June 8, 2011
Dateline: Kabul Afghanistan
From: George (Mr. Potato Head) Shreves
Subject: Racehorse Shanks and Funhouse Mirrors
I have not been in a motorized vehicle, or anything with wheels on it for that matter, for almost two months. That has to be a record for me. I started riding a bike when I was 4 (my brother put me on a 28” Schwinn, pushed me down the terrace at Fair Avenue and yelled “pedal, Georgie, pedal”). Well, I pedaled all right, and kept pedaling for the next twelve years until I got myself a car. When I turned sixteen, I threw my bike in the dump and swore I’d never ride one again (which is why these modern bicyclers or “cyclists” as they call themselves piss me off. They probably didn’t have to use a bike for their main means of transportation growing up. Or live light years from anywhere, like I did. If they had, they wouldn’t be pedaling around on the damn things now. I mean, for Christ’s sake, these guys are my age and wearing spandex britches and silly little shoes that click-click-click across the floors – Sissies!)
Sorry, I got sidetracked. The point I was trying to make is that I now have no means of conveyance other than what my Grandpa used to call “shank’s mare”, meaning, walking. I walk every damnplace: PX, quarter mile; Laundry, 1/2 mile; DFAC, 1/10th mile. You get the idea. Basically, I walk what seems like seventeen hundred miles a day. Then, like a fool, I go to the gym for an hour or two a day and… (Drum roll please): you guessed it, walk some more. The result of all this self-locomotion has been two-fold: I’ve just about worn out my boots (tell Judd good times are coming) and I’ve got my legs into Olympic condition.
I hadn’t really noticed anything until a day or so ago. You see, there are very few mirrors here at Camp Phoenix. In fact, there are only two that I know of. One sits above the hand sink in the latrine, and for some reason, whoever installed it installed it high up. I’m 6’1” and I have to crane my head back to look in it, which gives me a good luck at my nose hair, but I can’t see the hair on my head at all. The hair on my head, like a herd of ornery cattle, has decided to drift north, I guess to greener pastures. The other mirror isn’t really a mirror at all, just the reflective film on one of the Humvees. I can see my face in it, but it’s kind of distorted like a fun house mirror so I can tell it’s me, but I have a big smiling mouth that looks about a mile wide and my beard looks long and pointy like a psychiatrist’s, so I look sort of like a smiling Frisbee with a goatee.
The other day in the gym, though, I noticed they have a full length mirror. The reason that I never noticed it before is that the muscle men always stand in front of it to lift weights. They SAY it is so they can concentrate on their form, but I know better, it’s so they can admire themselves, the gay-asses. I must have hit it right the other day, because when I went by the mirror, no musclemen were preening and there I was, in all my glory. It was scary. I was soaking wet with sweat, my face was red and mottled, and I looked 50 years old.
The most amazing thing however, was my legs. Between all the regular walking and exercise walking, my legs had magically turned into racehorse shanks. Shapely, muscled and well proportioned. I admired those legs for a minute. It made me feel good. I said to myself “show me another 50 year old man with shanks like that and I’ll kiss your ass”. My self-adulation didn’t last long however, as my eyes slowly traveled up the rest of me. Apparently all this walking is real good for your legs, and thins out your neck for some odd reason, but seems to have little effect on the rest of you. What I mean is: I look like Mr. Potato Head. Picture this: toothpicks for legs, russet potato for the body (regular sized, not a jumbo baker, I know how you bastards think), then a stalk of celery for a neck with an olive for my head, with the pimento representing my drifting hair. There you have it. Me. I tell you folks; it was quite a letdown.
The Man in the Mirror was downright depressing. I was just about ready to say to hell with all this exercising and throw myself off a bridge, if there was one around. As I sadly trudged away from the mirror, contemplating the misery of life, a miracle occurred! Glancing back at the mirror, I was no longer Mr. Potato Head, I was Hercules! There I was, wasp waisted, barrel-chested and about 7 feet tall to boot! Oh, boy! I didn’t realize you could actually increase your height by exercise alone. All lingering thoughts of Potato Head fled as I gazed on the Adonis before me. I swaggered away, looking back one more time, just to see if perhaps my derriere had become as shapely as the rest of me. My swagger was short-lived; Curses! Potato head again!
Then it hit me: the mirror was bent. It had the same effect as the Humvee window! In a matter of less than 30 seconds, I had gone from the jungles of despair to the top of Mount Jubilation and back again, just by moving a couple feet. I moved quickly back and forth: Potato Head, Hercules, Potato Head, Hercules. Then I moved real fast: Potatocles, Hercuhead!
I guess the truth must be somewhere in the middle. I’m not Hercules by any means (after all I may not have mirrors but I do have eyes), nor am I Mr. Potato Head, although it’s peculiar how much quicker your mind will accept bad news than good. Turns out I’m just a normal middle-aged feller trying in vain to conquer (or at least tie) the dual effects of gravity and time.
Anyway, I’ve decided to keep walking, running, and doing sit-ups and pushups. Old school stuff. I’ll probably just get into reasonable shape for a man of 50, and most likely feel a lot better too. BS’ers aren’t cut out for perfection anyway, right? It’s not in our DNA. Like Swamp says, “We ain’t much, but we’re all we got”. Well said, Swampy. Well said.
Till next time