Monday, April 25, 2016

Cereal


In the huge passage of life when I programmed computers, I didn't eat breakfast.

On weekdays around 7 a.m., my alarm routinely beeped, blatted, and pled into a void of darkness. I woke hungover, elephants grazing on my forehead, at 9:30 a.m. I showered, dressed, and left the apartment by 10 a.m. I arrived at the office ten minutes later because I made a point always to live close to my office. Even in Houston, a poor man's L.A. where it takes an hour to drive anywhere (other than the neighborhood supermarket), I defeated one of the cruelties of the city where nobody lives voluntarily. Besides, nothing is worse for a hangover than driving on a freeway. I am certain that whatever Angelino invented road rage was hung over.

So there wasn't time to eat cereal, much less to cook.

If you drive into Houston from the west on I-10, an hour and a half before you reach central Houston, you enter the fringes of the sprawl and begin to pass office towers and strip malls that all look indistinguishable from each other: architecture and urban planning by rubber stamp. My company built a tall office building out there in that desert of imagination, and that was when I fled to a contracting job in Denver, where once again I lived close to work and rolled into the office with minimal decorum. I was paid well to write software that helped geophysicists find oil. Still no breakfast. Once in a while there might be donuts or bagels in the conference room, or someone would have a birthday and we'd dissect a cake in the conference room.

But most of the time I didn't break my fast until lunch. Although nobody was as audacious as I about the schedule I kept, we were all hard drinkers in that office, and it wasn't hard to find a small crew to go to a not-so-fast food joint where we could wash down an upscale burger and ponderous fries with a few pints drawn from an imported keg behind the bar. We all broke fasts and had hair of the dog, and no doubt by mid-afternoon somebody would wander the labyrinth of offices to collect a few dollars from each of us for the afternoon beer run. We'd drink in the office while we modeled layers of the earth by processing seismic data, something like using dynamite to do an ultrasound on the belly of the earth. The guys in suits who came around to see the finished work loved the geophysicists I worked with because they took a lot of guesswork out of where to drill for oil. I was a gluttonous pauper, but somebody was getting rich.

I lived an extravagant lifestyle, and I spent every penny before I earned it. I should have been living cheaply and building a money machine that would have taken care of me for the rest of my life, but, no, I stayed as poor as I was in college, except that now I ate and drank far too much.

During my first incarnation in college (I reincarnated later, but that's another story) I was lucky to eat at all. We did none of the administrative business like registration online. Rather, we did it in lines, and I remember being so faint from hunger one absurdly early morning that I had to go sit down for a few minutes.

In Denver, drinking every night and most days, I certainly conformed to anyone's definition of an alcoholic. I didn't walk away from it through some twelve-step program. Just over time, and after all the damage was done, I simply outgrew it. Now and then I want the buzz or the drunk, and I let myself have it because I don't fall into some pit where I have to drink every night. Sometimes a bottle and a sad movie provide a wonderful catharsis, but most of the time it just seems like too much work. Beer bloats. I'm losing my taste for whiskey. Rum and vodka require filling mixers.

Had marijuana been legal back then I would have drank much less, and I would guess that the outcome would have been somewhat more sensible, but it's impossible to say how that alternate life would have gone. What I do know is that these days I love breakfast, and if I were to eat only one meal a day, that would be breakfast. Sometimes I have sausage, eggs, and hash browns. Or I poach eggs and slide them between English muffins. And sometimes I have cereal hot or cold.

Lately I've been following a few good YouTubers, among them Shonduras, who happens to eat cereal wholesale (eating isn't his thing, but there is an amazingly slender Japanese woman, Yuka Kinoshita, on YouTube who does eat massively for entertainment). However, watching Shonduras dash across snow on dozens of improvised conveyances (discarded refrigerators; skateboards stripped of their skates; etc) has given me an appetite for cereal for breakfast and maybe for a snack or two later in the day. I find that I go through boxes of cereal much too quickly, so ordering bulk single servings as part of Amazon's Subscribe & Save program makes sense. It's kind of like buying cereal at Sam's.

And now I've gotten a lot better at managing money, but now there's almost none to manage. Well, I'm working on that.