Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Key to Fitness

What a day!  After a full Friday’s worth of work, I decide to drive to a trail not too far from my house and do a six mile run.  I start at about 4:15pm and all goes well with the exception that I keep having to pull out my cell phone from my hip pack.  I use my cell phone as a radio player with earplugs, and since I stream radio shows from the Internet, I occasionally lose the 3G signals on the trails and have to stop, pull out the cell phone, and get it started again.  This happens quite a few times during my run.

I take a rest at my three mile out point, my turnaround spot for the day, and I happen to open my hip pack and select a new radio program when I discover that the car key that I keep in the hip pack has slipped out, and isn’t anywhere around me to be found.  It’s fallen out during one of the earlier radio adjustments.  Oh shit!  Well, I have a pretty good sense of the places where I stopped and fumbled around with the hip pack, so as I run back, I keep my eyes to the ground scanning for my key in all of those spots.  One stop after the other and nothing turns up.  Towards the end of my run I resign myself to the fact that I will be doing some walking today.

I get to my car, vainly try to open the door just in case I serendipitously left it unlocked (I have another key inside the car), but of course the car is secure.  How could it be otherwise?  I’m Fred; totally anal-retentive about making sure everything is locked.  Well, I had to try anyway, right?  So in my wet shirt and with the sun dipping down past the hills, I start walking...home.  It’s like my childhood friend, David Murray, used to say.  You get stuck somewhere and have no other way back, so you point your body in the direction of home and start walking, step by step.  It’s not the ten miles in the snow that my parents apparently had to walk to school in their childhood, I know.  And so you might ask me, “Well, Fred, you just ran six miles…why not simply keep on going and run home?”  Because I just run six miles, it’s humid, and I’m tired!  That’s why!  When I meet my exercise goal for the day, I’m not out for much more.  It’s like the timer on a stationary bike; when it goes off, do you ever keep on pedaling???  No!  And therefore, I’m done running for today!

So, one foot in front of the other, I do.  The walk is long.  From the point of my car to my front door is (I measured it afterwards) 1.97 miles.  And walking is slow when you’re supposed to be driving effortlessly in a car chugging some Gatorade and getting some tunes on.  I walk past all of the things I normally blur past; a young guy walking his dog, a woman sweeping her porch, a lady doing end of the day plant-watering.  There is one forty-something year old man, sort of an accountant looking type in pressed olive shorts and leather sandals carefully manicuring the edge of his lawn next to the street curb with a pair of sheers the size of scissors.  The site is a little odd to me, and yet, I appreciate how important this process must be to him.  Maybe it’s like his mediation after work.

I am now on the main straightaway to my house.  Maybe a quarter mile left to go.  But then I realize that the traffic signal I had been doggedly staring at is several blocks back from where I thought it was.  I haven’t been noting the street signs.  That would be like watching a pot of water boil.  Man, two miles is just a long way to walk!  Across the street, I see some kind of gathering forming at a park.  Maybe ten people setting up for something.

Finally, I make it back home, but without any keys, and my girlfriend out of town.  Thank goodness I had the sense of mind to hide a key for myself sometime in the past.  I get back in the house, and having decided I would Rollerblade back to my car to quicken the time, I dig around in my closet locating my big white Disney “Tarzan” tote-bag in which my Rollerblades and wrist guards reside.  I throw off my trail shoes and grab a pair of white socks, make sure I have my house keys, and head out side to put my Rollerblades and accessories on. 

I tend to keep my wrist guards inside my Rollerblades when storing them so I don’t lose them, so as I pull them out, I discover that in my always being prepared, I had kept an extra pair of white socks in the bottom of each Rollerblade.  So now I have two pair.  Do I want to go back inside the house and put a pair of socks back?  No!  I’ve got to get back to my car.  As I finished my run and checked to see if there was a way into my car, there had been five or six teens on bikes and on foot starting at the trailhead.  Maybe having seen me slink away from unsuccessfully trying get in my car, they might consider it abandoned and break in.  I am obviously tired and a little paranoid now; I’m aware of this.  But it’s time to get a rollin,’ and so I’ll roll up the extra pair of white socks and just hold them in one of my hands as I skate back to my car.

The light is starting to fade from the sky as I Rollerblade down the sidewalks so as not to get hit by any inebriated or straying rush-hour drivers, and as I do so, I discover that the ramps for disabled people at intersections, which are all over Burbank, are convenient in the way that they allow me to get through the street and back onto the next piece of sidewalk.  However those blue rough-dotted pads on the ramps that give wheel chairs some traction are very jarring to Rollerblades and make me almost lose my balance more than a few times. 

Almost all of my Rollerblading has been accomplished, to my detriment, on the long, slick ribbon of almost flawless cement that is the Strand of Manhattan Beach.  So I’m not used to having to negotiate uneven the asphalt to cement seams along streets as well as dodging rush-hour traffic.  I pass that group by the park again, and now they look like they are going to film something.  I hear one of them on their cell phone say something about not worrying about the Burbank Police as long as no one tells them they’re here...maybe avoiding paying for a production permit?  This crowd has also grown, and some of them are blocking the sidewalk.  “Excuse me! Comin’ up!”  They move out of my way.  I’m 6’1” plus whatever the height with Rollerblades on, so I’m a formidable object of motion that none of them wants in their lap or up their ass.

