France's consul general in Los Angeles, Ro-main Gary, is a man of many talents but, as the pictures above plainly show, hurdling is not one of them. It is even conceivable that Gary is the worst hurdler that ever topped a timber. "However," he admits, "I like to run around a track and contemplate many things while I do so, and if a hurdle is there I may, if I feel particularly fine—and I usually feel fine when I run—jump it. It adds, you might say, zest to my exercise."
Zest, we might equally say, seems to be the spirit in which this talented and amiable Frenchman faces most of life's hurdles. A onetime hero of France's air force, a veteran of her foreign service, and the prizewinning (Prix Goncourt) author of a novel (The Roots of Heaven) now high on U.S. bestseller lists, Gary entertains the dark suspicion that at 45 he is already on the road to senile decrepitude. For this reason, he sets himself a schedule that could well exhaust a teen-ager. "It is a good feeling," says Gary, "for old men who have begun to fear failure, any sort of failure, to set a schedule for exercise and stick to it. If an aging man can run a distance of three miles, for instance, he knows that whatever his other failures may be, he is not completely wasted away."
Two or three times a week in the midst of his exacting literary and consular chores, Gary skips lunch to sneak out to the UCLA track and jog happily around it until, as he says, "the three miles are no longer ahead of, but behind me." In foreign assignments over the world during the last decade, France's consul has followed a similar routine along footpaths from Central Park in Manhattan to the forests of Bulgaria.
But running is not the only discipline M. Gary imposes on himself. He also insists on a daily routine of zesty and violent calisthenics, a sample of which may be seen below. "If I know that I will be pressed for time in the morning," says this contemplative man, "I do them at night. If I can't do them at night, I do them in the morning. Friends in whose homes I have been a guest have come home late to find me doing calisthenics in their drawing rooms. It has gained me a reputation for madness."
Consul General Gary also enjoys an occasional bracing swim, and this his friends consider another form of madness. "They tell me it is too cold to swim in January," he exclaims in wonder. But the really important thing in any case, says this thoughtful Frenchman, is not what you do but the fact that you do it. "If you decide you should exercise daily and go ahead and do it, you are keeping a promise to yourself, and that," says France's philosophical Consul Gary, "is good for any man."