The Foods I MUST Have, No Matter How Broke I Am

Photo courtesy of




I’ll get right to the point, as there’s no reason not to do so…

Miracle Whip Light is on the top of my list in this category, as I use it on and in most of the foods I eat, light being my choice due to the fewer calories and fat.

I don’t eat canned tuna or chicken, or make any sandwiches that don’t include peanut butter, jelly, jam, or a combination of the three, without this condiment.

It can get costly, the average price being $3.50 to $4.00 at the grocery store I frequent.

But as I’ve said: I don’t care how broke I may be, I must have my Miracle Whip Light salad dressing, or else I feel deprived.

Salsa is another food type/condiment that I absolutely need regardless of lack of money, preferably the hot kind.

It’s been an essential staple of my diet for many years, and I’ve pretty much forsaken ketchup and barbecue sauce in favor of salsa in recent years because with tomatoes being the main ingredient, salsa is healthier for you; it has less sodium, sugar, and fat than ketchup, BBQ sauce, or any other condiment or sauce.


Another food I can’t do without. Photo courtesy of


Which is good news for me considering my hypertension condition.

I usually buy my salsa in jars at the supermarket, but there are two places where the salsa is so delicious, I consider it a true treat when I obtain it…

Campos, a Mexican restaurant chain which has several branches in the Westside region of Los Angeles, CA (where I live) and whose food I grew up on in its original location in Santa Monica, has salsa that I can just eat all day, it’s so good.

So much so that I get at least four cups of the medium-hot salsa every time I go get food there.

The other place where I buy salsa is a place that I don’t get to go to as often as Campos, just a handful of times a year, but whose salsa matches Campos’ in it’s level of deliciousness;

The salsa at Burnt Tortilla, a Mexican chain in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.


The third of my main food staples. Photo courtesy of


I go to the main branch of Burnt Tortilla in Gardena, where a friend of mine lives; every time I visit my friend and her family, I make it a point to go to Burnt Tortilla and get two large Styrofoam cups of their salsa, which lasts a few days.

Those large cups are not exactly cheap, costing $6.00 each, but it’s money well spent as far as I’m concerned.

Of course one can’t have salsa without tortilla chips, which is the third food I must have regardless of how little money I have available.

As tortilla chips generally have less sodium and fat than regular potato chips, it’s been one of my go-to things to eat as a snack, or even as a main meal when I don’t feel like spending any time cooking.

Eating chips and salsa, especially salsa from Campos and Burnt Tortilla, is something I can do all day if given a chance, and if it’s guaranteed I won’t get sick from eating too much.

Another thing I often do for nourishment is to mix light Miracle Whip into a combination of canned tuna and chicken, then get a bag of tortilla chips – Mission Tortilla Chips are my preference as their chips are sturdier – and go to town.

It makes for a simple and satisfying meal.

There isn’t much more to say about this, except for something I was wondering…

What are the foods that YOU absolutely MUST have, no matter how broke you may get?


My number one go-to food for snacks and (sometimes) meals. Photo courtesy of



GOUT (and other pains) AND ME, PART TWO

Not a lot of worse things than painful joints in this part of the body…


Being reminded that I’m a middle-aged guy, I’m not invulnerable, and that nothing is forever, particularly life on earth.

The past six weeks have not been fun for me physically.

At all.

It all started about a week after Easter, when I had a big chicken dinner late one night.

It was probably too big a dinner, (the reasons in a bit), but I was hungry and hadn’t eaten for roughly twelve hours.

Since chicken is my main meat staple as I had given up red meat and eschewed pork for years, I didn’t think much of any consequences – until the next morning when I experienced something I hadn’t experienced in three years:

Excruciating pain in the upper joints of my left foot.

As I had suffered gout attacks in 2014 and 2010, I knew what to do; I got busy drinking cherry juice and assumed that it would all be over in a few days.

Except it wasn’t, as although I not only cut way down on the chicken – which, as it turns out, while it doesn’t have as much purines (which is prevalent in turkey and which I gave up after my first gout attacks in 2010), the level of uric acid in the purines is enough to cause attacks – I cut down on eating in general, the gout pain not only persisted over the next several weeks, it manifested itself in two subsequent attacks.

A good example of the disability that gout causes was the fact that I couldn’t run, which ended any opportunities to play in my weekly pick-up softball games on a regular basis; I tried to play games twice; one game I had to have somebody run for me and the other game I had to leave in the 6th inning when the discomfort affected not only my ability to run, but altered my hitting to the point where I wasn’t effective.

In other words, I had to put myself on the “disabled list”, which I researched ways to get rid of my gout issues as fast as possible on the Internet.

