Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Master

The first thing anyone raised in a small town will tell you is that there’s absolutely, positively nothing to do. It leaves most people with only two choices: find creative ways to continually complain about the nothingness or gossip about anyone doing anything other than complaining about it. What’s especially interesting in this neighborhood is that all the teenage boys seem to do their complaining while absentmindedly playing the guitars they taught themselves to play because there was absolutely nothing to do.

To combat the neighborhood malaise, my sister and I decided to make Easter a little more interesting by involving the Cul de Sac in an Easter Egg hunt. It included all the neighborhood teenagers, featured physical challenges for extra points and was followed by the stuffing of a record number of Peeps in their mouths. Dubbed the ‘peep smackdown,’ it rewarded the winner with not only bragging rights but still more peeps to eat at a more recreational pace if, at that point, they could still stomach the damn things. I vetoed the ‘Headlamps at midnight’ plan my sister devised for the hiding of eggs with the excuse that the candy inside would get damp in the dew when in truth, after hearing the caterwauling of a fisher cat nights earlier, I was more concerned with what I’d find hiding in the dark already.

My uncles left a wildlife book at my Grandmother’s house that Stacey and I used to paw through when staying over night. Unfortunately, thanks to its unnecessarily fierce illustrations, my sister felt certain a bobcat would attack through her second-story bedroom window. As a result, I have a pretty spotty recall of the fisher cat given that Stacey demanded all attention and fears be directed towards the all-powerful wall-scaling, insulated-glass-breaking and undoubtedly poorly mannered child-eating beast that is the bobcat. In fact, she whispering warnings of impending assault across the room one night until I was so scared that I stealthily tip-toed across the room and jumped in bed with her. My sudden pounce was so startling that it resulted in piercing screams from her answered by the piercing screams from me until me discombobulated dad came up to sort out the clinging mass of screaming noise under my sister’s covers.

Having heard a howling fisher cat just days previously screeching, screaming and trampling through the brush, me thinks her fears were misplaced. The sounds were far more threatening than anything slurred by a drunk on Seattle’s streets – the kind of midnight confrontation I’m more prepared to deal with – and I cared not to meet the maker of such mayhem. It aligns with my theory that the notion ‘bad things don’t happen in the country’ would be completely exposed as myth if bodies that went missing and mauled could actually be found. Mostly they’re not and murders go unsolved. The facts are then misrepresented in the statistics where ‘disappearances’ are barely noted. I prefer city stats where fatalities are more straightforward and where fewer people are dragged off by sharply pawed predators.

Instead, at 8 a.m., a time on Sunday morning that to a teenager is actually ‘mid night’, we hid the eggs sans headlamps and then sipped coffee until the ten o’clock start time when the neighborhood teenagers rolled straight out of bed into a groggy congregation in the living room for the reading of rules. Most of said rules were designed to keep the participants from ignoring the physical challenges I’d designed to stress diaphragms through higher heart rates rather than the mustering of competition-level belches which was a more common means of exertion.

By 11 a.m., all the calories expended by running, push-ups, squats and burpees were restored with medicinal doses of refined sugar plucked from plastic eggs as well as all the other edible prizes shared and scoffed down with coffee coolatas from a Dunkin Donuts run. And with that success and perhaps the contact high, I elected to design a scavenger hunt for my nephews because I was bored and so were they. I learned two things: I can’t think like a teenager and they have syrupy slow synapse.

The teenage years are for intracranial housekeeping, the sloughing off of synaptic pathways that have been ignored for some time to make way for sleeker systems without all the clutter. Apparently, they’re heads look a lot like their bedrooms though, unless skulls are more permeable than I think, probably aren’t saturated with Ax body spray. The junk, which is mostly movie lines and pop songs gumming up the works, gets swept out during sleep which is why teenagers need a lot of it.

