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Gristmill: Permission to Kick Back

Wed, 03/27/2024 - 18:07
A trucker naps in Pennsylvania, 1937.
Edwin Locke / Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division

In line with other signs of life this early spring — the daffodils in the front yard showing some color, the ospreys returned to survey the greening surroundings from last year’s nests — I was among those in Noyac rousing themselves once more.

The inertial creature comforts were harder than most to stare down, shrug off, and beat back, however, as this was no mere winter of discontent. It had been a full-blown five months of sedentary living. Thus once more unto the gentle crescent of Long Beach for a run.

But now I don’t know. The resulting soreness was mild. The energy boost was nil. The sense of well-being could be well replicated with a glass of cabernet. And the figure I see in the full-length mirror appears unchanged after such a long layoff. So what was the point of all those years of dutifully pounding the pavement?

It reminds me of an experiment by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, NPR’s Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, in which they deliberately neglected to change a car’s oil year after year and nothing bad happened, the thing just kept running.

Or maybe it’s like that line from the old Steve Martin and Charles Grodin movie, about how it’s always the street bums who never wash who have full heads of hair.

No? Perhaps then the city dweller we’ve all known or known of, positively ancient yet in fine fettle despite the poached egg every morning, the religiously imbibed vodka gimlet, and all the exercise regimen of an inmate confined to solitary.

Not to be nihilistic. Not, that is, like Woody Allen’s Mickey in “Hannah and Her Sisters,” memorably pondering the meaninglessness of life at the Central Park Reservoir, scoffing at the attempts he sees to stave off the body’s inevitable decay — the heavy jogger, for instance, as he pities her having to “tote all that fat around. She should pull it on a dolly.” 

What’s more, nature will kill you just as soon as look at you, I’m sure Woody would agree. And now more than ever. So call a cab. Let’s stay in and order Chinese.

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