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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Team USA Cooks Up A Dramatic Win!

Team USA Cooks Up A Dramatic Win!
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – Chef’s Table, popular café in downtown. Mid-morning on a Wednesday. Fifty-two inch VIZIO TV mounted on a brick wall. Across from it, a handful of males – a mix of dads and sons – with eyes glued to the screen.

The focus of their attention? The World Cup match between the U.S. and Algeria. This would decide if America is a contender and will earn a slot among the final 16 teams or if they go home.

As with all matches, in the stands at the arena, the Vuvuzelas blared, like a hive of riled hornets. And, certainly, the mood among fans was feverish, both sides cheering on their combatants, abuzz with excitement.

America’s triumph would depend on a combination of things: the skill of the players behind the lead of Captain Carlos Bocanegra, the luck of shots on goal with regard to the positioning of Algeria’s goalie and the accuracy of the referee’s calls. Thus far, in this year’s World Cup, officials’ judgments had been much in question.

Algeria took the first potshot, about five minutes in, which actually ricocheted off the goalpost. The strike signaled that the game would be a fierce one.

The U.S. took the next significant shot – a rebound that Clint Dempsey booted, which actually went in the goal but was discounted due to the ref’s judgment that a player was offside. (A review determined that the call was a bad one, but the call still held.)

Weather conditions in Pretoria, South Africa, the site of the game, were perfect as the sun started to drop behind the stadium. “This weather is good for the players. They like this,” said Stanley, sitting nearby. Originally from Slovakia (land of hockey pucks), he’s now a Monroe resident and had played soccer in his home country. A stucco contractor, he had been on his way to Norwalk and decided to stop in and catch the game. “I used to watch the games at Roberto’s in Bridgeport, but he closed the restaurant.” We discussed who had been the best player and best goalie thus far in the Cup as the 1st half came to a close, the score “nil-nil” as the broadcasters noted.

By this time, a mom had joined one of the dad/son combos, and two other guys had come to sit in. All of us were now transfixed to the screen, wondering how the second half would play out.

Meanwhile, England was busy duking it out with Slovenia, with the score 1-0, England on top. One of our brethren here had pulled up that game on his laptop and was viewing it live. He turned the screen toward us all so we could also eyeball it as ESPN was not showing it as an inset. The broadcaster was, however, providing periodic updates.

The laptop’s owner was a fellow named Rumen, and he hailed from Bulgaria. I introduced him to Stanley, saying, “Bulgaria meet Slovakia… Slovakia, Bulgaria.” Overhearing that, another guy said to me, “Where are you from?” “Two blocks from here… “ then, feeling like I needed to qualify myself on an international level, said, “but I have German, Irish and Welsh roots.”

“The Algerian goalie (Rais M. Bolhi) played for Bulgaria,” Rumen pointed out. “He played in the championship.” Despite that connection, Rumen was rooting for Team USA.

Well into the 2nd, Clint Dempsey took another shot at Algeria’s goal, hesitating then firing. The ball ricocheted off the right post, sending up a collective groan here and at the stadium among the red, white and blue adorned fans.

“Look at this,” Rumen interjected. “Slovenia had three chances to score against England,” he said, showing me a replay from his laptop of three simultaneous attempts on goal that were deflected, blocked or wide.

Walking into the café at that moment was local personality, reggae band leader and philanthropist Mystic Bowie, with his sidekick Shannon. He joined our throng noting, “I was watching the game at home.”

His bassist Renard also strolled in and began setting up an amp and wiring in the alcove on the street side of the narrow cafe. He paused in the process to eyeball the screen.

The Vuvuzelas were at full pitch as the 2nd half 75-minute mark passed. At the 78-minute mark, USA’s Michael Bradley earned a free kick but ended up driving it right at the Algerian goalie. At this point, even former president Bill Clinton, attending the match and sitting alongside FIFA chief Sepp Blatter, looked anxious about the U.S.’ chances.

Dempsey took a karate chop to the face, which bloodied his cheek and lip. He poured a bottle of water on the wound and went straight back in to support his mates.

“Gang Green” (referring to the color of Algeria’s uniforms) kept up the pressure. In the stands, U.S. and Algeria fans alike braced themselves. The mood was similarly hopeful and prayerful in the café.

“C’mon guys!” called out Rumen.

At the 88th minute, Team USA looked beat and Algeria was definitely the aggressor. The broadcasters used terms like “desperate” and “exhausted” and wondered if the team could find a way to make a “dramatic” score.

