Posts Tagged ‘exercise’

Today’s post co-written by some gnats

October 20, 2011

We’ve been having Indian summer here in the South, which has allowed me to continue my afternoon jogs through the neighborhood wearing only shorts and a t-shirt.

Though I haven’t needed protection from the autumn chill, I do wish I had something that repelled the clouds of gnats that have emerged from a nearby tree stand. These tiny insects assemble into large mating swarms at dusk, and become so maddened by desire that they fail to notice the lumbering human who comes huffing into their midst.

Nothing like a big, sweaty fat guy barreling through your free-floating love-in to spoil a tender moment. Just as the guys have convinced the gals that they’re interested in a committed, exclusive long-term relationship — in gnat terms, about 30 seconds — the mood is ruined.

I hate to inconvenience any living creature (except perhaps those I eat) so I try to watch for these gnats and avoid them when I can. Trouble is, they’re so small as to be practically invisible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, they can still be easily detected by the other senses.

Like taste.

If you’re mouth-breathing your way through the second mile of your run, it’s not uncommon to suddenly find yourself with a maw full of small bugs. Were I halfway through a marathon, I might appreciate the protein boost. But since it’s just a short jog, I’d rather not be consuming the unintended appetizer so close to dinner.

And they don’t just get into your mouth. Some species, called “eye gnats,” are actually attracted to your eyes, feeding on the lachrymal secretions we know as tears. Others head up your nostrils, while their friends go in your ears.

I don’t know how many gnats I’ve absorbed into various head holes in the last few weeks. I bet it’s a lot. And I bet some of them are still in there.

So I must acknowledge that today, I am not working on this blog post alone. I don’t want to be so species-centric as to ignore the impressions that others involved have of this phenomenon. I think it’s only fair that the gnats have their say, and so am turning the rest of this piece over to them.

EYE GNAT: Thanks for the opportunity, Davis. A lot of people barely acknowledge our existence and, if they do, it’s only with a wave of their hand trying to disperse us from their face. We’re eager to tell our side of the story, and appreciate this chance.

You humans see us as pests, and yet we’re actually a very important part of the ecosystem. Our life isn’t much — we hatch from larva, we fly around a while, we mate, we die — but it shouldn’t be judged from the perspective of someone who has access to hundreds of cable channels. Just like other living creatures, we have good times and bad.

As my name implies, I have a thing for eyes. I love all colors and all lash lengths. I don’t care if you have poor vision or the eyes of a hawk. As long as you’re still moist enough to be secreting tears, I’m there.

What I like most about what your scientists call “lachrymal secretions” is the salt. If you’ve ever tasted your own tears, you know how flavorful they can be. We don’t have access to a lot of salt in the natural world.

My turn-offs include too much eye makeup (especially blue eye-liner, which I’m allergic to) and contact lenses. We can work our way in behind regular eyeglasses, but contacts are just too tight a fit. I had an uncle who managed to get behind one once, and he was never heard from again.

Gary, you want to talk some about ear gnats?

EAR GNAT: Sure, Hal, and thanks.

I’ll be glad to speak for those of us here in the ear, but I would like to make it clear that we’re not necessarily “ear gnats.” We just ended up here by accident.

There are many good things about the human ear. I’d have to say, though, that my favorite is the wax. While all of us get our basic nutrition from different places, there’s really only one sweet treat delightful enough to be considered a dessert in the insect world, and that’s ear wax.

You have to be careful how you approach it so you don’t get stuck. I try to remain airborne while I’m in the ear canal, then swoop down and get a little bit of wax on my legs. From there, it’s pretty easy to wipe off and eat.

I knew a guy once who did get stuck, and it was a pretty nasty affair. It wasn’t the wax that did him in, it was the host’s response to all the wiggling he did trying to get free. The human finally stuck a Q-Tip in there (even though the instructions specifically tell you not to do that) and basically crushed the gnat into the wax.

The other danger, of course, is going in too far and being unable to get back out. Once you reach a certain depth, you’re pretty much into the cranial cavity. I don’t know if you’ve ever smelled raw human brain, but it’s pretty bad. You lose your appetite completely in there and then, because there’s not a lot of oxygen, you also lose your life. Hosts hate that, because many times your corpse will decay and cause a brain infection.

There are definitely safer places to hang out. Lynn, tell us about the nose.

NOSE GNAT: Yeah, it’s fairly safe in here, Gary, but again, it’s pretty much an accident when we fly into someone’s nose.

What I like is the cozy nature of the nostril. We spend the entire four months of our lives in the Great Outdoors, so to have the chance to chill out in a virtual cathedral, even for a few seconds, is a real treat.

I like the high ceilings, and the way the hairs grow up from the bottom and down from the top, much like the stalactites and stalagmites of a cave. You can usually find a nice corner out of the airstream, and it makes a great place to grab a quick nap.

People don’t realize how little sleep we get, and it’s amazing how refreshed I’ll feel after a few minutes chilling up the nose. If you don’t move around too much, your host will never even notice you’re in there.

I guess the one big concern is with nose-pickers. You’re snoozing away, dreaming some amazing fantasy, then all of a sudden a giant fingernail scoops you up and wipes you under a desk. Once that happens, you’re trapped forever. The most you can hope for is that your children come visit your grave.

Steve, what’s going on down there in the mouth?

MOUTH GNAT: Help! Help! This guy is starting to chew! What kind of a disgusting omnivore have I gotten myself involved with?

Help! Hel–. Argh!

Let’s throw it back to Davis.

DAVIS: Thanks, Steve. And, sorry about that. Didn’t know you were in there.

I’d like to thank you four, and the thousands of your nameless cohorts who feel so compelled to fly into my face. We’ve all gained some amazing insight into what it’s like to be on the lower rungs of the animal kingdom and, I think, gained a renewed appreciation for life in all of its forms.

Now, when I see you guys hovering in the distance, I won’t be so quick to put my head down and try to bull right through you. (Not that that would work. I bet you’ve got hair gnats in the swarm too).

With cold weather in the forecast as soon as this weekend, I imagine I won’t see much of you for the rest of the season. Here’s hoping that we can get back together in the spring.

See you then. And thanks for the help with the blogging.

HAL: Don’t mention it.

GARY: Glad to help.

LYNN: No prob.

STEVE: Aaahhh! Please stop with all the talking!!

