by George Gauthier

Chapter 10

Pasta and Pizza

As my boyfriends Kyle and Paolo and I were dining at a Italian restaurant, Paolo demonstrated for Kyle's benefit the proper way to eat spaghetti by twirling the strands against the bowl of a spoon.

"So you do sometimes hold the fork in your right hand" Kyle affirmed nodding.

He had tried eating his meals like us, European style, where the fork is held in the left hand all the time and not switched back and forth to the right hand as Americans do but had found it awkward.

"Yes, and you will know that you have truly mastered the technique when you can pick up one spaghetto at a time."

"A spaghetto?"

"That's the singular. Spaghetti is a plural, a diminutive of spago which means a thin string."

"I suppose it only makes sense that the names of the different kinds of pasta are real words based on shapes, not just names."

"Right hence the twisty pasta called Cavatappi which means corkscrew and Vermicelli which means little worms which is a lot like spaghetti though thicker. Other example include Capellini or thin hair which is very thin and often coiled into nests and Linguine which means little tongues."

"What about Penne? I don't suppose the name has anything to do with ink pens."

"Actually it does though in a roundabout way. Penne means feathers or plumes which is a reference to the goose quills used as pens in times past."

"OK, so why do you Italians call it Pizza pie. What does that mean?"

"Scholars argue over the name. Pizza may derive from the Greek word pita. Anyway, forget pizza pie. That's only in English. In Italian it's just pizza. Pizza has only a bottom crust so it is not a pie at all which has both top and bottom crusts and the filler in between. Anyway, in Italian the word for pie is torta."

"But what about the lyrics of that old song "That's Amore" sung by Dean Martin." Kyle objected. "My grandmother loved it. The line goes 'When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore...'"

Paolo shrugged. "So what? A tortured rhyme scheme in a line from a song in the English language doesn't count. Pizza is pizza and just that."

"OK, you speak Italian like a native so no argument from me."

"Not just like a native; I am one. I was born in Italy. My family didn't come to this country till I was nearly five so Italian is my first language, but I learned English at such a young age that I consider myself a native speaker of that language as well."

"And even my well-trained ear for languages cannot detect an Italian accent when Paolo speaks English."

"Though you can tell he is Italian from all those gestures he makes, even in English."

"I hope that remark was a lame attempt at a joke, Kyle." Paolo said with mock severity. "Everyone use gestures for emphasis, as well as facial expressions, tone, cadence, and body language to convey meaning. It's not just us Italians."

"Fair enough."

I also mentioned that I had noticed that when Paolo on the phone with his folks, he spoke standard Italian rather than a dialect.

"Yes, they never wanted me to learn the dialect of Torino. I had to speak standard Italian at home even though my folks speak dialect to each other. Not that it was a secret language, since I can understand it fairly well, but I don't have an active command of any dialect of Italian, or what we call dialects. They are really regional languages descended directly from Latin rather than branching off from standard Italian which itself started out as an artificial and literary tongue derived from Latin. It was television which put the dialects on the path to obsolescence starting in the 1960s."

"Who was it who said that a language is a dialect with an army and courts of law behind it?" I asked, then added: "And tax collectors too.".

"One final question." Kyle began. "Why do they call a stromboli a stromboli? What shape is that?"

"Oh, that's not a shape at all. It's the name of an island and a movie. You see, the Italian American who invented the stromboli in Philadelphia took the spelling from the name of a movie set on that island, but, not speaking Italian himself, did not realize that the stress accent was on the first syllable, so the island is STROMboli, not StromBOli."

"The volcanic island of Stromboli is one of the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea just north of Sicily and lies very close to Vulcano, another small volcanic island supposed by the Romans to be the chimney of the workshop of the god Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and identified with the Greek god Hephaestus. And risky as it may seem, both islands are inhabited despite frequent volcanic activity including lava eruptions on Stromboli which fortunately flow down a chute on the other side of the island away from the town."

"Even so the volcano on Stromboli could very well explode like Vesuvius did all those centuries ago and threaten much of the west coast of the Italian boot."