I interrupted that very process with another ten o’clock start time and then challenged some of the threatened synapse of their downsizing brains by forcing the boys to run around town solving algorithms and collecting stickers all in the hopes of winning UFC on pay per view. My friend Chris and I thought it was a great idea and he even handed out stickers from the meat room at IGA where he cuts chicken and where the boy’s would find him when they solved an algorithm in the store with the answer ‘breastman’ which just proves what a good sport he was about the whole thing. It became less of a good idea as the afternoon wore on and I followed them around town offering hints to move things along. They got stuck in the condom isle of Rite Aid and Chris, recently sprung from his job among the cooling carnage, intervened stating that no teenage boy wants their aunt helping them with this subject.

During the design phase, I thought it was funny to send groups of boys into the drugstore to huddle around Mandelay Climax Control Gel but after waiting twenty minutes, I was ready to speed it up. The scavenger hunt was not intended to be a full day ordeal or require the purchase of mid-puzzle pizza to sustain the troops but here we were and there it was. The next time I’m bored and we do a scavenger hunt, we’ve agreed that all questions will be based on the same five movies that get watched every weekend.

Poking along the dial-up synapse in a group of teenage boys had me pondering a spring clean-up of my own sluggish processes. My digestive system had been limping along since India and yet, in truth, it’s always just sort of limped along. I didn’t realize how genetically blighted I’d been until I watched the rest of my family clutching their guts with various complaints. Gunnar and Dustin, though they have delicate systems masked by the no-holds-barred tussles they’re always starting and by generous slurps of the family aperitif Pepto, also suffer from Buffalo Chicken Amnesia in which they complain of some mysterious gastric upset that aligns perfectly with a trip to Huck’s Hoagies for a Buffalo Chicken Sub. Dockside Burgers stuffed with waffle fries seem to contribute to this mysterious malady unsolved by modern science.

Sandor Ellix Katz, in his book ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, Inside America’s Underground Food Movements’ quoted a 1999 report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that said, “Unknown agents account for approximately 81 percent of foodborne illnesses and hospitalizations,” [pg 61-62] Katz points out that food related illnesses doubled between 1994 and 2001, and pointed out that Genetically modified foods first entered the market during this period. For the sake of liability, I would like to point out that of that 81% of foodborne illnesses and hospitalizations, a very small fraction have actually eaten a buffalo chicken sub and even fewer have eaten them at Huck’s Hoagies.

“In the past decade, GM ingredients have saturated our diet in the United States through their widespread presence in processed foods. As of 2004, 85 percent of soy and 45 percent of corn grown in the United States was genetically modified. Try finding processed foods without either corn or soy.” [Pg 61]. That particular point was spelled out on food labels and made pretty clear to me even before I read ‘Twinkie Deconstructed’ or before Michael Pollan essentially asked the question, ‘what if we’re really corn’s bitch?’ And, yes, I’m willing to guess which side of the statistic’s buffalo chicken subs falls. I’m pretty sure they’re not organic and lovingly prepared fresh each morning at 3 a.m.

Said Katz, “Boosters of genetic modification point to the fact that we haven’t all died or experienced dramatic illness after a decade of widespread consumption of GM foods. However, the causes of disease are not necessarily obvious, dramatic, or immediate. Often epidemiology (the study of disease transmission) takes decades to understand the impact of certain practices on health, such as smoking tobacco or eating Trans fats.” Frankly, I’m not waiting for death or dramatic illness. I find abdominal distention uncomfortable and inconvenient enough.

Having eaten more processed food than I normally would, I was considering a detox as a sort of post-India and post-processed-debauchery reboot. My friend Taha had recently done the Master Cleanse again, a detox that involves a ten day monodiet drinking nothing but a concoction of equal parts maple syrup and lemon juice diluted in water and finished with a dash of Cayenne pepper. It didn’t sound like something I was going to love as much as tolerate but ten days isn’t a long time and it sounded just wacky enough to be backed by some mystical properties or profound healing alchemy. And its history reinforces that notion.