Gary, the gnat

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Revisited: Blogging while jogging, and vice versa

September 16, 2011

Many great artists got their inspiration when they least expected it. John Lennon scribbled the lyrics to “A Day in the Life” on the back of an envelope after he woke up dreaming about them. Pablo Picasso began work on his masterpiece “Guernica” after a vigorous walk along the Seine. William Shakespeare was known to work out with weights and spend 30 minutes on an elliptical machine to clear his mind for wrighting plays.  

Hacks too can find exercise to be a stimulant to creativity. It’s often during my daily run that I come up with ideas for this blog. I’ll be loping along the sidewalk when — boom, out of nowhere — the idea occurs to me that it might be funny to write a history of the human foot, or about my plans to rob a liquor store.  

As soon as I get home, I’m quick to jot these nuggets down on a scratchpad I keep on my dresser (at least, I try to write them down, if I can find a piece of paper not already sodden with perspiration).  

I often think how much simpler it would be if I could just carry my netbook with me as I jog, and work simultaneously on my posting and my endurance. Then I think about how difficult it would be to type and watch for oncoming cars at the same time.  

So this weekend I tried the next best thing — dictating into a voice recorder as I ran, then transcribing the results when I got home. You, the reader, get to travel along with me at the moment this essay is first imagined. It’s like being in on the extraordinary moment of human conception, except without fallopian tubes.  

I hope you enjoy and, don’t forget, be sure to do at least 15 minutes of cool-down stretches when you’re done.  

Runnin’ down the road, tryin’ to loosen my load

OK, so this is an attempt to record what goes on during an average run through the neighborhood, starting out in front of my house, and here I go…  

And this doesn’t look foolish at all, that I’m talking to myself while I’m running. This is the route that I do pretty much every day. It’s about 3 in the afternoon so there aren’t a lot of people around to wonder why some guy’s running down the street holding a microphone to his face.

There’s utility construction going on in the neighborhood, being done by a contractor called “Trenchco.” Apparently they build trenches or dig trenches or maybe they just like trenches. We don’t know what they’re putting in the trenches but I hope it might be better-quality cable. There’s a bunch of workers up the hill. My wife keeps saying we should ask them what they’re doing, but I doubt they know.

It’s about 87 degrees out here, which is pretty warm for somebody my age to be running. I was known to run in temperatures as high as 100 degrees when I was younger. People know me around the city as the crazy guy who runs no matter what. I once ran in an icestorm, but then I fell down.  

More cars as I turn the corner onto the main road. People are looking at me, wondering what I’m doing, wondering why I’m talking to my hand while running in such heat. I think one should explain the other.  

There goes a red truck.

My wife is at home right now playing Wii Fit with my sister-in-law, so they probably have the more sensible exercise idea than what I’m doing. I’ve always been told I should carry ID when I got out for these runs and I never do, so if I ever drop off the face of the earth, you’ll know what happened. Hopefully somebody will find my body before the raccoons do.  

Passing some private homes on the right, and on the left is a new subdivision they started building right before the recession. They got about half the houses built and pretty much gave up. I think they’re townhomes, which is kind of like living in a real home from what I’m told.

Glad you can’t transcribe panting because that’s what you’d be reading right now. There is a little bit of a breeze as I get close to the top of the hill. The sky is pretty clear, some high clouds not doing much to block the sun. I try to keep my head down while I’m running. Every now and then I’ll find money or something. I found $20 the other day, just laying in a parking lot.

Wow, there goes a huge truck from a nearby paper tube company. “World’s leading manufacturer of paper tubes,” it says. Not sure who uses them but I guess you have to wrap your toilet paper around something.  

Passing some apartments on the right, and another newish subdivision on the left. It’s called “The Pines at India Hook,” located interestingly enough on India Hook Road. The apartments are called Village Station and it’s an “apartment community,” not just apartments. So I guess they can charge an extra $50 a month for that.

There’s an older house here on the right that’s now a law firm, I think. Tall, beautiful hardwood trees out front. I’d say oak or maple or — what’s that other kind of tree they have? — elm. Could be any of those.  

Off to my left is an older neighborhood with a “Dead End” sign. I don’t think that’s the name of the community though, I think it’s just a street sign. On my right is the Spring Arbor Alzheimer’s Care center and there are some folks sitting out on rocking chairs today because it’s so nice. I’ll try not to talk too loud so I don’t disturb the Alzheimer’s people. I don’t want any of them wandering up this way.

And now here’s Chandler Place, a so-called independent retirement living facility. I think that’s sort of like an old folk’s home, but with fewer safety rails. There are some “shoppes” up here on the end, one little restaurant we go to sometimes. I’m going to try to cross the street now and go back down the hill toward my neighborhood.  

So I’m headed back on the other side of the street, a nice white picket fence to my right. This is a pretty nice part of town. I figure the distance that I’m running is about 1.6 miles maybe. I used to do it every day, lately not so much because of the heat. I guess that’s a good excuse.  

From this spot I can peek into some private backyards … not much going on at this hour of the day. Every now and then I’ll witness an illicit affair.  

Coming up on the right is what used to be another rest home but is now taken over by a church that does day care. It’s called “Taking the City Ministry,” and the childcare is called “God’s Blessings Christian Childcare”. I think the kids are all inside right now. Not sure of the church’s denomination. “Taking the City Ministry” sounds pretty aggressive but I think they mean it more spiritually.

There’s a flag over there …  might be the South Carolina state flag. It’s all ripped and stuck in some trees, so it’s kinda hard to tell. Maybe the apartment community has their own government and it’s their flag.  

Hitting a downhill part now and going past a shady area and becoming a little less self-conscious about talking to myself while running. Every now and then somebody from work who lives around here will say they saw me running, and I’ll say “oh.”  

OK, coming up now past that half-built Village at India Hook — “single-level villas, no maintenance, clubhouse/fitness center, two car garages,” says the sign. They look like nice places. I think they still try to sell them on the weekends. They’ll put signs up like “move in today” or “agent on duty” but I don’t think they’re trying that hard.  

So this will count as my exercise for the day. I remember back in junior high the most they’d make us run would be 600 yards which, when I think about the marathons and 10Ks I’ve run since, seems like nothing now. But at that time they called it a “walk/run” because they knew we couldn’t run the whole 600 yards and in fact I could not, except one time I got tired of coming in last and sprinted the first 100 yards and was out in the lead and everybody said “hey, look at fat Davis go!” and then of course I ran out of gas and finished last.  

Somebody just waved at me from a passing vehicle. Doesn’t necessarily mean they know me, it just means that I’m in the South. Running  past a patch of woods. Every now and then I’ll see deer coming out of here. They’re gradually putting up more and more homes in this area so the deer either have to go somewhere else or figure out if they want to rent or buy.  