"But Vesuvius was only a few miles from Pompeii and Herculaneum while the Stromboli must be a hundred fifty miles from Naples," Kyle objected.

"The danger is not from lava, noxious gasses, or a pyroclastic flow but from a mega-tsunami as tall as a skyscraper."

"Could that really happen?"

"It already has and right here in the USA as recently as 1958. I saw a documentary about it. An earthquake in Lituya Bay in the Alaskan Panhandle shook loose a cliff face and dropped a huge rockslide into the waters of the bay generating a wave higher than the Empire State Building. It left a bathtub ring of bare ground up to a reversed tree line. No trees were left below 1,700 feet or 520 meters above sea level.

"Good grief!"

"And keep our fingers crossed that the southern half of a dormant volcano in the Canary Islands does not collapse into the sea. That would send a wave just as big to smash the cities along the Eastern Seaboard from Miami to Boston."

"Yikes! Lemme outta here!"


One fine day in early summer, I went for a ten mile run along the trails in the park. True to my promise to Sergeant Delaney I was not streaking but was dressed in shorts, plimsolls, and my smart watch, worn on my right wrist this time to keep my tan even on both arms. I did not carry a phone since my smart watch had its own connection to the cellphone network.

Even so I do not take or make calls while running along nor respond to notifications of text messages or emails from those on my VIP list, but I could if I had to. Also useful was the alert system by which I could contact 911 to summon the police or EMTs. The watch's fall detector system had recently summoned first responders after a bad fall during a solo parkour run.

My signature Onionskins are made of a thin parachute fabric. They were both very low rise and split all the way up the sides, allowing glimpses of the tiny white panties which supported my manly parts and just barely cupped my buns. It was the next best thing to running naked and the closest I could get to running the way Mother Nature intended for us, but alas, America is still too puritanical for public nudity except in very restricted venues.

I would like to run barefoot but never do so along city streets where you might easily put your foot down on bits of broken glass or metal. Even a tiny pebble could inflict a painful blood bruise on the heel.

Running appeals to the animal spirits in humans. We are built for long distance running. It was how we hunted big game back on the African savannah: run the prey down till they staggered or dropped from exhaustion then finish them off with a spear. Also being fleet of foot has survival value defensively. More than once I had simply outrun my foes or gained a big enough lead to shake off pursuit entirely or to hide or even to double back to spring an ambush.

Mostly though I ran for its own sake. The steady rhythm of the long distance runner is hypnotic as the legs scissor back and forth like a metronome, the rib cage expands and contracts to take in great lungfuls of air, the arms pump to maintain balance and to counter rotation of the torso, and the feet slap the earth, all of which induces a state of day dreaming and euphoria called a runners' high. As a famed marathoner once put it, endorphins are an athlete's drug of choice.

Now when we humans run at a fast pace, just like horses at a gallop, we were actually airborne, if only very briefly, just after pushing off with the rear foot and before our front foot touches the ground. It was this principle that, if I called fully on my physical powers, would let me fly along the footpath with four yard strides and outpace Olympic champions. Naturally I could not indulge myself where other folks might see me, reserving my top speed and stamina for emergencies.

As I reached the home stretch after running at a normal pace I slowed down and cooled off, walking the last few hundred yards before making my way the garden back of my home, the spooky old mansion long since turned into apartments. I stood under the outdoor shower out back as I soaped up and cleaned not only my body but also my onionskins which I hung up to dry on a rack positioned in the sun. Then, with only my watch on, I lay down on bamboo mat Kyle had thoughtfully rolled out for me, but Paolo beat him to the sun block and offered to apply it to all those hard to reach places in back, enthusing:

"I just love this golden tan you have developed so early in the season, and it is all natural. I know for a fact that you don't use sunlamps or tanning spas either."

"Certainly not. Too much ultraviolet is bad for the skin, so I tan naturally a little at a time, and don't stay out in the sun more than I should or when the sun in highest in the sky."

"Exactly right." Paolo agreed. "Here let me get that watch off your wrist, There, now you are totally naked, as Nature intended you to be. Mmmm, I do so love these taut buns, and those calf muscles even a ballerino would envy."

