The season is over.
My first race season as a triathlete is done. I finished the Los Angeles Triathlon in 3.28, 13 minutes above my goal time of 3.15, but, hey, I had a busted leg. I think I deserve a little slack. The fact that my times were consistently faster as the season went on says a bit, but so does the ice bag that’s strapped to my thigh, and what it says is this: time to get fat ‘n’ happy.
That’s what Bob Forster, the club’s physical therapist, calls the aftermath of the race season. Time to stop running, biking, swimming, lifting heavy objects and putting them down again. The best thing to do right now is stretch, rest, and eat that double Atkins burger with fries that you’ve been putting off for months and months. I’ve never battered my body in quite this way before, and I know I’m doing more disservice to it by continuing the exercise than by eating a cheeseburger. With bacon. And more cheese.
I’m half tempted to continue on this period of sloth by going whole-hog and acting like a Good American. You know what I mean. I’m going to stop drinking soy milk and start eating red meat. I’m going to stop reading the Guardian and start reading USA Today. I’m going to quit watching all those wonderful DVDs from Greencine and get a subscription to the All Man Package from Adelphia: ESPN, Spike TV, and, of course, that bastion of journalistic integrity and God-Fearing American Thought, Fox News.
I’m going to start listening to Tom Lykis and Howard Stern. I’m going to fart in public more than usual. I’m going to become a regular at Hooters, and I’m going to buy jerseys for sports teams. *Real* sports teams. My Arsenal and Maple Leafs jerseys don’t count, ’cause they’re symbols of organizations that are un-American and sports that are un-American. Nothing will do but football for me from now on. I’m going to do nothing but play Madden all day and memorize the patter of every commentator in the Universe. Football is the only thing for us True Americans.
I’m going to stop paying attention to local government and politics in general. After all, our leaders know what they’re doing, or else we wouldn’t have elected them, right? I mean, that’s what Toby Keith says, and he’s a Real American. He sure sounds like one, ready to go out and kick the ass of anyone whose skin is brown and whose head is covered by anything but a Stetson or a Mack truck baseball cap. Toby Keith is all I’m going to listen to now while I get Fat ‘n’ Happy, just like a Real American would.
Mm. Another cheeseburger. My fingers can barely work the keyboard, they’re so greasy. And more beer, but none of that pansy-ass microbrew crap. Gimme a Coors, gimme a Bud. All that foreign stuff is too heavy and flavorful for me, anyway.
I’m going to vote for Arnold, ’cause he’s an ass-kicker. I’m through with kicking ass on my own right now, so I’ll let others kick ass for me. Arnold’s the man for me. Sure, he’s still in bed with a racist organization (U.S. English…that’s something I heard before I stopped caring about politics), but he’s got an honest face. He wouldn’t lie to me. He’s not in the pocket of unions and Indian casinos; all that money he took from developers was just a gift. He won’t be beholden to them. He wouldn’t let anyone push him around. Hell, just look at that Hummer he drives around.
I think I’ll get one, too.
Bikes are for pussies. I’m going to get an H2 and trick it out. I’m going to put a system of horns on the roof that’ll blast out a medley of Toby Keith songs (does he have any ones other than his one about kicking ass? Oh, hell, it doesn’t matter. I’ll go and buy his CD anyway, ’cause Real Americans don’t download music. They *know* the RIAA and the recording industry are protecting artists’ rights and making things better for *all* of us. They know music. They wouldn’t keep good acts down while promoting the mediocre). I’m going to put a series of lights on the roof that’ll be visible from space. And I’m going to drive up behind one of those nancy-boys in tight shorts on a bike and nudge him off the road. Teach him to drive in my space.
And I’m going to have to get a new girlfriend, one who doesn’t kick my ass in races, one who doesn’t kick ass at all. No, I’m going to get one with fake breasts who likes to wear tube tops and those porn star high heeled shoes. One who leaves all the thinking to me and lets me get on top for about ten seconds and doesn’t mind that I don’t know my way around a clitoris or that I fall asleep right after sex. One who has a name like “Candi” or “Terri” or “Barbi,” a name that ends with an ‘”i” and she dots with a heart. That’s the kind of woman a Real American man wants.
And I’m going to get a job in marketing, or maybe do pr for a big company like GE, the kind that makes nuclear power plants and toasters and nerve agents. I’m going to command a massive salary, and I’m going to get a whole new wardrobe to cover up the fact that my gut has extended so much that I no longer know what my toes look like. And I’m going to start smoking cigars. And I’m going to donate to Republican politics, because they’re the ones who know how to run this country. They’re the ones who know right from wrong, and they’ll keep us strong and, and, and…
…and, jeebus, I’m going to have to stop reading so much Harlan Ellison before I go to bed. It gets me all worked up and beats a lot of the funny out of my system. But, if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that a writer writes, and that a writer has to get the bad stuff out of his system before he gets to the good stuff. I’ve been remiss in this for that past few months because of work and training and racing and all. It’s time to start doing some light lifting again, while I sit on the couch and nurse my leg back to health. It’s time to get the bad stuff out of the system so I can figure out how best to let in the light. ‘Cause, man, it’s gonna be a long winter without light.
This is a restatement of purpose, a good thing for anyone, especially good for a writer. Writers need to be reminded why they do this, even if the answer is “I have no idea.” I still have no idea what makes words bubble up out of nowhere and out onto the keyboard. I have no idea if they’re any good, other than when they amuse the hell out of me. Some of the stuff above is amusing, though it’s also as subtle as a ham sandwich the size of Manhattan: sure, it’s something you’ve seen before, but do you really need to see that much of it at once?
Here is what I will give you: my best, every chance I get. My most me, all the time, even as my voice get hijacked by whomever I’m reading (and right now it’s Ellison’s tome, “The Glass Teat,” a book of criticism on tv circa 1969 that could be written about tv today. All you have to do is change the names. It’s scary, and it makes me angry, but it also makes me glad that we still have the Web for unregulated expression, especially expression of dissent. If John Ashcroft is reading this: boobies, boobies, boobies. Or, more frightening: justice for all, expression of all that is messy and human, and it’s only a matter of time before we haul your evil ass to court and lock you away in prison with your boss in the White House. Your day will come, you mother, you and Bush and Cheney and the rest of you swine who would rule rather than govern. We’re going to staple your beady foreheads to the wall and pelt you with last month’s tomatoes. Also: boobies). Also, the freedom to freewheel, to tangentialize, to massacre the English language with love and care. I know the rules, and I also know how to break ’em.
Life is a Ride. And you always need to rest after a good hard Ride. My summer as a triathlete is over. My autumn as a writer is just warming up.