Going past Heathwood and Heathwood Forest. Looks like the same neighborhood to me. I’ve run back there on occasion and I think there was a woodsy part so I guess that was the forest. Should be “The Forest at Heathwood” though, shouldn’t it?  

Almost to the place where I normally stop. Still not much traffic out … it’s basically the middle of the afternoon and most decent people are working. I guess I’m indecent, as my tightly clinging sweaty T-shirt will testify. They’ve got some election signs out at some of the houses. These people seem to want Tailor for Judge. Yeah, it says “Carolyn Tailor for Judge” … I thought maybe it was somebody named Judge who was running to be elected Tailor.  

Going to have to cross back over the road now and watch for traffic. Here comes a car but I don’t think he’s going to hit me because of the hassle of accident and insurance reports.  

Alright, well, coming back to my neighborhood. Just beyond where I’m turning is the Westminster Church — there goes a motorcycle, by the way — and there’s a bus from the Christian school that’s associated with the church.  

Back in the neighborhood now, not so many cars. Do have some blind corners I have to watch for in this area and no sidewalk, so some care is required here.

Think I’m going to knock off now because I’m getting back in the area where the neighbors may wonder about me. These are people that are more likely to know where I live and leave notes in my mailbox telling me to stop talking to myself while I’m running, so I’ll be signing off.

Revisited: YMCA goes MIA

July 23, 2011

CHICAGO (July 23) — In a rebranding move that stirred up its Christian faithful and simply confused everybody else, the YMCA has rolled out a new logo touting the organization as simply “the Y.”

Gone is the “MCA” that completed the full name of the Young Men’s Christian Association that had existed since its founding in 1844. The original charter of serving to develop a healthy spirit, mind and body remains, but the public relations experts who came up with the change hope to increase membership from a wider, more diverse community.

“We had narrowed ourselves into a pretty slender demographic,” said national spokesperson Tom Scribner. “There may be plenty of young, but only half of them are men, and then less than half of these are Christian. When we further require that they be a member of the 1960s soft-rock group The Association, we’ve just about eliminated everybody.”

“By just calling ourselves ‘the Y,’ we can accept almost anyone into our facilities,” Scribner said. “And if ‘Along Comes Mary,’ we’d be able to welcome her even if she were an old Jewish lady.”

Scribner described additional confusion that existed before the image update and name change. A competing group called the “SPCA” — believed to stand for the “Small Pets Christian Association” — was drawing off the existing membership of the Y, sometimes permanently.

“We had people who’d go to the SPCA for a workout and a schvitz in the steamroom, and they’d never be heard from again,” Scribner said. “Apparently, the SPCA workout consists of a 30-foot dog run where joggers are chained to a steel line, and their sauna uses fatal doses of carbon monoxide instead of steam. That’s not good.”

Scribner deflected criticism that came mostly from Southern branches of the organization, who complained that the move de-emphasized the Christian element. Also opposed to the change were roller rinks who feared they’d have to scrap one of their skaters’ favorite songs, “YMCA” by the Village People.

“We took the valuable input of these groups and considered it carefully,” Scribner said. “We told the National Roller Skating Association they could keep singing the song as it was written. But we had to be tougher on the Christians and make them promise never to mention or think about Jesus Christ while they’re in our facilities. Even if they drop a medicine ball on their foot, we’ll be requiring them to say something like ‘crap’ or ‘ouch’ instead of anything that invokes the name of the Lord.”

The shortening of corporate names to a catchy single letter has caught on among marketing experts looking to increase sales among young people. The United States of America, or as it was sometimes called “the U.S.A.,” recently requested fellow members of the United Nations to simply refer to it as “the U.” The Professional Society of Urologists, formerly the P.S.U., is now known as “the P.” A consulting firm brought in to update the image of the 101-year-old NAACP with a proposal to rename the civil rights organization “The N Word” had its suggestion rejected by the group’s membership.

Other firms that have tried this tactic have run into legal trouble with copyrights. The international jihadist terror organization known as al-Qaida was looking to transform itself into an edgy group that could draw young adventure-seekers into its ranks. The terrorists had already printed signage, T-shirts and promotional pens bearing the new name of “The Big Q,” when it was discovered that a radio station in Canton, Ohio, was already calling itself “The Big Q-96.” The station had won some preliminary legal battles but then was threatened with holy war, and decided to compromise by offering al-Qaida tickets in preferred seating for the upcoming Avenged Sevenfold concert featuring Five Finger Death Punch.

Burning up in the summer heat

June 9, 2011

When I drove past the thermometer in front of a local chiropractor’s office around 6 this morning, it was already 88 degrees.

Of course, these are the same people who claim they can cure my chronic lower back pain by yanking on my head, and induce weight loss by randomly rearranging my vertebrae. So I doubt the temperature was quite that high.

But there’s no doubt that the summer heat has arrived in full force. Our local forecast here in upstate South Carolina calls for a high of 94 today, and a series of 90-plus highs stretching through the end of the five-day forecast. Longer term, meteorologists predict a warm, dry July before we all die of global warming when the temps top out around 160° in August.

 “Spring has sprung and fall has fell,” we used to say rather ungrammatically when we were children. “Summer’s here and it’s hot as hell.”

I grew up in the largely un-air-conditioned Miami of the 1950s and 1960s. How we survived the summer heat of the tropics is beyond me. As a child, I remember friends trading baseball cards in the shade of a ficus tree and squirting each other with hoses for most of the hours our mothers had shooed us outside to play. Sweating profusely was another popular pastime.

I’ll still sometimes reference those sticky times as a badge of honor when discussing how hot a particular day has become.

“Yeah, it’s a scorcher,” I’ll acknowledge to fellow workers who return from a 60-second trip to roll down their car windows drenched in perspiration. “Not as bad as south Florida, of course. You could bake a cake in my father’s Monterey. Sitting in that Mercury was like sitting on Mercury.”

What I may neglect to mention is that a steady sea breeze and a general ignorance that air-conditioning even existed also contributed to how we were able to survive. But I’ll take any chance I can get to lend credence to the concept that I’m quite a man — leathery and melanoma-ridden, perhaps, but extremely masculine.

It wasn’t until after I left the tropics and went off to college that I became interested in using the outdoors for something other than suffering. When the jogging craze kicked into high gear in the early ’70’s, I was living in the slightly cooler climes of Tallahassee. North Florida at least had seasons, and you’d encounter an occasional one that wasn’t sweltering.

