Energy Good. Nerve Damage Bad.

Last week I went through several days where sleep and I just weren’t going to be friends. This happens off and on and it’s a real bear to get through.

On top of my bad sleep, I was having crazy busy days at the old place of employment. The kind of days where a little “top of my game” would sure have helped me get through the challenges.

So I was over in the building were our IT team sits because I had to deliver some documents for the signature of a Director of Important IT Things.

I was in his office kibitzing when he asked how I was doing.

“Tired,” I said. “Just trying to get through the day.”

“Here,” he replied, waving toward his bookshelves loaded with candy and snacks of all kinds, “Grab something to give you some energy.”

Among the snack packs of Cheetos and Oreos and full size candy bars was a box of 5-hour Energy drinks.

“Hey,” I said, “That’s probably what I need.” I grabbed one and shoved it in my pocket and then took off, late for my next meeting.

I’ve seen the compelling advertisements for this 5-Hour Energy stuff. The announcer promises us, the worthy consumers, that the energy boost will get us through the afternoon slump we all experience. I know quite a few folks who regularly use these little energy shots (mostly the IT boys), so I was interested.

That said, I can get the jitters from a single cup of regular coffee, so I know I have to be careful about these kinds of things. I thought maybe I could take half or something.

Later, back at my desk, I took out the bottle and flipped it over to see exactly what is inside this magical elixir of energy.

Here’s what the label says it contains: Caffeine, huge amounts of niacin, and massive doses of Vitamin B6, B12 and Folic acid.

I thought back about what I know about all of these things, as given my delicate nature, I have to really study the effects of any supplement I decide to ingest.

Caffeine…we all know what that does.

Niacin, gives you quite a flush.

And B vitamins will, in fact, hype you up.

Ok, I get what this is doing. Nothing magic here. In fact, this crap kind of worries me.

Niacin, in high doses, can bring on niacin toxicity. The label shows Niacin at 150% of RDA which while not terrible is still quite a lot.

Vitamin B6 and B12 are certainly very important vitamins, and when in deficiency can cause a variety of unpleasant issues. Most B vitamins come from food and unless people have difficulty eating or digesting food, vitamin B shouldn’t be in deficiency. Vitamin B supplements, from what I understand, should be approached cautiously. Prolonged supplement use in excessive high doses (the energy shot bottle says 2000% of RDA) can cause nerve and brain damage.

“chronic administration of 1–6 g oral pyridoxine per day for 12–40 months can cause severe and progressive sensory neuropathy characterized by ataxia (loss of control of bodily movements). Symptom severity appears to be dose dependent, and the symptoms usually stop if the patient discontinues the pyridoxine supplements as soon as the neurologic symptoms appear.”


Most people will say that Vitamin B is water soluble and so the body will excrete most of the excess dosage and it’s not that big of deal. Mostly, that’s true, especially if the excess dosage is intermittent, not daily.

Now let’s turn to the sketchy answer to the question about B vitamins in the FAQs on the 5-hour Energy website. This does nothing to make me feel better. Note that the answer moves from “minimum not optimium” and then quickly talks about caffeine instead of vitamins.

Myth: 5-hour ENERGY®contains dangerous levels of Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6 and Niacin (Vitamin B3).

Fact: The amounts of B vitamins in 5-hour ENERGY®are well within safe limits. The RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) is the minimum (not optimum) daily amount set by the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Of course, if you are sensitive to caffeine, have any medical conditions, are taking any medications, or otherwise have any concerns whether 5-hour ENERGY® is right for you please check with your physician before taking it. 5-hour ENERGY® is available in a Decaf version which has only 6mg of caffeine – about as much as a half cup of decaffeinated coffee.


Um, why are they talking about a decaf version when the question is about excess vitamins? Sketchy.

So I’m thinking this energy stuff may be ok every once in a while, but what about these people who use it every day? And several times a day?


Anyhow, we’re all big kids and can make our own choices. For me, that little bottle of 5-hour Energy drink is still sitting on my desk, untouched. No plans to down that bad boy anytime soon.

Photo Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 with terrible office florescent lighting and the Camera+ app.

The Great White Way

So here I find myself at Friday, the end of the first long work week after my return from a fantastic vacation.

I’m a little tired, a little stressed, a little melancholy. A week ago today The Good Man and I were walking the High Line in Chelsea and feeling relaxed and happy.

Today I’m sitting at a desk feeling anything but relaxed and happy.

And so to curate the memories from my time off just a little while longer, I’ve decided to write a review column.

While in New York, The Good Man and I took in three Broadway shows. Below are my reviews of the three shows, presented in the chronological order in which they were viewed.

And away we go:

The Anarchist

The Good Man and I arrived in New York in the early evening on Saturday and so we simply had some good food and slept. Sunday we started exploring, and late in the afternoon, decided to hop over to the TKTS booth to see what sort of Broadway tickets we might scare up.

