don’t get me wrong, my brothers are nowhere near destitute, but we are far apart when being better than our parents.

Hard work, determination, a desire to achieve and of course a wife standing side by side with me in the struggle for “Truth, Justice and the American Way” and a correlating desire to excel, is what has given us our status of “Better Off”.

Where I am going with this is my frustration with the news people telling us that Camelot is dead. That the next generation can no longer look forward to being one of The Knights of the Round Table…or any table. Or aspire to become the King Arthur of your own realm and have more than one horse in the barn…or even own a barn.

The Millennial Generation is the only generation since…this period of time varies depending on how dismal the news wants to make the world sound…who are not going to better off than their parents…Yeah as if you should let someone else choose your future…or tell you what your chances of your definition of better off is.

But to contradict this I hear the Millennials say that they don’t WANT to be better off than their parents…as defined by the want to be news makers. As in “I really don’t want…insert desire here…a house, a car, a full time job, (just a higher minimum wage). I don’t want anything I have to worry about or take care of. I want to live in a WEE HOUSE, off the grid somewhere…I want to be mobile.

In a way that IS what they believe IS better off than their parents…happy without incumberments. Who’s to argue? It sure won’t be me.

I went my own way not trying to be better than my parents but just wanting to excel. My first business started during one recession and ended during another. My second business or incarnation started during that recession and continued during that one and though another and another and another ect. One mans downturn is another’s recession and others depression…or if viewed correctly one’s mans opportunities.

So in my and my wife’s case, hard work came before the rewards. And because we didn’t stop there more rewards are to come.

None of this is to brag just to say that I know in my case, which came first “The chicken or the egg”. And my chicken, or egg…as the case may be…may not be what someone else’s is.

So, Millinenials, don’t listen to the news (want to be makers) define to you what your chicken or egg should be or to define what better off than your parents should be. So I say “Choose your own shape and size to the table for your Knights to sit at.” But remember to feather your ‘Nest Egg’ enough so that you don’t rely on others to provide your “Better Off” in your retirement years.

It Will Be An Adventure


Days, weeks, months and years past rushing up forward…or backward if you consider we didn’t exist before and won’t after. Well at least here on Earth. Yes I believe in the after life but that is not where I’m going, at least not now. No I talking RETIREMENT the big R, the time of life you get to do, or not do, whatever you want. Sit on the front porch swing drinking lemonade; Maybe mint juleps, vodka tonics, cold beers, or whatever. Reading books that should have been read years before…as in the classics. Or some romance novel, Zane Grey, Tom Clancy, or the favorite novelist of the day. It just doesn’t matter.

Maybe take an ocean cruse somewhere, buy a RIG and camp the US or for the intrepid someplace far away, foreign abd exotic. Ah! All that can be done now that we have nothing to do…YEA RIGHT!

I retired, or semiretired about 9 years ago, my wife 2. We thought we would be traveling, returning to the nest and deciding where to adventure next. Most of was to be done in the lower 48 with a possible trip to Alaska…go north the rush is on! But t seems that the most of our travel has bees to family events from which we demand of ourselves some side trips but nothing of much consequence.

My sons wedding and house remodel and of course the birth of our first grand child…the most beautiful and intelligent and talented child in the world “don’t ya know”. My daughters wedding and, of course, inevitable house remodel. My nephews wedding and since I didn’t bring him into this world he can worry about remodeling his own house. My mother-in-laws 80th birthday/family reunion and next my mothers 90 birthday in July. Ok, that about does it…no wait our niece is getting married in September in Virginia and wants us to be part of the wedding. Well maybe we’ll drive from Oregon (on the west coast of the US) to Virginia about 5000miles away (on the east coast of the US).

Now this, of course will take some planning…drive straight through and spend time exploring the east or leave early and side trip along the way exploring the flyover states . The way I see, either way we choose, I WON’T MAKE PLANS.

We all know the saying, “Man makes plans and God laughs”.

So let’s all jump in the Escalade some time in August, fill up the tank and head east…hope for the best and expect the worst. And maybe retirement will start somewhere along the way. Yeah, maybe.

