Sunday, October 16, 2005

Inspiration in a Jumpsuit

It had been a long stretch of little productivity, barren thoughts, poor writing in general. I was ready to turn in my union card. Everything I wrote read like crap, everything I edited read like crap. It wasn't as much writer's block as writer's inertia.

I tried writing new pieces. I tried looking at older stories. I tried reading classics, reading book reviews, reading anything of some inspirational import. (I didn't try blogging -- that was writer's block). Nothing seemed to help me. I was spinning my wheels at 1,000 RPM.

Then I met Jack La Lanne.

Now, I say this with some embarrassment, but I have always admired Jack La Lanne, the man who brought physical fitness to America. I’m embarrassed because I remember watching his TV show, when I was a child.

Working up a sweat

Jack wore his trademark goofy jump suits and pointed to the camera while bouncing around the set, calling out to Betty Sue in Des Moines or Eloise in Dallas to get off her ass and start doing jumping jacks. Can’t say I would like it now. Completely hokey stuff, though innocent.

But what is not hokey (though contrived) have been his crazy stunts, feats of strength that he continued through his 70s, 80s, and beyond. Probably the most famous was pulling a tugboat across San Francisco Bay with his teeth. The guy was 89 years old.

Later, I read a magazine interview about the guy. Call it obsessive, call it crazy, but he still works out 2 hours a day. Doesn't eat meat, is a juice freak (he has his own line of juicers). He also is sexually active, though that was a detail I didn't need to know.

A week a go, as I strolled through my health club after working out, sweaty and gross, a short but muscular man was walking towards me, in sunglasses, shuffling slightly. Jack La Lanne is all of 5 foot 4 inches -- maybe -- but he is still broad shouldered, thick chested, and remarkably wrinkle free. He walked slowly, and appeared to be hard of hearing, but he looked 25 years younger than 93.

Jack La Lanne was doing some promotional schtick at the health club. I said, "Mr. La Lanne," but he passed me. One of his helpers turned and got his attention.

I stuck out my hand, and he grabbed it with a firm (what else) grip. Not knowing what else to say, I blurted out, "Mr. La Lanne, I just want to tell you that you're a real inspiration."

Jack didn't miss a beat. "Inspiration -- and perspiration!" he said. Grabbing my shoulder, he gave it a squeeze. "Keep up the good work!"

"Thank you," I said, humbled.

Needless to say, after that run in a week ago, I've been on a tear. I’ve been working on my fiction at a rate not seen since grad school. I don’t hate my writing. I’m sending stuff out. If a guy in his 10th decade looks like that, I can get on my ass before a computer and type away.

I haven’t been working out much. Go figure.