May 9, 2015 § 38 Comments
I’m not a day or a week or a month counter. All I know is that I quit back in November. That’s an eternity for some, an eye blink for others. Here is what I’ve learned so far.
- I don’t know.
- If one day at a time is too long, you better make it one hour, or even one moment.
- I’m not powerless over alcohol.
- Life without beer is less fun but more happy.
- *Still an asshole.* Or, “You’re still the same old girl you used to be.”
- I imagine beer tasting better than it does in fact taste.
- Sobriety isn’t a solution, it’s a step that makes other solutions possible.
- Tomorrow I’m getting hammered, but not today!
- I can’t do it without the support, but in the end I’m alone.
- Different people take different paths, and mine doesn’t lead to a higher power.
- Sober friends who have been through the wringer are there when I need them most.
- I like it when people ask me if I’m still sober.
- Driving at night is legal.
- It’s not that hard to do the dishes.
- If I’m 100% sober, I can’t be 100% at anything else, and that’s okay.
- A bunch of tiny improvements make the big picture better.
- After 5:00 PM the words on the page don’t start to blur.
- Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies to drinking: The misery of watching others drink causes an equal and opposition degree of happiness at awaking without a hangover.
- You can do it.
- We all die anyway, so enjoy the journey if you can.END
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May 8, 2015 § 28 Comments
When I was young I was taller and didn’t have a weight problem. Now I’ve shrunk at least an inch and have for years been engaged in the mid-life Battle of the Bulge. Of course at 51, mid-life is over as 102 isn’t in my genes or my game plan.
With the exception of runway models, jockeys, and wrestlers, few people obsess about their weight as much cyclists. Even though the rest of the world generally looks at us and says, “Fit,” we invariably look at each other, and especially ourselves, and say, “Fat.”
Of course in the Old Person racing categories, weight is largely irrelevant in crit racing, the predominant race type. A certain champion who shall remain nameless regularly smashes everyone even though he barely fits into his skinsuit without a hoist and two giant, greased shovels. He is very jolly about it, too, and he should be, because half of the 84 people he just smashed are fanatical weight obsessives, which is to say completely fuggin’ miserable. He not only gets to win, he obviously gets to eat, and eat again.
In road races weight plays a role, but not really the way you might think. In the hardest climbing races of the season, the old farts in contention are indeed lean, and one or three, who shall also remain nameless, have the terrible stunted and corpse-like figure of someone who has wasted away for years in a prison camp. Gaunt, bony, stringy, and not-good-to-eat-even-when-cooked is how these guys look.
What’s instructive is that when it comes to getting on the hilly road race podiums, it’s always the same guys, give or take a manorexic, which means that the other forty riders who really are starving themselves in preparation for their DNF or 28th placing are not getting any meaningful benefit from their weight obsession and diet misery. Why not just have another helping of butter to go with your ice cream bacon burger and be satisfied with 30th, or with being the 10th-placed DNF, or even the 1st-placed DNS?
Answer: Because weight obsession is another of the simulacra that, along with full carbon wheels that are 100% carbon, fosters the illusion of “We’re pro, too.”
In the past my dieting has followed the pattern of all diets: Quit eating and quit big, wait until the body begins to digest itself, declare success on the scales along with a 50% drop in power, daily energy, and sex drive (make that 95% for the last one, okay, 99%), do a couple of races at the new Cooked Chicken Chris Froome weight, DNF, check into the ICU for intravenous fluids, and then as soon as possible hop back on the burger-and-fries express.
Of course like any problem that you’ve had for a long time, it can’t really function unless the people around you have adapted to it. They are called enablers; mine is Mrs. WM, and she enables me thus:
Me: “I’m going on another diet. Nothing but apples, water cress, and almond skins.”
Mrs. WM: “Okay.”
Me: [three hours later] “I’m tired.”
Mrs. WM: “You want me to fix you a snack?” The alleged snack, of course, has already been fixed, and it is a three-course, 6,500-kcal meal.
Me: [longingly] “Okay. But only a small half-plate.”
Mrs. WM: [shoves fully loaded half-plate in my face] “You gonna get onna wiener droopies if you don’t keep eatin’.”
Me: [after fifth half-plate, groaning] “Dammit! I didn’t want to eat all that!”
