Not all that long ago, my husband and I moved here from Mexico City, the world's biggest and probably most polluted metropolis.
Mexico City is a place that doesn't know from catalytic converters, a place where I watched birds drop dead from the sky and a place whose essence I inhaled for three years.
Physicians and other medical experts in Mexico City are concerned about the health effects of all this pollution, so they advise the general population to avoid doing anything foolhardy, such as jogging. Seems that the harder one breathes, the deeper go the pollutants.
In Mexico City I was comforted to know that by partaking of such activities as reading or watching TV--as long as no heavy breathing was involved--I was working to stave off physical deterioration and disease.
In fact, when I came to Orange County, I felt in great shape. I had spent the last three years faithfully engaging in mild exercise (indoors and with the drapes drawn), and I am not a smoker (though the air in Mexico City supplies residents with all the tar and nicotine any body can possibly need).
So I guess that's why I was initially taken aback with the notion, so big in Orange County, of outdoor recreation. All of a sudden, I realized that the fitness life style that had suited me so well was under attack. And the assault came from all quarters.
I noticed that when real estate agents start buttering up potential buyers in Orange County, they hit them with the outdoor recreation angle right away.
Brochures are full of phrases such as "ideal climate year round" and "sportsman's paradise." Planned communities have planned lakes; in a shameless bow to snob appeal, memberships are usually required.
Home prices are closely related to distance from a beach (possible terrain for early morning jogs and volleyball games) or, failing that, proximity to mountains (possible terrain for hiking or RVing).
And anybody who's anybody in the county has a pool and a spa, a word I formerly connected with overweight Europeans being wrapped in hot towels. Now I realize that spa is the '80s way of saying Jacuzzi.
Well, not being one to stick out, I endeavored to give recreating Orange County-style a try. It started with rather large expenditures of money.
Because my husband and I bought a home in a planned community, we found ourselves conveniently near several planned recreation areas.
We joined the recreation center for a sum larger than the annual cost of feeding a needy child in the Third World, and we joined the lake association for a monthly fee that will be attached to our house in perpetuity . I'll have you know that in Mexico, not even graves last that long.
Then we started buying equipment. At various times in our former lives, both my husband and I played tennis, so we dismissed that.
Volleyball was much too organized, I'm too short to go one on one with my husband on the basketball court and golf is too hideous to contemplate.
Racquetball it was. We bought neat new racquets, his and hers, balls and shoes. It was a good excuse to buy new shorts, a few T-shirts, and then, what the heck, I picked up some leather gloves too.
Pretty soon, my husband came home and told me that he had ordered some specially designed prescription glasses for wearing on the court, so I knew we were getting serious.
Then we went to play. We swung at the ball and hit it off the wall. We made up a couple of rules. We even decided to take a lesson, which we did.
And that was it. We never went back.
Oh, sure, we kept paying for our membership to the rec center, and of course, the in perpetuity stuff has us locked into the lake association for quite a while. But somehow, after all the fun of buying equipment, sweating inside a windowless cell seemed a letdown.
So we tried the bicycles. No, we did not go out and buy new bicycles. We spent the same amount of money that new bicycles would have cost and had our old ones tuned up. That did include new handlebar tape.
The bicycle shop did a rush job for us. It was a nice day out, and the shop owner must have suspected that we wanted to catch up on our outdoor recreating right away.
My husband even rode his bicycle home from the shop, while I carted mine home in the car that we drove to the store. Then in a show of solidarity with my husband for his solo ride home, I accompanied him on a bike ride down our street.
That was about a year ago. My bicycle has not left the garage since.
But lately, while climbing in and out of my car, I have noticed that the days seem to be getting a little warmer. And that could mean that some outdoor recreation is in the cards.
So you see, after a little more than a year in Orange County, I have already fully adapted to the prevailing fitness life style.
Spending money is great recreation.