Wednesday, July 06, 2005


Standing in the supermarket checkout line earlier today, I saw a teaser on the current Good Housekeeping's cover that promised to reveal the secrets of "cheering up" inside. As much as I need cheering up these days, I seriously doubt that GH is gonna help, esp with a beaming Joan Lunden staring at me. Recalling how happy Lunden was on "Good Morning America" when the US began bombing Iraqis in '91 (she actually giggled with excitement), I don't think GH's version of "cheer" is quite what I'm looking for.

But I do find interesting, as well as depressing, how the corporate media insists that we be happy. You see this a lot on daytime TV, from commercials to female-friendly talk shows. So many smiles, so much empty, mindless chatter, that if you had just emerged from a 15-year coma then went directly to Tony Danza's show, you'd have no idea just how fucked the country presently is.

Well, it wouldn't take long. Even those who insist that things are fine and that the Iraq occupation is proceeding beautifully know that beneath their smiles rage fear and insecurity. For them exists the other side of the corporate coin -- "reality" shows. Here pent-up anxiety is unleashed and aggressiveness rewarded. Humiliation, envy, jealousy, anger -- these are the sour emotions that currently entertain us. And when you've had your fill of that, it's back to fake smiles and happy people being deliriously happy in a bright hap-happy world.

Much as I'd like to, I can't fully get it away from it. As I've said before, remaining alert means wading through this shit daily, which I do. But there are moments of sanity, of meditation and purpose, where our national sickness can be kept at a temporary distance. And I find that I'm cherishing these moments more than I ever have.

My son and I are in the third week of our summer training regimen. I'm working with him on his basketball skills -- passing drills, half-court sprints, baseline and foul shooting, all of which are helping him sharpen his reflexes and eye/hand coordination. We also throw the football and baseball around, and here his only weakness is the fear of being hit in the face. He flinches less than he did when we started, but he still occasionally closes his eyes just as the ball reaches him.

I understand the desire to close one's eyes. But as I tell him, if you close your eyes, you're guaranteed to get hit.

We also do various stomach crunches, and he's still working on push-ups; his arm strength isn't quite there yet, but he is getting stronger. Some light free weights every few days are helping him. Soon, we'll work on some self-defense techniques. He's entering the period of life where bullies and little thugs start to test you, and I won't let him get pounded on the way I was before I began fighting back. By the time he starts fourth grade this fall, he should be tighter, tougher, quicker with better balance and less fear. As for his old man, fear is what keeps me going.

Pretty sad, yes. But it's the truth. And instead of curling up in the corner of my bedroom, I continue to push my body as far as my middle-aged muscles can stand. Some days I'm so fucking sore that every movement makes me wince (like today). Yet there's a subtle pleasure in this pain. I lack the psychological training to accurately define what this pleasure means, but it's there.

Masochism? Perhaps.

Maybe I'm punishing myself for being afraid of the brutality that surrounds us.

Or maybe I think that by getting stronger, I'll somehow stave off the madness or be ready when it hits.

Or maybe I'm just an aging yakking fool swinging wildly at the inevitable.

Then again, maybe I'll close my eyes, and instead of getting hit, I'll find myself in Tranquility Forest with my own pair of wings, and I'll fly alongside a forever-young Caroline Ellis, humming sugar-drenched pop tunes and dancing atop giant flowers.

Or maybe I've already lost my mind, but happily so. There are worse fates.