The people laboriously making their way up the hill don’t look very athletic to me. Some are a bit too old and out of shape and a few should reconsider wearing running shorts and singlets festooned with a number panel with the “Rock and Roll Marathon” title. They are walking, limping, to their cars.
I have plenty of time to observe them. My car is stuck in a long immobile line on the hill. I was on my way to the café that I frequent to have a cappuccino and a bit of a read, but I’ve been in this line now for fifteen minutes.
I should have known, the Rock and Roll Marathon begins at some un-godly hour a couple of blocks away for where I live; then it goes seemingly all over the city—clogging up traffic for hours, with the closed-off streets and detoured traffic. People not only don’t get to their favorite café, they miss flights, appointments, wet their pants, and curse a lot.
The R&RM is one of those, excuse me, stupid things that American’s do; they link some event like this to raising money for a charity. I have no quibble with raising money for charities—God knows, our government is too busy wasting money on stupid wars, tax breaks for the rich, and filling the coffers of the oil companies and Halliburtons—but I don’t need to pledge “x” amount of bucks to someone to run a marathon to make a contribution. What’s more I don’t want to “pledge” a couple of gallons of gas to one of these “charithons” in addition.
Part of the attraction of these events is that it lets some people get dressed up in running outfits and then be festooned with a number tag, stickers, and other paraphernalia, especially the marathon T-shirt, carry water bottles and generally display all those affectations that putatively allow people to convince themselves that that are sweating and suffering for a good cause and not some desperate little need in their ego. Meanwhile thousands of cars are contributing to global warming by idling their engines, or being routed around detour routes, thereby canceling whatever good social effects will be achieved by the funds raised for research for the target charities. Un-accounted is the loss of money due to missed appointments, deliveries, and other activities that are related to people and goods moving as freely as possible over the transportation network. Add to this the fact that it takes some of these people longer to finish a marathon—some of them walking most of it, or being carried by family members, or stopping to play with their blisters—than it took Michelangelo to finish the Sistine Chapel. So the traffic is tied up for most of the day, not just the 2 hours and fifteen minutes it takes some Kenyan herdsman to cover the course.
If it occurs to me, then why does it not occur to the organizers of these “races,” that there is a lot of room out in the countryside, where there are long stretches of road, trees, flowers, and most of all cleaner air to breathe ! That’s what we are fighting to preserve the countryside for—for people to go out there in the running outfits and be with the birdies, bunnies and bugs, and run around all they want, for as long as they want, in any direction they want, without bugging the hell out of the rest of us who have better things to do thank make our bodies all smelly. They don’t mind those smells out there in the countryside because they’re used to the cow pies, horse balls, pig slop and sheep dip. Charithoners will fit right in. And there’s no need for those banks of porta-potties that you have to have in the city, just drift out into the fields and add a little fertilizer to the crops. It all makes such good sense: good for charity, good for the environment, good for agriculture and, especially, good for the city, which is where the rest of us have come to avoid those rural aromas.
Now it also occurs to me that a countryside location deprives the poseurs and wannabes among the throng of runners of the chance to be noticed. So we could always arrange for there to be remote video coverage which could be fed into ah . . . say . . . maybe Guantanamo, where the detainees would be forced to watch limping, flabby-assed people sweating and puking for charity until somebody jumps up and screams “OK, OK, turn it off and I’ll tell you right where you can find bin Laden, just turn that damned thing off! (Good for the “war on terror”)
And another thing! Why is our charithon called the Rock and Roll Marithon? What the hell does rock and roll have to do with raising money for research for diseases? Is it because rock and roll makes so many people who love music sick? Or is it to raise money for superannuated stoners like Keith Richards and other brain dead rockers? (OK, that’s a tad cruel, but you try sitting in dead still traffic for an hour with your car idling away $3.67 a gallon gas and see if you have anything nice to say about anybody or any thing!)
Of course, being typically American (read typically capitalistic), such events are also venues for advertising selling all sorts of products and services that have little nothing to do with the charity or charities for which the event is being staged. As I sit in my car watching people limping back along the roads carrying bags full of stuff I am further angered by the fact that it is necessary at all to have these charitons where people pledge money for people to go out and ruin their knees, ankles, and other body parts to raise money to help other people who suffer from terrible illnesses. It’s noble, but why the hell is it necessary? We are the richest country in the world, we seem to be able to afford to blow almost a $billion a week on a useless, stupid war; enough money, spent judiciously on education and scientific research, to save countless more lives than we currently use it to kill and maim people. Is this any way to run a society?
So charitoners, I say betake yourself to Washington D.C., and run around the White House and Capital Hill and the Pentagon until I say you can stop. Keep Bush and that gonad-less Congress cooped up until they agree to shift the next $100billion appropriation to medical research. Run you flabby-assed marathoners! Round the White House. Feel the burn! Round the Capitol. Feel the pain! Run as if somebody’s life depended on it—because it does. Run for the money! If we’re gonna have a war on disease let’s spend like it’s a war. This time I’ll be at the café, pullin’ for ya—every step of the way.
©2006, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 6.30.2006)