One method, putting two or three tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drinking that concoction at least three times a day – gave decent results.

As did eating cherries, which is what I did last night after a dinner which featured a little chicken.

Thank goodness that I woke up this morning being able to walk better than I had before, because for much of the past several weeks I was limping like crazy and even needed a cane at times.

And gout was not the only source of pain as there are some mornings where I wake up and the area just below my right knee hurts, usually after I’m out and about as I walk a lot.

The pain usually goes away after I put some ointment on it and take a few steps, but make no mistake – it’s arthritis.

Thanks to research, I compiled a list of foods that will now be an essential part of my diet (some of them I’ve already been eating) in order to prevent gout, which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy it’s so painful…

  • Cherries
  • Avocados
  • Bananas
  • Salads (increase consumption of these)
  • Lemon (add to water)
  • Green tea/Cherry juice
  • Low Fat Cherry Yogurt
  • Potatoes

I made it a point to schedule an appointment with my doctor, but if this improvement continues, I will be able to cancel it.

Which is my hope.


The big lesson learned here:

Not that I didn’t know this already, but now I completely,  wholeheartedly and emotionally understand that the older one gets, the more work one must do to take care of oneself and maintain health.

Along with the hypertension and high cholesterol, which I have been taking medication for, I am no exception to this general rule of thumb.

As such, I plan to exercise today.

Being that my 50th birthday is in less than three weeks from this writing, I think it’s essential that I continue to do what needs to be done in order to not die before I’m ready to.

Which I certainly hope will be a long time from now.


Some thing that I haven’t eater in seven years; a roast turkey – makes for Thanksgivings where I have to be a bit creative…




A good image of how I’ve spent much of my waking hours for nearly a decade now. Photo courtesy of



I reckon it’s true…

Time really does fly by.

I know it’s a bad cliché, but it also really does seem like yesterday that I was commemorating one year of this website.

In fact, the past few weeks have been full of commemorations as far as this Hartland Chronicles site is concerned as I’ve marked my birthday, written my 100th article, and am now – as of today as my first post was on July 7th, 2014 – marking my second anniversary of having my own blog.

I suppose it’s a good accomplishment and milestone, as I’ve been writing online for the past eight and a half years on various royalty and sports sites and merely felt that it was time to do my own thing and start my own site.

I’ve voiced my opinion on many topics, ranging from Asperger’s Syndrome and the progress of “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, my book detailing my experiences of having that form of autism in a non-autistic world (going OK) to movie reviews (specifically the Hunger Games series),

To stating my experiences and opinions on education and the teaching profession,

To political and racial issues,

To being a Christian,

To offering final farewells to folks I admire like Robin Williams, Prince, and Muhammad Ali.

Not to mention detailing the health scare that I went through in October of 2014, a scare that changed how I did things in my life.

Some may say that what I’ve been doing is not too much different from having a journal or a diary; indeed, before I immersed myself in the ways of the internet I kept a journal, writing about my life and my day-to-day experiences and happenings, for a ten-year period – 1993 to 2003 to be precise.

I realize today that it was essentially a diary, only I had no objections to sharing what I wrote.

I like to think that my writing has evolved since that time as when I look at what I wrote in those notebooks back then, as well as the stuff I did online for sites like Hubpages and Bleacher Report, I want to completely rewrite and overhaul more or less all of them, they seem so self-indulgent and “poor me” as far as my articles on Hubpages and Triond and too “rah-rah” as far as my sports posts are concerned.

I think my writings are better now, more objective and a little less emotional – except when it’s an emotional and/or personal issue, of course.


As for the future…

I don’t have any major plans for Hartland Chronicles as this blog is not going anywhere; though my sports fan blog, SoCal Sports Annals (here’s the link: gets much attention and a certain priority as it’s my business for all intents and purposes,

Hartland Chronicles serves a good purpose as it’s my way of expressing myself, getting my thoughts and feelings about topics and issues – personal and otherwise – out there and letting the world know that a (by American society’s standards) middle-aged African-American man with a high functioning form of Autism Spectrum Disorder named Derek Hart existed.

This site, my SoCal Sports Annals blog, and my WALKING ON EGGSHELLS book will be, for lack of a better term, the legacies that I will leave after I’m dead and cremated with my ashes scattered.

Which I hope is a long time from now.

In the meantime, I’ll go ahead and feel a sense of accomplishment over celebrating its two-year anniversary.

As well as look forward to its three-year birthday next July 7th.




