Thursday, April 22, 2010
Part I: Men I’ve Run Into With Exceptional Bodies
It seems I’m always running into startling-looking men with exceptional bodies. Some of these incidents I will share here today; others, like the naked man in the ladies bathroom in Oak Park, I’ll save for Part II — Crazy Men Who Use Their Exceptional Bodies to Ruin Women’s Appetites Including Peeping Toms and Roadside Pee-ers, Drive-By Exhibitionists and Nudists Who Shouldn’t. Keep in mind: There are lots of ways to define ‘exceptional.’
I encounter men with exceptional bodies in the karmic sense, like maybe I was Michelangelo in a past life and infatuation with the male physique isn’t entirely out of my system yet. It’s something I do, like being the first one in a carful of leaf-peepers to spot a ceramic gnome in the woods or being the only Padilla in my Mexican family to understand that cilantro tastes like soap.
Once, I ran smack into Mr. America in a Sears and Roebuck in Santa Barbara. He was talking to some men fans about weightlifting but it wasn’t easy for him. First, he could not gesticulate. Balls of muscle mounded at elbow and shoulder joints. Tendons were taut as towlines. And since stretching exercises probably hadn’t been invented yet, the trunk of a live oak was probably more bendable than Mr. America’s knees.
Mr. America traumatized me. I was an innocent 7 prone to panic. When he opened his mouth to speak, all that came out was a raspy squeak. You must strategize placement of muscle. You cannot pile it on, willy-nilly. Bulging neck muscles can strangle as surely as a noose. Mr. America was a freak. I bolted with a shriek when he slowly shifted his bulges toward me, the only one shorter than he was, and squeaked, “Would you like to see my biceps?”
Another time, again in California and again while quite young, I strolled a back street toward home when lo and behold, there was Jack LaLanne (or his doppelganger) lifting weights in a carport. This, a post-Mr. America sighting, was quite intriguing. I didn’t know who Jack LaLanne was at the time, but I liked standing there, watching him change the weights on the bar, then lift, squat, lift. Stretch. He was working hard in an industrious and upbeat way. He caught sight of me and asked if I’d like to give weightlifting a try. “This is enough weight for you,” he said, placing the bar in my hands, sans weight. “Now, lift.” I did and he seemed very satisfied. “Good job. Good job.” Maybe weightlifting wasn’t’ so bad.
Another amazing muscle man is Mountain Bike Steve. I read his book about mountain biking on the hilly Pittsburg NH logging roads — no man’s land — using a specially made one-speed mountain bike. Enthused by his passion, I wrote him. I love Pittsburg NH and the logging roads, though even with my 12-speed, I can’t begin to approach the feats he performs in the wilderness. We maintained a correspondence for several years. I still recite his important mantra: “Weight-training is the fountain of youth.”
Today it happened again, the sighting of a startling-looking man with an exceptional body.
Jim and I were leaving Border’s bookstore on 7th Avenue and 33rd Street in Manhattan. At the bottom of the stairs I noticed a small, swarming hive of paparazzi encircling its prey. I’ve seen lots of movie stars — gorgeous, famous, and otherwise — on NYC sidewalks, walking alone, unnoticed, but never this kind of frenzy. I expected Angelina Jolie adopting street urchins or the Pope apologizing.
But, all I saw were 10 or 15 male photographers positioning and repositioning themselves, snapping, flashing, eddying, squatting. Whatever they had square in their viewfinders was down close to the sidewalk. Lassie? We were at Madison Square Garden. Maybe it was copulating clowns. Arty from Glee?
None of the above.
When I worked my way into the fray, I was startled by a man with an exceptional body. He was about 5 feet tall and weighed around 110 pounds. He was poised, tough, perfect, mostly muscle. He’d raised his knuckles and radiated ferocity. He moved like a caged tiger. Wary. Slow. Eyes wide. Head rotating imperceptibly. He held out a thick belt with a dish-sized gold emblem in the middle. This thing was proof of his world championship. Welterweight? Bantamweight? Lightweight? There are many boxing championships and many weight categories. I embraced my near-6-foot Amazon, stretched tall to get a better look (and perhaps to flaunt my advantages a bit), and he accessed his inner fisher cat and narrowed his eyes.
We inhabit our human selves some of the time, our mythical selves at other times. Having witnessed this silent dance between accomplishment and adulation, I walk over to my towering Zeus, another of the startling men with exceptional bodies I’ve run across (and latched onto). We leave the champ to the eddying photogs. He reigns — silent, serene, unabashed. Maybe he’s silent for a reason.