Staff Writer Dan Levin has the hat trick in this issue, three—count 'em, three—articles on wildly disparate subjects. He examines the new and, to some, disturbing sport of women's bodybuilding (page 64). His appreciation of Monterey rugby accompanies the photo essay on page 28, and an account of the Pyramid Lake strain of cutthroat trout, long assumed extinct, begins on page 50.
Levin first became aware of muscle-women at a women's rugby tournament in Illinois, where one of the players introduced him to bodybuilder Laura Combes. Combes was a revelation to Levin, as indeed she had been even to premier iron-pumper Arnold Schwarzenegger, and as she and her colleagues probably will be to you as well.
Levin, now 41, has grown a beard since he last appeared in this space. "Before, you wouldn't believe how many people thought I looked like Woody Allen," he says. Levin is redheaded, pale and even plays the clarinet, and if he is not, in fact, Woody Allen (for one thing, he is considerably taller), he is a member of the species Allen has placed in the limelight, the single man living in Manhattan.
In Levin's case, the single man's particular interests include, in his own words, and in no particular order: "Cats, Heifetz playing Bruch's Concerto No. 1 in G minor, Peggy Lee singing Two for the Road, all clean bodies of water, Judy Davis in the film My Brilliant Career, Smucker's chunky peanut butter and Rachel Carson's Under the Sea Wind. Women with knowing eyes, emotional depth and a sense of justice. Swimming in the surf, laughing until I'm almost sick and the crab with ginger and green onion at the Far East Chinese Restaurant in London—I flew home with two portions of it after covering the Henley Regatta."
Despite all that crab and peanut butter, Levin is notably fit, working out regularly on Nautilus machines in a New York City health club. He has been running for 20 years, currently some 17 miles a week. This is down from the high of 55 he did last summer while training for the New York City Marathon. "I turned in a 4:18," he groans. "I must have been sleeping out there."
If his time was not electrifying, in a sense the experience was. "I've always wanted to be a hero," Levin says, "and in recent years I've felt like one, at least to myself. I realize that I'm capable of doing physical things now that I wasn't able to dream of 20 years ago—it's usually the other way around with people—and I feel a new power, personally and professionally.
"When I was 9, 1 was nostalgic. How many 9-year-olds are filled with nostalgia? Now, basically, I think about this afternoon. I think you could call me a neoromantic with visions of immortality."
Woody, are you listening?
LEVIN AT THE NEIGHBORHOOD NAUTILUS