I am a very boring guy

Recently I was asked this question: “Do you take weekends off to do some fun things? I hope you take a break once in a while.”

Here’s my rambling reply (with a few revisions):

Do I take weekends off to do some fun things?

No. Everything I do is fun to me. I enjoy building things. I enjoy exercise. I enjoy reading books, and I enjoy writing them. I enjoy going out to see a movie at the theater (mostly alone). I don’t pay for cable TV, because I can’t stand all the advertisements and news that is almost always depressing especially with Donald Trump as the President of the United States. Trump is nothing but a pile of vile orange turkey crap. Why let him ruin my day? If I watch anything on a TV, it is after 8 PM and it is always from a DVD.

In short, I enjoy life, because every day is a holiday to me and has been since I retired more than twelve years ago. Sometimes I go out to eat alone and sometimes with a friend or friends. I enjoy eating alone or with friends as long as the food is healthy and my definition of healthy food doesn’t match most people, because I’m a vegan and have been for thirty-five years. Most American’s would not go one day without meat, sugar, sodas, sugar, dairy products, or sugar.

Going out to dance would not be fun for me so I don’t do that. Going out to party is not fun to me, and I don’t go to bars because drinking booze or beer is not fun to me. Paying to go and watch a football game or any sports would not be fun to me.

Celebrating my birthday is not fun to me. Celebrating any holiday is not fun to me, because every day is a holiday to me. If I get through a day without pain, loss or an injury that is a good day and most of my days are good ones.  And even when I injure myself, I do what I have to do to treat the wound, and return to what I was doing when I injured myself. Since I’m a woodworker and have a lot of dangerous power tools, I do cut myself and all I do is clean the wound, pack it with cayenne pepper, bandage the wound, and get back to work. The cayenne pepper stops the bleeding, protects the cut from infection and blocks the pain from the cut so I don’t feel it. It also speeds up the healing process.

If I had to go back to work to a job with a boss, that probably would not be fun because during the 45-years I worked and had bosses most of them were tyrants and/or were incompetent, and I even hated a few of them. But since I retired, every day is a fun day just because I’m alive and healthy to enjoy it. I have no desire to spend money just to have fun. For instance, I have no desire to visit theme parks like Disneyland. To me, that is an expensive waste of time. In addition, even though I was once a gambler and card counter, I don’t gamble today. Even though it isn’t illegal, there is too much stress counting cards in a casino and avoiding getting caught. I did that for several years and always won more than I lost, but the stress wasn’t worth it.

I take and enjoy life one day at a time no matter what I’m doing. I see no difference between any official holiday and all the other days of the year. They are all equal to me. I think most people have been programed to spend too much money on official holidays, but spending money to make someone else wealthier, isn’t fun to me.

I enjoy listening to music and right now that music is from Grace VanderWaal or Angelina Jordan, the eleven-year-old Norwegian jazz singer. For instance, this video of Angelina singing is incredible and I never get tired of watching it.


Every time I watch this video, I have fun because of Angelina’s amazing voice. Wow!

And I’ve watched Grace VanderWaal’s first concert for her first concert tour so many times, that I have lost count. Every time I watch her first Austin City Limits Music Festival concert for her own fans, I enjoyed stopping the replay to scan the crowd looking for expressions of joy and there was a lot to enjoy. For me, that is fun. And Grace’s expressions of joy are fun to watch too. It’s obvious that she is having fun providing music for her fans.

I have a vast choice of things to do every day that I enjoy doing. The list is so long that I have to manage it so I don’t spend too much time doing one thing. For instance, I just got in from doing two hours of yard work and I enjoyed the results and the fact that it was also free exercise. Now I’m writing this post and when I’m done, I’ll work on a chapter for my next book.

Why pay someone to mow my lawn while my body rots? It is a fact that if we don’t use our bodies, our bones will become brittle and we will lose muscle mass. Why should I pay someone to do the yard work for me and then pay to join a gym and exercise when I can do it for free?

