Splendor and glory

This week, I've decided to reveal an unpleasant secret about myself: I found John Travolta's performance in Battlefield Earth - a film about a courageous young man, played by Travolta, who beats an evil alien in an intergalactic disco-dancing contest, thus saving the Earth from certain doom and convincing the rest of the human race to purchase Look Who's Talking Now on DVD - riveting.

I'm just kidding. Travolta's performance in Battlefield Earth was middling at best, and dragged down an otherwise spectacular piece of cinema.

My real secret is this: You know the fall foliage that most reasonable people - not to mention most tourists from New Jersey, where, according to scientists, overflowing garbage cans outnumber trees by a margin of 10-1 - love with an almost religious fervor? Well, I loathe the stuff. The profusion of reds, oranges, and yellows that explode from the branches of our deciduous trees like silent fireworks this time of year disgusts me.

How can I hate the foliage that so many leaf peepers travel so far to peep at, injecting untold millions of dollars into the local economy while they're at it? And why am I such a loathsome curmudgeon? To understand the answers to these questions, you first have to understand that I like to spout outrageous opinions that I know most people will disagree with in order to gain a reputation as a surly, but ultimately lovable, contrarian.

Also, whereas most people associate autumn foliage with nature's splendor and glory, I associate it with fear and embarrassment. This stems from an experience I had in the fall of '97, when I was a freshman in high school and running on the cross-country team for the first time.

I'd done a little running on my own in middle school, but when I joined the cross-country team that year, I was flabbier and weaker than a Fleetwood Mac album. As a result, I lagged behind my teammates during practice, even on easy runs. This wasn't usually a big deal, because we ran around Saranac Lake and, having lived in Saranac Lake my whole life, I always knew where I was.

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