I ran mostly during the academic school year, which generally went from September to May and therefore wasn’t unbearable. When it did occasionally tend toward the brutally hot, I’d run anyway. (There was the matter of disgruntled advisors who were constantly chasing me, demanding to know when I’d take care of that Math 102 requirement).

I moved to South Carolina in 1980. At least a hundred miles inland from the Atlantic, the “Midlands” as they’re called are actually even worse than Florida (in so many ways). But I kept up the jogging for the next 30 or so years — with occasional breaks for sleep, work and having a son — and proudly became known in my suburban neighborhood as “that crazy guy who runs in the midday sun.”

Within the last few months, however, fearing my identity might soon change to “that crazy guy who used to run and now lies dead by the side of the road, a victim of heat stroke,” I’ve changed my exercise routine. Now I walk, and not just to transport myself to the bathroom. I walk vigorously, round and round in circles, trying to burn as many calories as jogging used to evaporate.

You don’t get quite as hot and sweaty as you do from running, so now I try to take care of my daily workout while I’m at work. I’ll slam down a couple of Hot Pockets at my desk, then use my 30-minute lunch break to pike vigorously around the office park. This way, when I get home at the end of a long day, I’ve already taken care of my exercise and can proceed to more leisurely pursuits, like standing next to the air conditioner.

The problem with exercising like this near work is that coworkers see you and laugh at you. The first few times I made the circuit to the warehouses in back, past the fake lake, dodging the geese poo and the turtles with Alzheimer’s who wandered away from their pond, then back to my office building, I ended up just as thoroughly drenched as if I’d walked into the lake. The heat radiated off the asphalt like a brick pizza oven, and I was the pepperoni. I was withered and greasy and smelled like curdled cheese by the time I returned to my desk.

I’ve thought of taking measures to make myself more comfortable outside. I could wear a big, wide-brimmed hat. I could remove my shirt. I could fill my pants pockets with chipped ice. None of this seems practical, however, for getting through the afternoon without the lady at the next cubicle hosing me down with Axe body spray.

I think now I’ll just take the rest of the summer off from any physical activity more exerting than respiration. Simply walking across the parking lot to my car when the workday ends at 3 p.m. is enough to exhaust me with the thermometer consistently above 90.

That dribble of sweat I’m leaving in my trail must weigh at least several pounds.

Have you heard? It's hot outside.

We must obey the signs of the times

April 5, 2011

In a news story reported March 29 by The Rock Hill Herald, a local man was charged with indecent exposure at the new, upscale YMCA located in nearby Baxter Village.

The 73-year-old man was accused of exposing himself to another man in the steam room at the workout facility around 4:40 p.m., according to a report from the York County Sheriff’s Office.

He was also “touching himself inappropriately,” the report stated.

The suspect was arrested and transported to the Moss Justice Center, from which he has since been released.

In a related story, naked forces at the other local Y — the one I regularly attend to get my daily session on the treadmill — have apparently succeeded in overturning a regulation spelled out in paper signs hung around the men’s locker room dictating “No BARE bottoms on benches.”

The signs appeared earlier this year, as first reported on this blog Feb. 10, in response to complaints from some members that elderly nature boys were reveling a bit too much in their altogethers. The birthday-suited seniors routinely exited the small sauna at the facility to grab a cool breath of air, plopping their sagging disease-ridden posteriors on the same wooden benches that properly clad people used to tie their shoes.

In the intervening weeks, however, the signs have disappeared, and the “BARE” bottoms have returned.

“If ya can’t be naked at the Y, where can ya be naked?” asked one elderly man, in a hopefully rhetorical inquiry. “I’ll sit wherever I damn well please, thank you very much.”

Asked whether he would at least draw the line at “touching himself inappropriately,” the coot pawed reflectively at his backside as he pondered the question.

“How’m I supposed to dry myself off without touching myself?” he asked. “If you think I’m hauling my family jewels up to those air-blowing hand-dryers, you got another think coming.”

“I know someone who tried that and he darn near broke his pelvis,” chimed in another unlikely member of the Greatest Generation, who once fought Imperial Japan on the shores of Iwo Jima and was now limiting his battles to causes closer to home. “The varnish on them benches won’t allow any germs to spread. I know that because my grandson is a scientist.”

YMCA director Moe Bell admitted that the Lord Godivas had won the upper hand in the ongoing struggle for decency by removing the signs every time he’d put up a new one.

“What are you gonna do?” Bell asked. “Physically remove those guys? I, for one, am not touching them — appropriately, inappropriately, or in any other imaginable way.”

+++

Ever find yourself behind a dump truck bearing the following sign?

How stupid do these people think we are? They’re hauling 20 tons of broken glass shards around town, pretty much for the sheer fun of it, yet they’re concerned about being blamed if one of the shards jostles loose and ends up crashing through your windshield and into your eye.

As long as the debris first bounces off the road surface, they figure they’re covered. It’s not their fault; you need to blame the vagaries of physics that dictate a body in motion will remain in motion until it burrows a full two inches into your face.

Never mind that it originated from the bed of their overstuffed dump truck. The disingenuous sign warned you to stay back 500 feet.

I’m thinking about putting the following sign on the FRONT of my automobile: “I have flame-throwers in the grill of my car. Should they erupt and melt your tires, it’s not my problem.”

Revisited: Looking for a new hobby (perhaps in the lobby)

April 3, 2011

I like to think there’s a deeper meaning to life, that there’s a rhyme and a reason for why natural calamities wipe out whole nations and why that guy cut me on in traffic just now and had the nerve to give me the finger. There has to be some unifying force that holds the universe together and makes order prevail over chaos.

I think it’s in the rhyme. I believe there’s a relationship between words which sound alike that goes far beyond any other connection they might have. When I’m preparing to make life-altering decisions, I consider what activities are already a key part of my existence, then take on new enterprises that rhyme with these.

When I bought my current house, a major selling point was that it was located at the corner of Shadowbrook and India Hook. When I was looking to buy a reliable car, I remembered how touched I was by the Oscar-winning performance of Henry Fonda in “On Golden Pond,” and chose to purchase a Honda. Since my favorite processed dairy products are all cheeses, I selected Jesus to be my preferred Living God.

Now I’m looking for a new hobby that aligns with what are currently my two predominant pastimes, jogging and blogging. Both of these diversions have given me enormous pleasure in recent years but they need a supplement. I’ve been a casual runner for over 30 years, and I’m rapidly approaching the age where I need to take on an exercise that’s physically less taxing. I’ve tried walking but I’m afraid it will lead to caulking or stalking, and I’ve never been very good at home repair or serving 30-month prison terms. Blogging holds no significant health hazards, if you don’t count neglecting to take your cholesterol medicine because it would make a good post topic, and I look forward to continuing it.