An hour later I switched to an Adirondack chair set up in a shady spot under the trees. We had lots of shade out back. Even the net for badminton was in the shade, though for sun worshipers there was the volleyball net in full sunlight. Both sports were great fun and developed hand and eye coordination and agility. I said as much to Kyle.

"Granted," Kyle conceded, "but neither of those beats Frisbee for its physical challenge or for how well it displays and celebrates the human body in motion. And around here anyway, there is nothing subtextual about the homoeroticism of a bunch of naked guys throwing a Frisbee around."

"Hear, hear!" we all agreed.

"So Troy, do you think your standing invitation to Dyson's estate for Olympic style exercise would be open to me and Paolo."

"Who's training for the Olympics?" Paolo asked, confused by the reference.

"Olympic style means running and even wrestling stark naked like the athletes in ancient Greece."

"Oh. I am not sure that a good Catholic boy like me is ready for that." Paolo ventured.

"Not that I am shy, but I cannot help but think about when I shower at the precinct after a shift, the other cops will see me with no tan lines even on my butt."

"So?" Kyle asked. "You're secret is out anyway and has been for a while. Everyone knows you have a boyfriend. So what if you have no tan lines or body hair not even down there, Go for broke, Paolo. There is no downside to running naked around a rich man's estate. The staff is not going to post snapshots on Facebook."

"Oh, what the hell, OK. Troy will you ask about getting us access to the estate?"

"Sure. I'll text Will this very evening. He is on assignment in the city just now, and I don't want to take his attention away from his duties as Dyson's bodyguard. Naturally it will be up to one of you to drive us there since I don't own a car. When I go there by myself I just summon a cab via the Curb app."

With that I lay prone and gave Paolo access to my body. The mischief was upon him as his hands probed and stroked naughtily, almost as a form of foreplay. I had to chide him gently not to get me aroused. No one minded nudity out back but public display of an arousal was considered bad manners. Not that I minded showing off the fine healthy body Mother Nature and the Olympians had graced me with.

I turned over onto my back and lay with my eyes closed, letting everyone get a good look at me. I knew that many of my fellow residents would gaze at this sleeping beauty in their midst, perving on a veritable vision of youthful male concupiscence, bronzed and nude.

And why not. There I was presented for their delectation. Slightly built, slender, and smooth muscled looking like seventeen and far prettier than any boy rightly ought to be, I had a flawless complexion and fine boned features including a broad brow, high cheekbones, a straight nose, plus subtly pointed ears and chin which gave me an elfin appearance with large green eyes set wide apart under finely arched brows, their lashes too long to have ever have been meant for a male. I may be small, but as I always maintain my physique is more about quality than about quantity anyway.

If I run around scantily clad as much as I do, it is because this trim and taut body of mine is a blessing, one which I am happy to share with the public at large and not keep selfishly to myself. I don't lose any sleep because some folks do not much care for my insouciant approach to modesty. A whole lot more folks like what they see. As well they should.

I mean the phrase "hard body" could have been invented for me. No one would ever call me soft. I have a wiry physique from all that running and swimming I do. My body fat is like two percent and I do yoga for flexibility. So color me shameless, if you must.

Not that Kyle and Paolo were any slouches in the looks department. Kyle is a red-head with sky blue eyes and stood five-eight compared to my own five-three, while Paolo was three inches taller still with a gracile physique fine-boned features, fair skin, raven locks, and grey eyes. So we were quite different physically but were still a delightful combination of brains good looks, and outgoing personalities.

Jungle Boys

Dyson's estate was larger than I realized. I was familiar with the gardens and grounds around the main house and outbuildings but out back was a large tangle of woods, acres which had never been logged over or maybe only once back in colonial days. By the twenty-first century it was so overgrown as to resemble a subtropical jungle, which made it just perfect for my purposes. With the proprietor's permission, I was free to run the back trails buck naked, making me feel like a primitive on the loose.