For those two hours mowing, trimming and cleaning the yard, I was constantly on the move and I think that counts the same as a two-hour walk. I know going out to drink and dance is fun to many people, but I don’t pay to go out and drink booze and beer and dance. That is not fun to me. I will probably never pay to go on a cruise and eat too much bad food and gain ten or twenty pounds because that is not fun to me. The only winery I want to visit is a castle in the Napa Valley called Castello di Amorosa. I wouldn’t visit it to sample the wine or buy any wine. I’d visit it to see the castle. I like castles, and that is one trip I wouldn’t mind taking.  I’m even willing to travel to Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Germany, and Portugal to visit their castles. I wouldn’t go for the food or the alcohol. Why is eating unhealthy food and drinking alcohol considered fun to so many people?

Yep, I’m a really boring guy because I don’t do what many people think is fun.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat veteran with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Columns of Ants Invaded Right on Schedule

The season for invading ants arrived, and the best defense I’ve been using for decades is an environment friendly attack with help from Trader Joes.

For decades, I’ve suspected it was the weather and years ago I stumbled on the best method, for me, to control the ant invasions.  I spray the ants with Trader Joes Fruit and Vegetable Wash.  It kills the ants the instant the spray hits them and ants that enter later tend to avoid the area that was sprayed because it appears that just walking across TJ’s F&V Wash while it is still wet is enough to not only disrupt the trail but kill those ants too.  If you can find the entry point and spray that, it forces the ants to find another way in or they don’t return.

I don’t use pesticides inside my house. Can’t stand the stuff. Instead, I use TJ’s Fruit and Vegetable Wash and it is non-toxic.  I learned about this product designed to safely clean what we eat by accident. I grabbed the only spray in sight and haven’t stopped using it since. The neat thing is: it is formulated to remove waxes, pesticides, and chemicals.

After decades of winning these invasions and driving the ants out of my houses, curious, I finally Googled the topic to find out if my suspicions were correct, and discovered from a study out of Stanford that they were.

The Stanford News Service reports, “Household ant invasions are determined by weather, not pesticide use, new study finds … “Ants are most likely to enter homes in cold, wet conditions, typically in the winter in Northern California,” they write, noting that a smaller peak in the level of infestation occurs during hot, dry conditions — typically in August and September.”

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam combat veteran with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

 

Donald Trump is a Real Threat to the Survival of the Human Species

Alan Singer at the Huffington Post writes about the Trump Team Revives McCarthyism in War on the Environment.  Singer writes, “Climate change deniers argue that the Earth’s climate sensitivity is so low that humans can use the atmosphere as a garbage dump pumping out carbon dioxide without worrying about global warming. Donald Trump has called climate change a ‘hoax’ and tweeted that ‘global warming’ is a plot by the Chinese ‘to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.’”

Here’s what I have a problem with. I can’t understand why almost everyone from both sides of the climate change issue only focuses on climate change and/or global warming, and ignores all of the other damage caused by the products of the fossil fuel industry: coal, oil, gasoline, diesel, etc.

Let’s take a break from flogging the ignorant, deplorable climate change deniers like Donald Trump, and his deplorable supporters and focus on the other dangers caused by the fossil fuel industry that can’t be denied.

Carbon emissions are also toxic to human health and lifespans.  Without efforts to clean the air, this threat to our health will only increase.

A study from Stanford linked carbon dioxide emissions to increased deaths.

Acid rain, caused by fossil fuel emissions, kills life in lakes, rivers, the oceans, damages top soil, and cuts crop yields, etc.

The Policy Almanac reports, “Acid rain causes acidification of lakes and streams and contributes to damage of trees at high elevations (for example, red spruce trees above 2,000 feet) and many sensitive forest soils. In addition, acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials and paints, including irreplaceable buildings, statues, and sculptures that are part of our nation’s cultural heritage. Prior to falling to the earth, SO2 and NOx gases and their particulate matter derivatives, sulfates and nitrates, contribute to visibility degradation and harm public health.”

Then there is Carbon Monoxide poising. If you are the fossil fuel industry, Kremlin candidate like Donald Trump is, and you deny this danger, then I want you to sleep in your car with the engine running in a closed garage. Plan your funeral before you try that out.


The gains we learn about from this video is in danger from Donald Trump, and his deplorable followers

The CDC teaches us all about the symptoms of CO poisoning.

