Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Mornings at Windermere
So today I peeled myself from bed at 6 in the morning. The terrorizing alarm clock had been roaring for ten minutes, but I seem to have developed immunity to its chant. With anesthetized eyes I set off for my morning walk, me and my camera. In the summer it is only during the outrageous hours of the morning, when only the drunkards and the overachievers are awake, that you can be outside and feel like a human being. At all the other times you feel like a potato in the microwave, dying a slow death smothered in a paper towel.
Believe it or not, there is a 6 am “crowd” roaming these wide roads that are our walking routes. We know each other by now. Let us make a brief inventory. There are the two inseparable middle-aged ladies who carry these wide, gruesome smiles in their pockets and put them on as soon as they see me. As I catch sight of them, the white cotton shirts, I turn onto a side road whenever possible. There is also the Saturday Shirtless Guy, but he is only an occasional participant to the walking marathon. He lives under the impression that he is a Greek god and wants to make the fact known to everyone. There is something truly incongruous about a topless dude jogging on the side of a five-lane road. You expect to see the beach somewhere, but it is missing. Did I miss a meeting – is this Macon, or Malibu? My rejoinder is the same to women who jog outdoors wearing sports bras. I know that it is hot and everything, but PUT SOME CLOTHES ON, PEOPLE. One of these latter specimens is a morning walker, a woman, must be in her forties, who is excessively bony. All the parts of her body are somehow suspended unnaturally at a 45 degree angle. She keeps the jogger posture, you know, upper limbs rigid and gathered. I am sure that in a crowd her elbows can be used as a weapon of mass destruction.
There is also a ceremony of salutes involved in these cursory encounters, but I will not talk about that. Instead I will dwell on something which truly puzzles me, which at times makes me turn my head and stare at these people kicking dust with their heels. Jogging – why? So the idea is that we put on a costume consisting of polyester shirt and shorts (that is how they make these running outfits, 100% synthetic), we pull our hair back with one of those heinous bands that squeeze our skulls, we buy really expensive running shoes that look like spaceships, and we run. Actually it is not exactly running, because that kind of effort and speed is not sustainable on longer distances for regular people like us. So what takes place is more like hopping, running’s unrefined cousin. So we hop and we sweat. We hop and we sweat and damage our knees. You cannot possibly think that we make our joints happy when we hurl our entire weight onto them again and again. So after we make a milkshake out of our internal organs and return home drenched in sweat and with bad knees, do we feel good? I wonder whether these people jog for pleasure or because others are doing it. Better yet – maybe they do it because it feels good to overtake the slower participants, the walkers, who are not soaked in sweat and do not get bad knees, and who actually take the time to look to the right and to the left. Who is better off, I wonder, the walkers or the joggers? Since I am a photographer, I suppose, I will never be a jogger.
The most arcane mystery of the walking crowd comes with the heavyweights. Every now and then you see them: panting, groaning, sweating, nearly breathing their last but still going – jogging, I mean. Yet their presence is recurring throughout the year and each time they exhibit the same egg-shaped and rubicund features. Is there a universal conspiracy against the humpty-dumpties of Macon? Forgive me, I can never be delicate when the situation requires. I am genuinely concerned, though, about the futility of their efforts to lose weight. Or are these efforts merely simulacra, like occasional outings to maintain appearances, to shut the hecklers up. It is a gesture that seems to say “See? I am trying!” – much like me going to the theater, which also happens twice in a year. But what is the point, really? Instead of sequestering the rebellious flesh into sweat-inducing, weight-losing garments, exercising themselves pathetically on the side of the road to delirium and then swearing off physical activities for the next six months, why not put on normal clothes and go for a walk. Walking, you know? The thing that is not jogging. The kind of thing that you do for pleasure, not to lose weight or to keep up with the trends.
In any case, on the way back from the morning walk I meet everyone again. It seems that all of us travel to a certain point and then turn around and walk back. Only I do not like to turn around: it feels like regression. So I seek to make a loop and then it is as if I am walking a whole new road, a virgin path. I am an intrepid explorer. When I return I have come full circle. Windermere Circle. It is 7.30 and time for breakfast at the holiday house.