So.Much.Garbage

This morning I went to pick up trash.

A few years ago, when I began running, I was always appalled at the garbage along the Bronx River Parkway in Westchester County, New York.  Piles and piles of post-consumer trash, as well as some bigger things – a tire, a shopping cart in the middle of the river, etc.  For some time now I’ve regretted not trying to do something there.  Now I live in Celebration, Florida, and the trash still drives me bonkers.  I pick up litter when I can, and make it a point to be as careful as possible with my own.  But a few weeks ago I was finally driven over the edge and into action.

Two things did it – one longer term, and one short term.  After the election of 2016, I was so disappointed and frustrated with the general tenor of the conversation in America that I checked myself out of politics, which has been one of my passions since I stayed up in the 5th grade to watch the 1988 election returns.  I said at the time that if progressive voices made some noise in the 2018 mid-terms, I would get interested again … and might get active.  That happened, and I’ve been trying to figure out how I want to put my money where my mouth is.

And then I was training for a half marathon a few weeks ago and ran past a stretch of road that had so much garbage on it that I was blown away.  Just a disgusting amount of trash.  A McDonald’s location had recently opened up just up the street, and I felt like I could see yellow “M”s everywhere I looked.  But that wasn’t all – while I didn’t get down and look closely, you could tell this area just loaded with garbage.

Well – I have found my issue, I think.  I don’t have to be part of a presidential election in order to make a difference.  In fact, I will probably be able to make a much bigger difference right here in my own community.  I also don’t need to attend enormous river- or shore- clean ups.  I can do my part in a much more micro way.  Instead of getting mad about the garbage, I’m going to pick it up.  And I’m going to try and shine a spotlight on it so people can see and a difference can be made.  Who knows.

Enough preamble – this morning I went to pick up trash.

My goal this morning was that area I saw when I was running – about a 1.5 mile walk.  I brought a new extended picker-upper and my kids’ Radio Flyer wagon and headed out.  I expected nearly all of the garbage to be in that area, about 0.1 mile, what I have highlighted in red below.  And while I certainly got a lot of garbage there, my wagon was filling up pretty well before I ever got there.

And then I got there.  My mind boggles.  All told, including the walk to the area, I spent 2.5 – 3 hours working, and could have worked all day – my wagon got full.

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Back home, I sorted the trash into some big categories.  As expected, McDonalds played a big part in the overall volume.

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There were also plenty of cans / bottles for drinks – Gatorade bottles, energy drinks, Arizona Iced Tea cans, Monster Energy AND Red Bull cans, and tons of water bottles.

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Lots of crazy miscellaneous stuff, too.  Two Mylar balloons.  An aerosol spray paint can.  An empty fertilizer bag.  A nearly full pack of cigarettes.  Plastic bags of all kinds – supermarket bags, Ziploc bags, garbage bags, etc.

But there was one item of litter that really stood out to me – dog waste bags.  Celebration has dog waste stations all over town that dispense little plastic bags for picking up your dog’s poop when out on a walk and then feature a garbage receptacle to take the used bags.  I probably walked past a dozen.

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The bags were EVERYWHERE.  Many of them had even been used – the dog’s owner had gone to the trouble of picking up the poop, and then was either careless enough with the bag that it wound up on the ground, or else they just deliberately threw it into the trees.  This makes no sense at all to me – at that point, you’re better off just letting the dog poop in the woods. This pile of poop bags was just the surface, too – I walked past many more that I just didn’t have room for.

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The insidious thing about all of this garbage, and those poop bags in particular, is that once they have been in the environment for a short period of time they hide.  The poop bags are green and black, and often you have to be right on top of one in order to see it.  The plastic bottles and especially the cup lids and straws from McDonalds get covered with leaves and discolored so that they are very difficult to find.  And much of the litter is just small and clear, and so hard to see.

I have some research to do, but just based on this morning’s outing, I’m going to start calling on the waste bag manufacturers to all either make their bags out of material that biodegrades quickly, and/or make those bags bright orange or fluorescent yellow.  If they are easy to see people may be less likely to throw them in the trees, not to mention how much easier they are to see when you are picking up garbage.

I don’t know why all of this is OK, and I don’t know why we, as residents of Celebration, should look past it.  If we want to live in a beautiful, welcoming place, we shouldn’t be OK with all of this garbage.  The environmental arguments are compelling, and I’ll be making them, but I don’t need environmental arguments here – even if you hate the “tree-hugging libtards” or whatever we’re known as these days, you can’t help but see that this kind of garbage means YOU ARE LIVING IN A TRASH CAN.

I don’t want to live in a trash can.

Three different people thanked me this morning when they realized what I was doing.  That probably shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did.  People care about this issue.  But the comment that has stuck with me was from a gentleman that said “You could spend the rest of your life doing that.”  My first reaction was to think to myself “I just might!”  But on reflection, his remark has made me sad, and makes me want to put these pictures on the sides of buildings.  Because what he said is a lament of our modern reality, which is that we collectively care so little about the community and world we live in that we are willing to trash it to an extent that may not be able to be fully offset, ever.  That makes me sad.

But it doesn’t make me despair.  Every piece of garbage matters.  It matters to the aesthetic, it matters to the environment, it matters to our mindset.  Every bag I can pull out is one more bag of garbage that won’t ever make it into the ocean.  And every bottle I grab and recycle is one more bottle that won’t make it to a river or a shore to be cleaned up by one of those big clean-up events.

Every piece matters.

So I’ll be out there picking up garbage when I can, and I will post those pictures and those stories here.  If you see me with my red wagon, say hi – I’ll enjoy the break if you want to chat.  And if this seems bad to you, one of the ways it might change is that we change the culture, and we change the expectation.  If we hold ourselves accountable for this garbage, maybe some of it will start to go away.  So share the pictures, and share the story.

