I enjoy walking if it's through a store during a sale or to show off a grandchild. But walking for the pure fun of it isn't fun for me. The last time I exercised was when Ed Sullivan introduced the Beatles, and I jumped up and down in the living room as they played.
Enter the Neshoma Orchestra and their two CDs to walk by, "J-Walking" and the recently released "J-Walking the Next Step."
After schlepping 40 years in the desert, it's hard to imagine a CD to exercise by coming from a people who have harbored a subconscious distrust of walking. But with my daughter's upcoming nuptials, my unending kvetch about fitting into the dress won out over my skepticism.
Tuesday, 8 p.m.
I dusted off the portable CD player, stuck an earphone in my ear, put on as flattering an outfit as I could conjure up and hit the open road, one foot in front of the other.
Before I knew it, I had gone a block, then two, humming along with the familiar Yiddish melodies that played faster and more upbeat than I ever remembered. Strains of "Chabibi" coursed through my veins.
My mother's Yiddish musical selections ran more toward, "My Yiddish Mama" and "Make Mir a Bisala Yingala" from The Barry Sisters. "Sob Your Heart Out Greatest Hits."
So there I am, walking along at a jaunty pace, humming and moving without my usual stops to check the time, but actually enjoying the pace.
At three blocks I began forcing myself to ignore the objections of my feet and focus on the beat.
I had made it through four songs and I was feeling empowered. Suddenly, the old anti-exercise gene kicked in and my body began to rebel and slow the pace. I fought valiantly and luckily, the next selection was more upbeat. I kicked into overdrive to "Reb Shlomo's Niggun."
I was feeling good, and a bit shocked that I had just absorbed five Yiddish songs without shedding a tear.
I decided to push my luck, so I kept walking, farther than I had planned. I wasn't sure if it was endorphins or the music, but I was feeling good; so good in fact, I pressed forward, another street, another, until I had gone farther than ever before.
I was pretty sure that by now, my pushy Jewish genes had taken hold, awakened by the chemicals released in my brain to combine with more than 5,700 years of feistiness.
Whatever it was, it was working, so I tested myself even more and attempted an uphill walk. This was major since the flat terrain was enough of a challenge.
I looked up toward Sunset Boulevard. It could've been Mount Sinai. Oy, that's steep, I thought. But I was pumped with Yiddishkayt and defeat was not an option. I began the ascent. Gevalt, could I be this out of shape?
The songs had gotten to me and Yiddish was flowing out of my mouth now like lies from a politician. "Hodu" suddenly kicked in, and so did I. Breathing heavily, I climbed ever upward, inspired, pumped, lungs aching, feet screaming obscenities. I could not be stopped. I was a Jewish walking machine, sucking in air as I ascended higher and higher toward Sunset Boulevard. Mouthing silent oys as I schlepped, the beat growing faster and more upbeat, I was inspired and -- oy, was I tired. Could I reach the promised land of Sunset Boulevard? I knew I would pay for this the next morning, but I didn't care. I refused to look upward and focused on my feet so as not to notice how high I was climbing. I wondered how long I might lie on the street if keeled over before someone would find me.
I could be lying there, Yiddish music blasting from my unconscious ears, my headband covering my eyes, just another exercise victim who had crossed a threshold of pain.
This daydream diverted my attention long enough to get my second wind and I was off. Huffing and puffing nearing the top, almost there, thousands of years of Jewish determination pounding in my veins, two feet more, one, I was there. I stood on Sunset Boulevard and peered downward like Moses glimpsing the River Jordan.
The beat compelled me onward, so I walked along Sunset, so filled with accomplishment I thought I would burst.
I walked toward home until I found a downhill street on which to begin my descent. Whoa, this downhill was almost as hard. I fought to keep the rhythm, until I reached Santa Monica Boulevard. I trudged up the steps and tore my shoes off, the music still filling my ears, joyous, upbeat. I had done three miles and walked uphill. There was no talking to me now. I was filled with hope. Tomorrow I could do this again. I felt it; I knew it.
Wednesday, 8 a.m.
I opened my eyes, and flush with optimism I stepped out of bed. Oy, flush with pain.
But there was no stopping me. I was a Jew with her music and a worthy goal of fitting into the dress for her daughter's wedding.