Mrs. WM: “Don’t holler onna me! If you don’t wanna be eatin’ don’t be chewin’.”
Throughout the diet, each day of which begins with the utter hell of awakening with the thought of “Diet,” Mrs. WM punctuates every Box Moment of the day with, “You wanna eat some —- ?” The “some” is freshly baked bread, or avocado dip with chips, or bacon-wrapped asparagus, or ice cream bacon burgers topped with carbon sprinkles.
The “Box Moment” is that moment of hunger pain during which, if you want the diet to succeed, you have to crawl inside the box and suffer the hunger. It is the Box Moments, strung together, that lose the weight, and they are about as much fun as eye surgery with an ice pick, only less.
So my enabler makes the diet doubly hard because I not only have to endure the Box Moments but I also have to refuse the mouth-watering fare. What diet can survive this dual assault? None.
In other words, I’m 12 pounds down and have begun digesting bone and hair. And I’m hungry. And we’re all out of water cress.
Where the hell is my enabler?
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May 6, 2015 § 53 Comments
I have lots of unkind things to say about cagers. Like it or not, in general they are the enemy, seeking to kill and maim me at every opportunity. They hate me and want me destroyed; even the ones who stick their hand out of the window and wave are probably just drying their nails prior to reaching for the Glock.
And in general I have nothing but good things to say about the noble bicyclist, even when he’s veering, cursing, scofflawing, spitting, and getting off his bike to urinate in plain view of granny and the littl’uns. The worst spitting, public urinating, middle finger waving, ass scratching, profanity spewing wanker on a rusted out beach cruiser with two loaded beer coozies is, in my mind, infinitely preferable to the kindest, sweetest, most thoughtful and considerate cager.
There is this one thing about some bicyclists that gets under my skin, kind of like the heads of a thousand deer ticks. Now I’m probably going to offend someone you know and love, and for that I am really happy. If I don’t offend you, I’m sorry. Send me a private note and I will try again. As Abe Lincoln said, you can piss off some of the people all of the time, but it’s damned hard to piss off all of the people some of the time.
Here’s the deal: You’re sitting at work getting paid more than you’re worth, fiddling on the computer wondering if you can knock off at 3:47 and still look vaguely occupied until 4:30-ish, when you can begin the pre-exit rumblings and fumblings that show you’re bringing a most productive day of Facebag-checking and Google news reviewing to an end. Suddenly, you get a message. It goes like this:
Hi, Bill — you know our mutual friend, Wanker McGee? He rode his bike off the edge of a cliff while doing front-end downhill wheelies with Manslaughter, and he misjudged the log he was trying to jump backwards and flipped off the cliff and onto the cactus 200 feet below and got LifeFlighted out and it looks like it’s going to be a while before he’s racing again or able to eat without a straw.
Anyway, his medical bills are in the six figures and you know he’s been living in that cardboard box down on 3rd and Main as he’s in his third season of trying to get his first pro contract, so I’ve begun a GoFundMe campaing for him and would really appreciate it if you could spread the word and maybe kick in a few bucks.
If you’re like me, you click on the link and kick in a few bucks. Then, feeling sorry for the poor bastard, you share the link with your friends and hope that the next time an appeal goes out it’s not you with the squashed melon. After a couple of weeks ol’ Wanker has piled up a whopping $5,000 to help defray his medical bills of $354,000. Which kind of raises the question of …
What the fuck is anyone doing riding a bike without health insurance? While I realize that there are a lot of destitute people who use a bike to get to work, the communist-socialist-atheist-Islamist Obamacare program makes it possible for the poorest of the poor, yes, even bike racers, to get health insurance.
In other words, if you can afford the $5k rig, two extra full-carbon wheelsets made of 100% carbon, the wardrobe, the entry fees, the podium cap (still unused) and transportation to the race, then you can afford the $90 communist-socialist-Islamist health insurance offered by our foreigner President who is trying to destroy democracy and our great nation by getting health care to sick people.
In other-other words, if you’re too much of a cheapfuck to get Obamacare but insist on racing the local crit/riding offroad with Manslaughter, I’m not sure you deserve anything from me. To make it even worse, there are bike racers who refuse to get the free (that’s “free” as in “your mom doesn’t even have to pay for it”) insurance because if you make less than $15k (and what bike racer makes more?) you get put on Medicaid, which, in addition to being free, is the Antichrist for many a Republican, welfare-hating, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps bike bum.
