Friday, March 23, 2012

Last night
we had our first out-doors-grilled hamburgers of the season. Some years ago Donna bought an electric meat
grinder and now grinds her own hamburger.
That way we can be reasonably sure that it contains none of the
contaminants that make eating rare hamburger hazardous. And I like my hamburger rare.
I do make a
mean hamburger, but nothing like the ones I used to eat at a place called “Primeburger”
on New York’s Madison Avenue. I don’t
know what cut of meat they used or what they did to it, but it was wonderful
and, back in the 1960’s when I was in my 30’s and working in New York, I would
frequently have my lunch there.
There were
seats at the counter, and I can’t remember whether there were tables in back or
not, but at the front there were maybe twenty chairs set against the wall with
little attached trays like the ones they have on a high chairs. The tray would swing out for you to sit down,
then you could pull it closed and create a nice eating surface for yourself. And this was where I preferred to sit. Sometimes I’d have to wait for an empty
chair, but the wait was not long and well worth it.
One day,
when I came in, there was an empty chair beside two older ladies, one of whom was
very attractive and looked extremely familiar.
Immediately, sirens went off inside my head. Not recognizing people I should recognize and
being chided for it has been a life-long affliction of mine. Aunts and cousins have had a field day
embarrassing me publicly for this failing.
And this attractive, well dressed lady, I decided, must be one of my
mother’s New York friends. I commuted
from Connecticut, but my widowed mother had moved from Philadelphia to New York
a few years earlier and often held parties to which my then wife and I were
sometimes invited.
This woman,
however, was more familiar than just someone I was introduced to at a party. She was someone I saw repeatedly and, clearly,
I should know her and acknowledge her with
a hearty greeting and an embrace. If I
ignored her, she would certainly recognize me, have her feelings hurt, and I
would not hear the end of my social faux pas. I approached cautiously, thumbing through my
mental Rolodex of Mother’s acquaintances.
Were we on a first name basis? Should
I ask about her husband or would that get me into further complications?
The woman looked
up at me, recognition in her eyes, and I knew that I was, again, in trouble. Then, in a baritone voice that was surprising
but not unfamiliar she said, “Hello.”
I immediately
made the connection. She was the actress
Lauren Becall. I had met many
celebrities in Mother’s salon, but Ms. Becall hadn’t been one of them.
“Hello,” I
responded. “Wonderful burgers, aren’t
Ms. Becall
agreed that they were and turned back to her interrupted conversation with her
companion. I caught her saying, “So then
Bogey looks at me and….” before she lowered her voice out of my auditory range.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Last summer my behind went into spasm. I was bending over a paper trimmer on a
counter in my basement and suddenly my right butt muscle began to hurt like
crazy as it went into spasm.
I have a
thigh muscle in my right leg that cramps in the middle of the night, every once
in a while when I’ve brought my knee up to my chest in my sleep, and I know
that if I stretch it, which is exactly opposite to what it wants to do and a
very painful maneuver, the cramp will soon subside. Then I’ll just be left with a very sore thigh
muscle. But here I was standing in the
basement, which is none too clean, in my good pants, because I was on my way to
a ceremony marking the start of hybrid bus service at a transit agency that Donna,
my wife runs, and any muscle stretching that I could do at the moment was very
limited. Suffice it to say that when the
spasms were over, several long minutes later, my entire right leg was numb, my
behind was in pain, and I could barely make it up the basement stairs.
Driving an
hour to the ceremony, where Donna was already getting ready to greet the
governor and the media, was no easy task.
But at least I had a good conversation starter for the reception
following day, I betook myself to my chiropractor, a man with magic fingers
and, possibly, in league with the devil, who made most of the pain go
away. But he did forbid me to do any
running until further notice.
notice did not come until some six weeks later, and I knew from long experience
that my first run would have to be a very gentle jog of no more than a
mile. Running every other day, I could
increase my distance by a few hundred yards each time until I reached my
customary five miles, two and a half out and two and a half back. I could have done more than five miles, and on
occasion I had, but I didn’t have the time.
That first
day I ran actually a little less than a mile and found myself quite tired that
afternoon. Two days later I did extend
my run to that full mile, then slept away a good deal of the afternoon. But two days after that I was still able to
do no more than that one mile. That was
five months ago. Now, after training
faithfully, I can only do a little more than two miles. And getting around is an effort the rest of
the day. Then, if rain forces me to skip
a day or even two days, I find myself back to that first mile again.
What have I
learned? I have learned that eighty,
which is the age I reached in January, is elderly. If I skimp on my running, for whatever
reason, I get out of shape real quick. And
getting back into shape takes much, much longer than it used to.
Now, I’m a
Capricorn and a classic late bloomer.
I’m doing things now that I could only dream of doing twenty years
ago. In addition, I get senior discounts
in theaters, on trains, and even at our hardware store. When people see me coming, with my white hair
and mustache, they hold doors open for me, a lovely experience after a lifetime
of holding doors open for everyone else.
But I don’t know if I’ll ever reach that two-and-a-half-miles marker