I don’t know what my mental and emotional state would be like if I wasn’t able to do this. Photo courtesy of



THE UPCOMING HOLIDAY SEASON: My Weight and Health Challenges as Thanksgiving and Christmas Approaches


A Thanksgiving cornucopia with a quote that needs to be remembered. Image courtesy of




I suppose for anyone trying and working hard to lose weight, get healthier and stave off conditions like hypertension and diabetes, Thanksgiving and Christmas are by far the biggest challenges to one’s health ambitions.

As for me personally, I’m glad to say that my exercise regimen has not only stayed strong over the past year, it has recently increased as I have added another day of cardio to my weekly routine; I’m now doing some kind of running – either on some kind of machine or running around West Los Angeles College, which is built on a hill – five days a week as opposed to four with a day off.

The challenge I have is this time of year, which actually started on Halloween as I partook in eating a little more candy than I intended and continued doing so for several days.

As well as eat some wonderful egg nog cake.

Which is why although I didn’t get on a scale – and I make it a practice of not doing such as I prefer to go by how loose my clothes feel – I felt that I gained a few pounds over the past couple of weeks.

Here’s my point:

A significant reason I have increased my cardio regimen is so I can better battle the temptations that come with the upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays with regards to the enormous amounts of delicious food that will be readily available, especially between November 26th and December 25th.



Unless I want my foot/toes to swell up like a Macy’s balloon with extreme ice pick-stabbing pain coming from it, I can’t eat but maybe a teeny tiny amount of this during these upcoming holidays. Photo courtesy of


While I will be eating a very tiny amount if turkey if at all due to the fact that I have a gout condition and eating turkey causes excruciating pain due to that, plenty of other high-calorie comfort food goodies such as stuffing, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, cookies, cakes, and pie, will be abundant.

And with my history of loving to eat, it will not be easy to avoid indulging myself in the bliss that the holiday yummies will bring to my taste buds.

Even though my meat of choice will overwhelmingly be chicken and tofurkey it it’s available, it will be at least a bit difficult not to overindulge in those delectables, too.

Putting it another way:  There’s a reason why gym memberships seem to increase after January 1st.

Perhaps if the only thing available during these upcoming holidays was fruitcake, a food I cannot stand and which I consider the only thing about Christmas that is bad, I would not have any problem with the possibility of overindulging.

In fact, I’d probably lose at least a few pounds.

Since that won’t be the case, however…

This holiday will be a test of sorts, as up until perhaps last year at this time, when I was just a few weeks into my exercise and diet routine, I ate whatever I wanted to more or less my heart’s content.

If I want to maintain whatever fitness level I’ve achieved over the past year and not have my weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol rise, stuffing myself with yummy goodies can’t be an option.

And with God’s help, to not eat too much will be a doable goal.

If there’s anyone out there who has any suggestions of how to not give in to the temptations of over-indulging myself with all those luscious foods this holiday season about significantly damaging my diet regimen, I’m very much open to hearing them.



Christmas lights in Merrow

Christmas lights in Merrow

Check out this Christmas light display! Photo courtesy of








Pondering My Mortality







For the past several months, I have been working very hard to improve my health by working out four and five times a week and changing my diet to include more vegetables and fruits, along with  cutting way down on, if not out entirely, foods I have enjoyed for years such as hot dogs, hamburgers, cured meats, and anything else with high amounts of sodium and fat.

This has been the case not because I’m some sort of health nut like those folks you see on TV, or because I’m vain or anything like that.

It was a fear of death that got me going on what I should have been a part of my life all along, as a stroke scare caused by extremely high blood pressure “woke me up”.

Though I had made progress – a check up in December revealed that I had lost over 20 pounds – after I had taken some blood tests it was also revealed after I had high cholesterol and was pre-diabetic.

And on top of everything else, I have been unable to properly walk these past few days as a gout attack has swollen the toes on my right foot and have rendered it painful to get around.

All of this has led me to think about something that I’m sure everyone has given thought to at one time or another, something that’s increasing pondered as one grows older:


Along with taxes, it’s something that I fully understand that every living being eventually experiences.

In fact, like I suppose everyone else – except for those unfortunate youngsters with cruel diseases like cancer or cystic fibrosis – for the longest time I knew in the back of my mind that I would eventually stop breathing, but because of my youth I never really considered it in the grand tradition of young people thinking they are invincible and immortal.

In the midst of experiencing these health issues of mine – which I reckon I’ll continue to have to deal with – more than ever I have realized that while I definitely have no plans or desires to die for at least another thirty years, these issues I’m going through has inevitably led me to consider the possibility that I may not have as much time left on earth as I would like.

Like Dr. Martin Luther King stated in his last speech before his assassination in Memphis…

“…I’d like to live a long life, longevity has its place. But that doesn’t matter to me now. I just want to do God’s will.”

