On Drinking and Phenomenology

In 2004, I wrote a book for my daughter, Kelly when she graduated from the Eighth Grade. Since my folks had died relatively young, I wanted to make sure that those odd tidbits of wisdom that float across your life would be stored somewhere. So, I gave her, “From Dad to Grad.” You can find it on my site for free or get it on Kindle (and give it a Five Star Review because there are only two kinds of Amazon reviews…Five Star and “this book sukcs and the writer needs tobe a ggooder writer”) here:

For those of you who are worried: Lindsay received “A Father’s Legacy” two years later upon her graduation. It is a handwritten book that one writes by answering literally page after page after page of very good questions. But, for Kelly’s book, I followed the traditional “essay” style which best translates into English as “attempts.” Following Montaigne, I entitled each chapter “On…” and covered the topic with some attempts at wisdom and wit. Even today, the materials on dressing appropriately and being thankful are good advice for everyone and every situation.

Of course, as she was in the Eighth Grade, not all topics were/are appropriate. I have been working on another book (after the book that is coming out very soon…VERY soon) and I spend a lot of time on Epistemology, basically, “how do you know what you know.” Personally, 80% of what I know comes from either experts in the field I am working on (the Authority method) and, simply, a distillation of what the best in the field are doing (a form of Deductive Logic). Yet, we must always keep an eye out for new research, new tools and new ways of doing things. I figure that is good for about ten percent of how I do things.

In other words, if you are my discus thrower, you are going to hear me imitate Ralph Maughan in technique and Dick Notmeyer in the weightroom. The best throwers are lifting with fairly basic movements. Now, when the biomech guys studied the discus, most of their insights were answered with “Um…yeah.” But, the concept of the way the axis turns in the middle of the throw made me totally buy into both the simple (“Turn your right foot”) and the more complex (“I need to explain 3B to you”). Don’t worry about the terms, just understand that science and research can really help, but, frankly, it only is the icing on the cake of experience.

I also believe that each of us can add a magnificent contribution to each and every field. You have the insights and experiences that can illuminate something that will make the next generation of authorities have even great clarity. The following is an early (rough draft!) of what I will talk about in an upcoming book:

What we need to do is seek out what the BEST are doing and follow that path. Unless you invent a brand new sport or game or activity, someone else has been on this road before you. Follow the recipe before you try to play with some new spices.

Phenomenology is a term we used quite a bit during my studies in religious education. I never understood the term well enough at first as we were being smothered by the volume of reading and discussion each week. One professor summarized the method of answering a question in the Jesuit tradition of education:


Never Deny.

Rarely Affirm.

Always Distinguish.


So, when you were confused by something, it didn’t always help to raise your hand and ask the professor. So, I asked my classmate. She explained it to me like this:


“Imagine a well in the middle of a village. Someone walks up to it and tells you that there is water at the bottom. I walk up to it and notice a couple of stones. Then, you come over and point out the frog on the stone. That’s what we are talking about here.”


Phenomenology gives us the great insight about how the authority and deductive logic models interact, inform and improve one’s insights, experience and emotions concerning training. It also gives you understanding that if one of our students sees the frog, we are all better for it and we can share that with the body of knowledge.


Good coaches and trainers know this in their hearts and minds. I ask my athletes to “one day” write me a note about what they learned during their time with me. I actually prefer they write it when they are working and have families. What do they say? Well, I call them “gems” for a reason.


One athlete, an undervalued high school discus thrower but three-time conference champ in college, John Richardson, noted that I have this phrase I used all the time: “They can’t all be gems.” It relates to good throws versus bad throws, but he found this a great way to walk through life, work, and relationships. Not all days will be perfect. They can’t all be gems. But, some will.


Later, I changed added this little line to further explain this point: “This isn’t moral theology. There is no good or bad here. That was simply a throw (or a lift or a jump or whatever). Stop judging it and get back to practice.” John saw the frog and now I can point it out to every athlete who comes along after him.

So…this blog was supposed to be about drinking? Well, it is. First, let me frame it a bit, it would sound like a rant:

I’m sick of dealing with snotty 20 year girls in black dresses at restaurants. I do need to point out that the root of “restaurants” is the same as “restoratives” and all the rest of those great recovery tools, but I digress. This whole show about waiting for the tables and all the rest has to move along. Part two of this experience is when I order wine.

