April 28, 2003
question for you, but not about you:
many people on the streets going about their daily business really
think about their body? But for our thoughts, there is nothing more
present and indelible. Our body contains all we are, holds us together
and transports us about the earth’s surface. We are in many
ways our body and I assume everyone on not infrequent occasions
flashes on his or her flesh.
they concerned about its shape primarily, what it looks like to
them and to others? How well it performs, its condition, strength
and durability, do these matters cross their mind? Do they wonder,
worry and wince, shrug their shoulders and move on?
take risk and submit that smiles of contentment are rare among the
thoughtful. An uncomfortable and inadequate feeling must periodically
seize many of them as they walk past a reflective window at the
mall and catch themselves off guard. Who they really are looks back
in despair, a wide drooping figure lost to its own devices, gracelessly
pursuing its errant footsteps or a crooked construction of flesh-covered
bone, broad in the middle and soft at the edges. Written within
a cloud of thought above the sad character in this cartoon depicting
today’s dilemma are the words, “But I’m not yet
sad condition, indeed. Neglect is personal rejection.
the couch to make room for the big screen TV reveals more awkward
truths. The ensuing struggle between you and the material world
is humbling. You stub your toes, strain your back, push, lift and
pull and nothing moves up or forward including your opinion of yourself.
by one’s peers is limited by approval of one’s self.
Confidence is one’s personal security system and requires
continual rewiring and upgrading and attention.
being engenders cheerfulness, enthusiasm and creativity and
the energy and desire to sustain them.
and respect are not free gifts nor can they be purchased; they
are the most precious of possessions gained by discipline, long
practice and a kick in the pants.
personal qualities, they, like the couch and TV, appear to be nailed
to the floor.
a rusty old bucket of bolts as I cross the parking lot to the supermarket.
I see from the colorful banners decorating the windows that the
price of shampoo is slashed, feeding your dog is a bargain this
week and vodka in half-gallons is cheaper than fresh-squeezed orange
juice. 20 years ago the latter would have been my foremost target.
Today, my mind is on skirt steak, all I can stuff into two or three
of those plastic bags that come in a roll at the end of the meat
late afternoon in Aptos, my hometown of 25 years, and I make this
pleasurable pitstop after another day at the gym in neighboring
Santa Cruz. Laree and I have 15 years of reps and sets, chins and
dips in our gym stashed in the corner of a quiet, tree-inhabited
industrial park, ball fields and community pool just across the
street. No foot traffic and a word-of-mouth membership account for
its hometown appeal and less-than-packed training floor. Cool, in
the world of me, me, crush, crunch and more, more… very cool.
last thing I did before leaving the iron palace was biceps and triceps,
not a shower and manicure. My sweats are presentable and, though
torn free of a strangling neckline, my T-shirt is not exactly a
rag. I mean, I’ve seen a lot worse at the downtown mall. I’m
carrying a little red basket, checking my pockets for my wallet
and viewing the aisles for emergency items as I hastily head toward
the meat department. I pass the sugarcoated puffed and toasted cereals,
the canned vegetables, frozen desserts, beer and wines, the pastry
and donut section smelling of lard, and racks of magazines, some
advertising 14 days to a shapely and muscular body. There’s
a row of candies in bags and boxes and bins next to the stacks and
stacks of colorful soda pop.
not alone in this popular food emporium. Everybody’s here
all the time it seems, 24-7. The men and women -- an American cross-section
-- fill their baskets with lots of stuff resembling real food. I
feel like a glutton with my sacks of meat, couple-dozen eggs and
bags of red peppers and tomatoes, my favorite vegetables. I notice
the difference in supplies chosen by those around me and those chosen
by me. Like observing a fellow shopper with five screaming kids
grabbing toilet paper off the shelves, tossing them at one another
and passersby, and doing wheelies with the shopping carts, I try
not to feel superior or condescending or outraged. However, I am
is looking at me, I can tell. It’s a fellow in his 40s carting
bread and butter, 20 frozen TV dinners, a bottle of red wine, a
quart of soy milk (soy milk?) and one of those crappy info mags.