Perhaps I’ll also take up clogging. This traditional European dance has migrated to the Appalachian Mountains and become popular with country folk in my part of the South. Once danced with wooden shoes, more sensible footwear now predominates, though the emphasis on stomping out a downbeat with enthusiastic footwork lives on. While creating audible percussive rhythms has its appeal, I’m not sure I can do it with my feet. I’ve never been a coordinated hoofer, and I’m afraid my fellow dancers would look unkindly on audible percussion I made with my face.

How about logging? Though typically considered more of a vocation than an avocation, I’m sure there are elements of commercial forestry that could be amusing. Have you ever seen those lumberjacking competitions on TV where guys balance on floating logs or race the clock to chainsaw a redwood into submission? I suppose it’s dangerous, yet I could probably stand to have a little more peril in my life. I wonder how you get started in such an enterprise. Is there an association I should contact, or do I just show up in the nearest woods and start hacking away? This may take more research.

I also understand there’s an activity called mud bogging. The popular off-road motorsport involves driving a vehicle through a pit of mud, with the winner determined by whoever goes the farthest before sinking into the underworld. Typically, vehicles competing are four-wheel drives, but I’m not sure that’s anywhere in the rules. I wonder if they’d let me use my old ten-speed bicycle. I can’t imagine I’d get very far at first, though I’m willing to practice diligently until the ooze declines to absorb me.

I’m also intrigued by fogging, as it’s practiced in movies and the theatre. There’s nothing like a looming haze hovering just above the floor to create an atmosphere of menace. Until recently, it took expensive equipment and huge quantities of dry ice to create roiling banks of smoke, but cheaper fog machines have now become available to the public. I’m thinking of employing such a set-up to increase the drama that accompanies my entrance into an office at work. My proposal to re-price inventory on a weekly rather than quarterly basis stands a much better chance of being accepted by management if the ominous threat of supernatural intervention is implied. And the PowerPoint presentation would look a lot cooler, too, especially if I supplemented it with lasers.

I don’t know that there are many opportunities in modern American society for flogging. I’m sure there are those who deserve a ritual whipping for a variety of offenses, yet our so-called “civilized” structure of law typically forbids it. Singapore was in the news a few years back for planning to flog a young American caught chewing gum or passing notes and letting his shirt tail out or some such crime. Maybe I could practice my new hobby there. On my next business trip to India, I can arrange for a connection through Changi Airport, and the authorities could have a collection of miscreants lined up for me near the baggage claim. As long as I don’t have to go through security twice.

Other than these options, I’m running a bit short on ideas. I went to a rhyming dictionary online and found a few other possibilities.

Hogging has several meanings, though most don’t lend themselves to leisure pursuits: one involves shredding waste wood, one is cutting a horse’s mane as short as possible (what fun!), one refers to the stress put on a ship as it passes over a wave, and one is the practice at some fraternities of rounding up the rotund for a party. Hardly the stuff of hobbies.

Nogging refers to brick masonry built up between wooden uprights or studs. I’ve started an interest group on Facebook for this topic, but don’t hold much hope of a response.

Pogging, according to the Urban Dictionary, is the act of talking on a cell phone while driving, causing horrible annoyance to those nearby or, alternatively, the act of performing sex with a female with the use of a … whoa, hold on there. How can the same word have one meaning so innocuous and the other so provocative? The UD offers an imaginary conversation among the hipsters who speak this lingo, but it’s not much help in clarifying the difference: “Hey, do you want to go pogging?” “Sure, we can pog all night. I hope there is a good turnout.” “Oh, there will be. I’ve called grandma, and she’s got all her book club coming.” My grandmother just recently became comfortable using a cell phone, and I don’t want to be part of anything that further confuses the meaning of “wireless device” for her.

I’m not sure this rhyming strategy is going to work. I suppose there’s Always Alliteration. Let’s see what the Urban Dictionary might suggest: There’s Belly Bracelet, Jingle Jowels, Joe Jonas, Jewfro, Juggalo …

Anarchy at the YMCA

February 10, 2011

All around the world, corrupt regimes are being challenged by citizens who want to see fair, effective governance of their countries. In Tunisia, Yemen and now Egypt, people are taking to the streets to show their displeasure with leaders more concerned about staying in power than the well-being of their own people.

But the clarion call for better government is also taking place here at home. Just yesterday afternoon, in fact, the head of the Charlotte Avenue YMCA in Rock Hill, S.C., saw a protest calling not for a less authoritarian rule of law, but for better enforcement of legislation already on record at the exercise facility.

Executive Director Moe Bell was the target of a noontime rally held in the central lobby by a member dissatisfied with his administration’s strategy of hanging paper signs throughout the building, and ignoring blatant violations of the policies spelled out in those signs.

“What’s the point of asking people to wipe down machines after they’re done if there’s going to be no enforcement?” asked the protester, who wanted to be identified only as “me” or “I” to protect himself against possible retribution. “Elsewhere, people are demanding an end to police states. Here on Charlotte Avenue, we have a spineless regime afraid to stand up for order.”

Carrying a “Moe Must Go!” sign, I demanded a meeting with the man responsible for the daily descent into chaos that characterizes the busiest periods right after people get off work. And I got what I demanded, as you might expect from a leader eager to please everyone and offend no one, not even the kids who bounce basketballs in the hallway in clear violation of a sign that tells them not to.

“I appreciate that you’ve made these regulations clearly stated, but there’s just nothing to back them up,” I told Moe at the start of our ten-minute session.

“Can you give me some examples?” asked the man who has ruled with a reasonable, cautious fist at the facility for close to 30 years.

I pointed out that the letter-sized sheet of paper hung outside the steam room calling for “No Shaving” is routinely disregarded, especially by the older guys who have been coming here for years. I noted that the sign telling exercisers to limit their time on treadmills during peak hours to 30 minutes was being interpreted to mean 30 minutes of running, followed by a five-minute cool-down. I reported that, just last weekend, a father brought his school-age son into the adult men’s locker room, in direct violation of the sign that prohibits everyone under age 18.

“Look at this,” I asked Moe, showing him a picture on my cell phone. “Right there next to the sign that reads ‘No BARE bottoms on benches’ sits a completely naked man, soiling the seat with his sweaty butt.”

“You know, we also have a sign in there that says ‘NO cell phones in locker room’,” he countered.

“And that one’s routinely violated as well,” I shouted. “Where is the enforcement of these rules? Why even bother coming up with them?”

