The other morning I did my crunches, thirty of them, my usual. Pushups, jumping jacks, pull-ups … have gone-the-way-of: but crunches I still try to remember to do. Sometimes I’ll do them six days in a row, sometimes months will slip by. (Fortunately I’m extremely active in a variety of ways, especially dancing, three, four nights a week, full tilt for three hours per: but for me even fishing can be vigorous — try wading in muck that grabs to above the ankle: and still place your fly so the fish don’t suspect a thing, at least not the big bruiser blue gill who just bent your #4 rod like a hairpin.)
What makes me launch this post are memories of the first time I was ever in a calithenics group: freshman year in high school, bunch of us joined the track team, the coach put us newbies under the guidance of a sophomore hurdles star. He tortured us, the show off.
Years later, drafted into the army, at Fort Dix in New Jersey, I compared the NCOs who tormented us to that hurdles star from long ago: 100% in the favor of the sophomore and against the professional sadists. I told myself routinely that I’d have been in better shape, my fellow citizens would have been more secure, if they invited defenders, not compelling us, no coercive, threatening draft: and they could have said Show up at the parade grounds next week able to do ten pushups, ten pull ups, ten squat jumps … Visit the parade grounds to see what these terms mean.
No, no: the coercive kleptocrats let you vegetate, then all at once drill you: into paralysis.
But cast back: we’re freshmen, we show up at track practice, the coach puts us with Hurdle, Hurdle gets prone and starts doing pushups. Me and my friends, say a half a dozen of us, have never done a pushup in our lives. Hurdle is shouting instructions as he bangs them out. He’s supposed to be our pace setter. We almost kill ourselves trying to keep up.
If I hadn’t promised my friends, as a group, I would have left and never gone back. Only then, drafted, I’d have been in real trouble; instead of knowing the drills perfectly well, just not being currently in competitive shape.
In retrospect, I’m glad I did them. The pain was temporary. Next day it was agony to try to walk down the stairs at school. Our muscles screamed at us, No, leave us alone, never shake those gory locks on hus … Only by ten AM we had loosened up a little, and by three PM we were back in the field, following Hurdle, not quite as incompetently as we had been the day before.
Now for any boy there’s a juncture between being coddled by women and being humiliated by men. The native tribe had it’s boys hanging by their chests from hooks to celebrate puberty, but the tribe hadn’t waited till that puberty to give the kid his first physical assignment! I bet. Sadists, fools, incompetents is what we prefer. My army sergeants weren’t just sadists; they sucked at making men of us. Give me a company to train and the US Army a company to train, give me a month, then let my company compete against their company: my company will win. I’ll keep at my men, but let them learn the exercise gradually.
Or, I’d lose: and I’m wrong. But has it been rationally tested? Is humanity, is freedom? are such things just wrong? Or is coercive civilization just too stupid to live?
When Kobe shows up at Lakers’ practice after a summer off, he knows what a pushup is, whether he’s currently in competitive shape or not. Did Phil Jackson try to humiliate him? Wouldn’t it be better to say we’ll do one pushup this morning, five this afternoon, ten tomorrow, and twenty five every day after that? You can do hundred more on your own …?
Was your experience anything like mine? Mine is representative, is it not?
I know one thing: we live in the coercive society, not in a free one. And the society tells its victims and itself lies about what it is. So maybe freedom was tried, long ago, and maybe freedom lost? Or, there never was a contest: and we’re just too stupid to live.
The other day a high school classmate emailed me, commenting on how many of us are no longer breathing. I didn’t have any current reports, first I’d heard. I wonder how many of my once-upon-a-time friends of that day are still above ground: how many became drunks, how many besides me, if any, quit while they were still able to recover a bit?
I remember one thing vividly: we joined the track team, not to build ourselves up, not to compete, but to hang out together. I’d run my lazy miles, then light up a king-sized Chesterfield on the way home. Dick kept cold beers near the pit in which he pretended to be high jumping. Al actually did some of the excercies, then I did too, joining him. In fact we then added acrobatics to what we were doing; but we did it easy, it was fun. We did them because we wanted to, no one assigned them. We practiced flips at the beach. At first Al lay on his back. I tilted forward with my head in his bell as he pushed me into a flip by my shoulders: then we only flipped solo. That’s why I can still flip without touching my hands to the ground.
At least I assume I can, maybe I’d better not try, unless the grass is soft.
More than once in those track years, I’d run my mile, finish third, and curse, thinking, “Let’s add a lap, I’m hardly winded, I wasn’t even trying, do it over, add another whole mile, then we’ll see who wins … but the race was done, I was third, mumbling and cursing.
I remember Hurdle and the sergeants claiming not to count a pushup that wasn’t done by the book. The recruit would be counting “thirty”: and the sergeant with his fingers on the ground under your chest would count “one.” I don’t count a crunch until I actually feel my elbow and my opposite knee bang together. Twenty-eight doesn’t arrive until twenty-seven is satisfactory.
Most times I count thirty without a pause or a repeat repeated, but the other morning I had to add a second effort to oh fourteen. I can avoid that if I pause a whole breath between ten and eleven and between twenty and twenty-one: I initiate the lift on a breath-out.
I’ll have the fewest of those if I exercise before breakfast, whatever the hour, and remove sweaters and sweatshirts and so forth before beginning.
I’n’t that crazy? It’s coming up on four in the afternoon. I scribbled at this, tinkered with that, surfed a little, corresponded: and I still haven’t done my crunches for the day! That’s how time passes: how we’re old, and haven’t done anything: except write. And write. And offer to save the world. And write.
In another session I’ll detail more basic training stories and link them: fer’instance, my basic training company killed people, let kids get pneumonia, watched them die: and I’ll bet not one true word was reported to their families: except the fact of their death.
2012 11 18 Thanks to babbling this, good babble, leaky babble, I was inspired this morning to initiate a few calithenics besides the crunches. Ten jumping jacks. Fine. See? I’m not in such totally bad shape. Now, ten windmills … Uh oh, I’m stiffer than I thought, my fingers aren’t reaching my toes opposite: so, I haven’t done “one” yet. That’s OK, I’ll just bounce to loosen up, stright up and down, fingers touching toes: my original such stretch exercise, back with Hurdle. But I’m still not getting to the floor, so I take a break, eat my waffles … I’ll get back to them, then I’ll resume the windmills, at one. Used to be, even after a layoff, drunk and unmoving for months, I could lay my palms flat on the floor, first try: or, almost first try. I stretched, I got flexible, I stayed flexible: or thought I did: used to did.
So: I still haven’t done one crunch, or a pushup. I don’t expect to try a pull-up, not here, I got no overhead bar, and no doorways tall enough.
But by golly I see I got to stop this self-abuse of no calisthenics.
It’s not that I won’t be happy to die tomorrow, or rather not long after tomorrow: you see, it’s the day after tomorrow that I expect my honey to return from four damn months in Nova Scotia. Let me hug her again, and hug her some more: then Ill be happy to cash out, even for no cash. But when I croak I still want to be in shape.
Hour later: success! Just sitting and posting and drinking coffee I loosened up.
2016 09 21 Once again I’m waiting for beautiful Jan to return from Nova Scotia. I turned 78 three weeks ago. I’m bicycling for transportation though: three miles here, six, eight … there. No more dancing four nights a week, I’m lucky to dance one. Mid September I dance almost every dance for three hours, but man did I have lefg cramps in the middle of the night! Yeow. Still, it beats being dead: maybe.