In 1941 Stanley Burroughs, a former vaudeville performer who gained attention by curing various illnesses with the use of color therapy, wrote the Master Cleanse to cure stomach ulcers in a moment of ‘divine inspiration’. Not only did his ‘Lemonade Diet’ treat ulcers, his clients were reporting that many other conditions cleared up or improved as well. This led Burroughs to conclude that his diet was a cleansing program and he wrote up his findings and recommendations. Since then many people have written about their remarkable results and celebrities have embraced the plan as a quick way to lose a few pounds.

Had it been anybody other than Taha, I’d have filed this somewhere between nephrology and shock therapy. Taha however does research more diligently than me including a successful test of multiple brands of digestive enzymes in small bowls of oatmeal lined up on his kitchen counter. And when pressed for answers I’m more of a library card-catalog of good resources, Taha can answer questions regarding health as if he designed the human body himself. His accent, courtesy of Kenyan prep schools, is also dreamy and makes me want to do what he tells me even when it sounds a little ‘out there’ (The value of vasodilatation caused by smoking half a cigarette post exercise was one of the arguments he offered which gets filed under, ‘requiring more research’ but, as I said, knowing Taha it’s probably right on.)

The other aspect that made it appealing is that Taha never seemed low on energy and lost none of his strength during the ten day fast. I remember the first time he did it, he jumped up on the pull-up bar a couple of pounds leaner after his fast and cranked out a personal record. Nothing about his experience sounded bad especially since I’d grown tired of the hunting and gathering and because my sister, who was preparing for an advanced yoga teacher training with Anna Forest, was just as eager to do it evidenced by her text message on April 23rd:

Stacey/7:33p Must do master cleanse. . . .fart . . . burp . . . . ugh

Me/7:38p I hear you. I don’t care if I ever chew or poo again. I’ve had it with the whole damn system.

Considering that all my salads were brought to me courtesy of South and Central America and my meat could have been wombat as far as I could tell, I had grown tired of the compromises. The hours it had taken me to fly and drive to this hamlet had been withering to me and I had NPR podcasts on my I-Pod to keep me going. My veggies were less travel-savvy and getting less nutrient-dense by the second. Being picked over at a local grocery store dying of loneliness since the locals abandoned it for a Super Wal-Mart was the last soul-sucking insult to my soon-to-be-meal.

With very few organic choices and no access to information on growing practices, my salads were surely dressed in pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and Cindy’s Kitchen Ultimate Blue Cheese which was the only one intentionally added to the list because it’s yummy. In Paul Chek’s ‘How to Eat, Move and Be Healthy!’ he notes that ‘a study of 110 urban and suburban children who ate primarily organic foods had significantly lower organophosphorus pesticide (nervous immune system disruptor) exposure than children on conventional diets. Out of the children tested, only one did not have measurable levels of the pesticide in their urine.” [Pg 57] My salads were all seasoned with pesticides and there wasn’t a lot I could do about it here.

According to Katz in The Revolution Will Not Be Microwaved, “The World Health Organization reports that three million cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year, resulting in more than 250,000 deaths.” Though the most obvious impact is to the workers with the closest contact you have to wonder what damage is done even with trace exposure. Consider or at least spell and then pronounce dibromochloropropane. “In 2004 thousands of Costa Rican banana pickers filed a class action lawsuit in Los Angeles against two chemical corporations (Dow and Royal Dutch/Shell) and three fruit corporations (Chiquita, Del Monte and Dole) over exposure to toxic pesticide, dibromochloropropane, which was banned in the United States in 1979 but is still in use in Costa Rica. The chemical is suspected of causing sterility, testicular atrophy, miscarriages, birth defects, liver damage, and cancer when inhaled or absorbed by the skin.” Slap-on-the-wrist fines were paid. [Pg 113]