The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. CO symptoms are often described as “flu-like.” If you breathe in a lot of CO it can make you pass out or kill you. People who are sleeping or drunk can die from CO poisoning before they have symptoms.

Who is at risk from CO poisoning?

Everyone is at risk for CO poisoning. Infants, the elderly, people with chronic heart disease, anemia, or breathing problems are more likely to get sick from CO. Each year, more than 400 Americans die from unintentional CO poisoning not linked to fires, more than 20,000 visit the emergency room, and more than 4,000 are hospitalized.

Then there is acidification of Earth’s oceans that are crucial to our health and survival as a species.

National Geographic teaches us that “For tens of millions of years, Earth’s oceans have maintained a relatively stable acidity level. It’s within this steady environment that the rich and varied web of life in today’s seas has arisen and flourished. But research shows that this ancient balance is being undone by a recent and rapid drop in surface pH that could have devastating global consequences.”

There is also another balancing act taking place inside of our bodies that’s even more sensitive and explains why the average lifespan in the United States has reversed.

Humans also have a pH balance just like the environment, and if the pH balances of the environment we live in changes, the pH balance inside our body is at risk. The results are rampant disease and significantly reduced lifespan.

If you don’t believe that our pH balance is important, explain why Living Near Freeways Hurts Kids’ lungs.

The Washington Post reports, “Children growing up alongside freeways risk having their lung development impaired, which can increase the likelihood of serious respiratory diseases later in life, researchers report.”

“Exposure from tailpipe emissions from motor vehicles potentially carries chronic health risks to children’s lung development,” said lead researcher W. James Gauderman, an assistant professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. “We found that kids who live closer to freeways had significantly less lung capacity, compared with kids who lived further from freeways.”

And Donald Trump’s administration wants to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency that protects all of us, not just the balance of the Earth’s environment that we all need to survive. Climate change/global warming is one thing but what about the survival of the human species and life as we know it that’s being ignored?  I have no doubts that if only the earth was warming up, some humans would survive somewhere on the planet but no humans will survive if the delicate balance that supports our existence is destroyed.

I don’t think most if any rich people live near freeways and since so many of the wealthy are narcissists and psychopaths, they have no empathy for the suffering of children and families that live near freeways.

Why did the fossil fuel industry focus only on climate change and ignore all the other dangers that their products pose to life on Earth?

The evidence is overwhelming that climate change denial was a tactic to get our minds off of all the other dangers the fossil fuel industry’s products cause to our health, the quality of life, and our very existence.

U.S. life expectancy declines for the first time since 1993.

Who stops Donald Trump will go down in the history books as a global hero or heroes?

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Where to Buy

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

It’s that time of year when the United States celebrates, and contributes to disease

Would you buy your child a costume so they could snort cocaine or worse?

While I enjoy seeing kids and adults in cute Halloween costumes, I abhor the TREAT factor of Halloween. As an ignorant child and teen, I went trick or treating, wore costumes, and went to Halloween parties.

And as a teacher in the early 1970s, I dressed in a dark suit, and wore a Richard Nixon mask to school.  All day I flashed the two-finger victory salute with my hands and said, “I’m not a crook.”  My students loved it.

Then in the early 1980s I changed my lifestyle drastically and became health conscious. That was the last time I gave out unhealthy sweet treats. First, I gave out small boxes of organic raisins until a child’s mouthy mother accused me of being cheap, because I didn’t hand out treats loaded with processed sugar: those bulky bags full of miniature Snickers, Twix, M&M’s, Juicy Fruits, Tootsie Rolls, Oh Henry!, Butterfinger, Starbursts, Hershey’s, Reese’s, Skittles, Kit Kat, Milky Way, etc.

Thirty years of teaching kids that consumed too much sugar is another reason why I stopped handing out sugar drenched treats on Halloween, because I witnessed what too much sugar did to my students: too much hyper energy; then lethargy leading to inattention and mood swings. It’s a real challenge to teach a student who drank a sixty-ounce Pepsi for lunch and comes to class with eyes glazed over and no energy.

