Friday, September 18, 2009

Tonight we dance in Havana

posted Wed, 04 Aug 2004

I have a confession to make.

I am still sore from horseback riding on Sunday.

Yes, yes, I know I tried to present three hours of riding as a piece of cake. “How hard can it be? The horse does all the work.”

The truth is that the horse does do all of the hard work, but the rider still has to stay on the horse and that staying on requires muscles not used in swimming, running, weight lifting, eating or sitting in the front porch swing. So all my training did not prepare me for sitting on a horse.

Truth is that I am dog tired and have been since Sunday night. The riding was the proximate cause, but it didn’t help that I stayed out way past my bedtime Sunday evening – you know, 11:00 Mountain time, which is probably normal going to bed time for normal people but then I have never claimed to be normal.

I still have not caught up on my sleep. I don’t know how Harpo does it – living in a state of permanent sleep deprivation as he does. I was tired to the point of nausea by Monday afternoon.

But almost as bad as the exhaustion is the muscle soreness. And the place that hits the horse – repeatedly – for three hours – soreness. If you have never ridden a horse, you can get about the same effect by riding a bicycle for a long time without a padded seat or shorts. If you have never ridden a bicycle like that, I suggest bending over while someone whacks your hinder – right at those bones that hit the seat when you sit – with a baseball bat for a few hours.

The irony in all of this is that I have plenty of padding on that part of my body, which apparently does nothing to protect those seater bones but instead just provides more flesh to be bruised.

The muscle soreness is in odd places. There is the top of the thigh squeezing the horse soreness – those muscles you use to keep from sliding sideways. Then there is the outside of the knee soreness, which I guess is technically more of a bone or joint soreness. That comes from having your legs splayed out at unnatural angles.

Then there is the right under your ribs and at your diaphragm soreness. I still have not figured out what on earth these areas have to do with horseback riding.

I will say this, though. My uncle is 69 years old and has probably ridden a horse if not every day of his life then pretty darn close and he is as lean as a whipcord. I’m not sure what a whipcord is, but it is very lean. He is in excellent shape. I suspect it’s from the horseback riding, but it could be that he is just too tired to eat most of the time.

There is a really good article in Slate.com about airport screening procedures (http://slate.com/id/2104705/), so I am not going to go into a lot of the details, but I will say this. First of all, it’s not the airlines who decide who will get the special screening. You know what I’m talking about – when they make you stand on the little rug with the footprints while they wand your body while someone else goes through your luggage, lifting each piece of underwear and squeezing the toothpaste. It is the TSA telling the airlines what criteria to seek, even though they always say, “The airline has made you a selectee.”

How do I know this? Harpo works for an airline. He knows the scoop. Every single time we have traveled together non-rev, we have been selectees for special searches. Why? Because we have one-way tickets acquired at the last minute, which, I will agree, could give someone reason for pause. But….

Second. Let’s face it. It’s not usually middle-aged white American chicks who hijack planes. Not even middle-aged white American men. No, a quick search on the internet reveals that the majority of the hijackings in the recent past have been by Palestinians, Arabs, Lebanese, Pakistani and Kashmiri people. There were a few incidents in China and Japan, but the ethnicity of the hijackers doesn’t show in the story. Hijackings to Cuba apparently aren’t as popular as they used to be. (See http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Aircraft_hijacking)

Third. Our whole screening system is based on the assumption that an attacker does not want to die. But if someone is willing to go down with the plane – as the 9/11 hijackers were – then all bets are off. I don’t care if they hadn’t had those boxcutters. Have you ever done the parlor trick where you take a soda straw, put your finger over one end (to create a column of air), and then with one sure, fast stroke, jammed that straw through a raw potato? I have, and I’m not a trained killer or anything. If you read spy novels – Robert Ludlum is good for this – you know that anything can be turned into a weapon in the right hands.

What does this mean about whom and how the airports should screen and search passengers?

It means that the TSA should stop hassling the majority of us with these stupid stupid searches and go after the people who are most likely to be hijackers – the ones who have been the hijackers in the past thirty years: Middle Eastern men. Damn. I don’t see why I should have to be so inconvenienced all the time just for the sake of political correctness. Show me a blonde American woman of 40 who has hijacked a plane lately and I’ll reconsider. But for now, let’s learn from history for a change.

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