I crossed bananas off my shopping list and jumped online and got the basic directions to the Master Cleanse which seemed simple enough. I began a flurry of text messages with Taha in Seattle who would be my lifeline during the whole detox as well as my researcher-by-proxy. I know there are books explaining the Master Cleanse and even if I didn’t know, it was the books for sale that I first skipped over in my Google search for raw data. I was eager, I was ready and I had a few days off from work so I was jumping in without all that meticulous and time consuming data I was always busying myself with. The websites I skimmed urged me to go for it and even skip the prep since most of the anonymous self-declared experts said it was unnecessary. I cherry-picked advise from questionable websites written by people who could have said with equal authority that the cleanse allowed them to poop a demonic spirit and I’d have missed it or nodded like I was paying attention. “Mmm . . . demonic spirit . . . yep, mmm hmmm . . .”

The text messages began:

Me/8:42p Got the recipe for the master cleanse – skipping the ease-in and going for it J won’t be a problem except for, ahem, the coffee . . . .

Taha/8:43p Sweet. Use organic mp, lemons, and cayenne. Get the smooth move and consider enzymes for an extra boost.

SmoothMove tea is made by Traditional Medicinals and according to the website, “provides gentle, overnight relief from occasional constipation.” If by gentle they mean the following scene as described by my sister who was driving down the highway when ‘relief’ arriving in the form of cramps, upper-lip sweat, and the Rain Man style muttering of combined prayer and pep talk as she raced to the nearest gas station then, yes, gentle is the word. Senna leaf says the website, “promotes bowel movement by direct action on the intestine.* A single serving provides an effective dose of sennosides from senna leaf, which have proven stimulant laxative action. We include additional digestive support with fennel, orange peel, cinnamon, coriander and ginger to ease discomfort and reduce cramping.” After experimenting with various doses of this tea myself, I would suggest a more heavy-handed use of the ‘additional digestive support’ thanks.

Michael D. Gershon, M.D. author of 'The Second Brain' is less moved by its merits, “As I noted earlier, “natural” is not necessarily synonymous with good, or even safe. Plants are out there making all kinds of perfectly natural things that are toxic to people and animals.” Gershon continues, “Senna, however, has a following and carries a relatively low medical profile. There have not been many studies of its effects, but one that I remember well, presented at a gastroenterology meeting in England, showed slide after slide of distorted and dying enteric nerve cells removed in biopsies from the colons of patients who developed pseudo-obstructions after taking senna. Certainly, there is not yet any conclusive evidence that proves that senna causes harm. Still, when it comes to “regularity”, I think that a bowl of crudités – or, if worst comes to worst, prunes – has a lot to recommend it.” [Pg 169-70]

Taha/8:44p Also the tea company that makes smooth move has very good chicory and everyday tea that you can use.

Me/8:45p I can’t get organic lemons here – already tried. Maple is made down the street by a friend. Can only get organic cayenne 30 minutes from here.

By the way, it’s important to note that it would be unwise to inquire if the maple syrup in New England is organic. It’s boiled sap. It doesn’t get more organic. Inquiries such as this get you talked about a lot more than you would have been talked about anyway. But given that the fumes of processing Fenugreek generated by Frutarom in New Jersey caused a caustic cloud known as the maple syrup mist over Manhattan should have you reading labels for, if not organic, at least authentic. Who knows if fenugreek is used to make artificial maple but it’s known for encouraging lactation not detoxification which could lead to some unexpected results.

Me/8:46p Stacey has the smooth move tea – do you use that instead of the salt water flush?

Me/8:48p [in regards to the enzymes] I can pick those up this week. Is it ok to supplement like that? It doesn’t mess anything up?

Taha/8:48p Use salt water flush every three days. I did two of them.

Me/8:49p Not every night like they say? Cuz frankly that seemed pretty burley.

My impressions of the salt water flush were colored by a non-official website which described the downing of two tablespoons of salt in one liter of water to be consumed in one glug that will then pass straight through the imbiber. That sounded only slightly less pleasant than shot-gunning Schlitz or swallowing a Tasmanian devil and pointing him to the exit.

