Polar Navigation, or How Mama Sled Got Her Ass Back

Three days of hysteria peaked as the D.C. area began to see precipitation overnight. The Federal government closed.  Householders hugged their hoards of toilet paper (I know, that sounds like Saxon alliterative verse, it just came out that way: “Bogwulf”).

Mama Sled got out her poles.

I have been skimming over the glacial progress of rehab on The Leg I Nearly Killed, because the only thing more boring than watching a mud puddle dry up is someone else’s moment-to-moment coverage of a mud puddle drying up. But we are at an encouraging place; since a six-mile push through the sound barrier connected with getting my car greased, just after Valentine’s Day, I’ve been good for a decent hill cruise a couple of times a week, so long as I use the poles. These things are boffo. I know, every time I bring them up, I rave about them. They’re like full-body orthotics, recalling millennia of four-limbed gait while bracing the upright human creature firmly in a locomotor cycle pivoting on the exact center of gravity. Stand and park your thumbs atop the bony prominences that define the widest part of your hip articulation, the trochanter femur major, which is where your ass hooks onto your legs pretty much, and draw an imaginary horizontal line between them; it will cross as close to your fulcrum of movement as no matter, part way down the sacral bone. When your hands, holding the walking poles, swing through this line on either side as you walk, that’s when the poles hit the ground and propel you forward, adding juice to the rotation around your vertical axis that is the crux of a good long stride.

I see people every day walking from their hip joints, not their back and waist: the end point of this is the hobbling, shuffling gait of old age, which reminds me of someone carrying a tureen of soup and struggling not to spill it. Really walking calls for butt-swing and hip flexion, and a churning that shakes up your chitterlings and pumps your breath. Funnily enough you can carry a load on your head while doing it, as long as you don’t have to dodge traffic (we won’t discuss how I know this).

The alleged snow was spitting down, in fact almost sideways, in big succulent globs like half-frozen bird poop, only not so gross. It was hard to tell if it was mixed with rain as such or if the globs were just ejecting smaller droplets as they hit trees and signs on the way down. The footing was perfectly good, though, and about one mile out I was swinging along as fast as I ever could before I bitched up the leg: I still limp without the poles, but with them, I am a threat. Ponds interrupted the sidewalk: there is going to be hell to pay when some of this freezes solid, especially the icy marsh that occupied the entire row of crip spaces outside the Goodwill store by the time I passed it.

When I swung north along the road that constitutes Arlington’s main axis of longitude I realized how keen the wind actually was — a big frost-giant hand pushing at my face and thighs. I got about two-thirds of the way to the highway interchange and bombed in the front door of Dr. Bill’s chiropractic office.

Dr. Bill leases first-floor space in an apartment block that also houses an insurance agency, a beauty parlor, a hearing-aid distributor, a tailor and the local Republican headquarters; each storefront looks more yellowed and desiderate than the next, breathing a 1950’s air of dingy paint, chipping window decals and balky Venetian blinds. The HVAC in the place heaves and labors but belches forth a fine baking downdraft from the overhead conduits. When Dr. Bill emerged, perplexed, from the rear of the office — I got the feeling all his patients had cancelled for the day and he had been driven to adjusting Mrs. Bill to keep his hand in — I was in the middle of the waiting area, holding my saturated hat and gloves on the end of the poles up at ceiling level where dragon-breath from the grille in the ductwork could hit them directly.

He asked me hopefully if I could use an adjustment today. It was tempting but I couldn’t feature getting back into my wet fugs. I keep trying to turn him on to the poles, but he always says things like “I’m not even used to cell phones yet.”

I left him in 1959 and came home for some hot soup. Nothing makes hot soup taste quite so celestial as three or four miles of being pelted by flying slush. This is going to stiffen up a little, but every excursion pushes back the limits. It’s good to have an ass to swing again; it makes everything seem more alive and hopeful. Congress should try this.


4 thoughts on “Polar Navigation, or How Mama Sled Got Her Ass Back

  1. Such a voice you have.

    My son lands in D.C. today. He and other engineering students are presenting a design project to someone somewhere out there. I was hoping he’d get some fun urban snow to slog around in — out here the only places with snow are up in the mountains — but evidently not.

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