The words had barely left the broadcaster’s mouth when, in the 91st minute, USA led a charge upfield… and Landon Donovan confidently booted the ball into the left corner of Algeria’s goal! We all erupted into cheers, fist pumps, high fives and soul handshakes as Donovan ran to the corner of the field, did a slide and was piled on by his exuberant teammates. He had sealed the deal, given fans what they had prayed for and pushed the U.S. into the next round. As the commentator put it, “You could not write a script like this… It was a Hollywood-style finish!” and “Mountainous drama!”

USA had certainly earned it after the disallowed goal, shots hitting posts and physical abuse. “It was looking like another huge injustice,” said ESPN, but, as hero Donovan said, “We’re alive baby!”

“I’m shocked and so proud of our guys,” Donovan added. It was a truly triumphant moment, one of the greatest in sports history.


Mike Lauterborn, Pen For Hire

Diary of a Cleanser: Part 2

Diary of a Cleanser: Part 2
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – More than four pounds lost. Feeling trimmer and more juiced. Clear fluids being emitted from my body.

This was my self-assessment at the start of the fourth day of the Isagenix Cleanse Program that I had chosen to subscribe to through Wesport, CT-based Propper Cleanse Center LLC. My goal in the program was to lose around 10-12 pounds, eliminate accumulated toxins built up over 45 years and gain more energy and concentration to help me more effectively get through my work projects. I seemed well on the way.

Saturday, June 19: Day 4
My day began at the usual time, around 6:45am, and I immediately jumped on the scale. The reading: 179.4 pounds. From my initial weigh-in weight at the very start of the program, I was now down 4 ½ pounds.

The schedule of intake occasions for the day was nearly identical to yesterday’s: Cleanse for Life drinks, Natural Snacks, Accelerator capsules, cold water, raw almonds and IsaFlush. With no real food on the list, it wasn’t very motivating… but the results were and I knew there was an actual meal on the schedule at midday tomorrow, so I had something towards which to work.

The latter part of yesterday was a little tough. I attended a Beach Fest event here at the local beach in which bands were playing, outdoor grills were going and the Beach Café was dispensing tasty wraps, burgers, hot dogs and more. In contrast, I was parked in a beach chair with a cooler alongside me that contained a baggie with four almonds, my Cleanse drink bottle, three water bottles and my assorted capsules. I showed these to the friend with whom I was sitting and she was sympathetic, having “cleansed” in the past. She cheered me on and admired my willpower. Meanwhile, another friend checked in by phone and said he was headed to a mutual friends’ house for a guy gathering and multiple brews. “Have a few for me,” I told him. “Don’t worry, I will!” he said.

This morning, I would be taking advantage of the cool, sunny morning to go kayaking with my 10-year-old son. This would again require a cooler and some scheduling coordination.

Sunday, June 20: Day 5
I was quite pleased with the digital read-out on my scale this morning: 177.4 – a full two pounds down just since yesterday and now 6 ½ pounds down from my initial program weigh-in, in just four days! I was definitely looking trimmer and getting compliments on my slimmer look – from my 10-year-old this morning and from a female friend at the beach yesterday who said, “You really look great!”

I did end up going kayaking with my son yesterday morning, from 9:30 to 11:30, on Long Island Sound. We took out two single kayaks and did a round-trip excursion of three miles from the Westport, CT shore to an outlying island called Cockenoe. I had a lot of power and endurance and definitely could have -- and would have -- gone a lot further if I had been alone, but, of course, I had to heed the cries of “Dad! Wait up! You’re going too fast!” and “How do you go so fast?”  The soft-sided cooler I brought did the trick in terms of the intakes I needed to hit, with the cold water serving as a great refresher actually.

Three hours of beach time followed, during which I was fairly sedentary, reclined in a low-rise beach chair soaking up rays. It was then that I received the compliment from my friend, who was lounged beside me.

In the evening, I ventured out locally to see a favorite reggae band and danced a bit to the point of breaking a light sweat. I had only one last “intake” occasion – water, almonds and an IsaFlush tablet -- to cover during that time, which was easy enough to hit. Still, it was a bit hard being in a bar and not being able to order a beer, especially with everyone around me drinking one! I was feeling pretty hungry by the time I got home, too, and satisfied my thirst with a bottle of water.