But any way you look at it, it will be an adventure.

Good Stuff

I’m tired…worn down to a frazzle…exhausted…nothing more left to give to anyone…well maybe a little for myself. And no I don’t feel selfish. Its just time I took some time for myself.

During the past year…actually more than a year…I have been doing fits and starts of home remodeling for my kids and attempting to get back to doing upkeep on my own house. But the previous nine years or so of major and minor surgeries have put a damper on my stamina and abilities…hence the fits and starts. This is something I have come to be able to face…I’m not as young as I used to be. But my wife doesn’t want to hear it. Not in a mean way…she just doesn’t want to admit that my body can no longer cash the checks she wants to write. Or by continuing to write them and expecting me to cash them…well…she will keep me young. In a way I guess she does.

I keep at it because I want to please her and to be honest I enjoy creating and enjoy people enjoying what I create.

Take this Blog for example. I construct sentences, paragraphs, essays and stories that I pass on to you and all who show me the consideration of reading my words. Thank you.

After weeks of stumbling through the short hours of my construction my body allows, I am so tired that I think I could sleep for 24 hours…maybe more. Rip vanWinkel sleep…maybe the remodel would have completed itself when I woke up.

But no such luck. So I thought I would let my body rest and let my mind send electrical impulses to my fingers and put out some words.

Of course being connected to the Internet and so tired I’m easily distracted and I began to surf the net. You know the typical stuff; B&W photographs, other blogs, email and of course the ever interesting…Google my name. Now I can’t Google my childhood name, Dick Balzer because, even though, some body with to much time on their hands has imputed all information that has been around since “Let there be light”. Besides some with MY name has written a book on peep shows…honestly it isn’t me. And I haven’t used Richard since I began to photograph and write so my interest in my Richard self is kinda weak when I am surfing the web…and unlike my child hood name, Richard Balzer has become a popular combinations of names. So, naturally I chiseled it down to RW Balzer. Interesting stuff.

I found my photographs from my time as a college athletic photographer, a newspaper stringer photographer, some hits from my time as a contractor and quite a few about my blog. I found and find that interesting. I enjoy sending my words into the electronic world and have them return as the electronic “Good stuff. I’m following you.” These are words that all bloggers enjoy hearing. But…but, I found one hit on Google where my blog was used as an example of something in a college paper. An example of what I don’t know. And even more interesting the paper written about RW Balzer was from a college paper mill…SOMEONE IS SELLING ME!!!

Oh I feel so used, so abused…but only because they didn’t notify me or have a connection to the paper. Now I feel so much more exhausted. I don’t mind if my kids use me to remodel their houses or my wife lights a fire under my but to get up and out and complete all those delayed projects lying around the house, and yard, and, and etc.

Next time someone quotes me in print, or credits my words in their college paper, I at least expect a hug. I mean it feels great when my kids and wife pay me in “I love yous” and hugs and kisses.

Ok…maybe the plethora of you out there reading, enjoying or attributing my words could just say “Good stuff. I’m following you!”




Monsters Under the Bed

It doesn’t seem like it, but near a year has passed since I contributed to my own blog. Writers block extraordinaire. I have pushed myself to the extreme in attempt to find the root cause of my disinterest…no luck.

Some years ago I was at a gathering at a friends house and was in conservation with someone I had just met. We were discussing life and some of its complexities…ups, downs, sideways and the subject of the military and the problems those returning from the middle-east and their involvement in events and the results of their experiences. I said that I knew from whence they came because of the year I spent in Viet Nam. PTSD and depression became the topic of the conversation and how we, the afflicted, live with and deal with the realities of it. I mentioned my writing and that it helped but stated that I didn’t like to write in the dark times of my days. “You should,” was her answer. She pointed out that it might help some one suffering from PTSD and depression as I was to show that even though the afflicted have bad days that good days can come from doing something that helps release the thoughts and fears we are plagued with. I should “let them know that not only do I have good days but I am burdened with the bad days but find a way to cope.”

