Let me report that San Francisco has been marvelous for my core…the latter being a bit of American fitness lingo. In fact, one’s bodily core refers, in my limited understanding, to abdominal muscles, back muscles and so on. Always good to have a strong torso, I say. And so it has come to pass, increasingly driving the streets of this fair city, that I can boast of my strengthend core. No, there have been no trips to the gym. No weight machines. Nothing except driving. And here lies the unanticipated benefit of San Francisco’s hills…they get your back up. That is to say, to hold your back up requires a certain strength. And holding your back up is required if you don’t want to collapse over the steering wheel, which is discouraged. I found this early in the San Francisco driving game. Heading down a steep hill takes a hell of a lot of back muscle to keep one sitting up. And yet one has no choice, or little choice. Sit up or give up.

In the mornings when I practice walking with Dennis, my new found morning assistant, I remember. Those long crutchings, say, on Saturday mornings, out for coffee on 24th Street…in the late 1970s. Could I really limp that far in those days? It is sad to have lost so much neuromuscular ground. How? No one really understands. Yet no seasoned physiotherapist is surprised. But I am, continuously. So here we are, me and my life, out for a wavering therapeutic schlep up and down my San Francisco redwood deck, a professional minder standing by just in case. And, yes, it beats death or total quadriplegia or being a Republican. Still, I long for the neurological good old days.

And it must be admitted that the good old body appears to be in reasonable nick. I am certainly putting enough time into the project. Dennis is somehow equipped for the physical therapeutic challenges of stretching my hips, strengthening my arms and helping me walk. It’s been adding up to 90 minutes a day, a borderline grueling start to the morning that secretly I would like to avoid…all of which is actually a good sign.

The sign at the bottom of Clipper Street is far away, and that is the problem. I have to go all the way down this hill, descending the eastern slopes of Twin Peaks if anyone wants to know…before I get there, the putative bottom where the stop sign awaits. There’s no particular reason why I am doing this so slowly, my braking foot…of course, there is no other…unable to lift very far from the pedal. What if I lose control? What would losing control look like, being the real question. There’s no answer for that one. And that’s the thing about fear. Some of it is grounded. Some of it is groundless. And it’s impossible to convince one of the difference. Time has to pass.

And in all honesty it must be admitted that yesterday’s drive down the perilous slope was my first since moving to this burg. I had been avoiding it. Now my nephew is here and, armed with a younger companion, somehow I felt empowered. No, not younger myself, as it is abundantly clear…just feigning something more blasé when out for a spin. Spinning out of control never far from one’s mind, of course. But at least one has a mind. And if fear has a mind of its own, what is there to do but keep checking the brakes?

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