Letting Go in 2020

It’s the second of January 2020, which means half the world has finally recovered from the New Year’s Eve hangover, and is looking into that dreaded full-body mirror.

Ugh.  Is that really me?

Ah, repentant Jan Detox is at the door, again… so full of ambition and crazy if not barely still realizable hopes!

Maybe, yes, it’s finally, finally the right time, the right moment — yet again! — to morph into the New Me.

I’m not immune to this.

I too wish to be Adonis at 20.  Unfortunately, I am fat and almost 70.

After wrestling with a weight problem since my thyroidectomy in 2014, I have tried with varying degrees of success to become thin again.

Hope springs eternal, and this year is no exception.

My goal in 2020 is to go from 270 lbs in January 2020 to 190 lbs by Nov 1st.  2020.

Not too ambitious or anything, yeah?

Helping me in this effort will be the German German shep puppy that’s going to become part of the family on Feb 1st.

Geneva (Neeva is her nick) is one the cute little pups you in the vid above; nothing like trying to train, and keep up with a vigorous, healthy, young German shepherd dog, to get oneself off the potato couch and out into the real world.

Another thing I am going to start doing is increasing the distance of my bike rides.

This past summer, I was clocking 10 – 15 miles every other day, as I cycled to a local gym for my workouts and yoga exercises. Serious bikers might dismiss this distance as amateurishly trivial, but when you weight 250+ lbs, 10 miles is a long haul, fellas, and everyone passes you by, including geezers older than even you.

But then I had my awful bike accident, and regained the 20 lbs I had lost in only 2 months.

Bummer, but I must slog back in shape (to avoid diabetes, strokes, etc), despite the pain caused by the damage sustained by my left axillary nerve due to this bicycle fall.

To this end, I’m going to resume yoga exerices, and also begin doing deep stretches in the pool.

I am also planning to engage in a variety of other types of flexiblility exercises on a daily basis, such as this, this, this and this (if, like me, you have a bad shoulder).

SOP boarding on the Loxahatchee River
Fat me on my SUP at the Jupiter inlet

Combined with a resumption of SUP boarding at the gloriously beautiful Jupiter Inlet, and consistent weight training (using 20 and 30 lbs dumbbells), I should be in much better shape by Spring — particularly if I manage to keep off the ice cream and limit myself to modest portions at meal time.

A fit body is only one aspect of my 2020 regen project.

The mind, too, must be exercised — at my age, which is currently 68, you lose it or lose it:  thus I’m planning to tackle an ambitious but necessary reading list exercise, which I will be alluding to (no more than capsule reviews or mentions!) in future posts.

In addition, I might resume developing animated Islamic motif SVGs. More on that, too, in later posts — unless a writing project I have been thinking about since Gouna takes off.

Lastly, there is the spiritual or mental health dimension of being healthy.

It’s no secret that we are living in a time when many people in America and around the world are stressed out.  Suicide is on the rise.  Many despair at having to deal with a mentally ill occupant in the White House.

Under such circumstances, being trapped in an apparently hopeless old age rut — such as the one you can easily fall into while living in Florida in a gated community — can result in lingering depression, losing interest in everything, and becoming permanently enfeebled, sick and physically dependent on others.

Travel goes a long way (haha) to way to combat this tendency.  I’ve done my bit in that regard, as you can see here from my Instagram pics of the 7-month trip I took to the Red Sea in Egypt back in 2017-18.

This year, I’m looking forward to returning to NYC, at the end of March, to attend Palestine Writes, the first Palestinian literary festival in North America.

Who knows….?

I might yet write another hikkaya this year.

As the fitness Guardian article states (see link above), the trick is to keep motivated, despite the setbacks that are bound to crop up along the way.

No reason to despair.

Waking up in the morning, at my age, is already half the battle won: the rest of the day is just icing on the cake!

leaving america

I got a rock

This morning I went to the beach where I have spent much of the past 17 years.

Unlike the situation in Tavira, you don’t have to get a 2 euro ticket to hop on a ferry filled with the Birkenstock people to get to the beach here.

It was empty; usually this time of day, and in season, there are lots of fishermen around.

florida algae warning

Only two today, and one of them had his nose and mouth wrapped with a towel, which made him look like an American Bedouin.

I walked around, but didn’t see Ozzie, my old Osprey friend, but did come across the usual sandpipers scampering about.

He and I go way back, Ozzie and I do, from the time I used to come here alone and sit for hours, thinking of my life in Manhattan that had now disappeared, thinking about how promising everything looked, before my life fell off a cliff.

After a while, I felt, or imagined I felt, a slight burning sensation in my lungs, and my nose started to run.

Then I noticed my shadow on the beach, as I have seen it many times before.

Not to get all lugubrious on this hallowed day, but one day I will only be a shadow that once walked on this earth.  What will they say I’ve accomplished?  Anything? Did I just take up space, and then that was it?

I have been having this (decade-long) debate about writing a novel that takes place in Egypt along the Red Sea, and it occurred to me that I might write the idea I had about ten years ago as a sort of Zombie Apocalypse comic-serious book.

That would relieve the literary pressure of trying to come up with “the novel” that would cement my reputation as a writer — which is now zilch, unfortunately — that would prove… what exactly was it, again?

I have also been trying to keep away from working on this software idea that has I haven’t been able to stop myself from noodling with since before leaving for Portugal a month or so ago.

It’s not that I wish I were this guy…

… but last night and the night before that I spent hours creating an interface for the application. It’s now done.