So how does one cope with something that is different for everyone afflicted with that something? The something that has varying degrees of pressure… possibly by giving it a title or a name that has more of a relationship to what we individually are feeling? Maybe by associating it with something that bothered us in our past, sometime before the affliction took hold. How about we associate it with the feelings we had as children fearing the unknown and unexplainable, like fearing the ‘monster under the bed.’ This would fit nicely because they both are something associated with the fear of the unknown and something that is ‘all in our head.’

I can’t ever remember having to have my father check for the monster under the bed because all he would have found would have been my oldest brother…well at times I could have described him as a monster but not here, not now. After all we are are being serious here.

For as long as I can remember I shared a room with my two older brothers, fraternal twins at that. My two younger brothers shared a room when they came along later. So to fit us all in a three-bedroom house we had to share and to share we needed bunk beds, which I remembered one set was a birthday present…practical parents, check. So practicality lead me to live a childhood in which I feared no monsters under the bed, real or imagined. Because for me there was no under the bed. I only grew up with a healthy dose of insecurity, topped with a healthy sense of preservation and therefore a propensity toward observation to avoid ridicule about any type of abhorrent behavior. Therefore associating my conditions with monsters under my bed seems off the mark. That is unless you take an associative look at the underlying issues of both perceived and real conditions…they are both in the mind.

From the time of the invention of the raised bed, parents have no doubt had to assure their children that there were no monsters under the bed; not realizing that the dust bunnies that escaped with every breeze fostered the notion that the parent was wrong. How the parent handled or didn’t handle the belief of an impressionable child was really what created the ability to trust and accept the belief of a habitat under the bed void of anything resembling child gobbling monster, probably was the key to self assurance and success in the ability to handle life’s ‘monsters’.

Associate that with how some family members and clinicians handle depression and PTSD, the ‘monsters in our head’. The ability to deal with the monsters that periodically rear their ugly heads is tough to get a handle on…sometimes the monsters are stronger than all our abilities and training to control them they just take control. Mine seems to have taken a strong lead during the past year. Regardless of how I tried to resist the impulses to feel down I have not been very successful. And just telling us that it all is just in our heads won’t get it. The in our heads observation might be a fact, but the root cause of the problem was not and the condition needs to be addressed and not ignored. We need someone to talk to who will take the time to listen and understand that PTSD is real. We don’t need to be judged, just listened too.

So yes you will be my sounding board and you will know that I can survive the outrages of the monsters that have appeared under my bed and that by listening you will help me manage to put them back in the habitat where they have less control…in the realm the dust bunnies.

Maybe Less (a short story)

“You have cancer.” He looked right through me. “You’re going to die.”
I heard nothing else, just, “You’re going to die.” Hell I didn’t even hear how long…just “…maybe less.”
The words echoed in my brain, “You’re going to die.”
With the bedside manner of a cockroach, he rambled on…chemo, radical new treatments, new studies, and on and on. All I heard, “You’re going to die.”
I wondered through the streets of New York seeing the homeless that were never there before. Bars on the windows that were never there before, windows that were now cracked. Pigeon filth covered the sidewalk below the sign, Joe’s. The stench of vomit flowed from the doorway and behind the bar condoms littered the alley.
The city that was once so bright and shiny… the city that was once my future was gone…gone along with my future…gone along with my life. I began to see and feel the cancer that was killing the city as well as the cancer that was killing me.
Why me? Shit.
Life in the city is so ugly. Someone should clean this mess up. Soap it up, wash it down…bring back the sparkle that was once the dream…chemo, radical new treatments…
Shit. Why me?
“Hey buddy, something wrong with you? Watch where you’re going.” I could smell him, without looking up I could see him, feel him, and know him. Was he there before? Or was it she?
Why not her? Shit, shit, shit.
“One year, maybe less.”
Yeah there’s something wrong with me, I’m going to die.
What was that?
“One year, maybe less. Of course we’ll do more tests…”
Yeah, thanks. Why the hell did I thank him?
So cold, where’s my coat? Need to get warm… “You’re going to die.”
Past the vomit and into Joe’s…smells just as bad inside…hose it down clean it up, chemo, radical new treatments.
“What’ll you have Mac.”
“Another thirty years.”