"Skips Awkwardly"

Every now and then when I visit my parents I like to dig through my old report cards. It’s kind of interesting, looking back and seeing my academic progress through the years. I definitely had my ups and downs, good years and bad, which makes me astonishingly average.

What struck me most, though, was the one I found from the first grade. I got pretty good marks all around (S’s, mostly; S for "Satisfactory"), except for PE (where I got "NS", for "Non Satisfactory"). The comment after my PE score was, "Skips awkwardly".

This has always struck me as bizarre and kind of funny, not to mention a portent of my later years. My scores in PE were never good. In middle school and junior high, I was the clumsy, kind of chubby kid that everyone else, including the coach, made fun of (though I think that these days a coach who makes fun of a kid like me would be summarily dismissed for impugning the kid’s self esteem). I could never do a single pull-up. Push-ups defeated me. I ran gracelessly, arms flailing and feet flapping. I was the kid who was picked last, and even then the team captains often expressed a wish to just have one less player than the other team. And I never skipped with any degree of grace. By the time I reached high school I had mastered the art of using my asthma as an excuse to get out of PE altogether, and by my senior year I was the guy who ran errands for the PE teacher and made mix tapes for the dance sessions. And even as an adult, I still have pretty low upper body strength for a man.

Not that I never tried. I went for the track team once. I ran a few yards, and the coach, demonstrating more sensitivity than my coaches in middle school and junior high, kindly took me aside and suggested that perhaps instead of running with the team I could just do some running on my own on the sidelines during all the events. I thought about this and said that I thought I’d prefer running on my own time and trying for track the next year. The look of relief on the coach’s face was brief before he caught it, but nonetheless noticeable.

I also went out for flag football in the 7th grade. The sniggers, both from the other kids and from the coach, were audible.

I’ve been thinking about all this because I’ve been trying to get at why it is I’m so resistant to exercise. I dislike exercise, especially if I know there’s the slightest chance that someone will see me. I have had gym memberships, but the ones I was most successful at were the ones where I was one of the youngest and even slimmest members. I tried (insert name of large national workout chain here) for awhile, but it was filled with frat jocks wearing really expensive workout clothes and young women working out in full makeup and heels. I’m just not meat-market material.

As an adult, I know that the social dynamics have changed. I know that people are more apt to admire a big guy like me who’s working out and making an effort to get into shape than to laugh at them. Still, though, my fear of being laughed at is pretty intimidating. But, having written through these issues, maybe I’ll be more likely to get back on my bike.

But I will probably never be convinced to run in public. Or skip.

The Undead Campaign

I still maintain that Hillary Clinton’s Presidential campaign is a zombie campaign at this point; most pundits seem to think that her win in West Virginia doesn’t mean much now that Obama has taken the lead in the popular vote, in states won, and in superdelegates. And today, Obama picked up an endorsement from John Edwards, one of the more prestigious endorsements. It doesn’t seem link Clinton has a shot at this point, despite the tone of inevitability about her Presidency that dominated politics just a year ago.

I’m not a Clinton hater, by any means. I have a lot of admiration and respect for Hillary Clinton. I’m impressed by her determination, and I’m thankful that we finally had a woman candidate for President worth taking seriously. I think she got a raw deal in the media. Powerful women don’t do well in the American media in particular (when there are other nations with women as the head of state, you’d think we’d get over ourselves on that issue). Just about every article about Clinton I’ve read mentions what she’s wearing, as if that were relevant. Most of the photographs I’ve seen of her in the news have been epically unflattering. It’s as if she had been reinvented by the media into a parody of herself, which sickens me. Clinton’s just as tough as Margaret Thatcher, and doesn’t deserve to be treated like that.

I would love to have a woman president. It would be kind of hard for anyone to justify gender-based pay inequities, for example, when a woman is leader of the free world. I think her Presidency would have inspired women and girls not just in the US but around the world. Having a woman for President would say a lot for our nation’s ability to develop some moral integrity.