Today is Father’s Day and I had planned a little fishing outing. Again, the soft-sided cooler came in handy in which to tote my supplies. The pause I took to consume my mid-morning “meal” barely registered on the radar. After the excursion and realizing I was fresh out of water, I raced to CVS to take advantage of a bottled water sale, and hauled home three cases.

The moment I’d been waiting for finally arrived: lunch, a semi-real one. Scanning my possible “allowed” menu options, I chose four slices of turkey (my protein), which I slipped between two slices of whole wheat bread (my starch), integrated 2 tbsp’s of olive oil (my fat), dropped into a bowl three cups of romaine lettuce (my vegetable) with some ground pepper and balsamic vinegar and, for dessert, put together a small bowl of raspberries and strawberry slivers. The “feast” was really welcome and made me feel like a somewhat normal person again.

The balance of the day’s input would include the Snacks, capsules, more water, almonds and a dinner Shake. I could handle it.

A beach visit late afternoon held an unexpected bonus, specifically meeting a woman who works for a chiropractor, was familiar with the Isagenix program and maintains a smart, healthy lifestyle herself. She completely related to my objectives, strategy and challenges, and boosted my drive to faithfully complete this phase.

Funny, but while we were talking, a guy who had overheard our conversation jumped in to say that he was currently on a diet. He described himself as the one in his family to finish the leftovers or to have a few beers and a pile of chips and that that had contributed to some unwanted pounds. Now he was fasting – “starving” himself he said. This woman, Francine, and I both pointed out that that was not a good way for him to go about the process and even he said, “I’m not eating anything and yet I can’t lose this middle.” Of course, his body was not being fed and his “furnaces” had shut down, were not processing like they should. I suggested he have a few small portions of the types of food I was having and drink lots of cold water and that I’d bet he’d see better results. I have to admit I felt pretty good being the one offering the health advice!

Monday, June 21: Day 6
The official crack-o’-dawn weigh-in: 177, just a half a pound down from yesterday but now a full seven pounds dropped since I started the program 5 days ago. Today’s schedule, among other elements, includes a Shake for breakfast, a 400-600 calorie lunch and Shake for dinner. This would be a breeze – no heavy lifting here.

I was thinking about what a friend said with regard to this initiative and his perspective on it. Something to the effect of, “I’d rather have a beer belly than a lean corpse,” suggesting that one gives up a lifestyle just for longer life and what fun is that in the end? I counter that you’re not really giving up a lifestyle, but just being more conscious of what you eat, understanding how your body processes food and what it needs, and maintaining a balance. Can you have a cheeseburger? There are better things you can have, but sure you can. Just balance it with a vegetable or water or something else that’s good for you.

I have also made a resolution. Seeing other guys my age walking around with potbellies and looking 10-15 years older than they really are, I do not want to be one of those guys.

Lunch today: a 5-ounce chicken breast on a plate alongside three cups of steamed vegetables, a cup of whole grain penne pasta topped with two tablespoons of olive oil, and an organic apple for dessert. Now I was living large… or not so large as the case now is!

I visited a friend in the evening and she ordered in a pizza. It smelled so good and was a very appealing alternative to the water and IsaFlush capsule that I had in hand. But I remained a rock and the moment passed.

Tuesday, June 22: Day 7
The scale this morning read 176.4, down another half pound for a total of 7 1/2 pounds lost thus far. The steepness of the weight loss curve had leveled I had noticed, but I was sure it was because I was eating more heartily – or as heartily as you can eat in this program! I expected similar results over the next two days, which offered the same “feeding” schedule, then more marked drops again on Days 10 and 11, the final days in which only Cleanse-type products and water were allowed.

Mid-morning, I had my weekly salsa dance class (my last of a 10-week program actually) to which I brought my 10:30 dosage. I saw my Cleanse Coach Ginger Propper there, told her of my weight drop success and spoke briefly about what lay beyond the end of the 11-day Cleanse, which was dependent on what I achieved and how I wanted to proceed.

Lunch was another 400-600 calorie extravaganza. I went the turkey-slices-with-olive-oil-on-whole-wheat-bread route with a side of steamed mixed vegetables and a big handful of berries. It was most enjoyable, particularly after the dance class plus a half-hour of concentrated stretching with weights.

The balance of the day was a cakewalk, with the exception of eyeballing some chicken fajita wraps, which took some willpower to resist, that appeared at the dinner hour.

I looked forward to the homestretch of this Cleanse experience.