I would start my run at the locker room at Dyson's gym, stripping down and applying sun block if the sun were high in the sky and trot over, right past the sculpture garden now open to the public, giving visitors a glimpse of the live model who had posed for those expensive picture books for sale in Ye Garden Shoppe, as they spelled it, completely unhistorically.

I know, putting my trim little body totally on display could arouse lascivious thoughts in the heads of onlookers, but isn't that what they came to see anyway, statues of classical nudes? And there I was, a flesh and blood boy of their dreams, sexier than any statue of stone or metal and physical poetry in motion. What was not to like?

Admittedly the genitals do look silly bouncing and jouncing and flip-flopping when you run nude, though that is still no excuse for the invention of the athletic supporter, a torment and modesty strap devised by perverse folks in the nineteenth century alarmed at the outline of male members visible through the front of athletic uniforms. Your manly parts don't need support. It's not like any amount of jouncing about will shake things loose. Look at that Athenian runner who carried the news of the victory of the Greeks at the Battle of Marathon back to the city. He died because his heart gave out, not from damage to his dangly bits.

Alas public attitudes toward nudity are changing but too slowly. Still in the long run, unless prudery prevails once again as it still does in the lands of the Middle East and North Africa, we in the West are making progress. Look at the German speaking lands and their nudist organizations devoted to FKK FreiKörperKultur.

I sometimes run through Dyson's jungle with Kyle or Paolo or both or even Will when he can get away from his duties. And Will has to run as naked as the rest of us, no ballistic jacket allowed. They did wear moccasins in the beginning till they had toughened the soles of their feet.

A group run is a whole lot of fun. We run along together, smiling, joking, and feeling terribly naughty, especially Paolo thanks to his Catholic upbringing. This is one thing he has not yet spoken about with Mama Franco. Nor does he mention how our alfresco recreation includes open air round robin lovemaking sometimes with all four of us in a tangle. Naughty indeed.

The price for running jungle trails without the protection of clothing is inevitable close encounters between naked boy flesh and injurious plant life like blades of sawgrass, nettles, prickles and thorns. Fortunately Dyson's gardeners have scrupulously cleared out poison ivy, oak, and sumac. I really don't mind the minor damage to my bare skin that occurs. The fact is that I take a degree of perverse delight in these minor injuries, visible reminders of my own adventures as a naked "jungle boy".

I actually pitched my idea to Dyson that he or another studio should revive the old "Bomba the Jungle Boy movies" only in color and made for modern tastes, with a youthful jungle boy who was less a younger muscular Tarzan and more a Charley Boorman type as in the old movie "The Emerald Forest", in other words a cute blond twink like me. Sure the actor would have to be athletic, but hold the brawn, and let us hope he rather likes prancing around in front of the camera in the skimpiest of costumes or nothing at all.

For a love interest they will need to pair Bomba with another young actor in the role of a sissy rich kid from New York, call him Bruce O'Hanlon, dragged off to a jungle safari by an overbearing Irish Catholic father who is trying to toughen the boy up and make a man of his son. But after Bomba rescues Bryce from a cannibal cult, the son decides he wants to live in Africa with his new best friend and lover. In addition to scenes which advance the plot, throw in gratuitous episodes of Bomba and boyfriend in bed or swimming, showering, and swinging on vine in the nude. That was the concept anyway.

Alternatively I suggested a film based on the novel "Where the White Sambhur Roams".[A sambhur is a large deer of South Asia.] Set in the seventeenth century it is the tale of a Dutch sailor boy, a pretty blond of thirteen as the story begins, who is shipwrecked off the coast of Ceylon. He swims ashore, the sole survivor, equipped with just a knife and wearing pair of canvas trews. Enemies are all around. Ruling the coasts are the Portuguese, intolerant Catholics who would burn a Protestant boy at the stake as a heretic. The native kingdom holds the middle of the island. In the trackless jungle are tribes of headhunters. The shipwrecked boy also to face danger from panthers, sloth bears, and snakes.