In short, the shame of being on socialist welfare free healthcare is worse than getting smashed to bits, asking others to pay for the damage, and then discharging the debts in bankruptcy.
My attitude towards this isn’t because I’m a heartless, unpleasant, penny-pinching Scrooge, although that’s part of it. A famous case here in LA a few years back involved a well-known rider with two kids who tore his face off descending Las Flores, and had to rely on crowd-funded donations to retire his medical bills. I helped promote the fund and donated to it, even though several people pointed out that a grown man (he was in his late 40’s) with two kids giving descending clinics on white-knuckle descents without health insurance was exactly the kind of guy who deserved the old “you made your bed, now lie in it” treatment.
Of course no matter how irresponsible someone is, when little kids are involved even the mostly heartless will reach for their wallets, and I still don’t regret doing so.
The main problem I have with shifting affordable health insurance premiums or even free Medicare coverage onto the greater biking community is that no matter how much your friends kick in, it won’t be enough. First of all, even if you raise $50k, it’s going straight to the hospital or other healthcare providers. Do I want to donate my somewhat-hard-earned money to Kaiser Permanente? Um, nope.
Second, raising money before you’re finished treating — assuming you’re a completely broke bike racer; redundant, I know — is a terrible decision because ultimately you’ll have to file bankruptcy and the money that’s rolled in may not be exempt, especially if it’s over $25k. In other words, Kaiser will still get a bite.
Third, there’s something really wrong with raising a stink about cagers who are uninsured or underinsured, which means they can’t make you whole when they run you over, then turning around and displaying the same financial irresponsibility when you crash out in a bike race and thrust the bill onto friends, family, and sympathetic strangers.
Century rides, race promoters, and other entities that put on bike events should require entrants to show proof of health insurance. USA Cycling (the great useless entity in the sky) should require you to submit proof of health insurance before it will issue a racing license, because unlike many activities, accidents in bike racing if you do it long enough are guaranteed. 100%, no exceptions.
In addition to health insurance, if you so much as pedal down the block you should also obtain maxed out uninsured/uninsured motorist coverage on your auto liability policy. This will cover you for the accidents when the cager who mows you down doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for your brain transplant, acting in effect as a third-party health insurance policy for you. And if you can afford a car and a $780 set of bike racks, you can afford the few extra bucks a year it costs to max out UM coverage.
So, I wish I could help out all the people who need it, and I don’t regret having done so in the past. But even more, I wish they would take that tiny ounce of prevention so we wouldn’t have to donate the massive pound of completely ineffective cure.
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March 14, 2015 § 12 Comments
The riders dribbled up to the Manhattan Beach Pier for the start of the Chief’s sixtieth birthday ride. “Hey, how’s your knee?” asked T-Dub.
“Oh, I’m getting it operated on next Thursday. Yours?” Iron Mike’s joints weren’t quite so ferrous anymore.
“Got a tear in my meniscus. Doc says it’s too small to operate on but big enough to give me trouble. Like having a hole in the carpet.”
A couple of other riders horned in on the conversation. “Yep, I threw out my prostate carrying a load of firewood,” one offered.
“And my neck … ” said another rider.
As soon as he said the word “neck” everyone began comparing their neck problems, the neck problems of people who weren’t there, and the names of the best neck surgeons in West L.A. I’d never seen a group of people more animated, and SB Baby Seal, the only guy there who was in his 20’s, listened in on the organ recital with a raised eyebrow.
It reminded me of how rides used to start, back in that mythical day. We’d talk about who had gotten laid the night before, who was on track to get laid tonight, and would compare the various sex acts, their number and quantity, the skills of the partners, and whether or not the associated quantity and type of drugs and alcohol had rendered the whole thing a fuzzy memory or not.
And the few times that we weren’t talking about sex, we were talking about bike racing, which in many respects was very similar.
I certainly don’t remember ever sitting around talking about neck specialists, but then again, this was my first ever #60 birthday celebration ride. When I started riding, I didn’t even know anyone who was sixty except for my granddad, and he didn’t ride a bike, he drove a Buick.
