Monday, July 08, 2013


The NYT Magazine just ran a profile of the most authentic guy ever. The most ruggedly masculine individual ever to walk this earth. A man who has lived out at least two of the big gendered-male (not that women don't share them) fantasies: member of Soundgarden and friggin' Nirvana, and elite warrior. It's a deeply personal, decades-spanning profile of an individual, and it doesn't once mention romantic partners. This absence reads not as a discreet way of hinting at that which, in this day and age, could just be stated (and there are at any rate commenters who know his girlfriend - one who knows her, then one who one-ups that one by announcing a friendship with said girlfriend, and yes, all of these people are cooler than you), but as, this is simply too authentic of a story for something so frivolous to come up. (I will hazard a guess: this guy can fix all known appliances.)

So here are two stories of my own failure at authenticity:

-My favorite Japanese delicacy has long been yuba, or tofu skin. I would buy it frozen at Sunrise Mart, but was never anywhere else I looked. It supposedly exists dried, in Asian markets, but no luck. Then I searched and found: yuba can be made at home, from truly basic ingredients, namely dried soybeans and water. And cheesecloth, but that's probably a good thing to have around regardless. End result: yuba at home is very much possible, as well as a tremendous waste of much of a weekend. That is, it's kind of a good project for a weekend of work-from-home - once the thing is set up, you have to skim off the yuba every 15 minutes or so. But then something will happen like, you'll want to go outside, but there's this yuba-in-progress. Or you'll want to prepare other food, but you can't, because the kitchen (and all your kitchen-energy) has been taken up by yuba-production. And then there's yuba! And it's delicious! But so not worth it.

And that's not even getting into the byproduct of yuba-making, something called "okara," a guilt-inducing substance if there ever was one. It's the technically-edible, vegan-and-quinoa-sounding pulp of juiced (milked?) soybeans. If you're the sort of person who'd make yuba from scratch, you're surely hippie enough to think of ways to use this okara. Me, I read a bit about it , considered the value of my time and the likelihood that I would turn this dry mush intended for livestock or fertilizer, into something appetizing, and into the garbage it went. I'd rather not waste food, but I'm not convinced I'd have been able to turn whatever that was into food. I threw out the okara. All of it. Not the cheesecloth. Ultimately, alas, some of the soy milk, given my wariness of consuming something called "milk" that had, at that point, been reheated that many times. But all of the okara, except for that which still clings to the not-yet-laundered cheesecloth. If I were more hardcore, the NYT Magazine would be writing a profile of my okara.

-The heat has brought the rustic activity of "jogging" indoors. To the gym treadmill. It turns out that if I can set the speed manually, I can run a mile in well under 10 minutes, some of it under nine, all while listening to (watching, sort of, on my phone) 1970s sitcoms. As vs. risking skin cancer and Lyme disease (not to mention being jumped on by excessively friendly off-leash golden retrievers with no owner in sight - where's the exposé on that known menace?) on leisurely 11-minute-mile (or so I estimate) jaunts through the woods.

Less time spent getting more exercise, plus television, plus air conditioning, seems like a winning combination, although it will be even better once they get the new treadmills that apparently allow you to project what you're watching onto a larger screen on the machine itself.

This is, though, I am aware, sacrilege. Running means communing with nature, connecting with some spiritual somethingorother. It's secular sin enough to run with headphones. And I'm not even listening to classical music or something minimalist and zone-out-conducive. I'm listening to, I don't know, a public-radio podcast about the superiority of small-town life, and getting all riled up. Or I'm listening to Dan Savage, Marc Maron. The BBC Women's Hour. Absolutely whatever. That's already violating the rule that one must pretend to be running for some reason other than a) anxiety-relief, b) leg-toning, or c) procrastination. That, and it's so pretty here, making me a terrible person for not finding that enough, for needing to hear a real-life Costanza droning on about how other comedians are more successful than he is. But running at the gym, when the woods are right there, feels wrong. Like, throwing out okara wrong. But it's possible that authenticity is, as the kids said when I was still a kid, overrated.


caryatis said...

I read somewhere and also believe that running inside burns fewer calories--no wind to run against, and the treadmill is level, so those tiny jumps and core work you do adjusting to uneven terrain don't happen.

Doesn't stop me from doing almost all my running at the gym, though. In the city I'm sure a car or a murderer would get me if I ran with my Economist podcast.

Phoebe said...

Ooh, Economist podcasts? If these are free, I will be investigating.

I don't know how many calories any of this burns, but considering running outside, for me, means at least 45 mins, and inside, I can only manage 30... but so much faster. I have no idea. The treadmill nicely prevents a jog from turning into immense procrastination, as I'm running too fast to just keep ambling along. And the gym itself ups the odds that I'll at least consider doing some other exercises. For what it's worth, the actually-exerting-myself gym jogs have felt like a workout, whereas the woods ones, not as much.

caryatis said...

Yeah, setting the treadmill on a certain speed is an accountability mechanism--I could lower the speed, but I'd have to admit to myself I was doing so.

And the Economist podcasts are not free, sorry :( I believe you have to actually subscribe. Or know someone with a subscription.