With the greatest respect, I differ with Dr. King with regards to longevity as I admit that still matters to me.

But I’m in complete agreement with him in that I am doing, and continuing to do, what I can to improve my health, and after that do something else that is of the utmost importance:

Leave it to God.

Which is all I can do.

In other words, if the Good Lord decides that my time is up despite all my efforts to stick around, there’s nothing I’ll be able to do about it.

In the meantime, I’m going to eat some things that an article on the internet said will help get rid of this gout pain and swelling that I currently have, as well as do some abdominal crunches, which will tide me over until my foot is back in shape and I am able to do cardio again.


My High Blood Pressure Issues: Another Update





There I was, walking towards the self-opening glass doors of the local Kaiser Permanente medical offices around the corner from my home, where I had an appointment for my blood pressure to be checked that cool, overcast afternoon.

It had been six weeks since I approached Kaiser’s emergency room roughly four or so miles away with the right side of my head feeling that it was going to squeeze some brains out like pulp while making orange juice.

Six weeks since my right hand was feeling so prickly and numb that a needle poking into it wouldn’t have hurt much.

Six weeks since my blood pressure was found to be so high that I was legitimately afraid that a stroke was imminent, with the nurse doing the testing agreeing.

And six weeks since my weight was found to be not unlike Fat Albert’s of “Hey Hey Hey!” fame.

Though I shouldn’t have felt that way as I spent those six weeks taking my medication without fail…

Doing cardio like crazy – as in five times a week – doubling my sit-ups & crunches intake, and eating foods which I found (via the internet) were effective in lowering this high blood pressure of mine while forsaking stuff I liked such as sliced turkey cotto salami, turkey kielbasa, hot dogs and other processed meats,

Not to mention other delicious delicacies like Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo and Buffalo Chicken soups,

And all fast food places except for Subway, El Pollo Loco, and Campos, a local Mexican place whose food I grew up on and was fiercely loyal to because it was so good (and even then only as a very special treat)…

I couldn’t help but feel a bit of anxiety that all my efforts to get my weight and my blood pressure numbers down wouldn’t be as effective as I would like as my pressure headaches and my extremity tinglings, while considerably less than it was, had not completely gone away.

I was afraid that the doctor would find something that the folks in the ER missed, like a major artery blockage or a brain tumor.

So I arrived at the medical offices a bit early, and after an hour of reading a book that I had brought, I went to check in for my appointment.

Because the person at the desk was taking too long and was testing my patience, I decided to forgo the old school face-to-face-with-the-receptionist style of checking in and joined the 21st Century in that regard, using a ATM-like machine to make my co-pay and get myself situated.

I entered the doctor’s office, and about five minutes later the nurse called me in. “Gee, this is going fast,” I thought.

She then proceeded to waste no time in doing the two things that I was anxious about…

That’s when the good news came in, as I found that:

1.  Thanks to my zealous approach to my cardio work, I had lost 22 pounds and was on the verge of going below 300 pounds for the first time since college!


2.  My blood pressure numbers dropped to what the doctor set as a goal, no doubt due to my medication and my choice of foods as I found myself eating things like carrot sticks and celery for snacks, which I had never done before!

And which showed I was serious about all of this.

Feelings of gladness and relief at the good news were obvious as I mentioned to the nurse, “Hard work really does pay off.”

“True that,” she replied.

After I was sent to an exam room and the doctor checked my lungs and discussed the improvements I made, I was sent home with orders to continue what I was doing.

Which I fully intended to as a voice inside me – I’m sure it was God – was firmly telling me to “Keep it going!”

“Don’t stop now!”

“You can do it!”, like what Rob Schnieder said as a catch phrase in that Adam Sandler football vehicle The Waterboy, which I incidentally considered one of the worst sports movies ever made but which mattered not in regards to my situation and motivation.

I knew I wasn’t all the way there as far as my weight and health goals; that’s why I ran about a mile and a half and did some reverse crunches earlier that morning.

And that’s why I plan to do another full cardio workout featuring the stair master and a stationary bicycle in the basement of my condo complex’s clubhouse as soon as I finish writing and posting this.

At this rate, it seems like I’m well on my way to being the healthiest and lightest I’ve been since the late 1980s.

With God’s help, I can keep this up and not get lazy as the holiday season is now upon us.

As always, hold good thoughts…




A big part of my cardio workout plan; hitting the stair master






An Update On My Health Issue and Musings on my Mortality





It’s been nearly a month since I took that trip to Kaiser Permanente’s emergency room due to the major squeezing sensation that the right side of my head was experiencing and the prickly “asleep” feeling in my right hand.

