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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!

Rule #7: Everything…

Here is my second to last segment about my family culture of Germany Worship.

I had a difficult reentry into suburban America after spending four years of my childhood in the ebb and flow of German city life. Over there I had been too American. On my return to the U.S., I was surprised to find how out of sync and foreign I felt. I clung to my German identity as best I could.

Awesome things about life in Germany included the following. And P. S.: I clearly love food but I swear this is not a food blog.

25. Walking

26. Walking

Photo courtesy of kelseyannvere

Photo courtesy of kelseyannvere

27. Did I mention Walking? It is basically a national pastime. I understand things have changed somewhat but when I was a kid, there were just not any overweight people to be found. Really. And along with the walking was the tradition of using a lightweight wooden hiking stick or cane. Each time you hiked at a new location, you had the option of buying a tiny colorful plaque to commemorate your visit. Yes, it is touristy. Yes, I have one. Yes, I still adore walking.

Photo courtesy of Faibel

Photo courtesy of Faibel

28. No waste. Or very little. I learned a lot about conservation. I witnessed one classmate saving money and trees by turning used notebook papers sideways and taking notes on top of and at a right angle to the original writing. Another example: Everyone had a single tiny water heater or a few tiny source heaters for their kitchen and bathroom. Some folks turned the water off after wetting themselves in the shower and then turned it back on to rinse off the soap.

I learned the hard way that long American showers were problematic. The first time I stayed at my German friend Hanna’s house, I used up the hot water supply for the entire apartment without realizing it. Oops! Everybody was too polite to correct me. Hanna’s Mom couldn’t stand me for years.

Photo courtesy of sst via wikimedia commons

What else? Public transportation was abundant and efficient. Plenty of folks went without cars, and those who did own them bought tiny ones. I went into culture shock in the late 70s when I returned to the U.S. and the endless swaths of pavement swarming with gas guzzling behemoths. We’ve begun to use tiny cars here too but at the time, the contrast was extreme. And yes, by the way, this is a double standard since we drove a huge station wagon!

In Germany, I also learned that you can wear your clothing more than once before throwing it into the laundry bin for Mom to wash. On the down side, I also learned that deodorant was optional and that it is actually possible to wear your clothes so many times they stand up by themselves…

Photo courtesy of Frank Murmann

Photo courtesy of Frank Murmann

29. Füller. Fountain pens. Everybody used them. Even young kids, and even for math! That reminds me that I need to buy another pen, since my last one broke. I enjoy writing with them. I stick to Pelikan out of nostalgia, since that is the brand I used in German school.

30. Making up your own words. Yes, it’s allowed. Think of Fahrvergnügen = driving + pleasure. Schadenfreude = harm + glee. Let’s do one now for fun. I think I’ll invent Schokoladentherapie and use it in my counseling practice. Chocolate + therapy = happy clients.

Photo courtesy of Hans

Photo courtesy of Hans

31. Federbetten. Featherbeds. Americans have caught on. But I’m not sure they have the kind that are just one big bag of down without any stitches to hold the feathers in place. Using a Federbett is like sleeping under a giant marshmallow. It’s just a gigantic bag of down. People get really, really anal about the upkeep of their feather beds, so tread lightly. Not to be used in cases of profuse sweating. Must be gently beaten so as to fluff but not break the feathers. Should be aired regularly–you may see them hanging out of windows on nice days. And speaking of conservation—it is these featherbeds that allow the Germans to sleep with open windows in cool weather and keep some bedrooms unheated in the winter.

Photo courtesy of Paul Downey

Photo courtesy of Paul Downey

32. Whipped cream without sugar. Found this one out the hard way but eventually came to like it very much.

I remember the day my sister Gwen and I discovered it. We had begged my father to buy us ice cream. Uncharacteristically, he hesitated, and we figured we had a foot in the door. We then begged my father not only to buy us ice cream, but to pay the extra money for a big dollop of whipped cream on top. He assured us we would hate the whipped cream, and it would go to waste. We thought he was crazy and begged harder. We promised to like it. We promised to eat it. Against the odds, he caved in on both accounts: ice cream and topping. Our lucky day!

After he paid, he started to lope of ahead of us with his long grasshopper legs. He must have noticed we were not huffing and puffing, as usual, to keep up with him. He turned around a split second after the whipped cream had, uh, accidentally slipped off both Gwen’s and my ice cream onto the sidewalk with a puffy splat. We were appropriately mystified at our clumsiness. Mercifully he did not question us further.

Photo courtesy of EME

Photo courtesy of EME

33. Quark. We don’t have it. It’s a kind of fresh dairy product. We used to eat it with sliced fruit.

Photo courtesy of Gourmandise

Photo courtesy of Gourmandise

34. Vanillesoβe. A ubiquitous Dr. Oetker mix commonly used to make vanilla-flavored sauce for desserts. It is good but I’m not prepared to say it’s legendary. I think it was raised to the status of an exotic delight because my father brought several of the small packets home after work trips to Germany in the years before we went as a family. Also, I think my mother remembered it fondly from her own childhood when she spent time in the home of her best friend Luisa, a German girl.

Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske

Photo courtesy of Magnus Manske

35. Pommes Frites. I don’t care if they are supposedly French. If you want to die and go to heaven quickly, spend the day hoofing it around the city, working up an appetite, and then buy a big serving of Pomme Frites with ketchup and a Coke. The best fries ever!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

36. Italian ice. The real thing is amazing. It is nothing like the stuff you get in the freezer section of American grocery stores.  Once you have it, you will wonder why people aren’t jumping up and down in protest. Can you believe my classmates actually used to beg me to buy American ice cream in the commissary and bring it to their birthday parties??

This post is part of Family Rules. For the prior post in this series, click here. For the next post, click here.

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