Dallas, TX –
After the holidays, most of us are wearing a few extra pounds. I certainly ate like a starved hound in a steak house dumpster. But what about my aged beef peers to whom an over-eating frenzy is not a seasonal fiesta but rather, an ongoing orgy of excess; all the while equating the word 'relaxation' with sedentary stationary mock paraplegia?
America has become in one generation an eyesore eye opener; the bottom line being bottoms larger than drive-in movie screens; people in their would-be prime gasping for breath merely being mobile. Like the Audubon Society honcho I took to the nearby forest hiking trails. Despite being half my age, she was incapable of walking a half-mile, and only that at a pace I would reserve for being a pall bearer.
At Wal-Mart, Sam's and elsewhere, I increasingly see admittedly able-bodied people riding merchant provided motorized scooters simply because they don't want to walk transforming these medical aides into 'my shoes are killing me' mercantile golf carts. Meanwhile, glance at what's being driven - children in tow - to checkout; sugar-laden, processed, high fat, empty calories.
Somewhere, Americans decided that voluntary movement was to them what paying taxes was to Leona Helmsley: something only losers do. I'm reminded of when, at 24, I admonished a whining friend after we had car trouble, stranded far from home. Someday, I said, we'd be too old to walk long distances. To him, walking was anathema. That once athletic male died obese at 52 of high cholesterol heart disease and diabetic hyper tension complications. Yet his mindset remains catchy. When my fit young friend Carlos arrived here from Colombia, where everyone walks of necessity, he was mortified when I suggested we stroll a few blocks on a lovely day, exclaiming that, "no one walks in the United States".
Well almost no one. In New York City, it was refreshing to see people actually use their feet and, consequently, not appearing toneless and compromised. One could spot the tourists, not simply because of their belt bags, but because their torsos looked like someone smuggling melons. Even in this most pedestrian oriented city, few of my fellow vacationing friends joined me on foot, acting like walking was, well, pedestrian. Instead, they made excuses, hailing cabs to go sometimes five blocks. At home, these friends routinely circle the lot, seeking parking spots close to their destination's entrance while attributing their expanded waistlines and shrunken stamina to age-related inevitability and metabolic predisposition.
How did the new-age American "arms race" become hoisting fistfuls of fast food, where the immobilized devout see their body as a temple and celebrate mass by ordering pizzas? I miss the not-that-long-ago American norm; before my nation's sea of humanity reminded me of looking out to sea in Maui, Hawaii, watching the migrating whales. But "Thar she blows", I thought, as our waiter delivered us another basket of cheese biscuits while rolling the dessert cart up to an adjacent table; where the tongue-wagging plus size diners whooped and hooted like shore leave sailors reviewing a chorus line of come- hither strippers. Seemingly oblivious to all they've lost after all they've gained.
Rawlins Gilliland is a writer from Dallas.
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