Still, after listening to the litany of neck problems, I realized that lots of people do have a ton of pain and discomfort when they cycle. Part of it is probably because they are old, and part of it is probably because they are fat, but another big part of bike pain is also related to position. Let’s face it, it’s pretty unnatural to sit hunched over with your neck jutting out for hours at a time.
The first step to getting a handle on your achy proscenium is of course getting a pro fit. I got a super fit from Dialed In Bike Fitting three years ago, and although the fit took me out of my 1980’s super-stretch duck paddle position, it didn’t take care of my aches and pains because I’ve never had any. I think one of the reasons I don’t have aches when I ride is because I don’t really have one position. I’m always shifting around, and instead of looking for a “perfect position,” during the ride I’m always fiddling with where I put my hands and my ass.
From an aesthetic standpoint this means that I look spastic when I pedal. But from a pain perspective it means I have none. Zero. Zip. And that’s after 33 years of riding 10,000 miles a year, sometimes a lot more.
So here are the position changes that I really think help make a difference if you’re doing them constantly.
- Tops to drops: Regularly move your hands from the tops to the drops. This bends your back and shifts everything at once.
- Hood dance: Regularly get off your saddle and climb with your hands on the hoods.
- Drop dance: Climb with your hands on the drops.
- Extended dance: Climb out of the saddle, shifting hand positions, for 10-20 minutes at a time.
- Look Ma, no hands: Sit up occasionally and ride with your hands off the bars.
- Shake your booty: Slide your ass forward and backwards on the saddle.
- Body stiff: When you’re climbing out of the saddle, try to keep your body as motionless as possible.
- Body swing: When you’re climbing out of the saddle, try to swing your body from side to side.
- Supergrip: Grip your bars as tightly as you can, then relax. Especially do this when climbing, and vary it from the tops to the hoods to the drops.
Will any of this help? I don’t know; it seems to help me. And at the very least, you’ll look like you’re having a seizure when you ride. So, as Knoll would say, “There’s that.”
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February 3, 2015 § 40 Comments
I didn’t ride my bike yesterday, I didn’t ride my bike today, I’m not going to ride it tomorrow or Thursday, and Friday is looking iffy. You’d be amazed at how hard it is to make stuff up in the absence of facts.
Instead, I thought I would do a little “craft water update” to share my perspective on what the last couple of beer-free months have been like.
- Has it helped my bike racing? No.
- Has it helped me lose weight? In the beginning, yes, because beer seems to spawn pizzas and cheese nachos, along with wings and fries. But beer also helps you lose weight because you drink so much you pass out, and it’s hard to get fat when you’re unconscious. In the short term I dropped about ten pounds, but now the net loss is only about four.
- Is my life better? It’s different. With beer my life was fun. Raging, awesome fun. Every waking hour was a fun opportunity, even 10:00 AM on a weekday. Nothing is as fun as being drunk. So my life is a lot less fun now because the best evening spent reading a good book doesn’t begin to compare with shouting and carrying on like a fool in a noisy bar with a bunch of equally drunken friends. Or strangers.
- Are you happier? No. But I’m a lot less miserable. In fact, I’m not miserable at all. With beer I was super happy until the non-beer moments kicked in. Then I was sad. And there were a ton more non-beer moments than beer moments, even though I tried hard to max out the beer ones.
- Are the people around you happier? Big 10-4 on that, good buddy. It’s amazing how happy Mrs. WM is at not having to carry me out of family restaurants.
- Is your work better? Off the charts. Got my mojo back on that shit.
- Do you sleep better? Technically, yes, but practically, no, because now even though I sleep deeply, since I’m not drunk I’m easily awakened by the chainsaw sleeping next to me in bed sawing down an old-growth forest every ten seconds.
- Do you crave beer? Yes. Each day is about 16-17 waking hours locked in the crave cave.
- Have your friends and family supported you? Yes. Without them I’d be back in the gutter.
- What’s the biggest change? Not ever being able to shut off the switch and having to just fuggin’ cope with the torrent.
- What was the biggest shock? Physical withdrawal followed by six weeks of profound depression. If I ever doubted that I was an alcoholic, I don’t doubt it now.
- What was the most pleasant surprise? That those two things ended. And when they did, the following day felt like one of those mornings when you wake up and there’s been a big rain. Everything is so fresh and clean and pure. Until I wanted a Racer 5 ten seconds later.