Of course, on the other hand, an African American President would be just as awesome. African Americans have gotten a raw deal in our nation since its very beginning, and any attempt to proclaim that prejudice no longer exists is blatant denialism. Electing an African American for our leader would really make a statement about how far we have come, as a nation. Honestly, this is part of what inspires me about the Obama campaign. There would still be wounds in our nation — and people who insist on keeping those wounds open — but an Obama presidency would be a tremendous gift to future generations (as would a Hillary Clinton presidency, of course).

I still think Hillary Clinton would make a hell of a Vice President. I’m not sure I could handle the joy I’d get from an Obama/Clinton ticket. If Obama is elected and does the job we hire him to do for eight years, then Hillary Clinton would have an even better shot at the Presidency in 2016.

Of course, by 2020, we’d probably end up with another conservative nutjob in office. Our nation generally follows a cycle where we elect Republicans, who screw up our economy and national reputation and our moral high ground, thus paving the way for a Democratic administration to fix up the mess. And once the Democrats do fix things up, the general public gets a bee in its bonnet about something — oral sex, for example, which killed the first Clinton presidency and probably broke Gore’s chances of winning in 2000 since Bush apparently had "character" — and elects a Republican administration to start the whole cycle over again, since Republicans are about "family values" (which apparently means soliciting underage pages and trolling for gay sex in public restrooms while frothing about the "homosexual agenda").

Dammit, now my blood pressure is elevated again. Time for me to stop talking politics and start talking about something less divisive, like religion.

Just remember, politics is like PBS — only without the P.

New stories on my website

I’ve just added a couple of new stories to my website, so please share and enjoy.

First is "writing down some", a story I wrote when I worked at a local newspaper, hating every minute of it, delivering newspapers to the racks and repairing racks whenever they broke down. It really wasn’t that bad a job, but for a first job out of college, it was kind of a disappointment.

Second is a novella called "LTM", which I wrote in 1996. Ah, the mid-90’s. Clinton was President, apocalyptic fervor was rising to new heights with the inevitable breakdown of civilization coming with Y2K, and The X-Files taught a nation to fear the government’s involvement with aliens and black helicopters. Good times. This story is, I admit, cheesy, dated, and in some ways more autobiographical than it probably should be, but I had a blast writing it and plenty of people have enjoyed it. I hope you do too.

Of course I still have "Fookin’ Britches", "Four Ways of Counting Blackbirds", "In the Living Room, a Painting", and "Little Fluffy Wiggletoes" online as well. So feel free to read those if you haven’t already.

Real Life Zombie

I am, of course, talking about the Clinton campaign. It’s dead but it won’t stop moving around, grasping desperately at votes and delegates like a zombie lunging after brains.

There are plenty of things that bug me about the Clinton campaign, from the unscrupulous way they’re trying to reseat the delegates from states that were told directly that their primary votes wouldn’t count to her castigation of Barack Obama as an "elitist". And it’s kind of sad, too, because there was a time when I wouldn’t have minded Clinton as president. I miss the days of the first Clinton presidency, that eight year long nightmare of prosperity and peace which Bush brought an end to. There was a time when I thought Hillary Clinton would have done as well as her husband as President. Now she’s coming across to me as desperate and sort of creepy. And while tenacity and determination are good qualities for a President to have, that’s not what Clinton’s displaying.

But what I think saddens me the most about the Clinton campaign is the good will that she’s losing, especially among the Democrats and the Obama supporters who would have once been happy with Clinton as President. With her snipes and jabs, she’s squandering that good will, calling Obama an elitist — a term I’m not convinced is actually an insult — and continuing to press on about Reverend Wright, an issue that many voters in many polls have indicated just doesn’t matter to them. And while politics is never a clean game, the filth isn’t supposed to drip from a campaign like bits of flesh and grave dirt from a shambling zombie. She’s alienated many Obama supporters, plenty of whom are convinced at this point that she wouldn’t be any better a President than McCain, who has all but promised more of the sort of nonsense the Bush administration has brought us.

I suppose it’s possible that Clinton might make a comeback. After all, we’ve already seen McCain’s campaign shuffle back into life after it was declared DOA just a year ago. Clinton’s challenge, then, if she beats Obama to the nomination, will be convincing the public, including all of the alienated Democrats she’s created, that she’s not actually a Republican.

I don’t hold out much hope.