Olympian good health, though, is not the only benefit. There's kind of a Jeremiah Johnson-thing that happens when modern man slips into his Nikes and heads off alone into the dawn's early light, The Big Lonesome, just a short, suburban left and right from the 7-Eleven. True, one often squanders these brief, reflective opportunities day-dreaming about the woman in the next cubicle at work, but that's probably nothing compared to the paltry fantasies of Jeremiah Johnson himself, who, after all, was limited to those yearly visits from Will Geer.
Both sides of the road are lined with parked cars as I go, but I don't think I ever noticed any of them until the other day. I was power-walking along, heel-and-toe, elbows swinging, hips swaying; in other words, looking like a perfect idiot.
And then I saw it, parked right on the street, a late '60s MGB convertible. Remember those? They were both cool and cute. This one was what they used to call BRG, British Racing Green, that dark forest color. Black interior. Pretty great. Jeff Goldflam had one of them in high school. There were three guys I knew in high school who had their own cars: Robby Riccio had a '69 Volkswagen Beetle, Tony Sacaridiz had a blue '71 Mustang Fastback, and Jeff Goldflam had the exact MGB I was looking at.
I stopped and stared, but not because of the car itself. In the end, cars don't really mean that much to me. I like them, I guess, and if I ever went crazy and got a few, I think my stable would include a '58 Chevy and a '64 Fury III. Maybe a '67 Newport, too. But even though I was looking at this little sports car on that particular morning, I wasn't really seeing it. I was remembering riding in it with Jeff Goldflam and doing sprints at soccer practice with him and the time Leslie Schwartz, who was beautiful, overheard us talking about how beautiful she was, but of course the only really important thing I was remembering was that Jeff worked in the World Trade Center when it came down, and that he was one of the people pulverized.
WHAT DO WE FEEL and how long do we feel it? What have we done, and what should we do?
Most newspapers and TV news outfits have, it seems to me, spent two years subtly saying, "Don't act, don't move, let it all be. Sit and wait, and let the image grow smaller and smaller like a gas station in the rearview mirror. Very soon it will be a dot, and eventually it will be gone completely."
But I don't think I'm going to do that. I don't think I'm going to let it go away. I think I'm going to wade through the shrill self-hate and say, "Go on. Continue on. Clean this up. Win." Because I think that's not only the right way to remember the people who held hands and jumped from those towers, I think it's the right way to remember the soldiers who've died on these first few steps to justice. By the way, it's also the right way to remember every murdered bus rider and every terrified Arab who's spent the last thousand years seeing the sadistic face of the torturer who's about to kill him. They're not his brothers, you know, they're his oppressors, and we are the best thing that's ever happened to him.
That's the choice: Stop, or keep going; keep our promises, or forget we made them; be responsible, or irresponsible; face facts, or ignore them. It's easier to stop, you know. Beating these folks will take a very long time. Decades, probably, and that's if we do everything right.
BUT IF WE TURN AWAY, what shall we do when the boiling lava resumes creeping down the hill and destroying the world? Maybe we should just stop looking? That's a plan, isn't it? Just turn our heads every time a murderer does his victory dance? We could do that.
And the years will pass, and we can all get fatter and sit on sofas that are softer and watch TVs that are bigger. We'll just keep pretending we don't see, and the best way, really, is not to go out that much in the first place. Yes, that's it, we'll all just stay inside again today.
And the entire Middle East, including Israel (which will be gone, finally)--and most of Africa and Asia, too--will look like rural Afghanistan, not one brick standing against another, dust blowing lazily, no shops, no food, people with faces so worn and beaten down they will seem to have been bleached of all humanity and expression. Oh, and every hundred miles or so there'll be a solid gold soccer stadium.
And lots more of us will be dead, too, but we won't have to look at that, either. Until, of course, they can kill all of us.
I HAVEN'T SEEN that MGB again, but maybe I will sometime. Could happen, right? Maybe next year. You know. Right around the week after Labor Day.
Larry Miller is a contributing writer to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.