And I studied — quite seriously, not in some cursory fashion — what would be involved in terms of the necessary underlying tech stack that it would take to realize the idea.


Even with a team of programmers who can code like greased lightning, the effort to implement this would be non-trivial.  I used to be the CTO for a small Internet company in Manhattan, after years of being a data modeler and programmer in the fintech space, but now am 67 and haven’t developed software since 9-11 — not an ideal time in life to consider implementing a complex WP plug-in, solo.

But the more I researched what would be involved, the more my interest was piqued.

I do feel younger than my years, nowadays; that’s one thing. When I was 30, I felt like I was 70 on some days, but that is what burning the candles at both ends when you are young will do.

Maybe I’ll do both things, or maybe just think about doing them, alternating the heavy lifting of creating vapor ware with the equally exhausting task of vapor writing.

The beauty of this plan is that I can accomplish all this without the pressure of having to fly to Gouna to raise angel funding and promise them a unicorn, while slaving away during my spare time, like a dog in a junkyard filled with Smith Corona typewriters, just so that one day I can say to the doubters at Mizna, see, it was in me the whole time, the gift.. it was there all along: you just never saw it; or rather, I chose not to let it be seen.

I kept walking on the beach — whose contours I know intimately — and found a coral rock that would fit perfectly in my garden at home.

I picked it up, and upon returning with it to the parking lot, a woman my age who was driving a brand new silver Merc pulled up and parked next to my beat up old Escape.

She got out of the shiny Merc, looked at me, and said, without even a good morning, even though it still quite early in the day… you know, you look just like Charlie Brown on Halloween with that rock.

People remember the oddest things.

Sometimes it takes living a long time to make connections you never saw while growing up.

So that’s me, today:  a kid on Halloween who got a rock, just like it’s always been.

The lady in the Merc said so.

leaving america

Mon jardin

When I think of the most beautiful place I have ever lived in, hands down, it has to be the simple chalet in Montazah by Cleopatra beach.

When I lived there — it no longer exists — in the summers as a teen in the mid 60s, with my mother and brothers, the palace grounds still had the pronounced, residual aftereffect of having once belonged to Egyptian royalty — in particular, King Farouk — who grew up in the palace itself, tragically minded, as it turned out, by a bunch of scheming Italians.

Apart from the stunning views of the Mediterranean, what was most remarkable to me about Montazah Palace — again, this is before it was commercialized and rendered ugly and small by the brutalist architecture of the gigantic hotels now surrounding the palace walls — were the king’s gardens.

I would often walk there alone in the summer, crossing through the complicated acres of wind-swept pine forest, to admire the exquisite sense of horticulture that had remained in place, despite the looting of the palace itself by Nasser and his goons.

One day, I may still write a pseudo Cavafian novel about that time; I have hesitated to do so up till now, mainly because every time I attempt to accomplish what I have always felt to be one of the points of my life, every time, other than writing a short story or two, my heart has been split wide open in the writing. Poor excuse, I know, but I have not yet been strong enough to voice the imagined truth about those times.

Fifty years later, I am now an old man. When is the heart able to move on?

I live in a rented villa by the sea in El Gouna, Egypt.  I have a view of the Red Sea that pleases me; this is around the area where I used to go camping with my uncle Omar in the early 60s, he being an army officer, and we would pitch a tent by the shoreline, and I remember that crabs used to come out at night and crawl all over the roof of the tent, their pincer claws clicking.

I mention this because coming to the Red Sea is not a new thing for me, and, when I still used to scuba, I went diving all the way from Hurghada (“Kharda’a” in Arabic) to Dahab, but never as far south as Marsa Alam, which I wish to visit before I’m too old to do so.

This is why I feel comfortable in Gouna. I have a history here, and by here I mean Egypt; I was a boy here growing up, and Egypt remains, above all other places, defining.  I would be mortified, if you will pardon the pun, to end my days in lousy Florida; here, I would be pleased to accept and appreciate whatever Allah has in store.

In this Gouna villa, where I moved in last week, there are a few issues.  Apart from small problems with the house itself (see previous post) there is the noise factor.

Last night, alas, the idiot management at the Duport Club — Allah yikhrib bethom — saw fit to blare dance music till 3AM.  It was loud; it was unpleasant; and it should have been squelched  by the security authorities. But they didn’t do that.

However, this morning, I woke up to a day that had forgotten what had transpired the night before. It’s as if every morning languishes in the preternatural calm of a day after a brazen one night stand, and the intimate rustle of the cotton bedroom sheets surprises no one. A light breeze wafted in through the living room windows as I made my morning Turkish coffee.  The smell of the coffee and of the earth itself in the garden — raml zira’yee is what it is called in Arabic, or gardening sand — filled my lungs and I found myself immensely content.

On a discrete whim, I went outside with my camera and took snaps of the garden. Luckily, the ganaynee (ie, gardener) had just arrived to water the plants.  It is he who provided me with the names you see below for some of the plants in my garden. Any errors in transliteration are, of course, mine.

I am in Egypt, and I am looking at my garden.  I will not be here in August when the dates will be ripe enough to pick and turn into date jam, marabat balah in Arabic, which is what my grandmother, Tetta, or El Sit, as she was called, in Garden City used to offer me as a treat when I was a boy, whenever I went to visit her. She is immensely missed.

Enjoy the pics.

Batouninja mistourada
gouhanamiya (Bougainvillea)
accasia delucca
washangtonia (bitsharda) palm
hayani nakhl (palm), and a glimpse of zanaria on the left




leaving america