Moe gave a brief overview of how the legislative, executive and judicial branches operate at the Y. First, a member will complain about something. Then, Moe will go to his computer and call up the folder named ‘RULES’, opening a Word file into which he types the new rule. He asks whoever’s on duty at the front desk to proofread it for him.

“I always ask them to read it on the screen, so we don’t waste any paper,” Moe said. “I think it’s good to have checks and balances like proofreading.”

He’ll print out several copies of the rule, grab a tape dispenser, and hang the signs where he thinks they’ll be most noticed. If somebody objects to the new rule, he’ll take down the offending sign and possibly put up another one.

“So people may see the sign, but that doesn’t mean they do what it says,” I interjected. “Why don’t you have a police force to patrol the building and make sure these things happen?”

Moe said his budget didn’t allow much for security costs, and added that “sometimes I’ll put a piece of clip-art with the new rule, and that seems to draw a more positive response.”

I demanded that Moe and his henchmen at least make it a rule to always print the signs in portrait format, rather than in landscape.

“I think the vertical lines of the portrait mode tell people you’re serious. Makes it look like the top part of an exclamation point,” I said. “Landscaped printouts remind people of pleasant outdoor scenes. It makes them think you’re weak.”

Moe agreed to my demand, and began typing the new rule into his computer. He printed out a single copy — in landscape! — and hung it on the wall next to his printer.

“Now, I ask for your immediate resignation, and that your government agree to free and open elections to replace you,” I said.

Moe said the Y’s board of directors would have to be the ones to hear such a request, and there was a meeting scheduled for next Wednesday that I could attend if I wanted to.

“I will be there, you can be assured of that,” I said, rising to leave. “No, wait, I’m meeting a friend for Scrabble that night. Never mind.”

You know who you look like? Not me, I hope

February 8, 2011

I like to think I’m unique, that there’s no one else like me. I enjoy thinking I’m like the gently falling snowflake, its crystalline structure so beautiful, so symmetrical, and yet so wholly different from the trillions of other snowflakes. Sure, I’m a little heavier, a little colder, a little whiter. But, inside, I really do feel like a snowflake.

Certainly a flake of some sort.

A big part of what makes me Davis is how I look. No one would mistake me for Brad Pitt or George Clooney or any other handsome movie star (the bastard child of William Pitt and Rosemary Clooney — maybe). I look about average for a fifty-something American male, perhaps a little more endowed with hair and body fat than most. I might be described by some as “professorial,” what with my glasses and my serious expressions and my penchant for functional, non-fashionable clothing. I’ve had a number of people approach me over the years and ask if I used to teach at their school.

I’ve also had people come up to me and say, “Hey, John, how you doing?” That’s because there was a man in my town by the name of John Frazier who some say I looked like. I’ve seen this John person, and there was some resemblance for a while, especially when we both sported beards. I got rid of my facial hair about 15 years ago. Unfortunately, we got rid of John entirely about five years ago, when he died of a heart attack. I try to be sensitive to those who think they’re approaching John and obviously haven’t heard the sad news.

“I’m not doing so good,” I’ll respond as John. “I think I feel a myocardial infarction coming on. Maybe I’ll stay home from work tomorrow.”

I’m very uncomfortable with people making observations, positive or otherwise, about my appearance. It indicates they’ve gone through an internal evaluation process and come up with an opinion on some feature of mine they feel is worthy of comment. Whether it’s good (“Gee, your monobrow doesn’t seem as bushy today”) or bad (“What in God’s name has happened to your face!?”), I don’t especially care to hear it. I’d rather not be noticed at all, and if it requires me wearing an executioner’s hood to go about my daily affairs in relative anonymity, I’ll do it.

So it was very much outside my character on Saturday when I stopped by a local coffee house to pick up a take-out order of soup for my wife, and struck up a brief conversation with the guy behind the counter. He had shortly cropped hair and a round, open face with a certain childlike quality. To me, he looked exactly like a little-known British TV star by the name of Karl Pilkington.

Karl Pilkington

I asked the barista if anyone had ever told him that he looked exactly like Pilkington. He said he hadn’t heard of him.

I started to explain who Karl was. He’s the dim-witted foil of comedian Ricky Gervais who once agreed to be filmed taking an IQ test (and scoring an 83) and who is now starring in a limited-run series on the Science Channel called “An Idiot Abroad.” On this TV show, Karl fumbles through a world tour of famous monuments, making ill-informed, tactless comments about his foreign hosts. Then, I realized such an observation would probably not be viewed as an especially favorable comparison.

“But I’m certain you’re not an idiot,” I could’ve assured him, though I doubted I’d still be able to count on the spittle-free nature of my wife’s soup. Instead, I caught myself barely in time and said he should Google Karl’s image on the internet.

“It’s spelled ‘Pillington,'” I said, “and it’s ‘Carl’ with a ‘C,’ not a ‘K’.”

Later in the day I found myself on the treadmill at the YMCA, idly gazing around the room in search of some distraction from the boredom. There was CNN on the overhead TV, a couple of giggling teenagers talking too loudly in the corner and, over by the free weights, a fifty-something American male, perhaps a little more endowed with hair and body fat than most, who some might describe as “professorial,” what with his glasses and serious expression and penchant for functional, non-fashionable clothing.

It was a guy who looked exactly like me. He even had the slightly hunched posture, the prominent brow and the perpetual frown. He had just decided to step away from his reps for a moment when I first saw him, and it only took a second or two before he turned in my direction and looked directly at me. Our eyes met, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he had the same thought as I: “Oh, you poor soul.”

It’s definitely an awkward situation when you encounter a stranger who could be your identical twin. I know it happened all the time on TV sitcoms and science fiction programs of the sixties, but I’ve heard of no real protocol for dealing with it in real life. Do you acknowledge the similarity and hope that they don’t regard it as a slur? Do you play it coy, and say something funny about meeting at Mom’s for dinner tomorrow?

No, if you’re a couple of reserved-to-the-point-of-sedated, anti-social, borderline-neurotic middle-aged guys, you turn away. You ignore the other person with an intensity you’ve never ignored anybody else in your life.

We both returned to our business of pretending to care about our physiques, making a point of finding something else to look at. I still had another ten minutes to go on the treadmill while he was free to roam around the room and look at whatever and whoever he pleased. He moved to one piece of circuit equipment almost directly in front of me and bent over to adjust the weight setting. It was then that I saw his crack.

