The Good, Bad and Ugly

Good: Watching the Los Angeles Marathon. My dog and I walked to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue, yards from the Kodak Theater (site of the Academy Awards and the American Idol finals). Accompanied by hundreds of other cheering neighbors, we saw thousands of our fellow residents stampede past, a herd of disparate sizes and shapes and abilities. There were, predictably, Elvis runners, and USC Trojan runners, and Viva Mexico runners. There were also several contestants attempting to complete the marathon barefoot. And a guy running backwards. My favorite sight, aside from the determined wheelchair racers and the beautiful Kenyans leading the pack, was a young man on crutches, gamely dragging his non-functional legs to the finish. I completed this race eight years ago. Seeing it this week made me want to do it again, horrifically unpleasant as it may be. We’re all racing toward something, though we seldom know what. For one day in Los Angeles, thousands of us are headed down the same path, suffering and striving, simultaneously wrapped up in our personal journey and part of something bigger than the individual. One cannot say that training for and running marathons is good for the body; but it seems good for the soul. 

Bad: The au courant locution for people possessing a whiff of authority — security guards, customer service agents, flight attendants, policemen — is “Sir, I’m going to need you to…” As in, “Sir, I’m going to need you to stand over here,” or “Sir, I’m going to need you to wait mutely while I busy myself with inscrutable tasks that may not seem important to you but help me grind out a few minutes of my hourly wage.” The phrase cannot be parsed. It suggests something that will happen in the future, and something that is crucial, yet the “need” it expresses never really satisfies either condition. If one replies to someone uttering the “I’m going to need you to” phrase with a simple, “When? When are you going to need me to?” or, “Do really need me to, or do you want me to?” the reward is usually a (slightly louder) reiteration of the magic code or a baleful stare. I’m going to need you to stop reading this and go on to the next paragraph.

Ugly: A culture in which the beauty of a woman’s naked breast or a man’s exposed buttocks is considered offensive and the ghastly gore of a bleeding wound or contused head is considered entertaining. Countless religious organizations have made it their mission to keep our children safe from things like nipples and penises. They’re succeeding. And our culture is failing miserably.

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