The start of this mess is here: Part One of Three
I was introduced to the habit of a morning walk in a place that thrives on bad habits: Las Vegas.
“We all get a free pass until we’re about fifty,” my Sin City dwelling friend often answers when asked why he no longer indulges in a nightly bowl of ice cream with chocolate sauce.
At fifty years old he got the diabetes. Having no sense of humor about his health, he de-carbed his diet and started walking. When I visited him in Vegas, he thanked me by waking me up at an hour I consider ungodly. Chirpily he informed me we’d be going for a invigorating morning stroll. Grumpily, I was launched into a fine spring morning on the Vegas Strip—which bears no resemblance to its nighttime self during any season, or Oregon for that matter. He knew which casinos to cut through, the best 7-11 for coffee, and the homeless guy who had festooned to a kiddie pool to a chain link fence. It was not entirely unpleasant, though bordering on surreal, and after I kinda felt…well, good. Plus my buddy brags to anyone who will listen that he is the same weight he was when we went to highschool (with the same verve as someone who’s freshly embraced kale smoothies, pyramid marketing, or Scientology). Every time he reminds me of his svelteness I hope his shoe comes untied or a bird poops on his car.
After a month back in Oregon I pretty much had this walking thing habituated into a daily rural road route. In an effort to humanize myself to the drivers who occasionally moved over to allow for the lack of sidewalks, I’d wave. They’d wave back. It’s a thing. Every morning the same minivan; same one-ton pickup; same old Volvo with a roof rack. I feel like I should put them on my Christmas card list, if I had such a thing.
Best Christmas gift ever: Bluetooth earbuds. Certainly they are close behind organ transplants and the International Space Station when it comes to human cleverness. When tethered, earbuds are always profanely ejected from my ears every time I turn to see if a car is coming or confirm that swooping pterodactyl is just a dehydration induced hallucination. Wires do not go where they are supposed to and are never long enough. People tell me I should unplug and experience the environment and the ambient sounds that represent the Willamette Valley in all her glory—be one with one’s thoughts. My own thoughts and I are nicely represented by a Venn diagram of two un-touching circles and I can wait until K-Tell releases the Greatest Sounds of the Willamette Valley on 8-Track. For now I would rather be spoken to by Terry Gross or wonder who the hell at Pandora wrote the code that plays Gordon Lightfoot after Rage Against the Machine.
I sometimes forget that just because I cannot hear others with my earbuds in, that doesn’t mean they can’t hear me. There is the expected sad poundage of roadkill along rural roads. I occasionally bid a hearty “get well soon” as I pass these casualties. Freud would have a ball with that, but my kids and employees would expect no less. However, one fine morning while passing what was no longer a three dimensional representation of evolutionary adaptation manifested as a rodent, I audibly offered my best wishes to the poor guy. I was not expecting to look up and see a kindly woman in a floral patterned muumuu watering the shrubbery behind her rural mailbox. Struggling for something to dilute my shit-headed-ness, I offered a good morning. She stared at me silently, mortified even, unmoving, perhaps twitching, her eyes tracking me with cat-like suspicion as I moved along in front of her property. Water wept bravely from the end of the hose, oblivious to the drama unfolding. I managed to pass on by without recriminations or getting hosed down. It did take all of my willpower not to buy a Get Well Soon balloon and tie it to the poor deceased animal for her to see when she was watering the next morning.
We are a ballooning army. When we embrace something , we see a world full of those who embrace in kind. We are the soldiers that go out into the emergence of the day before any sane civilian has a right to be up. Our uniform is a high-visibility shirt, shorts with ample pocketing, shoes that look like something from the International Space Station, and a ball cap.
(Those totally unencumbered by fashion sense shamelessly sport the finest in wide-brimmed sun hats with a functioning chin strap that prevents what would be a bloody tragedy if something that ugly got blown off their heads. Or, in a severe departure from proper socialization, a straw hat is occasionally seen in the wild—the bearer brazen, without a trace of embarrassment. I once heard tell of someone walking with a coolie hat, but he was set upon by a feral pack of soccer moms with strollers and Martha Stewart tattoos. The hat was set ablaze. There were no witnesses.)
Folks of all stripes are conscripted. We salute with a nod comprised of embarrassment and camaraderie. After a while on the slab you can sense those who would rather be enduring a gasoline enema in a fireworks factory than putting one foot in front of the other, moving away from the kitchen where coffee perks and there’s a place to sit that the cat kept warm. Occasionally soldiering by are the couples with slim bodies and matching shorts, socks, and hats. They have the audacity to walking in-step WHILE HOLDING HANDS. Monsters. Because exercising under duress isn’t enough, we are ego-bludgeoned by those who have graduated to jogging. We hate these people and they know it. They revel in it. Passing us at double-speed acting all healthy. Some of these heathens even give you a festive thumbs-up as they pass. I too respond with just one finger.
On one finger I can count the number of people responsible for me not bloating up like a tick or dissolving into a mound of cholesterol. I'm the only one who can stem the forces that erode my body. (Okay, temporarily. Geezus, why is everyone so literal?) I have to stay ahead of at least of few of those deadly sins so I try to put five miles a day between me and them. So audios to sugar, alcohol, vegan asphyxiation porn, morphine, Netflix marathons, and spending the day using shitty weather as an excuse to do little more that waddle to work and sit in my comfy chair. Hello to a long, though a calorically less exciting life.