In fact, many children and teens of today even hate drinking water because it isn’t sweet, and that is because they are addicted to the sugar. Forbes.com reported, “Research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” (Neuroscientist Joseph) Schroeder said. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

Most people think that heroin and methamphetamine are the most addictive illegal drugs, followed by cocaine, pentobarbital, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, and they don’t know that sugar should be on that list too.

Sugar is addictive and destructive. When the researchers “used immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos in the brain’s ‘pleasure center,’” they found that “the Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine.”

In addition to being more addictive than cocaine or morphine, sugar is a killer?

According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), kids are getting way too much added sugar in their diets and that could raise their risk for obesity and chronic diseases. “Consuming added sugars has been tied to an increased risk for heart disease among adolescents and cholesterol problems.”

Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California-Berkeley, and the University of California-San Francisco said, “After accounting for obesity and a large array of other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.”

Diabetes affects all parts of the body, particularly adult onset diabetes. If left uncontrolled, it becomes a killer, which destroys every organ in the body including the heart and brain.

According to the American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes is a disease that affects the whole family, especially when a child is diagnosed.”

Diabetes is a lifestyle disease, and eating too much sugar through soda and candy is a lifestyle choice.

Don’t expect the sugar industry to stop advertising and selling sugar products. The leading companies that produce and sell candy and soda employ more than 47,000 workers and have annual revenues of $49 billion. This industry spends millions of dollars on lobbying in Washington DC to stop any proposed consumer protection regulations. Source: IBIS World.com and Sunlight Foundation.com

It’s obvious that what’s called Confectionary Wholesaling, the sugar industry, doesn’t want anyone to know how dangerous their products are.

Maybe it’s time to take the sugar out of Halloween and just keep the costumes and healthy activities. Until parents wake up and fight back, my house will stay dark with locked doors that don’t open to anyone on Halloween, because I don’t want to contribute to someone else’s poor lifestyle choices.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Is the Internet, high-tech World all that Great, and Learning to hate Toyota

Remember as you read this post that most of communication is nonverbal. Livestrong.com  explains why nonverbal communication is important. Briefly, “If you rely solely on spoken words (or texting and/or e-mails) to unearth the intent and meaning of communication with your significant other, you are likely to come up short nearly every time.”

In addition, Good Therapy.org reported on a study conducted at UCLA.  “Nonverbal communication plays a significant role in our lives, as it can improve a person’s ability to relate, engage, and establish meaningful interactions in everyday life.”

That brings me to someone I met recently who I talked to for less than 2 hours. Over the next week that talk triggered fond memories long lost in the archival memory of my mind.

I remembered that as a child I played a lot of Scrabble, Monopoly, card games and other board games with real-live humans. We sat around kitchen tables, on living room floors, and even on the green grass in the front yard.

When I reached high school, I graduated to board games that focused on war, and I spent hours with my friends playing Avalon Hill games reenacting D-Day, the American Civil War, Gettysburg, and Midway.

Right out of high school, I joined the Marines, fought in Vietnam, got married, went to college, and ended up working 60-to-100 hour weeks for decades. That didn’t leave time for the games of my youth until the early 21st century when my stepdaughter was in grade school. I taught her how to play a few card games, Monopoly, chess and Scrabble, but that only lasted a few years for only a few games. There just wasn’t enough time, because the internet and high tech had arrived.

I remembered one Monopoly game with my stepdaughter where I went to jail seven times in a row. Every time I got out of jail, I landed on that square that sent me right back to jail. While I was in Monopoly jail, she bought up almost all the property and after I finally got out of jail I paid her a lot of rent before I went bankrupt and lost the game. There was a lot of groaning and laughter during that game.

Then stepdaughter reached middle school, discovered boys, and lost interested in the board/card games. In high school she added scholastic clubs and sports, and was often gone from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. When home, she was in her room most of the time doing school work. When she went to Stanford that was the end of any chance of playing board/card games with anyone. Now she’s married and working her own 60+ hours a week more than 75 miles from where I live, and her lifestyle doesn’t include board games. She calls maybe twice a month for a few minutes each time. She texts. I don’t. I even got rid of my so-called smart phone and took a step back to an old dumb flip phone.

