GINSENG EXTRACTS

The cars curling right onto the Mass Ave Bridge off Storrow Drive blared their horns as Jim sprang safely across to the sidewalk in a stiff-arming Heisman pose.  His training partner, Alex, hustled close behind, dart-stepping over a puddle as chilled slush fanned against the back of his tights – a final warning from a close angered motorist.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jim yelled back in his thick Boston accent.  “I heah ya.  You’ll get theah.”

“You know you’re gonna get us killed, don’t you?” spat Alex as he rejoined his taller friend heading north across the bridge toward the Cambridge side of the Charles River.

“What?”

“And you wonder where runners get bad reputations.”

“Hey, they sawr me.”

“Yeah, you.  What about me?”

“Stay close and they see you, too.”

“And that makes it okay?”

“That makes it doable.”

“You’re a jerk, you know that?”

They had been friends for years, and their verbal jousts had become as predictable as their daily routes through the city streets.  But more than repartee, their sparring had the effect of pace management, maintain the verbal torrent, keep below anaerobic threshold. 

     “People who wake up early have this whole smug attitude about night people,” said Jim, shifting into new territory as the Boston city skyline sat shrouded in gray off their right shoulders.  “They just kill me.”

“Given another chance so might these rush-hour types.”

“Yeah, well, they been trying for years, but I live with a morning person, remember?”

“Well, is she really a morning person, or someone who has to wake up to go to work?  There’s a slight difference, you know.”

“They think they are up and at ’em, and we’re sleeping our lives away,” continued Jim, undeterred.  “But I’m watching cable at two a.m.  They’re not.  So who’s who to call anybody anything?”

“Well, aren’t we utilizing our time effectively?”

“You laugh.  But just remember what Holmes said.”

“Sherlock? Katie?”

“No, Oliver Wendell. He said, ‘I despise making the most of one’s time:  half the pleasures of life consists of the opportunities one has neglected’.”

“From which I gather you two are fighting again?”

“Who?”

“Well not you and the esteemed ex-chief justice.  You and Franny.”

“I’ll tell you this much.  You don’t hear night people telling morning people they’re missing out.”

“Don’t you think you should at least be dressed when she gets home from work?”

“Hey, I do my best work in a robe.”

“So did Mike Tyson, but not all of his efforts were appreciated, as I recall.”

The sidewalks had been cleared from the previous day’s snow; pedestrian traffic was light as the chilled wind whipped over the ice-covered river.  They boys had, for the moment, the salted stretch of concrete to themselves in the faded gray light of a lengthening winter’s day.  Jim removed one of his cotton gloves then adjusted his hat to accommodate the heat their pace was generating.

“Gotta new thing,” he began after a minute of silence, their footfalls lending a rhythmic cadence to their conversation.

“Something besides coming down on rising wives?” asked Alex.

“Ginseng.”

“You’re down on ginseng, too?”

“No.  I’m into ginseng.”

“Ginseng?”

“I’m tellin’ ya.”

“I’m hearin’ ya.”

“Get it down in Chinatown.”

“Who wouldn’t?  When did this begin?”

“This stuff is cool.”

“Listen, are specific questions bothersome, or are you just channeling here?”

“I’m telling you, the experience is one of energy, gut level drive.”

“I’m beginning to understand that.  But a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, not the same?”

“Not like this.”

“You know what I think?”

“What?”

“You need to get more fruits and salads in your diet.”

“No, really.  This stuff is big on the yang side of the yin-yang thing.  It even translates into athletic achievement.  My energy is up, and times are down.  It’s good for the blood, and other things, too, if you know what I mean.  I’ll bet it’s what the Chinese women have been using.”

“The Chinese women are using ginseng for better sex?  God knows there is enough of them.  You might be right.”

“Not sex, you idiot.  Performance.  You don’t think I’m serious.  But I’m talking real ginseng root from Chinatown.  When have I ever steered you wrong?”

“To be honest I never even thought of you as even having a gyroscope.”

Jim banked right before the rotary to pick up the path alongside the Charles River, the city to their right shrouded in winter’s bleak light beneath a deep quilt of clouds.  “Never had – who turned you on to the Flex Wedge?”

Alex came back up alongside after the turn.  “Oh, that modern miracle.  A real life saving device.”

“Anyway, I got this ginseng figured.  I’ve already dialed it through.  Like all things you can take it too far; I mean I’ve already been there.  I know that.  This stuff will take you too far out on the yang side, out of balance.  You get this subtle race to the body, and you can get out of synch.  You have to respect the power.”

“I can see where you would.”

“Be-boppin’ through the day, though.  Twice a day.  That seems to work for me.”

“Respect and be-bobbin’, pretty much a yin-yang thing right there, huh?  Then again, I’ve always felt you may have a natural yang deficiency.”

“It makes me feel more with it, less spacey.”

“And that’s what you’re going for?”

“Yeah, more centered.  Don’t you think I need to get more centered?”

“I always thought of spacey as your charming side.  Besides that’s what running does for you, isn’t it?  Now you’re gonna fight it with ginseng?”

“Ginseng doesn’t fight it; it augments it.  Think about it.”

“It frightens me to think that you have!”

“It’s balance.  And the combination of running’s endorphins with ginseng is right there.  I’m tellin’ ya.  I’m onto it.  This is the answer.  Anyway, as close to the answer as you can get without losin’ the essence of it.”

“Oh, and essence, too,” snickered Alex, removing his cap and wiping his forehead.

“What?”

“You are unbelievable.”

“What?”

“You don’t live in the right neighborhood for this.”

“For what?”

“Your present stream of consciousness. You sound like you’re on something, all right.”

“I’m up and sharing a new thing in my life and you’re not supporting me?”

“If you weren’t so up, as you call it, you wouldn’t be spouting this crap in the first place.  Or constantly almost getting us killed all the time.  In fact we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”

“Yeah.  Then what would we be doin’?”

“Just running.”

“Well, whataya think we’re doin’?”

“Yeah, but you’re flappin’ your yap too about essence.  And from the rhythm of your stride I’m guessing you never even watched Soul Train or bought many Johnson Products in your day.  So I’m not gettin’ as much out of your yin side as I’d like, if you know what I mean.”

“You’re sayin’ I’m botherin’ you?”

“I’m saying you’re not being the convivial running partner I’ve come to know and appreciate over the years.”

“So you don’t want to run with me anymore?”

“No, that’s what I want to do.”

“And?”

“That’s the point.  And nothing!”

“No, what are you really saying?”

“What am I saying?  I’m saying you’re an idiot.”

“You just need to try this ginseng, Alex.  I’m tellin’ ya, you’ll love it.”

“And you won’t be an idiot anymore?”

“You’ll look at things differently.”

“I don’t want to look at things differently.”

“You know, that’s your problem.  You’ve got this closed mindset.  You don’t want to hear about anything that might make you reconsider your established little world.  It’s so eighties.”

“I thought greed was the eighties.  Closed mind set might be the  twenty-teens though.”

“You’re -”

“Making sense?”

“No.  I’m makin’ sense.  Big sense.  And I think you’re afraid of it.”

“Of you making sense?”

“You got it.”

“Well, it would be original.  But you know what I heard?”

“What?”

“That people who do ginseng have this whole smug attitude about those people who don’t.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.  I run with a guy who does ginseng, remember?”

END

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