Ooh, lawsy – at the dawn of aviation, those little Europeans could NOT get a plane across the Atlantic to save their lives. Hah! Americans were cruising over with no problem. Clear a path, Frenchie – I’m setting this big bird down on your terre.

The American aviators were cocky about it. They had that “new world” swagger as they strutted about in scarves and leather caps. When Charles Lindbergh landed in Paris, the city went wild. The entire WORLD went wild. It was pandemonium. Those Americans! Right across the Atlantic! Ooh-la-la!

So what was it? Was it Lindbergh’s rock-chiseled jaw, his steely gaze, his goggles worn dashingly at the neck? Was it American superiority? Was it manifest destiny?

The Americans certainly thought so.

Turns out – Lindbergh was a fierce racist, manifest destiny is a crock, and America is no more superior than any other nation EXCEPT that our gasoline, just by a fluke, has a higher octane content than the gas then being processed in Europe.


There was a REASON so many European aviators had to flag down a passing ship as they stood, like Captain Sully, on the wing of their slowly-sinking plane. If they’d had American gas – or if they’d started in New Jersey instead of Paris – they would have made it, too.

But nobody was measuring octane. Nobody KNEW about octane. AND LET THIS BE A LESSON TO YOU, she said with sudden accusation in her voice.

There is SOMETHING that we are not measuring in the human body. Some version of octane that we just don’t know about yet.

I was sitting on a (really very fascinating) zoom workshop yesterday, starring Chip Coleman – the nutritionist at Body Dynamics. (Too short a definition. Chip is a ballet dancer. He would say he WAS a ballet dancer because no one is paying him now to arabesque across a stage, although if you get him in just the right mood, he’ll whip out a move that will make your heart stop, it’s so pretty. Chip is also the personal trainer who’s teaming up with Barbara Gallagher Benson to pave my way to a healthy old age. Barbara focuses on global muscles; Chip on stabilizer muscles; and they talk to each other. I don’t stand a chance.)

Chip was telling us that the foods we ate would either boost or depress our natural immunity – a fairly critical matter in this COVID age.

I asked about stress eating. Of COURSE I asked about stress eating. I’m using the corona virus as an excuse to abandon every good nutritional habit Chip has ever managed to glue to my forehead.

His reply was EMINENTLY REASONABLE. Sugar will depress my immunity. Fresh foods and plenty of water will bolster gut health – and the gut manufactures roughly 70% of the immune system’s power tools. And, he said, I would feel better if I ate better.

Well, now I’m a European on the wing of my plane trying to flag down the passing Titanic.

I don’t feel better when I eat better. I don’t feel worse when I eat badly. I’M NOT GETTING THE SAME INPUT AS HE IS. And we’re just not measuring that correctly.

If I had more body-octane – if my body would respond clearly and measurably to the factors that influenced it – then perhaps I would be a former dancer, too.

But that’s not what happens.

If I diet, I gain weight. (In fact, I can no longer afford to diet; I’m just too fat.)

If I sleep on a steady schedule for fourteen days, I can blow it on the fifteenth without so much as a backwards glance.

If I refuse to exercise, I don’t feel itchy or twitchy. I feel pretty good. I settle my plump butt more comfortably in the cushions and make sure the iPad is plugged in for a marathon reading session.

The ONLY thing that’s keeping me going is the big old brain at the top of the spinal column – and any psychiatrist will tell you: Intellect is WAY weaker as a motivator than instinct. And really, really weaker than the knowledge that there’s ice cream in the freezer.

My point is… what was my point? Oh right:

I SEE YOU. I see you trying to do your best and never quite living up to your goals. I see you trying to eat right and having the cookies anyway. I see you planning on exercising but – well, maybe tomorrow. I see you, my sister or brother. I know. I’m with you. We’re Harrison Bergeron-ing our way through life, trying to be healthy with twenty-pound weights chained to our good intentions.

ONWARD, brave warrior. ONWARD. Keep paddling. We’ll get to Paris eventually!

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It was Bill Bryson who told me about American octane, in his awesome book “A Short History of Nearly Everything.” That’s a good book. You could read it if you were climbing the walls. Plug in the reader, settle your tail in the cushions. It’s a long one!


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