- How have people reacted? Overwhelmingly supportive, a handful not so much. But what has blown me away the most is finding out how many people are also hopeless drunks battling for their emotional and physical lives every single day. They’re all around me. Some have reached out because they’re sober and want to help, but more incredibly, some have reached out to me for help. I would do anything for them, although it’s pretty much like the blind leading the blind.
- Are you in AA? No and yes. I’ve never been to a meeting, but I benefit all the time from the wisdom and support of fellow alcoholics. And I’m in AA in this sense — I’ve vowed to myself that the next time alcohol crosses my lips, I’m headed straight there. And if that fails, I’m checking into rehab.
- Better sex life? You’ll have to check in with Mrs. WM on that one. On second thought, don’t.
- How many days since your last drink? I don’t know and don’t fuggin’ care. This isn’t a hitting streak, it’s an attempt not to be drinking at this moment. That’s all that matters to me.
- Any tips? Best way to start stopping is to announce it, even if it’s just to the person who talks back to you in the mirror every morning.
- And staying stopped? No idea. Maybe check to see if there’s a drink in your hand, and if there is, toss it?
- Do you see drinking and drinkers differently? Yes. I used to be one of them. Now I’m just green with envy.
- Is it hard being around alcohol? Yup.
- Has it been worth it? Saved my marriage. Saved my family. Saved my job. Saved my life. So if I could add to that another win in a bike race, the answer would be a resounding “Probably.”
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December 29, 2014 § 58 Comments
Since swearing off beer I’ve gotten a handful of messages and emails from friends who are also struggling with alcoholism. It occurred to me that I’m not the only one trying to find the season’s “merry and bright” while simultaneously fighting off the urge to get shit-faced drunk. Cycling has its share of alcoholics, and although I first thought that it was related to the intense, addictive quality of biking, the more I look around the more it seems like the world is chock full of drunks. My cycling friends are just more open about it.
The worst part has been the physical and emotional withdrawal, or that’s how it seemed, when going cold turkey plunged me into depression combined with intense craving. However, after three weeks of that hell, a good friend who’s been successfully fighting addiction for 25 years told me that that the hardest part isn’t quitting, it’s “staying quit.” How right he was.
The best part has been people reaching out. There are lots of recovering alcoholics out there, and it didn’t take me more than a few days to realize that “one day at a time” wasn’t going to cut it for me. In my case a day is waaaaay to long. Half a day at a time? One morning at a time? Nope, and nope. I’ve refined to something much more immediate: “I’m not having a drink now.”
I’ve also beefed it up with a promise to myself. Although I’m trying to quit outside of organizational help, the minute a taste of alcohol crosses my lips, I’m heading straight to AA. In other words, this is the first step, and it’s likely to fail, so I’ve got a Plan B.
Of course the only thing that really matters with regard to sobriety is this: “Has it helped your cycling?” In my case, no, but that’s because a lifetime of data has conclusively shown that nothing will ever help my cycling. Perhaps a better question might be, “Is your cycling any different as a result?” and the answer to that is “Definitely.”
First, I’ve lost three pounds. These are real pounds, not water goop loss. This has affected my cycling because my jerseys don’t make my tummy pooch out as much as they used to. It’s nice to think that over time, abstinence may help me go from looking like a reasonably malnourished person to one suffering from disease.
Second, when I need to run down to the bike shop in the evening — that’s any time after about 3:00 PM — I can, because I don’t have to worry about getting a DUI. It’s nice not being homebound at age 51!
Third, I’ve been able to shift beer money into cycling purchases. For the first time ever I’m riding full carbon wheels. Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh!
Last, and most importantly, I’m engaging in dialogue with fellow cyclists who are at different points along the same path. Some have offered guidance and let me know that whatever I need, whenever I need it, they’re going to be there for me. Others have asked for help, which is tough because I don’t have much in the way of answers except this: We’re going through the same thing, and to succeed you’ll need people around you to help you succeed. Flipping this switch from the inside, and keeping it flipped by myself, is too hard … at least for me.
Over the next few days the New Year merriment will be beckoning, and as I’m fond of telling myself, I may well have a drink. Maybe you will, too. But hopefully not right now.