Most of the shows were already sold out, but The Anarchist still had seats available. The show was still in previews and the opening wasn’t until the following Saturday. The play was written and directed by David Mamet, he of the Glengarry Glen Ross fame and a well known and well respected playwright.

In addition, the play starred Patti LuPone and Debra Winger, two notably amazing actors.

Basically, we reasoned to ourselves, a new Mamet play with two amazing performers should, by all accounts, be worth seeing.

So we plunked down the cash and went to the show.

I knew going in that any Mamet show was going to have a lot of talking and not a lot of doing. Oh dear god. I had no idea what was in store for me.

Here I’ll borrow someone else‘s words to set the background:

The play is set in a prison. LuPone is Cathy, an anarchist who had shot police officers and has been in prison for 35 years. Winger’s role, as Ann, is less clear. She is probably a prison psychiatrist. Ann asks questions and Cathy answers, philosophizing about religion, the meaning of life and redemption.

Naturally, Cathy wants out. She wants to see her father before he dies and argues that she has served her time.

Ann keeps asking her where one of her accomplices is, and Cathy says she does not know. Ann asks her about redemption and about being born a Jew who has been reborn a Christian in prison. They talk about it and then talk some more.

The show began as most Mamet works do, right in the middle of the conversation. You as an audience member have no context. You just gotta run, hop on and don’t ask too many questions.

The freight train sped along for just seventy minutes then abruptly stopped.

We in the audience applauded because the performers did the best they could with the material.

Then when we stopped clapping, we all looked at each other like “what the hell just happened?”

My biggest fear at that moment was that The Good Man was going to turn to me and say “wasn’t that great!?!?!”

He did not.

Afterwards, over an egg cream, we talked about the show. At first I felt really disappointed in the whole thing, then I got a little mad.

Mr. Mamet has always been massively self-indulgent in his works, but this went beyond the pale. And that he forced two fine actors to rattle through his haphazard script is pretty much a crime.

Basically, this whole thing left a really bad taste in my mouth. Isn’t Broadway supposed to be the best of live theatre?

(A final note: Just this week, in the wake of the official opening on December 1, the show has received awful reviews and will close December 16th after just 17 regular performances. Seems it wasn’t only The Good Man and I that were put off the show.)

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Nice Work If You Can Get It

Two days after the disaster on 45th street, The Good Man and I dove back into the fray.

We visited the TKTS booth again and this time picked up tickets to the show Nice Work If You Can Get It.

This combined two happy elements for us. The book is inspired by some of the works of PG Wodehouse, he of Jeeves and Wooster fame and author of hundreds of hilariously funny books, and the music and lyrics of Gershwin.

Oh, and it stars Matthew Broderick.

As an aside, as we were stepping up to the ticket taker at the very doors of the theatre, he said to me “hang on a moment” and from behind the door came Mr. Broderick’s wife, Sarah Jessica Parker. She was extraordinarily nice to everyone, thanked the man taking tickets, said excuse me to us and made her way out. She must have stopped by for a quick pre-show “break a leg” to the hubby.

As she walked away, The Good Man commented, “wow, she’s really cute in person” and I totally agreed. She is actually quite adorable in real life and very sweet. I think the camera does her little justice, actually.

After the star sighting, we found out seats. As the curtain went up, both The Good Man and I had very high expectations for the show.

Very, very high expectations.

And not only were these skyscraper high expectations met, but also blown right past. (< - terrible grammar, and yet I don't care) Set in Prohibition era New York, the show had a zany story line that roughly centers around a rich guy on the eve of his third marriage who, stumbling home sauced after his bachelor party, bumps into a sassy bootlegging girl, and is a bit taken with her. Through a series of funny events, the bootleggers end up hiding their gin in the basement of the rich man's Long Island home ("I never go there"). When the man and his new wacky wife show up to honeymoon at the same home, they end up surprising the bootleggers. Lots of singing, tons of dancing and a lot of hilarity ensues. The cast is amazingly talented and the show just flowed beautifully from start to finish. Mr. Broderick really can do anything, can't he? Sing, dance, act, theater, television, movies. All of it. And while Mr. Broderick was the most well known actor in the cast, really Kelli O'Hara is the star of the show. She is luminous and definitely enchanting. Hell, by the end of the show I was ready to marry her! What a great show and what a great way to regain my trust in the quality of the shows on Broadway.

Image from Entertainment Weekly

And finally…

War Horse

We had seen War Horse here in San Francisco and it really resonated with me on a very deep level.

In fact, The Good Man and I had been talking for a long time about a trip to New York, and it was my desire to see War Horse on Broadway that became the motivating factor.

I didn’t want no TKTS who knows what seats we’ll get scenario. I insisted The Good Man buy tickets early and get the best seats he could.

Oh boy did he. Second row. From start to finish we were right in the middle of the action.

