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In a February op-ed published in The New York Times, Oliver Sacks, the eminent neurologist and cultural luminary, revealed to the world that he was dying of terminal cancer.

Sacks discussed his new resolve to live life free of inessentials, and his gratefulness for being able to participate in what he called “the special intercourse of writers and readers.” It’s a relationship that Sacks has built and maintained over the decades through his myriad essays and books, such as Awakenings and The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat, which meld his extensive knowledge of the biology of the brain with a generous, inquiring spirit, and shine a light on what he dubbed “the suffering, afflicted, fighting human subject.”

In his latest book, On the Move: A Life, the “human subject” is Sacks himself. Picking up where his previous memoir, Uncle Tungsten, left off, On the Move is a chronicle of unmoored youth, capturing young Sacks’ detours, setbacks, and flashes of early brilliant discovery.

You can read an excerpt below. The book is available for purchase here.

Muscle Beach

When I finally made it to New York in June of 1961, I borrowed money from a cousin and bought a new bike, a BMW R60 — the trustiest of all the BMW models. I wanted no more to do with used bikes, like the R69 which some idiot or criminal had fitted with the wrong pistons, the pistons that had seized up in Alabama.

I spent a few days in New York, and then the open road beckoned me. I covered thousands of miles in my slow, erratic return to California. The roads were wonderfully empty, and going across South Dakota and Wyoming, I would scarcely see another soul for hours. The silence of the bike, the effortlessness of riding, lent a magical, dreamlike quality to my motion.

There is a direct union of oneself with a motorcycle, for it is so geared to one’s proprioception, one’s movements and postures, that it responds almost like part of one’s own body. Bike and rider become a single, indivisible entity; it is very much like riding a horse. A car cannot become part of one in quite the same way.

I arrived back in San Francisco at the end of June, just in time to exchange my bike leathers for the white coat of an intern in Mount Zion Hospital.

During my long road trip, with snatched meals here and there, I had lost weight, but I had also worked out when possible at gyms, so I was in trim shape, under two hundred pounds, when I showed off my new bike and my new body in New York in June. But when I returned to San Francisco, I decided to “bulk up” (as weight lifters say) and have a go at a weight- lifting record, one which I thought might be just within my reach. Putting on weight was particularly easy to do at Mount Zion, because its coffee shop offered double cheeseburgers and huge milk shakes, and these were free to residents and interns. Rationing myself to five double cheeseburgers and half a dozen milkshakes per evening and training hard, I bulked up swiftly, moving from the mid-heavy category (up to 198 pounds) to the heavy (up to 240 pounds) to the superheavy (no limit). I told my parents about this — as I told them almost everything — and they were a bit disturbed, which surprised me, because my father was no lightweight and weighed around 250 himself.

I had done some weight lifting as a medical student in London in the 1950s. I belonged to a Jewish sports club, the Maccabi, and we would have power-lifting contests with other sports clubs, the three competition lifts being the curl, the bench press, and the squat, or deep knee bend.

Very different from these were the three Olympic lifts — the press, the snatch, and the clean and jerk — and here we had world-class lifters in our little gym. One of them, Ben Helfgott, had captained the British weight-lifting team in the 1956 Olympic Games. He became a good friend (and even now, in his eighties, he is still extraordinarily strong and agile).  I tried the Olympic lifts, but I was too clumsy. My snatches, in particular, were dangerous to those around me, and I was told in no uncertain terms to get off the Olympic lifting platform and go back to power lifting.

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The Central YMCA in San Francisco had particularly good weight-lifting facilities. The first time I went there, my eye was caught by a bench-press bar loaded with nearly 400 pounds. No one at the Maccabi could bench-press anything like this, and when I looked around, I saw no one in the Y who looked up to such a weight. No one, at least, until a short but hugely broad and thick-chested man, a white-haired gorilla, hobbled into the gym — he was slightly bowlegged — lay down on the bench, and, by way of warmup, did a dozen easy reps with the bench-press bar. He added weights for subsequent sets, going to nearly 500 pounds. I had a Polaroid camera with me and took a picture as he rested between sets. I got talking to him later; he was very genial. He told me that his name was Karl Norberg, that he was Swedish, that he had worked all his life as a longshoreman, and that he was now seventy years old. His phenomenal strength had come to him naturally; his only exercise had been hefting boxes and barrels at the docks, often one on each shoulder, boxes and barrels which no “normal” person could even lift off the ground.

I felt inspired by Karl and determined to lift greater poundages myself, to work on the one lift I was already fairly good at — the squat. Training intensively, even obsessively, at a small gym in San Rafael, I worked up to doing five sets of five reps with 555 pounds every fifth day. The symmetry of this pleased me but caused amusement at the gym — “Sacks and his fives.” I didn’t realize how exceptional this was until another lifter encouraged me to have a go at the California squat record. I did so, diffidently, and to my delight was able to set a new record, a squat with a 600-pound bar on my shoulders. This was to serve as my introduction to the power-lifting world; a weight-lifting record is equivalent, in these circles, to publishing a scientific paper or a book in academia.

Excerpted from On The Move by Oliver Sacks. Copyright © 2015 by Oliver Sacks. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

If you enjoyed this excerpt, purchase the full book here.

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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