I’ve never seen my own backside cleavage before, so I don’t know if there was a resemblance or not. That, however, was beside the point. This man could now be judged as not just another slovenly individual who gave little thought to his personal appearance; he was officially a full-on slob.

I literally stopped in my tracks, or might have, if it wouldn’t have thrown me off the back of the treadmill. If I looked so much like this poor fellow, did I also act like him too? Were there times when parts of my anatomy had also become exposed to the light of day, and I hadn’t realized it? If I feared people evaluating my haircut or new shirt, how would I feel them sizing up my hinder?

Now severely winded, I wrapped up my exercise session and left the cardio room with the following resolution: I need to redouble my efforts to ignore those around me.

Blogging while jogging, and vice versa

September 13, 2010

Many great artists got their inspiration when they least expected it. John Lennon scribbled the lyrics to “A Day in the Life” on the back of an envelope after he woke up dreaming about them. Pablo Picasso began work on his masterpiece “Guernica” after a vigorous walk along the Seine. William Shakespeare was known to work out with weights and spend 30 minutes on an elliptical machine to clear his mind for wrighting plays.  

Hacks too can find exercise to be a stimulant to creativity. It’s often during my daily run that I come up with ideas for this blog. I’ll be loping along the sidewalk when — boom, out of nowhere — the idea occurs to me that it might be funny to write a history of the human foot, or about my plans to rob a liquor store.  

As soon as I get home, I’m quick to jot these nuggets down on a scratchpad I keep on my dresser (at least, I try to write them down, if I can find a piece of paper not already sodden with perspiration).  

I often think how much simpler it would be if I could just carry my netbook with me as I jog, and work simultaneously on my posting and my endurance. Then I think about how difficult it would be to type and watch for oncoming cars at the same time.  

So this weekend I tried the next best thing — dictating into a voice recorder as I ran, then transcribing the results when I got home. You, the reader, get to travel along with me at the moment this essay is first imagined. It’s like being in on the extraordinary moment of human conception, except without fallopian tubes.  

I hope you enjoy and, don’t forget, be sure to do at least 15 minutes of cool-down stretches when you’re done.  

Runnin' down the road, tryin' to loosen my load

OK, so this is an attempt to record what goes on during an average run through the neighborhood, starting out in front of my house, and here I go…  

And this doesn’t look foolish at all, that I’m talking to myself while I’m running. This is the route that I do pretty much every day. It’s about 3 in the afternoon so there aren’t a lot of people around to wonder why some guy’s running down the street holding a microphone to his face.

There’s utility construction going on in the neighborhood, being done by a contractor called “Trenchco.” Apparently they build trenches or dig trenches or maybe they just like trenches. We don’t know what they’re putting in the trenches but I hope it might be better-quality cable. There’s a bunch of workers up the hill. My wife keeps saying we should ask them what they’re doing, but I doubt they know.

It’s about 87 degrees out here, which is pretty warm for somebody my age to be running. I was known to run in temperatures as high as 100 degrees when I was younger. People know me around the city as the crazy guy who runs no matter what. I once ran in an icestorm, but then I fell down.  

More cars as I turn the corner onto the main road. People are looking at me, wondering what I’m doing, wondering why I’m talking to my hand while running in such heat. I think one should explain the other.  

There goes a red truck.

My wife is at home right now playing Wii Fit with my sister-in-law, so they probably have the more sensible exercise idea than what I’m doing. I’ve always been told I should carry ID when I got out for these runs and I never do, so if I ever drop off the face of the earth, you’ll know what happened. Hopefully somebody will find my body before the raccoons do.  

Passing some private homes on the right, and on the left is a new subdivision they started building right before the recession. They got about half the houses built and pretty much gave up. I think they’re townhomes, which is kind of like living in a real home from what I’m told.

Glad you can’t transcribe panting because that’s what you’d be reading right now. There is a little bit of a breeze as I get close to the top of the hill. The sky is pretty clear, some high clouds not doing much to block the sun. I try to keep my head down while I’m running. Every now and then I’ll find money or something. I found $20 the other day, just laying in a parking lot.

Wow, there goes a huge truck from a nearby paper tube company. “World’s leading manufacturer of paper tubes,” it says. Not sure who uses them but I guess you have to wrap your toilet paper around something.  

Passing some apartments on the right, and another newish subdivision on the left. It’s called “The Pines at India Hook,” located interestingly enough on India Hook Road. The apartments are called Village Station and it’s an “apartment community,” not just apartments. So I guess they can charge an extra $50 a month for that.

There’s an older house here on the right that’s now a law firm, I think. Tall, beautiful hardwood trees out front. I’d say oak or maple or — what’s that other kind of tree they have? — elm. Could be any of those.  

Off to my left is an older neighborhood with a “Dead End” sign. I don’t think that’s the name of the community though, I think it’s just a street sign. On my right is the Spring Arbor Alzheimer’s Care center and there are some folks sitting out on rocking chairs today because it’s so nice. I’ll try not to talk too loud so I don’t disturb the Alzheimer’s people. I don’t want any of them wandering up this way.

And now here’s Chandler Place, a so-called independent retirement living facility. I think that’s sort of like an old folk’s home, but with fewer safety rails. There are some “shoppes” up here on the end, one little restaurant we go to sometimes. I’m going to try to cross the street now and go back down the hill toward my neighborhood.  

So I’m headed back on the other side of the street, a nice white picket fence to my right. This is a pretty nice part of town. I figure the distance that I’m running is about 1.6 miles maybe. I used to do it every day, lately not so much because of the heat. I guess that’s a good excuse.  

From this spot I can peek into some private backyards … not much going on at this hour of the day. Every now and then I’ll witness an illicit affair.  

Coming up on the right is what used to be another rest home but is now taken over by a church that does day care. It’s called “Taking the City Ministry,” and the childcare is called “God’s Blessings Christian Childcare”. I think the kids are all inside right now. Not sure of the church’s denomination. “Taking the City Ministry” sounds pretty aggressive but I think they mean it more spiritually.

There’s a flag over there …  might be the South Carolina state flag. It’s all ripped and stuck in some trees, so it’s kinda hard to tell. Maybe the apartment community has their own government and it’s their flag.  

Hitting a downhill part now and going past a shady area and becoming a little less self-conscious about talking to myself while running. Every now and then somebody from work who lives around here will say they saw me running, and I’ll say “oh.”  

OK, coming up now past that half-built Village at India Hook — “single-level villas, no maintenance, clubhouse/fitness center, two car garages,” says the sign. They look like nice places. I think they still try to sell them on the weekends. They’ll put signs up like “move in today” or “agent on duty” but I don’t think they’re trying that hard.  