After I left teaching after 30 years, I attempted to play video games and internet chess but that didn’t stick. It wasn’t the same. Something was missing. Even if there was another person playing on the other end of the cable or satellite connection somewhere in the world, I was still alone staring at a computer monitor.  It wasn’t the same as sitting on the floor or around a table playing with real people where we talked and laughed and had a good time.

Back in the early 1980s, I picked up a great habit. I started listening to audio books while I was driving. That started with tape cassettes I checked out of the library and played on the long drive to work and back home.  The cassette player was eventually replaced with a CD player that was a step up, because cassette tapes sometimes jammed and/or unspooled.

This year, I turned in a car I’d owned for almost a decade and leased a 2016 Toyota RAV4 with no CD player. I was told that CD players were old technology, and I could convert my CD’s and load them on a USB thumb drive and play my audio books while I drove.  That turned out to be a dangerous distraction that didn’t always work well. I spent weeks and hundreds of dollars trying different tech options from a portable battery powered CD player, a Sony Walkman, and a wireless tablet computer. They all turned out to be more complicated than the simple CD player in a car’s dash in addition to being a dangerous distraction when I had to take my eyes off the road to use the fancy touch screen to keep the audio book playing. To avoid an accident, that meant I had to drive for miles with no story or pull over to the side of the road or into a lot where I parked to safely navigate that cursed high-tech screen to get the audio book playing again.

Eventually I just gave up and stopped listening to anything. I refuse to pay XM satellite radio for programs I’m not interested in. I want my audio books back and CD players were easier to use than all the other high tech crap replacing that old tech. And forget old fashioned radio. I’m spoiled. Audio books don’t come with static, advertisements, listening to NPR begging for donations, or far-right, conservative hate-radio talk shows spewing racism and lies.

Before the Internet and all this so-called wonderful high tech came along, I always found time to read a book during the day because there weren’t so many time sucking distractions. I even found time to play a card or board game.  When I was still teaching, I hosted a chess club at lunch in my classroom, and it was amazing how the room filled up with children who wanted to sit across a board from another real, live human being who came with non-verbal communication.

What are we giving up for this high tech, internet, virtual world where too many people often find themselves sitting alone in a room interacting with a computer screen and/or someone we probably will never meet? In fact, many of the alleged people we meet on-line often use fake and/or anonymous names and hide who they really are, and without nonverbal language we’ve lost more than half of what it means to communicate with each other face to face.

I will admit that using a word processor to write is a lot easier than using a typewriter or pen or pencil. And during this journey into the world of new tech replacing old, I learned to hate Toyota.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran, with a BA in journalism and an MFA in writing, who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Where to Buy

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

 

The Dangers of Halloween Addiction – Who Does This to Children?

While I enjoy seeing kids and adults in cute Halloween costumes, I abhor the TREAT factor of Halloween. As an ignorant child and teen, I went trick or treating, wore costumes and went to Halloween parties. And as a teacher, I dressed in a suit and wore a Richard Nixon mask more than once on Halloween.

However, in the early 1980s I changed my lifestyle drastically and became health conscious and that was the last time I gave out sugar-laced treats. Gasp, I even stopped drinking Coke, Pepsi, 7-Up, and even Dr. Pepper, my childhood favorite.

Instead of that free candy, I gave out small boxes of organic raisins at Halloween until a neighbor accused me of being cheap because I didn’t hand out treats drenched with processed sugar. I’m talking about those bulky bags full of miniature Snickers, Twix, M&M’s, Juicy Fruits, Tootsie Rolls, Oh Henry!, Butterfinger, Starbursts, Hershey’s, Reese’s, Skittles, Kit Kat, Milky Way, etc.

Thirty years of teaching kids that consumed too much sugar is another reason why I stopped handing out popular treats on Halloween, because I witnessed what too much sugar did to my students—too much hyper energy, then lethargy leading to inattention and mood swings. It’s a real challenge to teach a child or teen who drank a sixty-ounce Pepsi for lunch and comes to class with glazed eyes, and in today’s Bill Gates supported high stakes test world of Common Core education that ranks and punishes teachers and closes public schools, sugar should be enemy number two behind Bill Gates and his evil cronies.