Nearly a month since the ER nurses and the doctor who treated me said that I sorely needed to lose weight, take the medication prescribed, and drastically change my diet.

Since I was understandably scared as I thought I was on the verge of a major stroke, I proceeded to do just that, taking the first dose of my medications upon arriving home that night and being diligent in taking those pills daily.

Not only did I proceed to completely overhaul my refrigerator, throwing away all of my hot dogs and lunch meats, which were high in the factor that’s a predominant cause of high blood pressure – sodium – I made a concerted point to look at the sodium content in anything I bought at the supermarket.

That meant having to give up many of the foods I liked to eat save for canned tuna and chicken, which I was OK with as perhaps for the first time, I took my food choices seriously in choosing to purchase carrots and celery rather than the ground taco-seasoned turkey and turkey kielbasa that I loved.

I also began working out like crazy, particularly in cardio as I began to ride a stationary bike and go on the stair master in the work out room in my condo complex’s clubhouse, go on runs and walk up hills around my neighborhood, increase my sit-up and abdominal crunches from between 1000 to 1500 to between 2000 to 2500 per week, and set aside one day a week to lift weights.

Not that I have been perfect as I did slip a little in my eating habits, snacking on potato chips which although they were unsalted, I shouldn’t have done.

Nor should I have eaten the chicken from my supermarket’s deli section as even though it was broiled instead of fried, I could taste the sodium in it.

Still, I wouldn’t have been honest if I said that I didn’t notice the radical changes I was making in my food and health lifestyle choices, thinking how different I was making things.

After stating all of this, you may be thinking that all of these changes have resulted in a complete bill of health, including a significant lowering of my high blood pressure and the end of the headaches and prickling in my extremities that go along with that.

Sadly and frustratingly, that’s not completely the case as despite everything, including my pants feeling noticeably looser…

Although the pressure sensation on the right side of my head is gone for the most part, different spots of my head continue to feel little pricks of pain and pressure from time to time, including a spot on the top of my head just last night, which coincided with prickling sensations in both my hands and feet.

Which – as you can figure – negatively affected my sleep and rendered me scared, praying to God for help and my life.

And this after I worked out for an hour and a half, including doing 40 minutes on the stationary bike and the stair master plus some weightlifting.

I know, because I was told this by another doctor a few years ago, that my high blood pressure is a genetic thing and is something that I’ll have to deal with for the rest of my life; that’s why I wasn’t as frustrated as I could have been and have harbored no thoughts of giving up.


All of this has made think – seriously, for the first time – about my mortality.

A couple of weeks ago I was at a football game and for seemingly no reason, a part of Martin Luther King’s last speech before his assassination, the one about him going to the mountain top and seeing the Promised Land,  popped up in my mind…

“…I’d like to life a long time; longevity has its place…I may not get (to the mountaintop) with you, but I want you to know tonight, we as a people will get to the Promised Land!”

A couple of tears formed as I thought maybe God was telling me about some foreboding fate.

Or perhaps God was trying to give me some courage as King ended that iconic speech in Memphis, TN with the words…

“I’m not fearing anything, I don’t fear any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!”

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not considering stopping this commitment to taking my medication, working out, and making better food choices as I fully intend to keep up with it and do what’s necessary for my health.

Like more or less everyone else, I want to live a long time.


The thought of “What if this ultimately doesn’t work and you have a fatal stroke anyway?” has crossed my mind at least a few times.

I know that due to my genetical disposition to having high blood pressure, that may not be conducive to me living long enough to be an old man, as much as I’d like that to happen.

I remember this girl I went to school with, who I not only had known since the 7th grade, I was in the school band with her throughout junior high and part of high school. I saw her at my high school’s 25-year reunion, she looked good and was doing well with her life.

Then not three weeks later, I got the news that after attending a Los Angeles Dodgers game, she went to bed and never woke up, dying that night; I was told later that she had a defective heart, which no doubt killed her.

The point I’m trying to make is, one never knows when your number comes up, so to speak.

And the older you get, the more prevalent that sentence becomes as opposed to when you’re in your 20s and the concept of death is much more abstract and “a million years away”.

If I said that passing away doesn’t scare me, I’d be lying like a rug for this one simple reason:  I don’t want to die.

That’s honestly a significant factor in my working as hard as I am on my health.

In other words, it’s my job to get my blood pressure down as much as I can and my weight down, period.

Theer’s frankly nothing more for me to say about this issue of mine, except for these things:

1.   That I’m going to keep up with these changes I have made and keep battling.


2.  I’d very much appreciate it if you keep me in in your good thoughts.