And, for goodness sake, don’t throw your bagged dog poop into the woods!

My walk wasn’t all garbage – I made some friends, too.  Hopefully I’ll do one of these walks soon-ish and it’ll be no garbage.

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On Top of the World – A Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park

The mountains are calling and I must go.

– John Muir

We like living in Florida.  While the weather during the summer is atrocious – hot and humid and rainy – the weather from October through April is glorious.  And, besides, summer in Florida is no worse than winter in New York.  We have found the people to be open and friendly where we live.  There is so much to do, especially with kids, that we are constantly on the go.  Overall, moving here has been a very positive experience.

I miss the mountains, though.  I grew up in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas.  While the Ozarks don’t have the lofty elevations of the Rocky Mountains, or even the Appalachian Mountains, they are quite rugged and beautiful.  My childhood was an outdoor childhood, and those mountains are a place I understand.  They are home, in a real way.  The mountains in New York are similar.  We never lived far from a good, rugged, up-and-down hike, with waterfalls and bluffs and incredible views merely a short drive away. Read more

An Anniversary

On April 18, 2016, one year ago today, I attended my first Couch-to-Crossfit class – and it began.  Three weeks later, on May 9, I walked into my first regular Crossfit class.  6am, Monday morning, Celebration Crossfit.  I didn’t know anybody.  I couldn’t do most of the movements.  I weighed about 315 pounds – I was enormous.  And I was scared to death.

Holy shit, was I scared to death. Read more

And then this happened:

Friend, fellow Crossfitter, and super-talented photographer Guillermo Cummings took a picture of me doing 17.3 on Friday that I still don’t quite have a handle on.  He posted it across his social media last night, and shortly thereafter:

Read more

So … this happened:

A couple of days ago the owner and head coach at my Crossfit box emailed and asked if they could use my before and now pictures for a post in their social media.  I agreed – I don’t like my fat picture, but, as I told him, if I didn’t want it out there I shouldn’t have put it out there.  I offered to take a current “now” picture, so I did that this morning and sent the pictures over.  The post below is the one they made on Instagram – they also posted this on Facebook.

I never dreamed I’d be the guy getting air time on a Crossfit gym’s social media, but it is happening.  I kind of don’t even know what to think – it feels surreal.  The best part has been the comments, both from my peers at the box as well as complete strangers.  The universal positivity and happy-for-me-ness is very gratifying.  Crossfit is a group effort, and I feel that more now than ever.  It makes a difference knowing all of those people are really rooting for me. Read more

Deadlift

I realize I never added this video.  As much as I’m loving Crossfit, what I’m really loving are the days when we do the big powerlifts.  This was a month or so ago, and we worked up to 90% of our one rep max.  This is 365#.  If things go right, I’m running a half marathon this morning, and then I’m going to start spending some more time on these power lifts.  Big fun.

More “During” Photos

Holy shit, it has been a month since I posted anything.  Life gets in the way sometimes. You’ll be forgiven for thinking so, but I have not – repeat, have NOT – fallen off the wagon.  Things have slowed down considerably.  I’m going to have to start getting more formal with my food plan.  And I still have a ways to go.  BUT:

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I have lost just under 60 pounds, and I’m now smaller than I’ve been in over 10 years.  For reference:

before-after-front

before-after-side

Pictures are funny things.  There is some definition in my shoulders and arms (and even maybe just a little (a little – little) in my chest, squee!) that doesn’t really show up here.  And I still think the pictures today make me look like an enormous fat guy, though compared to those original ones, holy moly.

I can buy clothes in the regular person’s part of the store now.  I just had to buy a new belt – my third since I started this.  I’m running a half marathon on Sunday.  And this morning I squatted 325# for two reps.  We’re getting there – we are absolutely getting there.

Averages

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  – Jim Rohn

Wednesday morning at the gym (still can’t call it a box), and we had our normal 6am crew.  We show up, we work hard, we go about the rest of our day.  The coach this week is JC, who also does all of the programming, and can be beasty – he’s a great coach, and he pushes hard and expects maximum effort.  So we did the WOD, which this day included lots of power cleans and an interesting front rack carry that was harder than it had any right to be is going to have me sore for days.  We got done about 10 minutes early, so he had us cool down with a bunch of band pull-aparts, and then I started gathering my stuff to go.

At this point, two of the guys get on the floor and start doing situps.  I’m sure the look on my face was interesting – “what fresh hell is this?”  When I asked, they said that they wanted to get in 100 situps, so that’s what they were doing.

Well, hell.  Now I’VE got do situps or I feel like a lazy bum.  So I get down and start doing situps.  And then an extraordinary thing happened.

The whole class started doing situps.  Nobody left.  The 7am class had to start their warmups while dodging us, because we were all doing situps.  We could have left, but we didn’t – there was work still to do.

From now on, when somebody asks me how I’ve been successful at my weight loss and health journey –even if somebody asks me how I’ve been successful in my career or anything else in life – my answer is going to be that I upped my average.  We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with, and my average has gone way, way up since I started Crossfit.  So here’s a question – do the people around you push your average up or bring it down?

Progress Pictures

Finally busted through a little plateau in my weigh-in this morning.  I’ve now lost 53.6 pounds, and I’m three weeks ahead of where my schedule says I need to be.  I’m also now officially smaller than the smallest I got when I was training for the Ragnar & half marathons in 2013 / 2014.  So I’m smaller than I’ve been in 10 years.  The next goal is another 15 pounds and I’ll be smaller than I’ve been in probably 15 – 20 years.  This is 269 pounds.

The progress, it is happening.  Woot!

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For reference:

Initial Pictures – about 320 pounds