In fact, many children and teens of today even hate drinking water because it isn’t sweet, and that is because they are addicted to the sugar. Forbes.com reported, “Research supports the theory that high-fat/high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do,” [neuroscientist Joseph] Schroeder said. “It may explain why some people can’t resist these foods despite the fact that they know they are bad for them.”

Most if not all of us know that heroin and methamphetamine are the most addictive illegal drugs, followed by cocaine, pentobarbital, nicotine, alcohol and caffeine, but most do not know that sugar should be on that list too. It’s addictive and destructive. When the researchers “used immunohistochemistry to measure the expression of a protein called c-Fos, a marker of neuronal activation, in the nucleus accumbens, or the brain’s ‘pleasure center,’” they found that “the Oreos activated significantly more neurons than cocaine or morphine.”

In addition to being more addictive than cocaine or morphine, how destructive is sugar?

“The Pompeiians have healthy teeth, only in the rarest cases marred by decay: this is thanks to a mainly vegetarian diet and to an almost total lack of sugar in the diet, explained dental surgeon Elisa Vanacore.”

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, kids are getting way too much added sugar in their diets and that could raise their risk for obesity and chronic diseases. “Consuming added sugars has been tied to an increased risk for heart disease among adolescents and cholesterol problems,” according to the CDC.

“A large epidemiological study suggest sugar may also have a direct, independent link to diabetes. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine, the University of California-Berkeley and the University of California-San Francisco examined data on sugar availability and diabetes rates from 175 countries over the past decade. After accounting for obesity and a large array of other factors, the researchers found that increased sugar in a population’s food supply was linked to higher diabetes rates, independent of obesity rates.” – Stanford.edu

If you still doubt, to discover how horrible processed sugar is, I suggest reading this piece on Healthline.com where you will learn how dangerous diabetes can be.

Diabetes affects all parts of the body, particularly adult onset diabetes. If left uncontrolled, it becomes a killer, which destroyed every organ in the body—including the heart and brain. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million adults and children in the United States have diabetes and another 79 million are pre diabetic.

And did you know that the leading five companies that make and sell candy and soda employ more than 40,000 workers and have annual revenues of $40 billion. This industry spends millions of dollars on lobbying in Washington DC to stop any proposed consumer protection regulations. Source: IBIS World.com and Sunlight Foundation.com

Now you know why I stopped celebrating trick or treat, because all of those free treats are not really free—they comes with a horrible price. Maybe it is time to take the sugar out of Halloween and just keep the costumes.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

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Where to Buy

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy followed by his award winning memoir Crazy is Normal.

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper left-hand column and click on “FOLLOW!”

Two former Marines take a hike on Old Baldy that was almost as Lethal as Leukemia

We were about to discover that you don’t have to climb Mount Everest to face danger in the mountains.

Near the end of the 20th century, two former U.S. Marines, Lloyd (me) and Marshall, decided to climb a mountain they’d conquered many times, but this climb was different, because they had no idea when they started up Mount San Antonio in Los Angeles County’s San Gabriel Mountains that they’d almost freeze, and the harsh wind would work hard to rip them from the mountainside, and Marshal would lose his footing on black ice and slide down a steep slope toward a two-thousand foot vertical drop and almost certain death.

Our goal that Saturday had been to climb to the top of the highest mountain in the San Gabriel Mountains that soared above Los Angeles to a dizzy height of 10,069’. As we climbed, the sky above the mountain was capped with dark gray clouds, and we were bundled in cold weather gear, but the wind cut through our clothing with icy razors.  The trail we were on climbed past the Sierra Club’s ski hut, and the higher we climbed the more snow was stuck to the ground, until, above the ski hut and beyond a field of giant boulders, the thick white crusty powder obscured the trail that led to the top.

From where we had parked the car in Baldy Village, the elevation gain to the top was almost 6,000 feet covering a distance of 4.5 miles to the summit. The return trip was just as daunting.

There are three trails that I know of to the top of that peak, and I’ve used two of them several times. The other one I’ve climbed covers an 11.3 mile loop and crosses the Devil’s Backbone—a narrow ridge with sheer drops on both sides that fall several thousand feet. I’ve been told that on days like this one when the wind blows brutal, hikers have been known to crawl on all fours to cross that stretch.