This flush recipe was the route I would take a couple of times during my ten days and before I read the book ‘The Complete Master Cleanse’ in which Tom Woloshyn said, “Please do not drink the quart of salt water all at one time, as you will probably throw it up and be disgusted with it. I take about ten minutes to drink my salt water, and I warm it to body temperature before consuming it,” the quart, not liter though the measure is damn near the same, of water was mixed with two teaspoons not tablespoons of salt according to Woloshyn who explains, “The salt water is mixed to the same salinity as your blood. When you drink this mixture, the salinity causes the water not to be absorbed into the bloodstream.”

Gershon discusses this method in The Second Brain and explains it as follows, “Another approach is to provide the bowel with a load of salt that it is unable to absorb. The laxatives that work this way are called saline cathartics. Milk of magnesia (magnesium sulfate) is a well-known example of such a laxative. The salt, which stays in the lumen of the gut attracts water by osmosis. The result is to increase the pressure inside the intestinal lumen, which stimulates the peristaltic reflex.” [Pg 168]

The correct measures as well as the explanation of why and how the salt water flush works were the sort of useful tidbits from the book I could have shared with my sister when she asked compelling questions like, “why do you do the saltwater flush and how does it work?” Instead, the answer, “I don’t know. It’s probably in the book,” or “I’m sure Taha knows” where the standard answers for the duration of the detox. Besides all the other things that Taha knows, he knew that all the information I needed was in the book that I clearly should have read first. This was mentioned in that very first text message exchange.

Taha/8:49p You should get that book . . . It does a good job of telling you how best to implement the mc. Eg how not to create large batches of the mixture and stuff like that.

Me/8:51p I know – I’ll get the book. I’m just eager to start.

Taha/ 8:54p Be not overly eager young jedi . . . Do it right, you will reap the benefits. Call me before you start for tips and tricks.

Me/8:55p I’m starting tomorrow :)

We started our first day badly by premixing the liter of maple syrup and lemon juice with the cayenne and then, with burning lips and scrinched noses, dubbed it ‘Swill’. By the end of the day and the end of only one of the two liters each, we both started our epic caffeine headaches at about the same time. Stacey went to her room where she tried not to notice how much blinking hurt and I practiced a squinty, thousand-mile stare from the couch. I spent that night feeling like my teeth were going to fall out if my head didn’t crack open first. She and I left the house at different times in the morning and I received the following message the next evening:

Stacey/ 5:41p Great we’re caffeine junkies.

Me/5:42p Awesome. Is it a gateway drug?

By then, I had started to experience leg pain that began like a little achy sort of antsy feeling and then escalated. I sent a message to Taha:

Me/5:45p My sister was throwing up last night, we both had splitting headaches and my legs hurt so bad I can’t sit still. Caffeine withdrawal – joy.

Taha/ 7:41p Nice . . . You’re detoxing . . . Hang in there . . .

Me/7:42p Dude – it hurts like hell. I can’t sit still, I can’t lie down . . . .

Taha/ 7:43p Take more enzymes and watch a movie or something . . . .

Me/ 7:52p In other words, “suck it up, sister.” Whatever happened to rubbing my belly and feeding me brownies?

My messages got more desperate as I became more sleep deprived.

Me/10:13a Ok, this is serious. My legs hurt so badly that I walked in circles all nigh and never slept. I can’t keep this up much longer. Is this normal?

Taha/ 12:11p Hun, there is no “normal” with the MC. Everyone has a unique experience. In the accounts I’ve read some people get extremely sick in the middle then improve drastically towards the end. NB that you are detoxing 38 years of toxification. Did you start taking enzymes? If you take systemic ones it might help with the pain

Interestingly, he called me ‘hun’ which is a word used only by experts of Norse sagas or raspy New England toll both matrons. And no, I hadn’t started taking the enzymes since the selection at the one ‘health food store’ was bleak.