One scene is indelibly engraved on my mind. An angry sloth bear attacks the boy who scrambles for safety up a tree and while he does get away from the bear he loses his trews. With a swipe of his paws, the bear snags the canvas with his claws and rips them clear off the lad's narrow hips, de-pantsing him at the start of years of exile as a naked jungle boy.

I particularly liked the author's illustration of young Hans, bare ass naked, hiding up a tree from a pair of spear wielding Vedda hunters. That Dutch jungle boy was the inspiration for some of my best masturbation fantasies. Oh, and the author R.H. Spittel also wrote a sequel called "Wild White Boy", a title which says it all. So there were two possibilities for movies about young Hans. Or maybe a TV series.

I must also declare a proprietary interest in those novels which very likely were based on garbled accounts of the real life adventures of a certain blond supposedly Danish cabin boy who was shipwrecked off Ceylon, namely myself. In my case though I was not stripped naked by a sloth bear. Asleep when our ship tore its bottom out on a reef, I tumbled out of my bunk and, still nude, forced my way up the companionway. With the decks already awash there was nothing for it but to throw myself over the side and swim to shore.

Dyson was intrigued by both ideas though he admitted that his studio Palimpsest Pictures would not be interested in such a project, but a gay streaming channel just might be. If so, I would get a credit as executive producer but not one for story since screenplays about either Bomba or Hans would be based on prior work. I even toyed briefly with trying out for a role in one of those projects but decided not to. Too much notoriety was contrary to my long term interests.


Will and I were just getting ready for our race when Kyle entered my apartment after announcing himself with his characteristic septuple knock on the door.

"Whoa! What's with the unitards, guys?"

Will and I were dressed in full body suits made of spandex. Mine was Navy blue while Will's was a dark green.

"Troy and I are competing in an orienteering race this afternoon." Will explained.

The sport of orienteering was a timed race over terrain, as much an exercise in the Art of Land Navigation as it was an athletic competition. Runners started at staggered intervals, a minute or two apart, and tried to reach the finish in the shortest possible interval, checking off control points along the route. Unitards were not required by the rules, but they were practical and almost necessary when trying to force your way through brush. They protected your skin and would not snag. And maybe we couldn't work on our tans, but the body hugging fabric displayed our athletic physiques to advantage.

It was Will Laurier who got me into orienteering. For him it was a natural application of the map reading skills he had gained from his service with the Canadian special forces. Military maps were typically smaller scaled at 1:50,000. Orienteering used a larger scale usually 1:15:000 or 1:10,000. The larger scale meant that maps used in orienteering show much more detail than general-purpose topographic maps and used a different set of standard symbols. In addition to contour lines the maps show forest density, rivers, streams or ponds, clearings, roads and trails, earthen banks, rock walls, ditches, fences, power lines, and buildings. Some areas were labelled as dangerous and others as out of bounds for that particular race.

[Confusingly a small scale map shows larger regions while a large scale map shows smaller ones. Orienteering maps are deemed large scale because their representative fraction is larger than those of military maps, the fraction one ten-thousandth (1:10,000) being larger than the fraction one fifty-thousandth (1:50,000).]

Another difference is that since racers used magnetic compasses to navigate, orienteering maps are printed using magnetic north not true north, so there was no need to account for magnetic deflection which is the angular difference between the two. And since the area covered by a large scale map is small, there is negligible distortion from how the curved surface of the spherical Earth was projected onto a flat map.

Will reminded me that we would get copies of the map after we arrived at the starting point. Other than the map we were allowed a thumb compass, a map case, and a clear plastic sleeve, worn on the forearm, to hold descriptions to the control points. Each control point was described on a clue sheet and marked by flags on the maps

Racers had to study the map and figure out the fastest routes between pairs of control points, which were not necessarily the shortest routes in distance. So orienteering tested both your navigational skills and your speed and stamina. The control points were unmanned. Your progress was recorded electronically on a control card or on a GPS logging device which tracked and recorded positions but did not allow competitors to look at the data during the race.

"I am really up for today's race, Will. I hope you won't be too disappointed if I better your time."

"Not very likely Troy. Admittedly your cardiovascular fitness is even greater than mine, but with you map reading is a sport or a hobby. I did this for a living when I was in the forces."

