Sunday, August 28, 2011

Functional Bodies

As you may know, I'm on the board of Capital Stage Company, which is the coolest little professional nonprofit theatre in Sacramento, and possibly west of the Mississippi. Anyway, Cap Stage is in the final stages of renovating a former gun store in Midtown and making it the perfect space to see bold, intimate, live theatre. It's been a long, arduous process, especially for my brother, who's the project manager, the other two founders (one of whom is my sister-in-law) and the amazing, talented, and chronically overworked staff.

Because we are nearing the end, it's time for tasks that unskilled laborers like me can help with. Last Saturday, I wielded broom, shop vac, and dustpan for maybe an hour and a half, smiting piles of sheetrock dust with deadly intent. Surprisingly tiring. Thursday after work, I managed another couple of hours, this time backrolling the ceiling after the spray work of Jeff the painting
dude. I came home looking like a Welsh coal miner (albeit one in a floral tank top and khaki shorts), my arms like jelly from rolling black paint over my head in 90+ degrees.

All this time I was in awe, as I often am, of my multi-talented and massively energetic brother. It's kind of unfair - he's epically handsome and charming, he can sing like an angel, play any instrument, build anything, cook anything, figure out any kind of technology, grow insanely large vegetables, act like Colin Farrell (that's him as King Charles II, w/ equally lovely & talented SIL), direct plays that make grown men cry, and do note-perfect impressions. If he wasn't such a good dude, I would hate him. And he can work all day lifting, carrying, bending, hammering, climbing, sweeping, and pretty much never stopping. It's exhausting just watching him.

It made me realize anew just how much it sucks to sit all day. Even on days when I do a lot of exercise, it's still around an hour. When I was training for half-Ironman races, I would have l
ong workouts of maybe 3-4 hours, conducted mostly at a very moderate aerobic pace. Once or twice a week. Then shorter workouts of 1-2 hours. Total of what, 11-14 hours a week of physical work. Some weeks are more physical than others for the younger J-Will, but he probably gets that amount of work in within a four-day period most any week. He doesn't "work out," he's just highly active and he's got fantastic strength and endurance for what he does. You get good at what you do all the time. I am great at sitting at a computer.

I often feel as though the ideal job for me would be one that combined about 3 hours a day of varied but highly physical labor - tree-trimming, ditch-digging, moving pianos, mucking out stables, whatever - with about an hour of socializing and 3 hours a day of sitting and writing. Yeah, I know that's only seven hours. The eight hour workday should be a thing of the past now that we have tons of technology oozing out our ears. Tim makes fun of me when I voice this wish, but I think it's a good goal to aim for.

Anyhow. I went back yesterday for the big painting day, and I was expecting to get pretty beat up physically. It was going to be 96 in the heat of the day, and I was planning
to be there for quite a few hours. Took some precautionary Advil, stocked up on Gatorade for myself and the troops, and supplied myself with a bandanna for sweat-mopping.

I haven't painted in earnest for I don't know how many years. And if you're trying
to be quick about it, it's a certain amount of effort. Women's restroom, lavender gray. Men's restroom, sort of a seafoam green/gray. Breaks for fluids. Ticket lobby, some walls cinnamon/nutmeg, some apple green. Breaks for fluids. Hallway, a second coat of black in the hallway. Breaks for fluids. Some cleanup of lumber scraps and sawdust. I was Gatorading like crazy and consuming pretzels like a mad Bavarian. And yet, I didn't pee for over 8 hours.

When the day started to wind down, I'd had a couple of forearm cramps from the unaccustomed roller work, and my back was getting tired. I hadn't gone as hard or worked as long as my brother, but this wasn't about sibling rivalry. It was about
my own often-creaky bod hanging in there and getting a bunch of work done with my muscles.

So, anyone got a job for me that's three hours of physical, three hours of mental, one hour of social? I'd be pretty awesome at it. Reply below...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Get Up, Stand Up

Monday I took the day off. I had just survived Grantmageddon, roughly definable as "a set of cascading deadlines for multi-million-dollar, multi-year grants with way too many moving parts and not enough people around to help out with them because it's the middle of the summer." I knew I was going to need more than just a regular weekend to recuperate, so I took Monday too. And a damn good thing I did, since after a trip to SFO, Los Gatos, and Santa Cruz Friday night and Saturday, I spent the entire day on Sunday on the Big Poofy Chair, except when I moved over to the leather couch for my second nap. Hey, the Boardwalk is tiring, especially the Giant Dipper.

But by Monday I had worked my way up to a little activity, and I voted for kayaking at Lake Natoma because it was hot hot hot. Summer hasn't been at all evil by Sacramento standards, but water sounds a lot better to me than pavement or trails when it's 95 out. So I cruised my way up Highway 50 to the Sac State Aquatic Center, where kayak rentals are cheap and the water is cool. It was all good; I got my backrest (so critical for the creaky-old-athlete crowd), my paddle, life jacket, and finally boat, and I set to it.

But almost immediately I wanted to be doing what the cool kids were doing. And the cool kids were all doing this. I have, of course, seen the stand up paddleboarders. Down in Santa Cruz, lurking outside the Giants' home ballpark in McCovey Cove, even on Lake Natoma. But suddenly I wanted to be doing it too. The guy in front of me at the rental line got one, and I immediately felt a twinge of envy.

I like the sitting down aspect of kayaking, of course, but the paddleboarders just looked so free and light. No heavy kayak to haul around (for the plastic sit-on-top kayaks available for rental tend to be quite massive), no awkward clambering in and out of the boat, no backrest to buckle in. Just stand up and go. And therein, I'm sure, lies the challenge. Of course they are wider than your average surfboard, but the balance thing looks a tad tricky. And then you have to paddle on this side and that, taking care to preserve symmetry of effort? Could be tiring.

However, the Aquatic Center has classes, and the next one I could go to is August 28. Stay tuned to see if I succumb to the lure of the new.

Even if I don't, I still have kayaks to rent. I had a great afternoon out. Paddled till my arms were about ready to fall off, took a break to swim in the cold green water, enjoyed the golden late-summer hills, and engaged in silent smugness about not working that day.

Friday, August 5, 2011

And Here's Another Dead Person to Blame!

A few months ago, after the passing of Jack LaLanne, the New York Times ran this interesting little nugget. I have often railed about the conflation of exercise with morality and duty, the awfulness that covers up the joy of moving around when you feel like it's something you must do or else become a worse and worse person. And Jack was definitely a part of this insidious philosophy So not to wish ill of the dead or anything but Jack, seriously, dude! Who needs more guilt around exercise? Not moi.