I’m a Little Too Good at This

Barb hanging out on the couch with Rosa on an epic loafing day. The hyperactive terrier spent the day snoozing.


Me in my office trying to show off a fairly intact chest for a 66-year-old guy.  It’s a bit of a cheat, though. My left pec, flatteringly sidelit from the window, was always firmer than the right, which you can’t see behind the stretched arm. Anyway, been doing my pushups.


The coronavirus scare may have put a crimp on the economy, but the economy will bounce back. The worse trauma is the dug-in tribalism America has devolved into. Two camps. Democrats will listen to the voice of science and rationalism; Republicans believe in the bluster of Trump, who in his infinite egotism thinks the whole thing’s a ploy to cost him popularity. My only hope, and it’s a fervent one, is that America comes to its senses in November, gets off its ass and gets itself a real president.

I’ve been a political iconoclast, not a kneejerk liberal. I voted for McCain in 2008. With all the international terrorism, I figured he’d work better than this little pischer who had a cup of coffee in Senate and wants to be president. Turns out Obama was up to the job. What class we had in the White House! I appreciate the enduring legacy of him, and of his wife. A recent Netflix special about her book tour warmed me. You see Michelle in an even more funny and intimate way than you find her in the elegant memoir.

We will never heal as long as blocked ears and cultural scapegoating supplant that old Capraesque “we’re-in-this-together” vibe that once was who we were. How is it that a minority population of white, rural, camo-wearing, shave-headed lunkheads who know about guns has risen to a leadership position in this country, having elevated a New York real-estate hustler to a position of virtual royalty? Orwell would have put his tongue out at himself to have imagined such a setup. I have droll “nightmares” in which people like me have to take a side in a civil war, and I shoot my foot off.

But I’ve been cheerful. I’m used to seclusion, maybe a little too used to it. I seem to have adapted with ease to the lay-in, to being locked out of the few places I was used to going to. And not just eating in restaurants.

I can’t go to Fitness for 10. (I hear my particular franchise, the one near Costco, is up for sale.) So I returned to an exercise program that is free. Pushups and situps.

On pushup days I pump out five sets of 30, sitting in a chair reading between sets. My pushups are pure, touching the chest. Because of a shoulder problem I’ve had since I blew it out benching too wide, I do my pushups slow.

I was doing my crunches the other day in the bedroom, and Barb’s teddy bears judged my form.

Situp days alternate with pushup days. My situps are a crunch routine I read in a magazine. Five sets. Fingers at temples, or you can cross your hands on your chest. You start with 20 straight crunches, feet flat on the floor. Then a set where you aim one elbow at the opposite knee, back down (that’s a rep), then twist the other way, feet still on floor. Third set, get your feet off the floor, crossing your legs at the ankles as an effective stabilizer. The fourth, lock your knees and point your feet to the ceiling, legs now jackknifed from the hips (I cross ankles on this one too). Finally, 20 bicycle crunches, a rep being elbow to knee on one side then elbow to knee other side. Rest a half minute between sets. I finish that routine with stretches I learned from a hatha yoga class I took 50 years ago.

Been working on a novel. Also reading my ass off. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, about a woman and her son fleeing the cartel, proves true to the impassioned blurbs I read when I saw it at Costco. Mexican cartels have become an inspiration for so much storytelling. They’re the new heavy. Did you see Ozark? Yikes!

The New Yorker has been printing blurbs about films streaming on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other sites. It recommended The Mule, directed by that geriatric marvel Clint Eastwood and starring him as an old man who drives money and drugs for, that’s right, a Mexican cartel. It’s a surprisingly sweet film though. It depicts the cartel with enough brutality to keep things real but doesn’t descend to stereotype. It’s a story about family, estrangement, and reconciliation. Dianne Wiest excels as the former wife.

Yesterday Barb and I watched Don’t Come Knocking (2005) after another New Yorker recommendation. It’s written by and stars Sam Shepard, who died recently. I loved his Gen. Garrison in Black Hawk Down, felt his quiet ferocity and care for his men. Don’t Come Knocking, directed by Wim Wenders, presents Shepard as a Western movie actor in a late-midlife crisis, on the back end of his career. He escapes a shoot to go find his long-neglected mom, a superlative Eva Marie Saint. She informs him of a son he may not know about. Off he goes to Butte, Montana, to find him. He also finds the woman who bore that child, played with charm and passion by Jessica Lange; and an angelic daughter, played by Sarah Polley. Sometimes this movie feels like David Lynch, particularly the son singing in a bar (think Blue Velvet); at others, like Jarmusch, unconcerned with commercial rhythms, allowing itself to spread its wings in artistic abandon. In the hands of a taut script from a writer like Shepard, and brilliant camera choices, it all works.

Yesterday my wife and I let ourselves rest and relax, get off our workaholic merry-go-round. I had the day off from Walmart; Barb wasn’t working at Allan’s Flowers. Even nutsoid foodaholic Rosa got into the spirit, groaning and stretching and twitching in dog dream on her favorite pad, then walking stiff-legged over to a couch or chair to plop down there and keep sleeping. Barb and I watched the widescreen TV and ate reheated slices of a Bill’s Pizza, my favorite, a specialty pie called the Bada-Bing.

When I went in to get my order, they’d taken all the chairs and tables out. You march over the tiles right up to the counter.

They kid around with you there. I always liked that.

I tipped the guy and said, gesturing to the open space, “I hope I’ll be sitting here soon.”

He said, “Hopefully it won’t be long.”

Long as it takes.