On an average Saturday when there wasn’t a storm threatening, hundreds of hikers using all three trails would have been climbing to the top of Baldy, Mount San Antonio’s alias, but today, we saw no one.


Mount San Antonio – Skiing the North Face

To understand how treacherous and dangerous this mountain could be, I’m going to take you back to 1967 when I was still in the Marines and stationed at Camp Pendleton. Several Marines in my unit were from New York State, and they often criticized California for being too flat, hot and snowless. “You have no idea what the four seasons are like,” one of them kept telling me. “You live in a desert.”

Tired of their ribbing, I challenged the three New Yorkers with:  “You want mountains and snow, pack up your gear and come home with me one weekend this winter and I’ll drop you off on a mountain where you’ll find plenty of both.” It’s worth mentioning that in New York State the highest summit is Mount Marcy at 5,343 feet, and the winters New York State experiences almost everywhere, California gets in its higher elevations.

I dropped the winter hardened New Yorkers off at Mount Baldy Village (elevation 4,193 feet) late Friday evening. Sunday morning at 3:00 AM, the phone in my parent’s house rang.  It turned out that my fellow Marines had climbed halfway up the mountain beyond the village and pitched their shelters among the old growth trees and crawled inside their sleeping bags. Saturday morning they opened their eyes to a white out and a blizzard. To survive the freezing temperatures, they started a fire and sparks set their shelters on fire burning up their sleeping bags and backpacks with all their military issued gear. With no visibility because of the blizzard, they stumbled down the mountain bouncing off trees and tripping on boulders and were fortunate to reach the Mount Baldy Lodge without suffering any serious injuries or frostbite. After that weekend, they never complained to me about California again.

More than twenty years later, Marshall and I were climbing the same snow covered mountain with a threatening storm closing in, and the trail, a series of switchbacks that climbed the mountain through the old growth trees clinging to its steep slopes, was buried under thick, crusty, hard snow.  “If we go this way,” I said, “we might get lost,” and thought that we could also end up on black ice and that could be the end of us. As steep as the slopes were on much of Baldy face, a fall might be lethal.

Marshall pointed up the steepest slope that we would have never considered climbing during the summer when there was no snow. “What about following whoever made that stairway in the snow to the top?” he asked.

He was right. Someone wearing ski boots had trekked straight up the steepest side of the mountain, where there were no trees—probably due to the annual avalanches—and had used their boots to stamp foot sized steps in the deep, crusty snow.  Following those footsteps, we went straight up. Halfway to the top and hopefully the trail, if we could find it, I stopped and looked back.  It was a dizzying drop to the bottom where the house sized boulders at the base now looked like peas. After that glance, I leaned a bit more into the mountain and carefully placed my booted feet in each imprint the skiers had left behind.

Skiers often climbed this mountain with their skis strapped to their backs and then ski that wide bowl shaped side of the mountain down to the Sierra Ski hut. If they started early, they might get in several runs before dark. There was no ski lift. To ski this mountain, you had to carry all your gear on foot to the top each time.

At the top of that slope, the wind was brutal and we still had about a half mile to go to reach the peak. The wind was so harsh that even the snow didn’t stick, and that allowed us to find the well-traveled trail that would take us to our destination—a barren wasteland that could be so brutal in harsh weather at almost two miles above sea level that over the decades hikers had scraped out what looked like foxholes and surrounded the shallow pits with walls of granite rock where it was possible to hunker down out of the wind and rest before the trek back. Even in the summer when the temperature in the valleys was blistering hot, the cold wind at this elevation could numb exposed skin.

On this day, the wind was swirling the gray clouds over our heads, and it was like looking up into a blender spinning at high speed. I worried that maybe a twister was going to touch down and expected a funnel to appear that might suck us up into that vortex. But if we looked out over the mountains toward the San Gabriel Valley and Los Angeles, we saw blue skies, and we knew that it was easily forty degrees warmer down there.

“We have to get out of this cold,” Marshal said, “and take a break where we can eat.”

