Clubhouse Lunch

Pan-fried Tilapia. Asparagus. Cherry tomatoes. A shot of olive oil. And sparkling water with a lime twist.

340 calories, tons of protein, almost zero carbs, and I suspect my trainer would approve.

Thank you, Virgin Atlantic, for helping me start the trip on a healthy note!

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The Traveling Skinny Gourmet

So here I am, about to head out on my first trip to my beloved England in thirteen years, and I shall not be indulging in comfort food.

No curries.

No meat pies.

No fish and chips.

No bread.

No cheese.

No crumpets.

No scones with jam.

No clotted cream.

So with me I carry the makings of the half of the meals I will eat on the trip:

  • Protein powder
  • Protein bars
  • Protein nacho cheese chips/crisps
  • Almonds

To which I will add, after a quick dash to Tesco Metro:

  • Rice cakes
  • Rolled oats
  • Almond butter

The rest of my eats will concentrate heavily on grilled chicken, egg whites, and jasmine rice.

This will be an adventure, not just to add exercise and food prep to my 15-hour workdays, but to resist the food, wine, and beer.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Sabbatical: The Rail Problem (S-minus-23)

I have done a lot of research in advance of my upcoming mid-Sabbatical cross-country trip on Amtrak, to the point where I am probably overthinking the entire endeavor. What I have discovered in the process are a very vocal group of people do nothing but complain about how awful Amtrak is, and another very vocal group who adore Amtrak trips, warts and all.

Based on that back-and-forth, I think the correct mindset is not to see an Amtrak train as some sort of grounded jetliner (which is the way I look at high-speed rail travel in China), but more as a cruise ship on land. Departure dates are set, but departure times are pretty fluid; interaction with fellow passengers is a decent part of the fun, and you really are there for the journey as much as the destination.

Finally, as with all travel, arm yourself with modest (if not low) expectations, and take charge of making your trip better. Even on Continental’s delightful direct flights from Beijing to NYC, my old friend, the author and explorer Steven Schwankert, noted that “I never depend on an airline to feed or entertain me. If they can get me from Point A to Point B in one piece and reasonably on time, I figure they’ve done their job.” Steve never boards a long flight without a packed lunch, a charged iPad, and an extra book and snacks when the effects of the first two wear off.

So here is how I am approaching the upcoming Amtrak Trip.

  • Adding a Buffer Day – I figure any delays that come up will be a lot less stressful and a lot more enjoyable if I don’t plan anything for the first 24 hours after my scheduled arrival. If I get there on time, or even 12 hours late, I still win.
  • Packing a Satchel – My room on the train will lock, but that doesn’t make it Fort Knox, so I’ll carry a bag just large enough to store my valuables, but small enough to move around easily aboard a train. I’ll be using my 5.11 Mike Bag.
  • Bringing an Extra Book – Actually, two, one in print, one in audio. Audio for when the train moves really slowly, print when it’s moving fast – or not at all.
  • Not counting on Internet – Amtrak data services keep getting better. Not so much, though, on the trains that cross the Far West. I’m ready (mentally and otherwise) to be disconnected.
  • Getting ready to walk – I’m scheduling 30  minutes a day of hard cardio during the longer station stops.
  • Carrying meal-replacement bars – the last thing I want after 48 hours on a train is to feel like a veal. I’ll pick and choose from the meals they serve, and supplement with protein bars.
  • Journaling like there is no tomorrow – I expect that I will spend some time doing “serious” writing, but I’m going to keep a separate notebook with my thoughts for the trip, and for my sabbatical as a whole.
  • Geting my teshuvah on – With the possible exception of a trans-oceanic container ship, I can think of no means of transportation more conducive to contemplation and reflection than train travel. As such, I expect I will spend much of that contemplation time thinking about my character and my relation to G-d. Whether I get off the train physically renewed or not, I am hoping to disembark spiritually refreshed.

So from the sublime to the religious, I’m planning on making this a voyage, and I will share the bits you might find of interest.

Anyway, this is all a month away, but half the fun of taking a trip is thinking about it beforehand.

Arrowman at Last

Ever since I was a Boy Scout in the 1970s, I have always wanted to be a member of the Order of the Arrow. The national honor society for the BSA is selective: candidates are elected by their troops from among scouts who have reached the First Class rank, and once selected are then tested in a weekend-long process called an Ordeal.

I never made it as a scout, and never expected to make it as an adult leader. Adult leaders are elected as well, but their candidacy is not automatic: adult candidates are then reviewed at the Council level for suitability and for demonstrated commitment to scouting ideals.

Quite unexpectedly this year, my name was submitted by my troop, and I was called out at a special ceremony at the April Camporee. I couldn’t even be there – I was in China on business. But I accepted (naturally) and submitted myself on June 1st for Ordeal.

The specifics of Ordeal are a closely-held secret, known only to members of the Order. Suffice to say that it was one of the hardest things I have ever done in four years as a scout and nine years as an adult leader, but it was also transformative in obvious and subtle ways that continue to manifest themselves months later.

It was one of my life’s great experiences, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.