A Journal of the Plague Year 2021–chapter 226

“The Fog Warning” by Winslow Homer. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Friday, July 23

My cousin Fred writes that he has acquired a rowing machine, which he enjoys. It helps build core body strength without hurting his knees.

I, too, once had a rowing machine—back in the 1980s. I used it for a bit, then after a couple of years it got propped against the wall where it gathered dust. During one move or another, I threw it out.

Fred’s note makes me think of a story from the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano’s The Book of Embraces:

Galeano describes how his friend, the ex-pat writer Alastair Reed, found an advertisement for a rowing machine amid the voluminous mail that got forwarded to him. Reed was then living in the Dominican Republic, and he showed the ad to his neighbors, all fishermen.

“Indoors? They use it indoors?” said one.

The fishermen couldn’t believe it.

“Without water? They row without water?”

They couldn’t comprehend it.

“And without fish? And without the sun? And without the sky?”

The fishermen told Alastair that they got up every night long before dawn and put out to sea and cast their nets as the sun rose over the horizon, and that this was their life and that this life pleased them, but that rowing was the one infernal aspect of the whole business:

“Rowing is the one thing we hate,” said the fishermen.

Then Alastair explained to them that the rowing machine was for exercise.

“For what?”


“Ah. And exercise—what’s that?”

Dinner: grilled hamburgers along with a plethora of leftovers—sesame noodles, a cold lentils and goat cheese salad, and American Picnic potato salad.

Entertainment: The impressionistic and colorful Angolan indy Air Conditioner and one episode of Britbox’ just-posted Ashes to Ashes.

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