From about age 3 until I was 11, I lived in south St. Louis, in the Shaw neighborhood on Botanical Avenue. Tower Grove Park was 1 block to the south and Shaw's Garden (now the Missouri Botanical Garden) was 1 block west. I remember Shaw's Garden before the Climatron and the Japanese Garden were constructed. After I transferred to Wade School (on Vandeventer) from Sherman School (on Flad), my friends and I cut through Shaw's Garden to go to and from school. Back then, it was free, although we did have to squeeze through a chained gate to get through on the backside.
Shaw's Garden had lots of interesting acreage to explore and Tower Grove Park was the site of many a pick-up baseball game. Tower Grove also had a pond ringed by stone structures great for climbing, the "do not climb on rocks" signs notwithstanding. We called the artfully piled rocks "the ruins" and spent hours playing make believe among the boulders. There was also some kind of Bi-State bus terminal at the end of my block. A large bush/tree in the corner of the property that had grown into a bower or sorts and that was U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, from which Napoleon Solo (my friend Mary) and Illya Kuryakin (I) launched many a mission. Mary's little brother Timmy wanted to play, too, but we always made him be Mr. Waverly, so he got bored pretty quickly.
It was a great area for kids in the late 50s and early 60s. In addition to the delights described above, we also rode bikes all over the neighborhood, wandered the business district on 39th Street with scavenged pennies and nickels, played Mother May I, Swing the Statue and Street Light Tag. On hot summer days, we put on our swimming suits and took to the backyard with the garden hose, where we pretended we were the hard-luck contestants from Queen for a Day (the garden hose was the "Applaus-o-meter" – whoever shot the stream highest into the air was the winner of gleaming white Amana appliances). My front porch was the site for endless games of Combat. Twilight was the time for fireflies and the Mister Softee music tinkling throughout the neighborhood long before the blue and white truck came around the corner or down the street.
The point of all this exposition is that I got plenty of activity when I was a kid. Later, in high school and college, I played organized sports like softball and basketball and even rugby. I rode my bike all over campus and beyond. I played tennis for hours and hours. I loved it.
I feel so trapped now, inside my prison of flesh. Memories of those glory days are bittersweet. Thinking about my brilliant career in high school and college sports pains me now. I am embarrassed to be so physically impaired that I can barely shuffle across the street to where my car is parked in a handicapped spot. Getting physically active seems an even more insurmountable goal than controlling my eating. I can't even wrap my brain around how I might change my physical situation. Gentle readers, have you any ideas for me?