Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The Three Days I Was Skinny

I am still sifting through more of the photos I dug out of my New York apartment.  Most of them I can easily remember the specifics.  The time, the place, the occasion.  The one atop today's post?

No clue.  

Okay, it's a batting cage.  I don't recall ever going to one on the East Coast, so this must have been taken during one of my California trips.  The longish hair.  The moustache.  The timing seems right.  And, good news, the ball is nowhere to be found.  I've obviously made contact. Len's 1 for 1.

Meanwhile, as I stare at this snapshot, there is one thing that grabs me.

Damn, I was skinny on this day.

Seriously, there is no stomach.  The legs don't look that chunky.  Are those designer jeans that I have wormed my way into?  I'd like to lose the two tone belt that just screams "J. Crew."  But, overall, this looks like one fit individual.

Really?  When was this?  And how come I couldn't make this last more than three days?

Weight has always been an issue with me.  Want to see?
I'm probably four in this picture and already I see evidence of love handles.  One Animal Cracker box too many.  And dig those chunky thighs.  Frankly, I think some folks just happen to be blessed.  There are those who have svelte in their DNA make-up and others that don't.

I'm somewhere in the middle.  As you can see, I could be bi-polar with regard to fitness.  But, for me to achieve the thinner side, it takes a lot of work.

The only problem is that I didn't start that work until I was in high school.

For about sixteen years, I was totally passive.  Except when it came to eating.  We dined healthy, although not to the maniacal extremes that First Lady Michelle Obama supports.  There was candy and dessert and always chocolate chip cookies in Grandma's pantry jar.  Fruit and vegetables, yes. Tootsie Rolls in Grandma's living room candy dish, definitely yes.  And, after school, there was always the walk around the corner to Charlie's Delicatessen for an after school snack.  A carrot stick?  Hell, no.  Make that a Drake's Ring Ding.

Exercise in my first decade and a half?    Well, there wasn't as much as there should have been.  I played in the neighborhood, but was always the slowest and clumsiest one on the team.  Sports didn't come to me easily.  Maybe it was the extra pounds.  Maybe it was a lack of practice.  I was always the last one to be picked when sides were chosen.

Things weren't much better in school when there was gym class always taught by some jerk who thought he was coaching the Green Bay Packers.  The most strenuous activity for me was just to figure out how to get a medical excuse for whenever they would turn to gymnastics and tumbling.  

And, of course, we had that great annual humbler.  The President's Fitness Test.  Some bureaucratic nonsense concocted to make kids feel horrible about themselves.  You had to run six laps around the playground.  Or scoot around picking up erasers.  Your times were compared to everybody else in the class.  It was a horrible feeling each and every Spring.   While other classmates had moved on to the locker room, I was still in Lap 5.

This kind of misery became quite second nature to me.  It was me and I started to accept it.  I was aided and abetted by parents who discounted the whole concept of weight and fitness.

"Some people are just big-boned."


But, as I moved into the teen years, I started to kick back on this flimsy excuse.  I looked around at some friends.  There were others who were equally "big-boned."  My best neighborhood buddy Leo was one of them.  But, when it came to playing games on the block, he had a dose of athleticism that I envied.  Why was that?

Ultimately, I found my own niche.  It came on those summer teenage nights when my gang would troop en masse down to the local vacant lot after dinner.  We'd play softball or baseball until it was either too dark or the ball had been lost in the weeds.  And, as I did this night after humid night, I found there was some truth to the old adage.

Practice does make perfect.

Well, maybe not perfect.  More like passable.  

Suddenly, I could pitch at softball.  I found a hitting stroke and could pound the ball with a little power.  And, given my height, I came in handy playing first base.  You always wanted to put the tall guy there because the highest weeds were right behind that base.  You never wanted to overthrow because that would easily get that night's game cancelled due to shrubbery.  

I was tall and was now able to catch.  I was ideal at first base and relished the notion.  Leo would play third and field like a young Ron Santo.  Snag a grounder and fire it to me for the out.  What a defensive combination.

I now belonged someplace on a playing field.

The weight, or non-lack of it, still plagued me.  It became really chronic in my senior year.  During the very first gym class of the year, a deep knee thrust popped out the whole joint and that would be the beginning of the long end for my right knee.  Touch football games after school were discarded in favor of TV reruns and lots of Hostess Twinkies.  

By Christmas, I was no longer "big-boned."  I was fat.

I hated the way I looked and vowed to make changes.   There was a diet being hawked on TV talk shows that required you to drink eight glasses of water a day.  A problem when you're taking six classes a day in a high school where going to the bathroom was a death wish.  But I did it.  Plus I monitored my calorie intake.   Dad did the super market shopping.  I gave him my list.

"Low calorie Wishbone dressing?" 

"Non-fat yogurt?"


Yes, that Tab.  

By spring, I was looking for a new wardrobe.

And, folks, it's been a battle ever since.  I went to college and almost ballooned to Jabba the Hut proportions again.  Late night hero sandwiches from the Fordham student deli will expand your waist measurement.  As soon as I graduated, I went back to dieting.

Weight off, weight on.  Muscle tone good, muscle tone bad.  I never stayed the same the rest of my life.

There are some photos over time that I want to burn.  Since when did I look like Ralph Kramden?  There are other snapshots that make me squint to see the label on the jeans.  Calvin Klein?  Hmmm, I'm impressed.

There's the photo at the top and I like what I see.  How many days did that flat stomach last?  I'm curious.

Over the years of my life, there was always some form of cardio.  I've been through not one, not two, but three stationary bikes.  There was a Yonkers gym membership in the 90s and I actually went four times a week.  I became addicted to a Nordic Track machine.  

And then rotten joints that connect the two parts of my leg started to prevent a rigorous exercise regiment.

Today, there is a personal trainer that works with me twice a week.  The struggle continues.  The weight doesn't leave, but it gets more defined.  After two years,  I see an ab in the mirror.  Oh, look, there's another one.  

I have abs.  That's plural.

It's a part of my life that I can't ignore.  And don't.  

I may never look like the photo at the top.  But, at the same time, I never want to be the one in the middle either.

And, my friends, isn't that what it's all about?

The middle.

Dinner last night:  Proscuitto and provolone panini at Greenblatt's Deli.  My own version is better.

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