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Courtesy! Integrity! Perseverance! Self-Control! Indomitable Spirit!

October 30, 2009

First things first (still a tautology): thanks to everyone who contributed to yesterday’s blog stats. 69 hits. Sixty-niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine. What is that in Roman numerals? I feel a rap coming on…

In the backseat of my chariot we’ll LXIX.
Chicks call me Scipio ‘cause I’m the consul of sex.
They call me Cato ‘cause I’m convinced: virgo delenda est.
They call me Horace ‘cause first things first: vinum bibendum est.
They call me Aristotle, ’cause I got more soul than the De Anima.
They call me Maximus, ‘cause I got maximum stamina.
I love to cross the Boobicon, that’s why they call me Caesar.
They call me Veni Vidi Vici ‘cause I come, I see, I seize her.

That was necessary to write, but the actual topic of today’s post is physical activities. I was rummaging in my storage closet the other day when my across-the-hall neighbour emerged from his apartment to inquire:

“Is that an Olympic bike?”

I nearly choked on my afternoon rum. It was a perfectly innocent and sincere and ridiculous question. The bike to which he was referring was a graduation present I got from my parents back in ought-five when I was about to move to Seattle. I was in this weird frame of mind (I think the word is “optimistic”) where I was convinced that in addition to getting a PhD and meeting my soul mate I was going to get myself into some kind of physical shape. To which end I’d acquired this insanely nice bike that I promised all and sundry I was going to use every day. I had all kinds of hilarious plans like riding my bike to school and exploring the Burke-Gilman Trail on weekends. Yeah, I was totally going to become the kind of person who just naturally did stuff like that.

I’ve never had any business owning this bike. It’s now been over four years since I got it, and I’ve ridden it three times: once in the fall of ’05 before I lost my mind and was still in life-renovation mode, once in the summer of ’06 after a normally very reasonable and intelligent member of my Mental Health Team told me that physical activity has been proven to reduce depression symptoms (the tire went flat five minutes into the ride, after noticing which, ten wobbly minutes later, I walked the bike home in a fog of rage, cursing everything and everyone in the universe), and once last fall when my BFF’s husband wanted to go out for lunch a few blocks away (I think we spent longer locking up my conspicuously nice bike than we did in transit). I feel guilty every time I think about the Green Giant (that’s the bike’s name, because it’s a green Giant and I’m really creative).  I should either use it or sell it to someone who will. It doesn’t deserve to spend its life in a storage closet.

So the neighbour, who, thanks to my scrawny physique, has no obvious visual evidence that I am not a sportsman and that in fact the last time I broke a sweat as a result of engaging in physical activity would have been in grade 10 phys. ed. in 1994, asks me if that’s an Olympic bike, and I give an eloquent response like “Oh god, I don’t know, I don’t think so, I don’t know anything about bikes, I don’t really use it, I should, but I don’t.” Now that I’ve applied for this Vancouver writing thing I’m trying to tell myself that maybe I’ll use the bike there if I move. To sell it now would be to give up on the awesome mental image of myself shooting artfully down Marine Drive on a crisp Saturday morning, refreshed by the sea breeze and exhilarated by a week’s worth of useful seminars and minor literary successes. I feel like I at least owe the Green Giant a shot at having a role in my new life on the coast, if I get into this writing thing. I mean, every few weeks we could go to Stanley Park together and make a day of it. People would be able to talk about me in sentences that contained words like “well-rounded” and “disciplined.”

If I was going to get into a sport, the obvious one to choose would be tae kwon do, because it rhymes with my (real) last name, plus it involves a lot of hitting and kicking, which is always a good time. And there are colourful belts. Also, you get to yell excellent things. My brother used to be a tae kwon do provincial champion of some kind, back in the Skatch, back in the ’80s, and I liked going with my mom to pick him up / drop him off because every class started and ended with a room full of little kids yelling:

“Courtesy! Integrity! Perseverance! Self-control! Indomitable spirit!”

Soon this series of exclamations was also being yelled ad nauseam at home and at day care by my brother and me. At the time we probably didn’t understand what half the words meant (“indomitable” in particular usually got mangled on its way out of our mouths), but it was a fun thing to yell, so we yelled it. If we’d been yelling anything else, our parents or teachers might have stepped in and told us to shut the fuck up, but because it was a positive message full of advanced vocabulary, we were immune to repercussions.

I’m still strangely attached to the tae kwon do slogan. It slips into my mind all the time, sometimes for no apparent reason other than its metrical catchiness and sometimes at particularly appropriate moments in my life. It applies to all kinds of different situations: wanting to be successful in a competitive profession, living a decent life on a limited income, being smitten with someone who may or may not know you exist, working in customer service, interacting with family members whose take on life bears no resemblance to yours, you name it. I guess it was par for the course for me to appropriate the words without getting into the sport (I don’t golf, either…). If I move in January, the bike is coming too. Maybe Vancouver’s parks and scenery and/or displeasure with my own physical sloth will inspire me to start using it, and irregardless, it’s a nice piece of symbolism.

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