I’m grabbing handfuls of cheap canned tuna for Mugsy and feel
compelled to tell the guy they’re for my cat, not me and that
I eat Dave’s Albacore. I realize this is silly -- let him
think what he wants to think -- when I note he’s looking at
my arms. They may not be great, but they are different, veins and
all. The man with the TV dinners also has a large stomach and his
arms hang like plumpish threads by his sides. “Good stuff,
huh,” he says. I smile brilliantly and nod, “Good stuff.”
on I ignore the string of stainless steel dairy coolers, deciding
to withdraw milk products from my diet, again. Thick skin and mucus
(s’cuz me) are the determining factors in this periodic menu
modification. In two weeks they -- cottage cheese, milk, cheese
and yogurt -- will be back on the table. It won’t be long
before I miss the protein and bulk building they provide. They’re
a very convenient meal and I’ll long for the texture and taste.
Meat, fish, chicken and broccoli washed down with water get old
30-something man and a woman are riffling cartons of ice cream looking
for an extra special flavor. They stand over a cart with two six-packs
(Dos Equis) and a carton of cigarettes (Camels). What? No soy milk?
Hot dogs and luncheon meats in cellophane are strewn amongst bananas
and string beans of all things. Weird. They look at me looking at
their basket (I’m caught) and I want to apologize and make
an excuse for the stunned or sorrowful or horrified or resigned
expression on my face. The moment passes and we exit the scene in
opposite directions, they without the ice cream. They’re still
young; there’s still hope and I fight the urge to make my
this aisle I go with my basket too full for further purchases, loop
around the cut flowers and small indoor plants, past the pharmacy
and, at last, the exit lines. What pleasantries have the tabloids
to say about the celebrities today? Almost in line I see Mr. and
Mrs. Thirtysome pushing their cart brimming with color and variety,
the well-buried ice cream in half-gallons peering innocently through
the steel mesh. I daydream about introducing myself and offering
advice -- exercise, eat right, be happy -- and they see the light
and correct their ways and pass them on to their children and the
world is saved. Next thing I know some youngster at the register
is asking them if they need help carrying their packages to the
car. Not today.
forgot. Bran muffins. I seldom freak out in my eating habits, yet
sometimes I lose control. I return to the bakery and scour the pastry
section until I find a package of freshly baked bran muffins. I
pretend they’re still warm, oh boy. Into my overflowing basket
they go and I catch myself grinning. Where did all this merchandise
come from? I came for skirt steaks and I’m buying the kitchen
sink. I’m being paranoid or there’s another man glancing
my way repeatedly. Security? He’s a big guy. Older. Retired
cop maybe. I feel guilty about something but I’m not sure
what. I ate a grape. No. I took every package of skirt steaks. No.
It’s the bran muffins. No.
guy behind me asks if I used to lift weights. I want to drag him
out to the parking lot and ask what he means by “used to,”
but catch myself in the nick of time. This fellow has very long
hair and painfully placed decorative stainless steel hardware in
unlikely places about his face and neck. A shiny hex-head bolt bobs
up and down as he swallows. I blink twice, maybe three times, pass
him a card and invite him to the gym for a week, when he gets the
urge -- exercise, eat right and all that stuff. He blinks. Cool.
the older cop type is uncomfortably close in the next line, “15
Items or Less”-- Top Cop will not louse up my merry shopping
spree, I vow. I have 16 items and wonder where they all came from
and which one I can ditch so I can squeeze in the shorter line.
This becomes too difficult and I scan the Enquirer instead. Susan
Sarandon, it seems, is having a steamy affair with Yashir Arafat.
older guy grabs me by the shoulder and says in a deep loud voice
that reaches the produce department in the far corner of the huge
supermarket, “Hey, where’d ya get all the muscles?”
Everybody looks at me and they’re waiting for an answer. Hardware
Head tells him I own a gym and I’ll give him a free membership
if he asks me. Mr. Thirtysomething, returning his shopping cart
like a good citizen, assures the forming crowd that it’s not
from eating ice cream.
do they come from? The man of plumpish thread-like arm fame rolls
on by, his cart half-full of the cheap tuna and bereft of TV dinners.
I duck, he keeps going.
I don’t need any help carrying out my packages to my car,
The secret is you know the secret. I have discovered nothing new
since we visited last. Train hard and don’t miss. Eat right,
protein-high and sugar-low, without starving yourself. Be thankful
and happy you know the truth and be confident that it is working
do we go from here, iron-hearted, steel-spirited high-flyers? Skyward,
here to order your personalized, autographed copy of Dave's new
book, Your Body Revival, $18.95
here to see the previous week's column
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