Now though we were competitors and had to run separately, nothing said we couldn't both look over the map and discuss the best route. We might still run along different paths, but that was OK too.

As it happened, Will took off one minute before my own starting time. We expected to run the same route though each might vary that a bit depending on terrain. The course ran for eight kilometers over largely over flat ground some of it grassy fields but mostly forest or brushy thickets with several small brooks, a stream too wide to jump across, railroad tracks mostly going the wrong way, a line of power pylons along a cleared right of way, and other terrain features. The edge of an apartment complex lined the north side of the race area and, with a small commercial strip, lay just out of bounds.

There were too few footpaths for my liking. We runners would have to force their way thru jungly stretches or go out our way. Unfortunately, Will and I had drawn fifth and six place so only four runners would be in a position to break a path for us.

Unknown to both of us, the black kid who took off just ahead of Will ran into trouble. We later learned that he was an undergraduate at Kyle's university though the two had never met. Some redneck bully took umbrage when the kid ran out of the bushes and startled both him and his doberman, who reacted aggressively, having long since picked up on his master's racial animus toward blacks. The kid told the man to control his animal and that he had better get it back on a leash like it was supposed to be or else the dog would get a dose of pepper spray, brandishing a small canister the kid carried on him.

Instead of holding his dog back the man sicced his animal on the runner. The rattled student tried to fire the canister but had forgotten to disengage the twist lock. He then tried to fend his attacker off by presenting his left side with an arm and a leg raised, about all an unarmed person can do against an attacking dog. It didn't help. The doberman bit down on his arm and dragged the kid to the ground.

Enter Will Laurier, bodyguard and combat veteran who sized up the situation then reached into his unitard and draw out a small pistol. Stepping up to the dog he fired three shots point blank straight down into the back of the beast killing it instantly.

That was when I showed up. Drawn to the sound of the shots I emerged from the woods a little behind the brawny bad guy. So I was a witness to what happened next.

The dog owner was furious. "My dog! You fuckin' killed my dog. I''ll bust you up good for that," he yelled while doubling the metal links of the leash into an improvised flail.

Will shook his head. "I don't think so. I still have four shots left, and at this range, I could hardly miss."

"You don't have the stones for it kid."

"Famous last words."

I realized that Will's dismissive comment was largely a bluff intended to intimidate his foe and make the man stand down. I knew full well that Will had the stones for it. I had seen him shoot two men on Dyson's estate, but they had been assassins armed with submachine guns. I did not think he would shoot a man armed only with a length of chain. Besides, with his expertise in Krav Maga Will really wouldn't have needed a gun.

Nor, for that matter, would I with my Thai kick boxing skills which I called on when I stepped forward to just behind the bully and hit him hard in both kidneys, left right. He staggered, groaning with the sudden pain, and dropped the flail. Satisfied with disarming him, I snatched up the chain and flung it into the woods.

"You little sneak! Sucker punching me like that. But it takes more than a couple of feeble punches to put a big strong guy like me down for the count. And now that I am facing you, even empty handed I'll make short work of you."

"Not very likely," I said dismissively. "There's plenty more where that came from. Anyway, you're under under arrest!"

"No way! You ain't no cop, sonny."

"No I am not, but I can make a citizen's arrest, and I just did."

"Really? How are you gonna make your citizen's arrest stick, pretty boy? You don't even have handcuffs, and I'm a brawny six footer. I am way stronger than you two wimps put together. Here's what's really gonna happen, Twinkletoes. First I will put you down hard. You'll need plastic surgery for that pretty face of yours. As for your friend who shot my dog, I'm gonna put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life."

"Aren't you forgetting that he has a gun trained on you? Here you have threatened him and me with what the law calls grievous bodily harm so he could justifiably shoot you in self-defense."

"No way. Shooting a dog is one thing, a human being is another. We both know that your skinny friend in green tights won't shoot."

Will snorted, "The hell I won't!" then surgically put a single bullet through the braggart's left foot.