I agreed. My gloves were lined with Thinsulate, but that high-tech insulation wasn’t helping. I’d lost all sensation in my hands and feet and my nose was numb.

Marshall pointed out some granite boulders beside the trail that were the size of two story buildings and we found shelter there from the frigid cutting wind, and ate the food we had carried in our backpacks.


Hiking Mount San Antonio without snow on the ground

Determined to reach the summit, we were back on the trail a half hour later. About a hundred yards from the top with visibility dropping drastically as the swirling clouds and brutal wind battered our bodies, we ran into a lone woman scurrying back from the peak.

“Don’t go up there,” she said. “The wind picked me up and threw me about a hundred feet before I landed. It tore off my cap and gloves too. I lost them. To escape, I had to crawl on all fours off the summit.”

Heeding her warning, we turned back but the stairway made in the snow by those skiers down the steepest part of the slope had vanished. Snow was falling and had filled in the footprints.  The only way back was the traditional route even if we couldn’t see the trail. By then it was about three pm and we should’ve still had several hours of daylight left, but the storm was closing in on the mountain’s top and visibility was shrinking fast.

Away from the summit, the clouds were breaking up and some filtered sun light was reaching the snow sticking to the slope we were descending. “I think we should stay in the sun where the snow isn’t as crusty,” I said. “In the shade, we could run into black ice.”

“But it will take us longer to get off this mountain and back to the Sierra ski hut,” Marshall replied.

I glanced behind us. The top of the mountain was obscured by the swirling clouds and howling wind. Up here near the top the trees had been bent, twisted and sculpted by harsh weather. Marshall decided to take the shortest route down the slope that led mostly through shadows cast by the old growth trees, but I didn’t follow him. Instead, I took off at an angle and stayed in what sunlight there was and took care to make sure I had solid footing before taking each step and that meant slamming the heels of my boots into the snow to break the crusty surface and carve out a place to stand before taking the next step. It was slow going, and I started to lose sight of Marshall.

Every few steps, I’d stop, stabilize both feet in the snow and turn to search for him. The last time I spotted him, he was several hundred yards further down the slope from me moving at a fast clip in a straight line in heavily shaded terrain, and I saw when he fell on his back and become a toboggan headed for a cliff with a vertical drop of at least 2,000 feet to a field of granite boulders that littered the base.

My first thought was what I was going to tell his wife and two teenage children. My second thought was how I would reach his broken body at the base of that cliff. There was no trail to that area and the Sierra Ski hut was a long way from that location with some pretty rugged terrain in between.

“Use your hiking stick like a rudder.” I cupped my mouth with both hands and hollered as loud as I could. “Try to steer toward that brush to your left. Maybe it will stop you.” I don’t know if he heard me from that distance with that howling wind, but I saw him use his hiking stick to change course into that brush, and it saved his life.

The first thing he said when we met up at the Sierra Ski Hut was to never tell his wife and children what happened, because they would never let him hike in the local mountains again. Marshall died in 2007 from complications caused by the medication he was taking to combat leukemia, and that hike was not the toughest one we made together in those mountains, but that climb was probably the one that offered the most danger.

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His fourth book is The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova, and Don wants to discover what it’s like to be loved by only one woman. His problem is that he was raised by his grandparents to become a Lothario, who loves and then leaves women for the next conquest, and as he approaches 40, he is facing a crisis.

His grandfather and then younger brother have been viciously murdered, and Don is the prime suspect. As he struggles to stay out of jail and end his life of serial seductions and find one woman to love, he’s discovering it isn’t easy to kick an old habit, and his mother isn’t helping by quoting scripture every chance she gets in an attempt to change her son’s lifestyle of sin for one of piety.

Complete Kindle e-book Cover on February 18 Flattened

Lloyd Lofthouse also worked as a maître d’ in a nightclub called the Red Onion for a few years. A romantic at heart, in his award winning novels, he tests true love in difficult situations and the challenges of keeping that love alive. My Splendid Concubine, his first novel, is an epic love story that teaches acceptance and respect for other people and their cultures. Running with the Enemy, his second novel is a love story that will either cost the characters their lives or will complete each other’s hearts. Lloyd Lofthouse lives with his family in California’s San Francisco Bay area.

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