The Body · The City


I was horrific in gym. A combination of stage fright (all the other kids are judging me!) and a preference for reading meant that not only was I the next-to-last picked for teams, but in 8th grade I was pulled out of Current Events class for…remedial gym.

It’s important to remember that this was a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, and athletic scholarships were pretty much the only ticket out of the place. At the time, I didn’t view it this way but the truth is, the middle school administration was trying to take smart kids and give them an extra edge with athletics. They were doing me a favor. Hitting tennis balls and attempting to shoot hoops (which is a joke, as I am shorter than even Muggsy Bogues) were supposed to bring me into line with the rest of my class and offer the world of sports to me as an avenue of achievement.

I really liked Current Events.

Eventually the administration gave up. The other two kids and I exasperated the gym teachers with our utter failure to connect bat/racquet/hand to ball and the program ended. My only immersion in athletics came well after that, when I took up running. I wasn’t speedy, but I could endure long long distances. (Which of course led to stress fractures and other injuries and an end to any running career I might have had.)

So I never thought of myself as athletic. I was the brainy, creative, uncoordinated sort. It wasn’t until I was nearly 40 and involved with Bernardo that I got truly active. (And even now, compared to Bernardo, I am a slug.) He taught me to ski and to rollerblade, evened up my ice-skating skills, and I began going to the gym to help build up my strength for those things. By the time I tore my ACL on an icy slope, I was labeled by my physical therapist as “athletic”.

Which truly shocked me.

But my mind opened up to the possibility of other things too – free weights (which I love), biking nearly every day, and now golf.

Once a week or so, Bernardo and I go down to The Tanks, which sounds scary. It should. This is what it looks like:

It’s in this more or less abandoned industrial area of Staten Island. That tank is where TETCo stored natural gas until the 1970s, when there was a horrific explosion and 40 workers were killed. There’s another one just behind it.

Just past The Tanks is the Staten Island Golf Academy. It is not a pretentious place – basically a trailer set down in the midst of green, with a couple of driving ranges. Our pro is named Ed, and he’s seen it all. You can’t do anything that will cause him to dismiss you as a failure.

Today was the first day anybody ever said to me, “Atta girl!”

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