Me/8:09p Did salt water flush. Um, thanks for the warning. Valuable 411. Wasn’t too bad. (He warned me that under no circumstances was I to pass gas unless I was sitting on the toilet since it would probably consist of at least eight ounces of water) My legs are still bad and I can’t sit still or lie down for long but I ran 400m plus 50 sit-ups for four rounds and still finished under twenty. It was the only time my legs felt ok

Taha/ 8:11p Um . . . that’s not light cardio you punk . . . .

Me/ 8:12p Oops. It’s the whole ‘go’ or ‘stop’ thing – can’t seem to find a middle gear. It helped for awhile :)

Taha: 8:13p Seriously . . . . take it easy or you’ll get sick . . . Either way you’ll learn about your body :)

Me/8:15p Yes. I’ve already learned my legs are a toxic waste dump. It explains the thick ankles – they were just polluted.

Taha/ 8:34p Haha . . . It’s like you’re going ‘green’ one limb at a time . . .

Me/8:37p Dude, I’m either going to be 100 percent clean or diagnosed with bone cancer. This is one of the most excruciating things I’ve ever dealt with and I’m just scared there isn’t going to be an end soon.

Taha/ 8:38p Doooood . . . . . . . Chhhhiiiiilllll . . . . .

Me/8:39 Gladly. Got a tranquilizer dart?

I realized that I was being a smidge dramatic but at the same time I’d been thinking about my mother through most of my experience and for some reason I felt as if the pain I was feeling was beginning to approach the pain she had felt through the last year of her life with bone cancer. There was no way in which I could be sure of that and yet that day I had started to feel a sense of awe for what she’d endured.

I later sent Taha this update:

Me/10:05p Stacey quit maple syrup after she threw it up six times on the first day. She’s drinking lemon water, using raw honey and swallowing a capsule of cayenne.

According to Woloshyn in The Complete Master Cleanse, “Maple syrup’s properties are what make it suitable for a cleanse. Maple syrup contains a number of minerals and vitamins, in trace amounts. Depending on where the syrup was collected, the amount of nutrients varies, as does the taste. Both are determined by mineral content in the soil and the growing conditions of the maple trees.” He then lists the nutrient content as: Potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, iron, zinc, copper, tin, sulfur, silicon, Vitamins A, B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, biotin, folic acid as well, as a trace amount of amino acids. I, of course, had no information to give my sister since I was still operating without the book and she elected to go with the advice of her naturopath who approved of the alterations. Probably a wise choice. I, however, was doing the Master Cleanse, was writing about the Master Cleanse and wanted to test the results of the Master Cleanse which didn’t allow me to go rogue. Taha, a scientist down to his last mitochondria, had the following to say:

Taha/ 10:09p They specifically tell u not to use honey because it’s bee puke. . . Jeez . . . There’s like 3 ingredients to this . . . You can’t just change 33% of the ingredients . . . . And expect to see valid results

Woloshyn spells it out, “You must never substitute any artificial sweetener, such as Splenda, Equal, aspartame, or honey (which has been predigested by the bee). Honey is created from nectar and natural sugar.” His argument against honey is the difference in nutrient density but for ten days this shouldn’t have too great an impact. Some practitioners allow their clients to do Agave Nectar but for no longer than ten days because of the nutrient deficiencies that occur.
Two days later, Taha checked in again:

Taha/ 1:14p MC status of the day?

Me/1:16p Tough sleeping but I’m ok during the day as long as I’m standing. No hunger, high energy. Everything is great other than the legs.

Taha/ 1:23p Nice . . . You’re working out of the whole kudos. . . It gets easier now.

Me/ 2:55p Oh, and my mouth tastes like ass no matter how many times I brush my teeth. I actually woke myself up with the foulness.

And not only did I wake myself up but the cat woke me up as well. Smelling what was obviously a rotting rat carcass and feeling it necessary to investigate, Lu Lu stuck her little snout in my mouth and jolted me to life sometime around 3 a.m. – the obvious height of my oral funk.