Since New York’s Lincoln Center has a pretty big stage, the production was a little different than in San Francisco and in many ways the performance was far better.

Whereas when I saw the show at The Curran in San Francisco, we sat quite a bit back and I was very into the storyline of the horses, meaning I stared at them the whole time and the actors were secondary.

Being so up close this time, the puppet horses simply integrated into the scenes and I was all up in the middle of the characters and their story. Being able to see facial expressions and quite literally sit in the middle of the action was a profoundly different experience.

As with the last time, I was completely engaged in every moment of the show and when “the big sad part” came along I did again cry my eyes out, but it was so much more real this second time. When the lights came up I had dried up my eyes, then immediately started crying again. Then I stifled it and went to the restroom to clean up. And so I cried again.

All of this crying occurred even knowing what was going to happen and when. And knowing how the situation resolved itself.

There is really something about the crucial scene when Joey, our lead horse, is caught in the barb wire on the battlefield that about does me in. I should probably hire a qualified therapist and figure that out. It just demolishes me. (and that’s good theatre, folks!)

As The Good Man hugged me while I wailed like a baby, I said to him, “I don’t think I can do this again.”

My goal after seeing the show in San Francisco was to see it again in New York, then see it a final time in London. But have mercy, I don’t think I can go through that again.

What an amazing show. For anyone reading this who may say, “Oh, just watch the movie” I say no. Absolutely not. The magic of this show is the amazing puppetry of the animals. This play is the story of World War I told from the view of a horse which makes it groundbreaking. It’s the puppetry of the horses that makes it exceptional, and there is no way a movie using real horses can even come close.

Whew, just thinking about it again gets the tears burning at the sides of my eyes. It is just so profoundly good.

Our original plan after the show was to go to Rockefeller Center to watch the tree lighting. No way that was going to happen as I was a soppy mess, so we tucked into a family run pizza joint and noshed and kibitzed with the owner and watched the lighting on TV.

Yeah, pretty much among the top five most amazing days of my life.

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Ok, well there you have it. What I wouldn’t give to have the kind of time and money to go back to New York and see every single show on Broadway. I’d love every single ding dang minute of it.

Well that’s that, and my lunch hour is over. Back to the salt mines.

Oh, I see I have eight new emails from the Boss Man. How fun.

Is It Better To Have Loved and Lost?

I’m not so sure.

Oh! Yeah, I’m not talking about romance or relationships. I’m talking about vacation.

I had a glorious, fabulous, amazing week in the city of New York. I loved, I laughed, I ate until I saw blue spots in front of my eyes. We walked and walked, saw multiple Broadway shows, had a few cocktails and generally had one hell of a good time.

It was a MUCH needed vacation. I’m pretty bad about taking more than a couple days of vacation here and there. This was the first full week with plans and events and turning off work email that I’ve had in a long time. In fact I can’t remember the last time…

Today, now, is Tuesday. My second day back at work.

Brutal. There really is no mercy in the flow of work. I mean, I can dip out of the ever forward charging machine, and then upon returning I have to run to catch up and hop back on.

In the weeks leading up to the week off, I had widely publicized my upcoming vacation to all who would listen. This was a strategy to make sure everyone knew, to head off any surprises, and to assert that no one should bother me while I was out.

It worked pretty well. I had no calls or even a text message while I was on holiday. Awesome!

However, what that also meant was everyone I work with delayed all meetings for the week I was out. Great! Right?

Every missed meeting was then plopped all over my Monday and Tuesday.

Back to back to back to back to back meetings for two days straight.

In fact, I’m writing this while on a conference call. It’s a dull call and my attention isn’t needed at the moment.

So I decided to take this moment to whine. Or whinge as the Brits might say.

Is it better to have vacated, then come back and drown? Struggling with work life knowing how great it was last week (and missing it terribly)?

Or is it better to just slog on without vacation and never know truly how good it can be. Ignorance is bliss?

Meanwhile, I have a wicked craving for a piping hot knish and a real pastrami sandwich.

Oh, and an egg cream made with Fox’s U-Bet syrup. (the good stuff).

None of these things I can get with any quality here in the Bay Area.


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And So It Begins

Well, with Thanksgiving done and dusted, I suppose that officially begins the Holiday Season.

No stopping the relentless advertisements and ho ho ho’ing at every corner.

Each holiday season, it’s always a bit of a toss up for me if I am in the spirit or feeling grinchy.

Honestly? More often than not it’s the grinch that emerges in December.

But this year is a bit different. I have to admit, standing there in Rockefeller Center watching the ice skaters and gazing at the tree, I did sort of feel a warm, happy Holiday spirit wash over me.

Now I’m ready to head home and put up our own tree and make spiced cider and hum a few carols and enjoy the holidays this year.

No worry, I’m sure it will wear off in about a week.

But until then…it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the onboard camera app using the panorama feature.