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Dog Knows, Things Ain’t What They Used to Be: A Wandering Essay on Physical Fitness, Sex, & Wilted Produce

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

March, 2013

Things were better when I was younger…well, my things were, anyway!   –Maxine
(Maxine was created by John Wagner for Hallmark)

 

I was born with endurance and a great bottom half. From jump roping to pogo sticking to sibling kicking, my legs spelled power and possibility from an early age. Plus, they provided a great diversion from some of my weaker features. Dad always said my ears stuck out too far and that I had a bit of a chicken breast. Well, now that I’ve reached middle age, my arms are starting to resemble chicken wings. It looks like I’m getting the neck to match.

In elementary school, I was all about my banana bike. I got it the winter I turned 9. I was in heaven! But when the weather turned warm, and my younger sister learned to ride, Mom and Dad turned on me and granted my younger sister Gwen equal ownership.

Possession is nine tenths of the law, so I always made sure I got to the bike first. I’d peal out, legs treadling as if possessed, and leave Gwen flailing at the end of the driveway. I stayed away for as long as I dared. Sometimes I sneaked up to the shopping center to spend my pocket change on candy. I returned when the needle on my Spankometer indicated I was about to move from “Trouble” to “Big Trouble.” I often miscalculated. Between the Now & Laters and my Dad’s belt, I’m surprised I have a tooth left in my head and a hiney left to sit on.

I discovered another level of freedom at age 10 when we spent a few years in a good-sized German city. My bouncing stride propelled me to destinations of my choosing under my own steam and on my own terms. The city was very safe back then—both day and night. I needed no car. I needed no parents. I felt powerful knowing I could walk out my front door and take myself anywhere in the world. My adventures were limited only by my porte-monnaie and my own daring. Would it surprise you to learn that a good number of adventures involved eggs, tomatoes, toilet paper and my buddy Michaela? I ran faster, thank God. I hear she is doing hard time.

In 10th grade, I discovered cross country and track. Talk about a rush! I became a competitive athlete, and these very legs secured me lifelong friends, a million road trips, and two bachelors degrees. Ask me about my bunions another day.

If my physical activity was consistent, so were its fruits. Ripe, firm fruits, I might be persuaded to add–if I weren’t so humble.

One aunt liked taking me out to shop for clothing because, she said, my booty was SO. DARN. CUTE. Back in the days when I lived close enough to walk to our annual Renaissance Fair, a fellow I met there—a friend of a friend–raved about my tights-clad legs. Even my best friend, an athlete herself, coined a phrase to describe my awesome bottom. Happily, the passage of time and the dawning of political correctness prevent me from disclosing it here. My sister Gwen was content to call it my “buttflower” but, hey, what are sisters for?

Ok, ok. I admit that these occasions of bum worship occurred while I was in my teens and early twenties; however, I have it on good authority that even if I don’t exactly have “It,” I still have something. You noticed too? Oh, stop! You are making me blush!

So, the fruits have been predictable. The same can be said for the nuts. By this, I mean the males of our species, who feel compelled to demonstrate their machismo by ogling even those women whose AARP applications are stamped and sitting on the kitchen table.

I haven’t run in decades but they haven’t noticed. For years upon years, my walks have exposed me to the same primitive mating ritual. I used to find it frightening. Years later, I found it enraging. And then annoying. Now I just find it pathetic. My assets are holding up pretty well, butt….Get a life, guys! Get some glasses!

The ritual goes something like this:

(Car approaches from behind, slowing.)

HONK!

(Head cranes out window to take a closer look.)

NICE ASS!

This February, after much cajoling and an astonishingly professional and well-researched PowerPoint, our youngest daughter convinced us that so much undiluted time spent in the company of The Old People might get her down since both sisters are away at college. We caved and allowed her to adopt a rescue greyhound. Trident is striking! He is slender, white, and aristocratically graceful.

We had a break in the weather today. Trident and I, the two retired racers, set out on a long ramble down the bike path which runs alongside the highway.

And wouldn’t you know it…

(Car approaches from behind, slowing).

HONK!

(Head cranes out window to take a closer look.)

NICE…
.
.
.

(Wait for it….)
.
.
.

DOG!

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The Balloon

Image credit here.

Image credit here.

What do I do now?

April 6, 2012

A few weeks ago I got the idea to write an essay about myself as a balloon. I put it off, and I find I am no longer able to do so.

I had been tied firmly to my moorings and, despite dancing in breezes and being bullied by gales, I was confident that I’d hold fast. Popping was out of the question. My sense of security had made me a regular punch ball.

Thus grounded, I had even forgotten I was a balloon. I had continued in this state for decades without a second thought. I was so accustomed to my attachment that I no longer contemplated it. My connection to Hanna had become like breathing, I suppose. It was necessary for life, and yet it went on largely outside my conscious awareness–until a disruption of my normal rhythm reminded me I was doing it at all.

After an unsettling fall in which Hanna did not return my communications, I became keenly aware of my tie to her, my umbilical cord. Undernourished, my robust skin began to dull and thin. I began to feel deflated, and I wondered how much longer the silence would continue.

Hanna’s January letter cut me loose.

I bounced and skidded across the ground as the moaning wind compelled me across the gray winter landscape to an uncertain fate. Fragile, I was in danger of puncture. Sharp pebbles and brittle grasses clawed at my sides. For nearly two months, it was all I could do to keep myself intact.

Sometime in March, the winds started to abate. Spring seemed possible. The sun reemerged and began to warm me with its golden rays. I felt myself growing stronger. The beams whispered love to me. I ate and drank them. I began to grow fat and round once more, my skin taut and strong and shiny. Yes, Spring was on the move.

Warmth curled itself around me and within me, and I began to rise in fits and starts. Unattached, I couldn’t stop myself. And as I got over my fear, I began to enjoy my new perspective. I was no longer safely tethered, it was true. But my uncertainty was eclipsed by a burgeoning joy at this unexpected freedom.

I wanted to say all that–but I can’t. (Here you have to imagine the sudden ripping of a phonograph needle across a vinyl record.) I can’t write all that because just as the balloon was beginning its steady rise, a second letter came.

Hanna stated it had not been her intention to end the friendship but merely to put it on hold.

At that exact moment, the balloon snagged in the branches of a tree. It is stuck there still. The balloon is unable to continue its ascent until a further shift of the wind releases it. Meanwhile, the string dangles within reach, leaving open the possibility of its recapture.

What comes next is up in the air. So you see, I am unable to write about myself as a balloon.

This excerpt is part of The Story of Hanna. For the prior installment, click here. For the next installment, click here.

Untitled: February, 1987

Photo courtesy of John Liu

Photo courtesy of John Liu

I seem to think a lot these days

To cry and pain and pain and bleed

Then joy, bright champagne bubble mirth

Blows golden notes of dandelion seed

Solemnity of captives freed

A mind reduced to motion

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