I’ve been going to the gym.
If ever six words had ominous connotations, those are they. The phrase “George W. Bush is the president” comes in a distant second on the horror scale.
So, yes, I’ve been going to the gym. Three times a week (in theory), I don my exercise costume and try not to wince too badly at the idea that I’m rolling around in other people’s dried sweat. I am someone who won’t touch a bathroom doorknob without using a paper towel, so this monumental act of will makes the actual lifting of weights seem like a walk in the park.
In the New York Sports Club, the men’s locker room was a place where you had sex in the sauna, showered, dressed, and left. In and out. Here in my new gym, there is an uncomfortable amount of lollygagging. There seems to be a requirement that older, hairy, fat men may not enter or leave without sitting around naked reading the newspaper for at least thirty minutes. Furthermore, a large television has been tuned to “The Tony Danza Show” every time I’ve ventured in, and the same African-American man has been sitting there watching it, spellbound.
I don’t understand these activities. I don’t understand anything at the gym, actually. It’s like entering a foreign land where I know the vocabulary but not the grammar. This past week, a guy I used to know came over and said I have nice biceps. When I looked at him incredulously, he said, “Yeah, they’re little, but they’re nice.” I think he meant it, but my biceps are not nice. If I’m actually lifting something, a close observer might discern that I actually do have in my arms the muscle known as a bicep, or at least, there is something with the consistency of al dente pasta occupying the space where a bicep ought to be. But it was a pleasant moment.
Unlike George W. Bush, the gym isn’t all torture.