Taha / 4:07p Hahaha . . . . Is your tongue white?

Me/4:07p Give me a sec – I’ll go check . . .

Me/ 4:08p It’s completely white!

Taha/ 4:08p Wow . . . You’re doing such an amazing service to yourself

Me/ 4:12p Seriously. I’m blaming India for my HazMat status. I should be roped off with warning signs.

After seven days of not chewing food and not tasting anything but lemonade and an assortment of herbal teas that may or may not have been allowed since several sights supported non-caffeinated tea while Woloshyn allowed for only mint tea, my palate was ready for something new and exciting. Everything around me smelled wonderful and I began plotting my first meal the way some people plan for retirement. Taha and I talked about cravings on the phone the night before and it got my brain nibbling.

Me/4:11p Today I really wanted chocolate or Swedish fish or chocolate covered Swedish fish. Maybe coffee.

Taha / 4:24p Apparently . . . . As you detox . . . . You crave foods you had cravings for in the past

Me/ 4:40p Thin crust mushroom, onion and black olive pizza. Slightly greasy with pepperoni that’s crisp and curled on the edges.

Stacey, who I’d seen very little of as she traveled around teaching various yoga classes had been experiencing her own array of aches and symptoms and chimed in from somewhere up north with her own report of cravings.

Stacey / 3:53p I want a pretzel.

On day eight I took a dramatic nosedive for reasons I can theorize but never know. First, I’d been working out through the whole thing which ‘The Complete Master Cleanse’ has mixed advice about. The book reports people doing cleanses for a full year and training for triathlons during it but then suggests that you don’t do anything excessive or extreme. Helpful. Also, I hadn’t gotten the dosage right on the SmoothMove tea and wasn’t having the required number of bowel movements. I also had, coincidently or not, started using a ‘Fasting Support’ tea that could have thrown me under the bus. The exchange of text messages follows:

Me/3:27 Day 8 – random vaginal bleeding and a urinary tract infection. It’s 3p – just put my pjs on and a movie in. I was a walking environmental hazard.

Taha/ 3:33p Just looked into it and your menstrual cycles can reset. How do you know u have an infection?

Me/3:37p Urgent need to pee, small squirt of urine following by a gripping pain in the bladder. It’s funny, I just finished my period when I started the cleanse.

Taha/ 3:38p Thank u for the graphic detail.

Me/343p It’s a pretty powerful thing if I can get my period ramped up in eight days and ready to go again. As you would say, that’s some crazy shit.

Taha/ 3:39p Gosh if someone was reading my text messages I wonder what they’d think

Greater joy was to follow:

Me/3:44p Day nine – migrating back pain, bleeding from urethra, throwing up. No period – that was the UTI. Feel like death. Freezing cold. Not moving from couch.

Taha / 4:41p Wow. . So are you going to do it for longer then?

Me/6:19p I’ll finish up today since I’d rather not throw up solid food and then I think I’ll eat tomorrow. I have to work a double shift Thursday and I need to be ready.

Me/9:12p I finished today but I’m out of lemons so I just might wrap it up a day early. Today was bleak. Lot’s of pain. Threw up a couple of times and stayed on the couch.

Since I hadn’t squeezed in the second saltwater flush, I elected to do it on the morning of day nine which was probably my first mistake of the day. My second involved my reentry into the world of solid food. As much as I scoffed at the ‘ramp-up’ I was equally skeptical of the exit strategies particularly because I was leery of fruit juice which has always kicked my ass, sucked my energy and put me straight to sleep. On top of the UTI and my downward spiral, I didn’t like the idea of adding a bunch of sugar. I went with the admittedly ‘fuckit’ answer of a hardboiled egg, devoid of fiber I reasoned, and thoroughly chewed. I was optimistic when Taha sent me a text:

Taha/ 11:36p How’s the taper off coming along?

Me/11:47p Good. I was ok this morning. Did the salt water flush had some tea and then started in with hardboiled eggs. Still bleeding a bit though.

