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Slouching, Backs, and Culture

Last weekend, I re-pulled the lower back muscle I’d pulled Mother’s Day morning. On Tuesday, I went to my gym on 23rd Street to use the sauna, couldn’t get comfortable, not because of pain, but because the woman on the upper shelf, whom I never met, opened her eyes and mouth to tell me about her obese cat, her troubled son, and her too-small Hampton beach house at which she’ll spend Memorial Day weekend entertaining obnoxious guests, who don’t use her heated pool.

I left the gym, walking upright with my shoulders back, pulling in my stomach and backside, remembering my mother constantly telling me I slouched, and advising me to stand up straight. Mindful walking! Yes!

I paused, as I often do, at 14 West 23rd where Edith Wharton once lived to take the picture of the above plaque. A Starbucks is there now. Wharton, the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Literature, wrote THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, ETHAN FROME, and THE AGE OF INNOCENCE without a laptop or a grande.

I walked my new walk to Duane Reade for more Ibuprofen and asked the pharmacist, whom I’d never met, if she could recommend something stronger for a pulled muscle. She suggested I see a doctor, then staring at me quite seriously added, “Bones get brittle when you get old.”


I patted my grey hair and headed to Washington Square. The weather was glorious. My improved walking felt right. The pianist was there, playing Chopin’s E Flat Nocturne (the theme from THE EDDY DUCHIN STORY) on his baby grand. It sounded far more beautiful than when I attempt to play it. I put extra money in his bucket.

At home, with my brittle bones, after I wrote and posted my New School grades, I stretched out on the floor. That felt good! I turned on the television. Paul Newman in THE VERDICT followed by an American Masters of Frank Sinatra singing felt better. After, I went to the piano and gave Chopin my best shot. Nothing like the Washington Square musician, but not horrible either.

I’m fine now. No doctor. Lots of walking. About to walk to the gym sauna. Fortunately, the woman with the too-small beach house, is already out there with guests who don’t use her heated pool.

I’m grateful for Chopin, the park pianist, Paul Newman, and Sinatra.

I’m more grateful I had a mother who was right. About most things. Including walking tall and good posture.


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