June 2, 2010
I could have written this small… yesterday, when it first happened, but I am a doubting Thomas when it comes to my personal resolve to end an imperfect habit or to acquire a new act.
But there it was, the magic moment. I had waited thirty years to enact my favorite movie scene from the movie Rocky: The victory over self. Maybe you remember back in 1976 when , for the first time in your life, you stood up in a movie theater, and cheered next to the unknown motion picture buffs in the adjacent seats. Rocky Balboa had entered your cornea and heart, and that is where he stayed.
Now I was running through the darkness like Lazarus resurrected and happy to be alive. 30 years of brain gym without a single muscular effort except the strength of my typing, my hand writing and the bag of books I always carry. It is 5 o’clock in the morning and I am running, in drizzling rain, amongst the vital shadows of Route 42, a group of early morning runners, eighty of them, who salute warmly with encouraging words like –“You can do it Lazarus” and warning me to not be over enthusiastic. –“Slow now”, “Walk a bit, don’t run”
I’m circling the inner court of the national football stadium and realize that my regular place is somewhere high up on the bleachers, as a spectator. Today I am running, running for my life.
Different people join me in my first 20 minutes of resurrection; they shake my hand and nod in silent approval. They all know I have a long road ahead of me. They have won marathons here and abroad; I have earned the labored breath of doing nothing. They are kind to the newcomer. –“Is it really true? You haven’t done any exercise in thirty years?!” –“Yep” –“Take it easy these first rounds; you want to want to come back tomorrow”. “Ok”
Today is tomorrow and I am writing about yesterday. I am back! Its dark, on time and raining again. Today we distend walk-run through the dark complexion of a park before dawn; and I get my first lesson while running. –“Stop, let me take your pulse” “160… lets walk till your pulse goes down a bit” That is Renzo. He says his father gave him his name from a dog he loved very much. –“I think your name is Italian; they also name dogs Alexander and Napoleon.” I want him to know that I think that the dog was fortunate to get a human name and not the other way around, that Renzo had got the name of a dog. “Thanks for walking with me Renzo; don’t you want to run with the others?” –“That is what we do, we take care of you. I ran from my home to the park anyway; I never take a car or a bus; I’m good”
That was me on my second day. Tomorrow I’m back at the stadium. I’m trying to imagine the scene where Rocky punches the line of pigs hanging down from hooks on the disassembly line of the meat factory; I am a vegetarian. For me it’s an infinite row of 80 pound carrots, yellow and crisp and I melt my hands into the surface of vegetable skins in quick jabs and stabs. I like my life.
And, of course, there is the music going on in my mind, the hymn to victory.