So this will count as my exercise for the day. I remember back in junior high the most they’d make us run would be 600 yards which, when I think about the marathons and 10Ks I’ve run since, seems like nothing now. But at that time they called it a “walk/run” because they knew we couldn’t run the whole 600 yards and in fact I could not, except one time I got tired of coming in last and sprinted the first 100 yards and was out in the lead and everybody said “hey, look at fat Davis go!” and then of course I ran out of gas and finished last.  

Somebody just waved at me from a passing vehicle. Doesn’t necessarily mean they know me, it just means that I’m in the South. Running  past a patch of woods. Every now and then I’ll see deer coming out of here. They’re gradually putting up more and more homes in this area so the deer either have to go somewhere else or figure out if they want to rent or buy.  

Going past Heathwood and Heathwood Forest. Looks like the same neighborhood to me. I’ve run back there on occasion and I think there was a woodsy part so I guess that was the forest. Should be “The Forest at Heathwood” though, shouldn’t it?  

Almost to the place where I normally stop. Still not much traffic out … it’s basically the middle of the afternoon and most decent people are working. I guess I’m indecent, as my tightly clinging sweaty T-shirt will testify. They’ve got some election signs out at some of the houses. These people seem to want Tailor for Judge. Yeah, it says “Carolyn Tailor for Judge” … I thought maybe it was somebody named Judge who was running to be elected Tailor.  

Going to have to cross back over the road now and watch for traffic. Here comes a car but I don’t think he’s going to hit me because of the hassle of accident and insurance reports.  

Alright, well, coming back to my neighborhood. Just beyond where I’m turning is the Westminster Church — there goes a motorcycle, by the way — and there’s a bus from the Christian school that’s associated with the church.  

Back in the neighborhood now, not so many cars. Do have some blind corners I have to watch for in this area and no sidewalk, so some care is required here.

Think I’m going to knock off now because I’m getting back in the area where the neighbors may wonder about me. These are people that are more likely to know where I live and leave notes in my mailbox telling me to stop talking to myself while I’m running, so I’ll be signing off.

Revisited: Walking my way to better health

August 29, 2010

We recently completed a get-healthy initiative at my work that encouraged employees to exercise by walking. My truly lame team finished way down in the final standings but, in a larger sense, we were all winners because we had spent eight weeks striding vigorously toward fitness. Not really. I probably weigh more now than when I started, and I know for a fact that I smell worse.

When the winning teams were announced, it was noted that as a company we had walked over 7 million miles during the previous two months. That’s equivalent to 280 circumnavigations of the globe. It’s as if we had walked to the moon and back 14 times. It’s like walking from New York to Los Angeles, turning left and heading to Peru, then boring into the Earth’s mantle and going halfway to the core, and then re-emerging to hike halfway to Venus. Any way you put it, it doesn’t make any sense.

As a runner for the last 30-some years, I’ve never had a lot of respect for walking. I guess I viewed it as the exercise of the weak and infirm, a great way to get to the men’s room perhaps but hardly a challenging physical regimen. Any sport that could be done by the elderly ladies around the retirement complex near my house was not for me.

Though I did spend numerous coffee breaks in recent weeks pacing up and down the road in front of my office like an expectant father, the only deliveries I saw were tractor-trailers backing up to the warehouse (less messy than the typical Caesarean but still smelling of diesel). I won’t say that I’ve gained a new appreciation for walking as exercise; I will admit, however, that my aging knees had better realize pretty soon that there’s a reason you don’t see many 220-pound sixty-year-olds sprinting down the street. We’re either dead or have adopted another workout habit.

Part of my problem with public walking is that, as a method of transportation and an exercise, it’s subject to misinterpretation by onlookers. Friends who drive past you in their cars will stop and ask if you need a ride. Other motorists look at you as a mobile information source, as if you’re circling the neighborhood in case they need directions, can’t find their lost cat or need an explanation of the local zoning codes.

Trying to make it look more like an exercise and less like a leisurely stroll does deter some of this. I’ve learned, for example, that moving your arms in a particular fashion will keep questioners at bay. If you adopt the motion of the race-walker, elbows bent and forearms punching the oncoming air, many observers will realize that you’re disturbed, and therefore best left undisturbed. If this doesn’t work, I try the stiff-armed march of the North Korean infantryman, lifting my rigid limbs high above my head as if about to cross the demilitarized zone. The next subdivision down from me remains on high alert.

Another deterrent to interruption is the iPod. Crank up your Who playlist to maximum volume and you won’t be able to hear the questions and taunts that are otherwise sent in your direction. Of course, you can’t hear oncoming vehicles either, but that’s their problem, not yours. If you get caught up in the song and start singing along — “Love! Reign o’er me!” — chances are good they’ll notice you one way or the other.

My wife used to belong to a martial arts group that occasionally practiced tai-chi in a public park. Most of the time, they remained under a sheltered picnic area but if the weather was nice, they’d sometimes break out this so-called “meditation walk,” where they’d pike around the lake at a slow, measured pace that was half-walking, half-Step-Forward-to-Repulse-Monkey. The kids playing basketball on a nearby court would tease them mercilessly while they practiced their forms in a fixed location, but as soon as the martial artists started marching methodically in a single file toward them, the fast breaks got really fast and tended to head in the direction of the park exit.

I’d be more than a little embarrassed to try this strategy (in fact, I’m generally humiliated to be seen in public at all). One of the biggest concerns with walking is what to do when you’ve reached the halfway point. Unless you’ve plotted out a circular route for yourself, there comes a time when you have to reverse your course. I’m always afraid someone is going to see me doing this.

There’s something inherently unnatural about suddenly turning on your heels and heading off into the opposite direction. It might be fine for exercise purposes, but it exhibits a certain indecisiveness in the real world, causing witnesses to wonder what you forgot. I try to get it over as quickly as possible, or otherwise make the most of it. I once took a stroll with two other family members and we agreed all turn at once, on cue, just as a school bus was passing. The sheer precision of the move left those kids dumbfounded.

I think, though, I’m going to continue walking as a physical activity. With fall right around the corner, it should be quite pleasant. It does clear your head and give you time to think. If I keep it up into the winter months, I’m going to have to consider some alternate venues. Some people from our office had taken to hiking around a nearby grocery store when the heat or rain got too bad during the summer, and that might be fun. Again, it seems like there might be concerns among store employees about what the hell you’re doing. I think if I circle the outer edge, cutting through the produce department and alternately picking up and putting back various melons and cabbages each time I pass, it might not look too weird.