Listen: I know wine. I have autographed bottles from some of the biggest names in the field (some still filled!) and I have strong opinions on wine. First, this little rule about white wine and white meats (poultry, fish and, I guess, pork) is, at best, a suggestion.

Pinot Noir goes well with salmon, in my world. White wines? Chardonnay has gone from being wonderful two decades ago to tasting like butter on a wooden table. I see little difference between the two. As for “goes with turkey,” Sauvignon Blanc has slowly become more like licking granite. But, I digress. Certainly, there are red wines that hold up to the rule “Red wines with red meat,” but some are made for simply enjoying whatever you are simply enjoying (Malbec and Pinot Noir).

When it comes to hard liquor, I have come to some interesting conclusions. I am a fan of Scotch Whiskey (Scots Whisky is also correct) and I am sick of people telling me about the glories of Single Malts. I get it, you like peat. You like ashtrays.

Mostly, I am just joking around here, but I want to explain an interesting thing we have done for the past few years and has become a popular Christmas tradition. We do a blind taste test.

It changed the way I drink alcohol and how I pair things with food. Everyone is given a chance to sit in judgement as the rest of us heckle them. Very simple: we blindfold you and give you the chance to sip five different beverages. If you are a bourbon drinker, five bourbons. For the record, no one gets inebriated during these events as, at most, there is only a sip or two in each glass. And, only one person goes at a time.

With Johnnie Walker, we put out Red, Black, Green, Gold and Blue, although today we have Platinum and the new Spice. Red has that band aid order that is easily discerned and Green is peaty. Oddly, the lower price Black tends to defeat Gold and Blue (well over $200 a bottle). In bourbon tasting, Jack Daniels tends to win in the blind test over far more expensive choices and it makes shopping in the future much cheaper.

Wait, what am I talking about? Certainly, I am talking about drinking, but I want you to “hear” what is underneath this whole conversation: your experiences…your senses…should be a major factor in your decision making process. If you are a fast food eater, are you letting various clowns, Chihuahuas, and mice dictate your taste buds? Test it out! Blind taste a bite of various burgers, tacos or pizza and let yourself become the “decider.”

I’m trying to give you permission to use phenomenology in your life. In the past months at our gym, we have had people doing a variety of programs (and, by the way, to the LETTER, no “tweaking” it to improve it) from other gyms, trainers and books to test the deep waters of the well.

If you decide to dive in on a diet or exercise program, go all in. Test it. Finish it. Then, check your notes and critique it.

Oh, that whole “finish it” thing. Yeah. Good idea. I had an idiot critique my book Never Let Go and he said something like “Overhead squats and front squats. That’s about it.” By God, at least turn the pages a little!

If you tell me you are on a 12 week strength program, don’t email me at six weeks about a three program: I’m no math whiz, but I know this wrong.

The point of this whole post is simply this: trust those who have gone before us in any field of endeavor, but don’t be afraid to add your own insights and experiences. I am giving you permission to do this! And, more important, you might unpack, open up, illuminate and clarify something the rest of us would have wished we would have known a long time ago.

Follow it. Finish it. Share what you found.

Two Quick Cleaning Hacks

My aunt, Poonie, is a marvel at house work. Her secret is Dawn detergent. She adds a drop of it to ammonia and water to clean floors and it is amazing. She told me something I was amazed to hear today: adding Dawn to a clogged toilet or sink will open the drain often as well as really powerful and dangerous chemicals.

And, two: our new house has amazing floors. Wall to wall expanses of dark brown flooring. Lovely. And, it shows everything. Leaves, popcorn, feathers, dust…anything. So…we sweep, we mop and about twenty seconds later, it looks bad again. You might not like this answer, but WOW does it work: a cordless and fairly quiet leaf blower. Yes, I am using a leaf blower in my house. There are no cords or gas smells and it also takes care of any and all “dust willies” and spiders and anything out of reach. I use this brand:

I hope to share more little ideas in the future as we go along.


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