Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Some fellas were talking about who they’d fight for $250,000. Weirdly, I wasn’t the center of attention, which is always a little surprising. But finally, at long last -- and well overdue it was, too -- I managed to draw some attention to myself, and inserted myself into the conversation by saying that I’d fight my own son for a quarter million dollars. Well, I’d have him beat me up. And he’d no doubt do it. He’s seen how much pain I can take.

And here I lay, supine on my silk-draped pallet, naked of course, with a golden light caught up and sparkling on my porcelain skin as the gentle zephyrs of a distant fan teasingly caress my luxuriant body hair. My fingertips trip playfully up and down my manly chest as I savor the sweet tart bouquet of freshly peeled grapes heaped up in an elegant skyphos I once salvaged from an ancient Greek shipwreck. Ah, those fine Aegean youths. But that’s another story, for a different day. My point now is that I’ve been considering what a glorious figure I cut in my own youth so supplely-muscled, such fine lines, perfectly proportioned, as of pristine marble crafted by some sublime genius into the very quintessence of masculine perfection. Beautiful. I was beautiful. Of course, for a man on the imminent cusp of his sixth decade I am still a magnificent blond beast. Glorious. Indeed, for a man of any age I’m simply stunning. But I am forced to turn the brilliant light of my unmatched intellect upon the melancholy consideration of what might have been.

If I had done then what I do now, the world would never before have seen the like. I would have been a phenomenon. N, superb though he is by nature alone, had the impossible advantage of having me for a father. If I myself had been granted that honor -- to have had myself as my father -- well, it is the stuff of legends.

It is a rare thing to encounter the sublime. Yes, I believe it is possible. How much richer the world would have been, had I had the advantages of those who have been blessed to be mentored by me. To have started with such physical and mental advantages -- already at the vanishing point of perfection -- and then to have been raised by the gentle guiding hand of my own saint-like disposition … so wise, so patient -- well, it’s best not to think on such matters. It would be almost blasphemous.

If I did then, a quarter century ago, what I do now, I would have been unstoppable. Next week I turn 50, and even now it would take me two months to get back to running a five minute mile, the level at which excellent college athletes perform. Than whom I am 30 years older. Years ago I would have had my flexibility. I would have had unparalleled endurance. I wouldn’t be stiff and I wouldn’t have ached.

I turn my mind away from such melancholy thoughts. Unattended excellence shall not haunt me. I strive for excellence now. I cannot help, though, but reflect upon those youths who admire me but do not strive for even the shadow of my hard-won perfection. They are, you see, young. They do not know what lies ahead for them. They do not know the pain in the knees, in the back, in the joints and muscles and fibers of the body -- the stiffness that comes after the stillness of a moment. They do not know the morning ache that comes with the decades. For them it is an occasional thing, and not the constant companion of vigorous striving. They do not know that time accelerates, and they do not realize that they must attain excellence now, because it has an absolute standard, and there comes a time when every point of praise must be qualified -- He’s amazing, for his age.

We live in a body for a reason. To celebrate the physical. Excellence is a choice.


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