“Let’s See Some Biceps, Biafra!”

A few months ago, I noted in this space that I’d resumed my long-deferred running career on a treadmill in the basement of the local YMCA. It didn’t last. In my head, I might still be a 16-year-old miler, but my knees and ankles somehow slipped away to middle age without telling me.

Since this exercise in exercise was a joint project with Lejla – and she’s been more faithful to the gym than I, with the results to prove it – I’m still working out, but now resigned to the stationary bicycle, an object I’d once condemned and the (non) vehicle of the old and infirm. So be it.

I still have the iPod and earbuds and try no less hard to overdo it on the bike as I did on the treadmill. (If this winter ever ends, I’ll take it to the streets.) I set a caloric goal and try to reach it faster each time. (No, I’m not telling you what it is. If you wanna know, you’ll just have to get on the adjacent bike and peek.)

Searching for music with a consistently intent beat, I’ve chosen the Dead Kennedys’ Live at the Deaf Club for my workouts. Recorded 35 years ago this month, the CD has, of course, been disavowed as capitalist trash by DK front man Jello Biafra. I’m further amused to think I was 17 when the recording was made and just as angry as the band.

Now I’m closing in on 53 and left wondering if this is now less about anger at social injustice than the frustration of a middle manager at the end of the workday. Middle age is when our broad minds and narrow waists change places. Adrienne, who studies brain science for fun, says bilateral stimulation – running, swimming, biking – encourages development of cross-lobe neural pathways in the brain. (I’m probably explaining that wrong. I’m really not trying to enhance neural connections; I’m just trying to get the monkey off my back.)

The CD opens with a “disco” version of “Kill the Poor” and by the time I’ve pedaled through “Back in Rhodesia” (an in-progress version of “When You Get Drafted”) and the previously unreleased “Gaslight,” there’s enough saline pouring from me that I could weep without detection. (It hasn’t come to that yet, but nice to know it’s an option.)

Although neutron bombs were the direct object of “Kill the Poor” satire, the larger sentiment is sadly still apt as Congress shreds the safety net to send more tax breaks toward billionaires, exploitation of Africa and wars of choice still abound, but the draft is off the table as we’ve managed to impoverish enough Americans to make the “all volunteer” military a viable option.

Are these the fruits of the 21st century or just middle age, when the righteous rage of 1979 becomes a means to shrink the spare tire? By the time the CD and my workout have run their course, I’ve heard a cover of “Back in the USSR” that seems all too timely and “Via Las Vegas,” bringing an image of Republicans who aspire to be “leader of the free world” first traveling to Nevada and putting a high gloss on the shoes of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.

Or maybe I should just get some new music.

© Mark Floegel, 2014

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