In the middle of that night, after several hours of suffering with chills and a cramp in my gut that felt as if the entire egg had reassembled itself and lodged in my intestines, I woke up my sister. We briefly discussed going to the hospital – something neither one of us ever really consider which could, at some point, catch up with either one of us – before she sat next to me on the bed, did some energy work and talked to me until I was ready to try and sleep.

This was how I began my next month as a zombie under the same roof as my nephew Dustin, self-proclaimed expert in surviving the coming Zombie apocalypse. Lucky for me he had yet to purchase the 3 ½ pound ax ideal for beheading – the only viable method of killing a zombie – as the weight has a decent bite but a nice graceful arc that’s easy on the arm when mowing down multiples of undead. It was on sale at Leow’s and I think he saw it as the ideal gift for his upcoming birthday. I turned to Taha yet again in the hopes that he had zombie anti-virus:
Me/4:37p Intestines didn’t recover and I wanted to pick your brain. I was up last night w/chills and cramps – almost went to ER. Also had some stuff to share of interest.

Taha/4:43p Oohhh . . . Not good . . . Yup we should chat

Me/4:48 Oddly, when I ate I became irrationally angry. My sister did reiki on me at 2a because I thought I had an intestinal blockage. It’s still troubling me.

Taha/ 4:49p I kinda though that would happen when u said you were going to eat boiled eggs . . . But I guessed you knew your body better than I did. . Evidently not :-P

The body I’d come to know over the next month was not only fifteen pounds lighter and considerably weaker, but one that would continue to operate like the undead I’d become. I went back on the master cleanse after two days of cramps, headaches, chills and fatigue simply to get some calories into my system. I drank lemonade for two days while fighting dehydration, a UTI and continued cramps that left me writhing, squirming and exhausted. Then I eased off of it with a vegetable soup cooked to mush in the Crockpot with ginger and garlic. In the next week or so I could make it through eight hour shifts at work nibbling on small meals of raw vegetables that I came to crave but was unable to eat any protein. Three days after the fast I started drinking coffee again – another sound use of ‘fuckit’ logic.

I tried hiding my big, ghostly hazel eyes and my pale lifeless face under the mop of unnatural black hair whenever Dustin walked into the room talking about tunnels under Garwood’s restaurant where team Fox Trot, his group of zombie survivalists assembled on Facebook, will hide until their escape to Canada where zombie’s and lovers of trans fat starve to death and where Fox Trot will begin the business of repopulating the planet. Had I been a mole, I’d be sending coded messages to my lifeless brethren, undoubtedly on Facebook saying, ‘eckchay arwoodsgay asementbay’ or something less obvious given the mad zombie extermination skills of my nephew.

I ate little. I slept a lot. I watched the entire first season of The Tudor’s on a bootlegged CD with the same sluggish synapse of a teenager. Karma, baby.

The percentage of protein to carbohydrates – so thoroughly skewed from my normal intake – had me up several times a night to go to the bathroom to pee urgently. It was hard to tell with the lingering urinary tract infection if that was a warning sign of blood-sugar crises but it wasn’t good. Also, the chills persisted usually late in the day. I was frustrated at the gym by the weakness I was feeling and though I understood that I was at where I was at, I was feeling like a ‘mere mortal’ for the first time in a long stretch of strong-like-bull antics. Where was my pull-up PR, I wondered as I dangled weakly from the bar one frustrating afternoon.

Oddly I felt like, for the most part, the detox was a good thing even though I had no proof that it did anything other than make me sick. And even that was in question since my execution of the Master Cleanse was so poorly done. I felt like I was on to something, and I ordered a detox kit from Dr. Mercola’s website that promised the Club Med of cleansing and I gladly drank the gritty, lumpy and swampy post-meal concoctions I would refer to as ‘bog water’ while my face naturally contorted into one of those expressions that mother’s warn will freeze that way.