I am not half way to back to my car when I have a terrible epiphany.  Can epiphanies be terrible?  ‘Cause this one was.  It was the worst kind of epiphany I could have had in that moment.  I realize that when I was back at the house, I had forgotten to dig out the extra set of car keys.  I had been so focused on making sure I had my extra set of house keys and had therefore let that override the need for my spare car keys.  Uggh!   And, so-help-me if I am making this up, but right at this very moment…the moment of my terrible epiphany, my right Rollerblade breaks!  The top strap that kind of binds the whole skate onto my foot snaps, and whole thing comes loose and wobbly.  I am crossing a little street at this time and so I get myself to the sidewalk, find a shallow brick wall of a residence’s front yard and sat down.  I say to myself, “You’ve GOT to be kidding!!!” as if some grand game of chess was being orchestrated from above. 

So, I’ve got to now go back…walk back to my house…carrying a broken pair of Rollerblades the whole way.  Rollerblades are heavy when they’re not on your feet.  Like ten pounds each.  The weight of ski boots.  No way!  I’m not carrying them back.  I hide the two Rollerblades behind the shallow sitting wall.  So much for my anal retentive need to keep my stuff safe…I’m just not carrying them back!...well, I’ll keep my wrist guards on…at least I won’t lose those.  And I start to walk with the white pair of socks on my feet, my black wrist guards on each arm, and holding the extra rolled up pair of socks in one of my hands.  You have to understand that no matter what kind of creative residential route I might come up with to avoid being seen, I have to walk through two major intersections looking like this.  I can feel the stares and comments from within the cars waiting at the signals.  “Is he homeless?”  “What’s with the socks and no shoes, and those black things on his arms?”  “What is that, another rolled up pair of socks he’s carrying?”  “People are weird here in Burbank! I thought this was supposed to be a safe, conservative city”  I want to tell anyone looking that there’s a shaggy-dog story unfolding in progress…but what can I do?

I pass by the gathering at the park, this time I’m on the opposite side of the street.  It has grown yet again, and there are two people with white bullhorns.  But now it doesn’t like a film shoot, but rather a gathering that they happen to be videotaping.  There is a man telling some sort of ironic-style story; though the words aren’t clear, I can tell from the twist in his voice and the sporadic laughs that follow. 

I’m back in my house again, this time digging out my spare car keys, rather than my roller blades.  My dog, Susie, hasn’t been out since about 3:00pm, so I might as well take her for the walk back to my car.  Two birds…  She’s happy to go.  I check for BOTH sets of keys this time; spare house and spare car.  All are in their place in my pockets.  Leash, doggie poop bag, my worn black house sneakers, and up, up and away!

Susie and I head down the much Fred-trodden sidewalk, past the gathering; a lady is now telling some strange story with the bullhorn.  The story this time sounds like one of self-acceptance.  “So I said to him, you either take me this way, or not at all!”  Well, she sounds confident, and that can’t be bad.  It’s Friday night now; no longer afternoon to be sure.  It’s dark out, still humid and warm with just a slight illumination in the western sky.  I’m heading the other way. 

It’s about this time that I realize, as slow as each of my previous two walks have been, this one is several times slower.  Susie and I have made it about five blocks and I’ve just noticed that Susie has decided that she needs to inspect the smell of every telephone pole, every tree, every hedge, and every lawn that we’ve come upon.  “Susie, come on!  We’ve got to go!”  She follows, but then in short order reverts back to her continuous stops.  Again, time to resign myself.  It’s a nice evening, nice houses I can look at, other people walking their dogs. The wisdom of David Murray resounds through my head. This is just going to take a long time, and that’s okay, we’ll eventually get there.

About three quarters of a mile out, Susie decides to lie on the grass of a lawn we are passing.  I see how this is going now.  She’s decided that it’s just too long of trek, and she’s not aware that we’re only about a third of the way to my car.  That’s okay; she’s a small Cockapoo.  I’ll just carry her.  I pick her up and start walking briskly.  She’s also a HEAVY small Cockapoo!  It's those treats at night.  Susie always looks at me like she's going to starve if I don't give her one more treat when we're watching TV.  And now I understand the impact it's had on her mass, and on my arms. "Foof!  You are heavy, Susie!"

I make a deal with Susie.  I’ll walk about three blocks, and then she’ll walk one.  It works.  We cut across a park, which is soothing to her feet and has a little hill she can trot down.  Then, again I carry her for a few blocks.  It’s really amazing how expansive a small place like Burbank becomes when you’re walking through it….over and over.

Susie and I make it to the last and final street that will lead us to my car and luckily there’s yet another downhill in this last patch.  I put Susie down and walks this last section with me as we make it to the car.  Keys open it up, we get in, I open the cooler with my Gatorade that I needed about two hours before. We stop to grab my broken Rollerblades from behind the shallow wall of somebody's front yard, finally arriving back home at 9:51pm.

The journey, one so close to home, started out as an exercise workout.  And exercise I did.  A six mile run with a five mile walk, a one mile Rollerblade, and the carrying of a dog for a portion of it; the latter three unintended of course.  The next day, I’m sore, and Susie, I suspect is sore as well.  She’s been sleeping most of the day.