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December 28, 2014 § 14 Comments
The New Year is almost here so now is the time to focus on resolutions you will keep for three days before reverting to your normal slug-like self and bad behaviors.
Let’s start with dieting because if you race bikes, let’s face it, you’re too fat. The rest of the population considers you slim and fit and wishes they could fit into your jeans — with or without you still in them — but since El Dopalero has to shed that final, magical 2kg before the Tour (he already weighs 27kg after the Dauphine and his cheekbones are poking through his skin), then you must slim down, too. So let’s get skinnyful.
The Family Fight Diet
Research now suggests that eating at home is the best way to lose weight. Eating at home engenders better food choices. For example, when you are standing in line at Five Guys Burgers and Lard after finishing a 150-mile beatdown, it is likely that you will gaze at the menu and select “All.” This is an unhealthy food choice. However, if you are at home staring at an empty cupboard, a bare refrigerator, and nothing edible besides a 4-lb. bag of Cheez-Its and a 12-pack of Klondike bars, you will fill up a tall glass of cool water, sip it slowly, and wait for the hunger to subside. Or, you will inhale the Cheez-Its and the Klondikes, then get a massive stomachache and gain three pounds.
Eating at home is healthier because researchers have found that after monitoring the emotions, consumption environments, and food choices of 160 non-obese participants for 10 days, happiness linked to a cozy, homey setting resulted in wiser dietary choices that in turn reinforced feelings of joy at home. In restaurants, the participants’ hardwired preference for high-fat, sugary food tended to win, most likely because the emotional signals needed to suppress this urge weren’t triggered or were simply ignored.
This of course assumes that your home is cozy and homey, and that family dinner is something other and a screaming, yelling, sobbing, shriekfest. I still remember that family dinners as a child were the place I learned the coolest words, like the time my dad roared out “That cocksucker!” while I was serving up some green peas.
The green peas were very healthy, but when mom turned pale and screamed “Chandler!” my brother and I looked at each other in glee, knowing that any profanity vile enough to cause mom’s face to turn white was a keeper, plus in the ensuing mayhem and recriminations I was able to dump the peas under the table where they were eaten by the dog. All that family fighting and cussing and leafy vegetables being dumped on the floor meant that our dog Fletcher was indeed making healthy food choices by dining at home; he lived to be twenty-one.
Eating at home helps you lose weight simply because it takes so much time. Mrs. WM spends 4 – 6 hours a day in the kitchen boiling things, chopping things, lifting heavy iron skillets, lugging 50-lb. bags of rice, traipsing up and down the stairs to bring crap in from the car, and lugging overloaded plates to the table. It’s like a home gym workout where at the end you get to eat the workout. In addition to the calories burned, when you’re chained to a hot stove all day it means you’re not parked at Sckubrats gnawing 1,000-kcal sugar bombs and washing them down with 900-kcal holiday drinks. So, as Knoll would say, there’s that.
But perhaps the biggest diet benefit from home eating comes from caloric differentials. Restaurant food tends to be massively caloric which means that upon finishing you are guaranteed to double over in a food coma. At home, however, with the exception of that cartload of Costco frozen pizzas and that pallet of craft beer, food prepared in your own kitchen follows the “Fuck that!” principle.
The FTP is what happens when you’re grocery shopping. You have a list. You are standing in the aisle. You are looking at ketchup. The famous brand costs $2.99. The house brand costs $2.69. “$2.99?” you say in outrage. “Fuck that!” Then you grab the cheap-o brand. This is repeated down your entire shopping list except for the Cheez-Its. In other words, when you’re in a restaurant you gladly fork over $13.95 for a soggy pair of enchiladas heaped with grease, oil, lard, fat, and cheese. But at Billy Mugwumps Super Discount and Cheap-O Grocery Palace, your total food bill for the week is just over twelve bucks because you’ve bought the house brand, the week-old bread, and the tin cans without labels they’re auctioning off for ten cents each. So what if you just got ten cans of sour pickled chestnuts packed in vermin hair? They’ll taste great with the Cheez-Its. Maybe.
In other words, the FTP causes you to buy cheap stuff (saving money) that is healthy (chestnuts > triple bacon burger with extra lardsauce), to enjoy while screaming at your kids.
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