The Utility Player, Chapter 2

The up has been neglecting his arm-strengthening regimen.

Oh no! And here we were thinking climate change was bad. Here we were weeping in fury over another Black person dead at the hands of the police — and meanwhile, behind the scenes as it were, the up’s elastic arm-strengthening bands are in the garage, hanging from the metal shelves, dangling inert.

What is to be done?

First of all, let’s not panic. Not just yet. We’ll hold panic in abeyance. It’s good to have a Plan B.

Next, we could just see if he wants to do his arm-strengthening regimen right now.


There! Now, doesn’t that make you feel a whole lot better — knowing that the up has gotten a 5 out of a possible 4 on his arm-strengthening regimen?

He earned the bonus point by also incorporating his arthritis-be-gone exercises for his knees. What a whirligig the up can be when he puts his mind and body to it. He is surging with yes-we-can-can vibes right now. I know this through telepathy. It’s like… it’s like he’s right here with me!

You may be wondering, what is the up’s arm-strengthening regimen? I am proud to be able to tell you: first you need the special elastic bands with Velcro-fastening cuffs. Secretly probably any elastic band would work ok but if you want that special “Yeah, I’m an Athlete” feeling, in this one case I would go with the brand, which I will tell you as soon as they sponsor me.

Meanwhile, the first exercise is, you fasten the hook-end of the band to shoulder-height, then stretch the band out 25 times over your head. Please be careful that the hook is not aimed at where the soft spot in your skull was when you were born, or straight at your present-day skull, because if that thing comes unhooked it is going to feel like a bullet to the back of the brain.

And we don’t want that.

Next, well, you get the idea. You do a bunch of arm stretches. They are truly not that interesting, which is why the up occasionally neglects the regimen. It helps to play your favorite Doobie Brothers songs first, and since there are only two of those, you can then segue into a dynamite playlist one of your students shared with you. “Little Green Men” by Steve Vrai will enliven any workout, no matter how not-that-interesting the workout may be.

The feeling of quiet jubilation about having completed the workout, so that the up may yet be able to throw all the way from third to first on the fly without bouncing it and also without feeling a 4.3 earthquake in his shoulder — that is a quietly jubilant feeling. I would compare it to a bowl of butterscotch pudding.

And then there are all the arthritis-begone exercises which we will have to talk about another time; suffice it to say for now the up is getting better and better at crab-walking with an elastic strap around his thighs. It’s exciting. Someday he may be able to run to first base without causing time to s l o w d o w n.

The up is so up, he is ready to contemplate further action on climate change. He just got a new bike he has ridden exactly once. More bike, less car please, up.

As for police murder of Black people, the tone of this essay is going to have to shift. What tone will serve us here though? Outrage is all used up. This is what the up is going to do. He’s going to play in a tennis tournament east of La Cienega on Saturday. He’s going to join the tennis club over there, too. It’s been 20 years he’s been showing up over there, although lately only once or twice a year. It’s time to step up. Solidarity. It’s the best he can think of for right now. Ride his bike to the tennis tournament and hear what the people are saying and listen.

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