I couldn't resist:

"Looks like you'll be the one riding a wheelchair, big guy. The good news is that it won't be for the rest of your life."

As a rule I do not taunt a foe when he is down, but this guy deserved it.

While Will attended to the injured as best he could without a first aid kit I ran over to the commercial strip to phone 911.

Cops and EMTs showed up fast. The EMTs remembered me from a year ago when I had helped that shooting victim in the park. This was county jurisdiction not city so it was sheriff's deputies who did the honors. No amount of lies or bluster from the brawny redneck could counter evidence of the kid's injuries or the testimony of three witnesses, all of them upstanding citizens.

The bully ultimately took a plea bargain with minimal jail time, only nine months since the judge ordered the sentences for all his charges to run concurrently. Will and I were in the clear with the law. I understand that the student has filed a civil suit against him too. The doberman tore his arm up pretty good, but at least his face was untouched. Later, when the bully was released, all three of us will get restraining orders against him.

Regardless of how things turned out with that very first race I was hooked and ran several others that summer. I knew that orienteering and parkour were the two sports I would participate in for the rest of my days. So aside from reading books, I vowed to spend more of my leisure time on Parkour and Orienteering.

Coping with Trouble

Our experiences teach us lessons which help form our world view. One vital lesson I have learned from over three millennia of living is how to cope with physical threats, whether from a bully, armed robbers, or would be killers. And who should know better? It is not true that age and treachery will always overcome youth and strength, but since I wield all four, I am nigh on to unbeatable at least in the long run. Or I like to think so.

As I see it, there are basically four ways to cope with trouble.

First. The best of the four is to avoid trouble in the first place. In other words, don't be there when it happens.

That is where the length and quality of my life experience helps me to cope. I anticipate conflict, maintain situational awareness, and gauge the motivations of those whom I encounter. While not being overly suspicious, I don't take everything at face value and look for hidden agendas or enmities building against me, recognizing tell-tale signals from body language, facial expressions, tone of the voice, and so forth.

Also I avoid crowds which can turn into panicked or enraged mobs or these days can be targets for terrorists.

Second. If trouble cannot or has not been avoided, the next best way to handle threats is by talk or negotiation. Sometimes conflict arises from a misunderstanding or can be tempered by a compromise which leaves all parties with their vital interests intact. I don't know how many times I simply talked my way out of a dicey situation.

Third. Shield yourself or better resort to flight. Put a door or a wall between you. The best shield is distance. I have no false pride about taking to my heels. I have nothing to prove either to myself or others about physical courage. I can and have faced enemies squarely enough when I had to, but why take unnecessary chances? Also why injure others or take their lives needlessly? So I run away not to fight another day but to live another day, me and the other guy both. I know I am going to outlive my enemies anyway, and though I won't piss on their graves, I could if I wanted to.

Fourth. The last resort is to fight back. Do whatever is necessary but only that. You should be slow to anger so don't start fights. Do try to finish them on your terms. Settle the issue right then and there, once and for all, and by whatever means are necessary. Make sure you foe understands not only that he lost but that he had better not try for a rematch. Otherwise, he starts to rationalize, telling himself that the fight was close, that it easily could have gone in his favor, if only.... Soon his thinking is a mishmash of Woulda, Coulda, and Shoulda, and he challenges you again. No way! I am not interested in rematches. So never give second chances.

Having said that, I admit that I cannot abide bullies and not just those who pick on me personally but on others. With bullies it's often a good idea to avoid direct confrontation or physical conflict and to figure out a crafty way, a safe and sneaky way, a long run strategy to make them pay or at least look bad say by getting the goods on them, compromising information to get them in trouble with their bosses, the cops, or the tax authorities. Other times, go ahead and just clock them. It can feel just so righteous.

Finally, something which applies to all four strategies. Turn to your friends for help.

Only recently could I write about these things, choosing, out of caution, to cast them as fiction, a series of fanciful tales of an immortal youth written under a pseudonym. My secret is safe for no one in these days of modern science will believe it. In this tale, everything except the names is real. The events described really did happen just as I have written.

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead