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Athletarum supportatae

RANGE: Once upon a time, these physical phitness phiends plagued only
the (otherwise idle) rich. Their exclusive haunts were then-restricted Athletic
Clubs, the gymnasiums of well-endowed universities, and elite health spas;
so it was commonly believed that the creatures’ earthly mission was to tempt
and taunt the inbred and overfed into working up the only honest sweats of
their lives.
Lately, however, members of the middle class, and even people with
jobs, have begun to break out in sneakers and head bands and can be seen
staggering and hyperventilating through the dawn-lit streets, the whole world
their treadmill, jowls flushed, eyes blank, obviously bewitched and utterly in
the power of some sinister supernatural force—the Sweatsylphs.
HABITS: Sweatsylphs feed on human ergs, units of energy released by
burning calories. (Among their favorite meals are scrambled ergs, ergs
benedict, and erg rolls.) As their miserable mortal victims trot, bend, squat,
run, jump, clean and jerk, dive and paddle, haul and crawl in order to grow
slim, Sweatsylphs hover above them, chuckling and growing ever more
plump and happy.
Sweatsylphs discourage our interest in team sports—after all, fullbacks
and outfielders sometimes get a chance to stand around, enjoying themselves
— and encourage us to go “one on one,” in games where personal shame and
hostility drive us to heights of excessive activity—or, better yet, to “compete
only with ourselves,” in ligament-straining, lung-busting, mindless orgies of
exhibitionistic exertion.
To the Sweatsylph, the only sight sweeter than a squash raquet is a
running track a sixteenth of a mile in circumference.
HISTORY: Sweatsylphs are Greek and, like all Greek Sylphs, were
notoriously sylphish about their sylph-improvement programs. The first of
them were nourished by the smoke of the earliest Olympic flame and by the
acrid fumes arising from the field below, where oiled and naked youths
struggled to heave a pie plate for distance while barbarians were breaking
down the gates.
In America mortals tended to avoid physical exercise, exertion, or
activity of any kind—hence the popularity of the industrial revolution,
spectator sports, televised spectator sports, and then the epidemic of video
games. Things were looking bad for the sweat-starved Sweatsylphs. But a
desperate public relations campaign, waged with the help of their fellow
wicked sprites, the West Ghost and Elf Alpha, has convinced us all that we
will be flabby and unloved unless we start running twenty miles a day, fueled
only by turnip juice and our mantra. So we run and grow thinner and
grimmer, and the Sweatsylphs are fat and sassy again,
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Look for a Sweatsylph where a yacht owner buys a
rowing machine or drives five hundred miles in search of the perfect jogging
suit, and when the funeral of a tennis court cardiac-arrest victim is attended
by plump survivors, all bravely fighting back their smiles.

1 Comment

  1. Robert McDermott

    The jogger photo looks like Palisade Park, just north of Santa Monica Blvd and Ocean Ave.. North of the Santa Monica Veterans Memorial. The trees, of course, have changed a lot. The fence and light posts are the same. There are two paths to accommodate Joggers and tourists.


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